Lo Manthang Upper Mustang - Hidden jewels of remote Nepal

  • Hemanta Budhathoki
  • Last Updated on Apr 13, 2024

Table of Contents

Lo Manthang in Upper Mustang (3,800m) is isolated Tibetan settlement was founded in 1380 and Capital ancient city of Upper Mustang. It is 90 kilometer from Jomsom. City was one of the kingdoms when Nepal was in monarchy system. The village is covered by wall so that Lo Manthang is also called walled city of Upper Mustang. Area is inhabited by an estimated 900 Lhobas peoples. Further to Korala is about 20 kilometer which is Tibetan boarder. Local peoples are still trading goods via this route from Tibet. Formally this immigration is not yet open.

Lo Manthang culturally rich as Tibetan origin. Area is mostly hold by ethnic group Lhobas, which cultures are similar as Tibetan. About twelve caves discovered near Lo Manthang village which are ancient Buddhist paintings and set in sheer cliffs at 14,000 feet. Silver and gold painting contain in Tibetan script shows dates of 13th century. Most of the paintings are in Newari influence. Decorative caves are rich in art and painting depicting various forms of Buddha. Many Buddhist Stupas found inside the caves. 

Tourists reach Lo Manthang and Upper Mustang area to explore ancient Buddhist cultures, thousand years old monasteries, cultures, peoples and beautiful scenery. Area is beautiful as high altitude desert with pocket of green. All the local houses are built out of mud brick. Area of Upper Mustang and Lo Manthan is restricted. Special permit from department of immigration of Nepal have to obtain for foreigners other than Nepali. Cost of the permit is minimum USD 500 per person, that valid for 10 days. USD 50 per day per person addition cost if stay more than 10 days inside the area. Tourist cannot issue permit of this area as individually, only registered trekking company are allow issuing restricted area permit of Upper Mustang.

                                                      Ancient caves in Lo-manthangUpper Mustang. Our group with Motorbike      

How to get Lo Manthang

Get Lo Manthang by trekking: it is 17 days standard itinerary including arrival and departure days, trekking, stay in Kathmandu for preparation and Pokhara. The real trekking days are 11 and it starts from Jomsom after flying from Pokhara. Explore on the way ad stay extra days in Lo Manthang for exploring more. It also ends at Jomsom and fly back to Pokhara. Find more details about it.  

Lo Manthang by 4wheel Jeep: Upper Mustang is connected now with road from Beni via Jomsom and Kagbeni. Entirely build road is rough and it is up to Nepal Tibet boarder, further 20 kilometer from Lo Manthang. It is totally about 450 kilometer to reach Lo Manthang from Kathmandu. This can be easy 13 days program that is including Kathmandu to Kathmandu and including your arrival departure days. Details here

In another option, peoples can reach Lo Manthangby Motorbike or by cycle. It is popular destination of motor biking and cycling. Almost 11 days trip reach Lo-Manthang from Kathmandu and back with enough time to explore around with motorbike. It is long days riding trip with cycle. The road from Kathmandu to Pokhara and to Beni is well paed. All the way to Kagbeni is rough road from Beni. Up to Kagbeni is lower part of Mustang. Kagbeni to Lo – Manthan is the entire way rough road as Tibetan plateau with some technical section. The total distance is about 450 kilometer. Another 20 kilometer towards Tibetan boarder called Korala boarder.  

Important and interesting festival celebrate in Lo-manthang

The important festival Tiji festival celebrates in Lo Manthang Upper mustang once a year. Tiji is a fascinating annual three-day festival consisting of Tibetan rituals that celebrate the myth of a son who had to save the Mustang kingdom from destruction. The Tiji festival usually takes place around mid May and lasts for 3 days. The monks of Lo Manthang's "Choedhe" monastery perform ritual dances during the celebration. The harassment of Ma Tam Ru Ta (in a dance called "Tsa Chham" on the first day), the birth of Dorjee Sonnu as the demon's son (on the second day called "Nga Chham"), and the attempt to return the demon to Lord Buddha's realm (on the third and final day) are enacted during the performances.

                                                                    Mask dance during Tiji Festival in Lo-Manthang, Upper Mustang 

The Tiji festival dances are all organized by the Choedhe Monastery, which belongs to the Sakya sect of Buddhism. The monastery is headed by a Rimpoche. About 65 monks from Lo Manthang, Nhenyul, and Chhosyer reside in this monastery. Tourists or peoples from out of Mustang also can observe this festival by buying an entrance ticket for it. During the festival, accommodation in  Lomanthang is hard to manage. Many tourist reach there to observe 3 days Tiji festival. Nepal highland treks also operating Tiji Festival tour which is entirely guiding by a professional guide and can reach there by trekking, motorbiking, or by 4wheel drive.

How much does it cost to travel Mustang Lo manthang

Cost to reach Lo-manthang of Upper mustang depends on how you go there? Major cost of this tour is in permit for foreigners other than Nepalese. Cost of permits is USD 530 that is including restricted area permit and permit of Annapurna conservation. Accommodation and food cost is approximately USD 30 per person per day. This is based on normal accommodation. There are few places where super deluxe hotels have built like in Lo-manthang and in Kagbeni. Beside that you need to spend cost for guide and porter. Upper Mustang area needs at least two travelers. For 2 travelers one porter is on guide cost USD 25 per person per day. Another cost in this tour is how you get Jomsom, the starting point of Upper Mustang Lo-manthang. There is flight to get Jomsom, by private jeep driving and local buses. In conclusion, to travel Lo-manthang, cost is depend how you want to reach there, options areTrekking, Motor biking, Driving and Cycling   

Hemanta Budhathoki

Hemanta Budhathoki

Hemanta Budhathoki is team leader of Nepal Highland Trekking and travel company. 

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