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Lo Manthang
Annapurna Conservation Area Project
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Annapurna Conservation Area Project
Mustang Trekking
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Mustang & Lo Manthang
Thak Khola
When you enter the restricted area, you enter an ancient land with its own distinct history and tradition. Part of Nepal for two hundred years, Upper Mustang remains one of the few areas in Tibet's original sphere of influence where Tibetan culture continues to survive. The challenge we face today is to improve our living conditions, and at the same time to strengthen and keep alive our unique culture.'

Mustang was a forbidden land for centuries and little was known of this Trans Himalayan valley which has wonderful variety and richness of its heritage, lively Tibetan culture and fascinating landscape. Early visitors explored the silent features of this unique hidden land, its great castle, ancient monasteries, lonely hermitage and remote villages.

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Upper Mustang is the restricted northern part of Nepal's Mustang District which consists of seven Village Development Committees VDC (Nepal's smallest democratic units) with 31 settlements. The restricted area includes the historic kingdom of Lo Tsho Dhun, which translates as 'seven districts of Lo' in the local Tibetan dialect. Tibetan dialects prevail here too. And the ancient walled city of Lo Manthang is the most isolated and unexplored corner of the Himalayas. About 1,100 Lobas (people of Lo), live in the 180 mud houses of the walled city and they observe a form of caste hierarchy.

Being a kingdom within a kingdom

Mustang is currently ruled by the 25th descendent of the founder of the Kingdom of Lo who has married a member of aristocratic family of Lhasa. The King's duties are largely ceremonial. He is respected by the people and consulted about many issues by villagers throughout Lo.

The 'Lo' is derived from 'Lho" meaning south open and border of Tibet. The largest settlement in this area is Lo Manthang, a small fort city with 20 feet high surrounding walls, sentinel turrets at each corner and prayer flags blowing in the wind.

Entry Point

Bhansar actually is a symbolic entry point into Nepal. A well built but emptied customs office indicates the beginning of the Nepalis territory which is actually around 7 km from the real border. There is no one manning this Bhansar customs post and Tibetan KhaMaps use the huge ground behind it to establish their tinted shops filled with daily goodies, including cheap Chinese beer, wine, alcohol, torchlight, thermos-flasks, shoes, jackets, well decorated hand carved Tibetan furniture. People in the area choose the goods that they want first and Khampa traders come later and fix the price of each item at their will.

The casualty of the Chinese trade is not only the Nepalis economy but also the Nepalis environment of the Himalayan region. The one thing that one notices on reaching Lo Manthang is broken glasses, tin cans and plastic packs of biscuits and noodles flying here and there.

Dry region

The Mustang region is dry, desolate and windy, and is a paradise like no other on earth. Strong winds blowing up between the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountains have created a dry desert landscape- dusty and bare in all its beauty. Because of dry climate found over here agriculture is impossible without irrigation and agro-productive land is also very nominal. Polyandry, marriage of one woman with two or more brothers, is still in practice to avoid the splitting of the family's farmland. But like all traditional ways, these are changing too.

Salt trade -Route

Of the existing twelve major trade routes or passes in the Himalayan region along the Nepal-Tibet border, four passes are located in Mustang leading to Kaligandaki river. The ancient 'Salt trade route' was created along the Kaligandaki river. The Tibetan traders carried salt from the salt lakes of Tibet border, and the Lobas (people of Lo) further carried it to Thak khola in Tukuche on mules covering a five-day trail and carried food grain and domestic goods back home on the return journey. Until recent times, the trade in salt of Tibet, has not only sustained the people in the poor and barren lands of Nepal and Tibet, but has also set in motion an institutionalized relationship.


Lo Manthang: The face is changing

The face of Lo Manthang is gradually changing. The dirt road extended from Tibet passing through Nechung to the medieval settlement of Lo Manthang was completed some months ago. It has started to show its impact not only on the local economy but also on the local environment and community as a whole. One major visible impact that Lo Manthang would have from the road and increase in the traffic is already underway. Lo Manthang is known as a medieval walled city. The mud and stone wall surrounding the tiny settlement of around 180 houses and 900 people will crumble with the increase in vibration caused by the traffic. A portion of the mud wall has already fallen which needs immediate repair.

People at Lo Manthang seem very happy that they have now road access to China and that their daily necessities could be supplied from China, if not from their own country. Their dependence on Khampa traders and Chinese goods is increasing day by day as they are being introduced to consumerism and new products. However, the trucks and vehicles coming to Lo Manthang will create serious question on its identity that is why we have suggested not to bring the trucks and other vehicles within Lo Manthang city.


The Upper Mustang was opened as a restricted area since then only 1000 foreigners are permitted annually for tourists in 1990.

Land of Lo Manthang, the isolated Kingdom of Upper Mustang.
Fascinating medieval villages, monasteries and fortresses.
Eroded ridges, wind swept terraces, summer fields of barley, wheat and millet.
Richly colored upland desert and mountain scenery.
Former major caravan route between India and Tibet.
Upper Manang Trekking
Thorong La
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