04 Dec 2017
4 min read
In this age of modernity, Lo Manthang still remains a place where people are immersed in their culture and history and are focused on preserving their way of life. And if you were to take a tour of the ancient city, you would see for yourself how their unique culture is preserved in their lifestyle, architecture, festivals and even cuisine.
Lo Manthang thus makes for the ideal holiday destination for city slickers who would like to get to experience a way of living that traces its lineage back centuries. There are so many reasons as to why you should visit Lo Manthang. Here’s our list of the top draws:
The White-Walled City itself
Take your time to walk through the alleyways of the white-walled neighbourhoods of Lo Manthang. The city—with most of its walls and houses made of stones and sun-baked mud bricks, and coated with a layer of lime plaster—is a charming settlement. You’ll regularly keep coming across small stupas, chortens, Buddhist prayer wheels; and you’ll have ample opportunities to mingle with children playing in the open spaces and on the streets, old people basking in the sun and women herding cattle.
The Royal Palace
One of the major attractions of Lo Manthang is the royal palace, a nine-cornered, five-storey structure that was built in the 14th century by Ame Pal, the founder of the Kingdom of Lo. Today, it stands as a storehouse of Lo Manthang’s ancient historical artefacts and the royal heritage of the city. The longevity of the structure can be credited to the strong foundation of the palace, as well as the renovation that is often conducted to preserve it. The place is a must-visit.
The Chossar Caves
The Chossar Caves comprise a group of man-made caves (they are at least 2000-3000 years old) carved inside hillocks. The area is inaccessible for most vehicles, and you will have to hike uphill to reach a flat stretch of land before you get your first views of the hill the caves have been carved in. At the entrance, you will have to pay Rs 100 as entry fee, after which you take a series of wooden steps leading up to the caves. The caves are narrow, dark and only around three feet tall. Most of the caves are connected by a maze of warrens. Locals say that in ancient times, monks would hole up in these caves during solo retreats. Many locals also believe that these caves have also been used in the past by people as homes and shelters.
The Korala Border
The Korola Border (altitude 4,660 m) is the border stretch here that marks the boundary between Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Because the pass is situated at such a high altitude, the weather here can be extremely cold. The border area, however, offers marvellous panoramic views of the Himalayas, wide expanses, valleys and ravines all around. The border was traditionally a major salt trade route. Currently, a custom office is being built there which will help the traders to keep track of the goods imported and exported.
Lo Manthang’s culinary delights
The hotels and eateries in the city offer variations of the usual dal-bhat dish, with curries made from the meat of yak, chamba and lamb. Some dishes also make use of sukuti versions of these meats. To beat the cold, you can imbibe Lo Manthang’s local drink, known as jhwaikhatte: it’s a special drink that makes use of ghee, fried raw rice grains and rum. Locals also use this drink as medicine to treat fatigue and bodyaches.
The Tiji festival
Celebrated around mid-May, the Tiji festival, also known as the grand Himalayan festival, is the biggest festival celebrated in Lo Manthang. The three-day festival celebrates the victory of good over evil; it specifically celebrates Lord Buddha’s defeating of a demon called Man Tam Ru. During the festival, the locals take part in various dancing rituals.
How to get there
There are two recommended ways to get to Lo Manthang. One option would be for you to first take a flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara and then from Pokhara to Jomsom. You then start your trek to Lo Manthang from Jomsom (the trek will take seven days). You’ll probably be making night stopovers at Kagbeni, Chhuksang, Samar, Geling, Ghani and Charang. And if you are driving to Lo Manthang, you can drive from Pokhara to Jomsom (passing through Beni, Tatopani and Lete), spend the night at Jomsom, and then drive to Lo Manthang the day after. The roads are all pretty well-paved until Beni, but after Beni, they turn into dusty off-road trails.
Where to stay
There are a few small teahouses and lodges intermittently scattered along the trail to Lo Manthang. And at Lo Manthang, there are a few lodges where you can put up in, like Lo Manthang Guest House, Lotus Holiday Inn and Hotel Mystic.