The Journey to Lo Manthang
Lo Manthang is a village in the restricted territory of Upper Mustang that used to be the capital of the Kingdom of Lo. Nepali law requires foreign visitors to purchase a permit (US$500 for 10 days) to enter Upper Mustang, to help preserve the local culture and development in the region. But this does not mean Lo Manthang is inaccessible. Foreign travellers must also travel with a guide. Here are few ways to get to Lo Manthang. While you may be able to rent bikes and jeeps in Mustang, it’s better to do this in Pokhara.
With road expansions throughout Nepal in recent years, the roads to Lo Manthang are now accessible by motorized vehicle. On a heavy-duty motorbike it’s possible to get to Lo Manthang in a matter of days from Jomsom. Bikes like Royal Enfields, Pulsars (over 200cc) and Hartford VRs are popular choices.
Starting from Pokhara, first make your way towards Jomsom, a journey of two days with a stop at Tatopani. From Tatopani, continue to Jomsom or Kagbeni the next day. The checkpoint for Upper Mustang permits is at Kagbeni. From here, ride to Ghami for 6-7 hours, and the next day to Lo Manthang. The roads are not paved, so it’s important to be cautious in this rugged landscape.
To get to Lo Manthang by jeep, rent one from Pokhara or Kagbeni (from Pokhara would be preferable because you can arrange it together with the permit and guide). From Pokhara you’ll make it to Tato Pani on the first day, and then all the way to Chhusang on the second day, with no need to stop in Jomsom. After a night in Chhusang, you can take a jeep up to Lo Manthang in about 5-6 hours.
While trekking to Lo Manthang is slower than the other options, it’s worth it to explore the quiet, empty land. On day 1, walk to Chele from Kagbeni, which takes 6-7 hours. Before heading out, make sure that you have your permits checked. On day 2, continue from Chele to Ghiling. This trail is very challenging as it’s through mostly dry desert landscape, although local people make the best use of their water sources and turn desert villages into green oases. Being able to walk alongside the Kali Gandaki River is quite thrilling. On day three, walk from Chele to the village of Charang. On the fourth day, walk about 4-5 hours to get to Lo Manthang.
I suggest spending at least two full days in Lo Manthang before making your way back down. The return trip will take three days, either stopping at the same villages as on the way up, or instead stopping at Gekar, Ghami, Chhusang, and then Kagbeni.
From Lo Manthang you could make a trip further up to Chhoser, which is a 45-60 minute drive, or a 1.5-2 hour walk. Here you can see ancient monasteries that are built inside the mountains. You could also keep going further to the Nepal-China border.
In Lo Manthang, make sure to check out the royal palace and the three monasteries inside the walled city itself. There’s also a local library. If you want greater insight into the local culture, plan this trip in late May and attend the Tiji festival.
Article by Shubham.
Top image: François Bianco/Flickr