Enchanting and Mysterious: The Lo Manthang Trek
Explore the hidden valleys of Upper Mustang, a magical strip of land tucked into the folds of the Himalayas. Formerly a Tibetan Kingdom, Lo Manthang is a place like no other. Its history is enshrouded with myth and legend, and its people charm visitors with archaic cultural beliefs and modern understanding. Expansive vistas are dotted with mud-brick homes in which prayer flags rise above firewood stacked for harsh winters. Religious beliefs, such as sky burial and polyandry, persist while dry canyons crumble beneath yak caravans and farming tiers. Snowy mountain peaks stand watch over ancient monasteries that adorn young children in burgundy robes and teach them sacred Buddhist chants. Mustang is a land where stories and dreams merge as one.
A Protected Region
In order to preserve the fragile environment and established Tibetan culture, a limited number of travellers are allowed to journey into Mustang’s higher plateaus. Nepal’s government protects Upper Mustang’s walled fortress with annual permits, and those fortunate enough to gain entry will never forget this mythical land of snowy peaks and sacred practices.
Day 1: Kathmandu / Welcome Dinner
Our guide will be waiting for you at the airport to take you to your hotel. After you settle in and have time to relax, we’ll prepare for our journey by reviewing itinerary details and answering your questions about the days ahead. Those with earlier arrival times can explore some of Kathmandu’s colourful markets before we meet our team with a welcome dinner and traditional dance program.
Day 2: Cultural Tour / Pokhara
After visiting religious sites Boudhanath Monastery and Pashupatinath Temple, we will drive to the second largest city in Nepal, Pokhara. Our six-hour drive will be filled with plenty of stops so you can enjoy views of the countryside and stretch your legs. Upon reaching Pokhara, walk along the banks of Fewa Tal and watch the sun set behind snowy the Annapurna Mountains.
Day 3: Jomsom (2725m/8940ft) / Kagbeni (2810m/9219ft)
From Pokhara, we’ll board a small plane to Jomsom’s regional airport. The twenty-minute flight offers up-close views of the Himalayas, crossing both the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Mountain Ranges. Stepping off the plane, you’ll feel the surprisingly strong winds of the Jomsom Valley. Our trek will take us towards the Tibetan salt trade route, along valleys carved by fierce winds and cold rapids of the Kali Gandaki River. Upon reaching the stoned walls of Kagbeni, you will have ample time to explore hidden streets and handmade alleyways.
Day 4: Chele (2920m/10,006 ft)
After showing our permits and filling out necessary forms, our group will be granted entry into Upper Mustang’s restricted area. This area is considered Nepal’s desert, an expansive dry and barren patch of land with colourful, lively villages popping up like mirages. The crest of Nilgiri Mountain will be visible as we make our way over a dramatic windswept terrain. We’ll stop for lunch at Tangbe or Chhusang, both old villages housing traders, farmers and craftsmen, before we continue on towards Chele. Watch when you step! Ammonites, pre-historic stones, are collected and sold as good luck medallions. Our destination for the evening will bring us to an overlook with remarkable views of the valley.
Day 5: Syangboche (3800m/12467ft)
Today’s trail rises and falls with the vast canyons we begin to cross. Rich fields of pink buckwheat flowers sit in stark contrast with green crops and vivid skies. A glistening panorama of white peaks adds to the extraordinary landscape we begin to explore. Today we’ll see sky caves, where experienced monks sit for retreats in burial chambers over 3,000 years old. We’ll stop for lunch at Bhena, a small settlement that serves as a Jeep station for tours. The steep climb to Syangboche worth it: surprising views, a dramatic landscape and sparkling mountaintops reward our efforts.
Day 6: Ghami (3520m/11548ft)
Start the day with a hot coffee before climbing the pass leading from Syangboche into the Mustangi plains. Once we successfully complete this climb, our walk will be an easy one through deep valleys and wind-eroded canyons. To the South, the white mountains of Nilgiri, Tilicho and Annapurna rise in the distance, and bright gullies complete the scene. Ghami is our destination for the day, and after lunch you’re free to explore the local monastery and stone temples.
