Whether you’re a seasoned pro when it comes to treks or you’re planning your first trip, Nepal is a favourite haunt. The Everest and Annapurna routes are probably the ones you’re most familiar with, but if you’re up for discovering somewhere not very well known, Lo Manthang is an excellent bet.
In fact, it’s only since the 1990s that foreign visitors have been welcomed into this fabled city.
Lo Manthang – what’s it all about?
An ancient walled city, Lo Manthang is situated in the Mustang District, which used to be called the Kingdom of Lo.
Now, if it’s remote you’re after, you’ll really get your wish here. Sitting north of the Annapurnas, Lo Manthang has an incredible feeling of isolation that’s compounded by the absolutely huge mountains you’ll see on your trek – which often reach 8,000 m in height – and the sparse, tiny settlements that you’ll come across every now and then.
Lo Manthang itself is the ancient capital of this forbidding region. Situated on a plateau, it was constructed back in the 15th century and its remote location means its atmosphere is wholly unlike anywhere else you’ll have ever been.
There’s barely ever a drop of rain or snow, making water here scarce, and the local community depends on a glacier in the mountains to the west.
This district may now be part of Nepal, but it’s got a distinctly Tibetan feel. In fact, plenty of travellers reckon it’s what they initially expected Tibet itself to be like. Ancient rituals, festivals and ceremonies from Sakyapa traditions of Tibetan Buddhism are still performed here frequently today; so, keep an eye out – you never know what you might spot during your stay.
Things to see
If somehow you were to drop in here straight from the nearest city – rather than trek – you’d probably think Lo Manthang was a village rather than an ancient capital. But, after covering so much sparse terrain where the settlements are few and far between – and with the ones you do come across being so tiny – you’re bound to be struck by its size.
Of course, the main reason any of us trek to places like this is that they’re not packed with generic tourist attractions, so don’t expect a long list of hotspots to visit.
Instead, there’s a selection of monasteries dating back to between the 15th and 18th centuries, as well as a palace. The palace is white and sits at the centre of the settlement, looking a tad incongruous with its four storeys.
The monasteries are red, meanwhile, and include Jampa Lakhang and Thupchen Lakhang.
Of course, one thing you can’t fail to miss is its 6 m high walls – you’ll notice the corners are home to square towers that were used as lookouts.
The trek itself
Reaching Lo Manthang is not easy, so if you’re not particularly fit or if this is your first Nepal trekking holiday, you might want to give something a bit less challenging a go first. But, for more experienced trekkers, it’s a route not to miss!
As is the case with a lot of treks, this one is rewarding enough to make it all worthwhile. Depending on what kind of itinerary you go for, your trek can last around nine days – spending a full day exploring Lo Manthang – with the whole tour taking around 19 days.
Crossing Mustang, you’ll hike along arid landscapes characterised by their variety of colours – various pigments in the earth here make these brown, red, blue and yellow depending on where exactly you are – as well as the odd prayer wall, small village and vast mountain ranges.
On the approach to Lo Manthang, the landscape will become distinctly arid and barren, so you’ll know for sure when you’re getting close. Among the other things you can expect to see is the Tibetan Plateau, the Himalayas in the distance and a 400 m long mani or prayer wall.