Day 7: Tsarnag (3560m/11679ft)
Our trek today takes us to the “Land of Chortens,” structures built for religious worship. Only thirty minutes from Ghami we will reach Mustang’s longest wall of scribed Tibetan stones. Towering red cliffs look down upon the path where the Indian Saint Padmasambhava set foot before he founded Tibetan Buddhism. Because of his influence, Buddhism fused with Tibet’s Shamanism to create Bon, a fascinating blend of religious and spiritual custom. Tsarnag is another mystifying village with a palace and monastery to explore. With so much to see, you’ll wish you had more time!
Day 8: Lo Manthang (3800m/12467ft)
From Tsarnag, we will set out for Lo Manthang. We’ll pass mysterious religious structures situated in the middle of the trail and carve over the pass of Lo-La. Here, the valleys of Thinkar and Chhosar will drop beneath us, and we’ll see dilapidated forts perched high onto the hillside. At last, we will reach the capital city and the “Plain of Aspiration,” Lo Manthang. The fabled walled city of Lo will welcome us, and after lunch, you can explore King “Lo Gyelbu” Jigme Palbar Bista’s four-storied palace. Our knowledgeable tour leaders will organize various side excursions to enhance your trip and suit your tastes.
Day 9: Lo Manthang
Lo Manthang has many sights to see. After breakfast, we’ll depart for Chhosar in Jeeps. Here we will see the Nyphu Cave Monastery, a temple carved into a sandy cliff. We will also visit the Khong Sky Cave, a 2,500 year-old structure that boasts over forty rooms and gives you an idea of pre-historic architecture. Looking out of these windows, the vivid blue sky enhances photos and contrasts sharply with rolling foothills. Upon returning to Lo Manthang, you can explore the city with over 100 residences and some of the largest monasteries in Nepal. If you’re not exhausted, walk to the walled city of Thinkar to explore more Tibetan temples and ancient Buddhist monasteries.
Day 10: Dhakmar (3800m/12467ft)
Heading west, we will encounter a few steep declines to visit the world’s oldest monastery, the Ghar Gompa. The land continues to dazzle with expansive vistas and mountain landscapes. Lunch at Ghar Gompa, a 7th Century construction is one for the books. With full bellies, we’ll head to Dharkmar, tracing paths carved into the grey canyons and sandy hills. Here we’ll sleep for the night, nestled comfortably in the land of red cliffs and prayer stones.
Day 11: Syanboche
From Dhankmar, we’ll return to the village of Syanboche. Children may ask for pictures and smiling faces will rise from household chores to greet us on our journey. A striking sky will highlight our trail, and after finishing a warm meal, we will rest for the day.
Day 12: Chhusang (3040m/9973ft)
After breakfast, we will visit the Chungsi Cave Monastery. The monastery is a guest favourite, carved into the side of a vertical canyon wall. Here, Padmasambava meditated and received his vision to bring Buddhism into Tibet. Lunch will be at Samar’s grove, a pretty village with unexpected lush gardens. Dropping down towards Chhusang, the Kali Gandaki River will stretch before us and Nilgiri Mountain will rise above us. You’ll see what makes Chhusang a favourite for Nepali and Tibetan songs: the apple orchard and old village streets are absolutely charming!
Day 13: Kagbeni (2810m)
Retracing our steps, we will return south to exit the restricted area and re-enter the town of Kagbeni. With streets to explore and a few coffee shops serving bakery items, you can relax for the evening.
Day 14: Trek to Jomsom (2720)
This morning we will walk through several smaller Mustangi villages, stopping to pick famous Jomsom apples and meeting women weaving scarves and sweaters. Since tonight is our last night with local staff, we’ll dance, eat and drink the night away before tomorrow’s departure for Pokhara.
Day 15: Pokhara
After an early cup of tea, we will leave for Pokhara by flight. We’ll quickly check into our accommodations so you can enjoy the afternoon as you please: take a yoga session or get a massage, visit local restaurants or listen to live music at a local bar. If you wan to relax before we return to Kathmandu, we’re happy to provide you with suggestions to match your energy level.
Day 16: Return to Kathmandu
From Pokhara, we’ll return to Kathmandu. For an added fee, it is possible to book a 25-minute flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu. In Kathmandu, you can explore the city, shop for friends or relax at a day spa. We are happy to assist you if you need recommendations.
Day 17: Departure
Say goodbye to your new friends and “Pheri Betaula” to Nepal --- we bet you’ll want to come back again. Our staff will make sure you have all of your belongings and the help you need to arrive at the airport in time for your departing flight.