The Mardi Himal trek is a challenging and beautiful 4-day route in the Annapurna region that offers breathtaking views of the Himalayan mountain range. It’s a lesser-known route compared to the famous Everest Base Camp trek or Annapurna Circuit trek.
We started the Mardi Himal trek in Ghandruk after finishing the Poon Hill trek. Mardi Himal used to be the lesser-known trek in Annapurna Sanctuary but it’s getting more and more popular. There are still fewer people on this route than on the Poon Hill, Annapurna Base Camp, or Annapurna Circuit trek but it’s definitely not as off-the-beaten-track as it used to be.
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2023 update for the Mardi Himal trek
in March 2023 the Nepali Tourism Board made a sudden change in the trekking regulations. From the 1st of April 2023, foreign nationals are not allowed to do solo trekking in the Nepalese National Parks. Having a licensed guide is compulsory. It means if you’re not a Nepali person you are not allowed to do the Mardi Himal independently.
I believe this change will create a lot of confusion as it was made just a few weeks before the start of the season. You can try to find a guide once you’re in Nepal or book a trek through a company in advance to make it easier and less stressful.
Here are some tour options with good reviews
- Mardi Himal Trek from Kathmandu
- Kathmandu: 7-Day Mardi Himal Trek
- 10D9N Mardi Himal Trek from Kathmandu
Mardi Himal trek overview
- Distance – 40 km/25 mi
- Time – 4 days
- Permits – TIMS card and Annapurna Sanctuary permit required
- Guide – can be done independently, with a guide/porter, or in a group
- Main starting points – Kande
- Main finishing points – Siding
- Highest point – Mardi Himal Base Camp, 4500 m
- Total ascent – 3274 m
- Total descent – 3731 m
- Cost – US$23 per person per day
- Accommodation – guesthouses, camping (at lower altitudes)
- Food – Nepali, Indian, Western, Chinese
*All trekking data is for our trekking route starting in Ghandruk/finishing in Landruk.
How long is the Mardi Himal trek?
The total distance of the Mardi Himal trek is 40 km/25 mi. One needs 4-5 days to complete the route. If you combine it with one of the other routes (Poon Hill, Annapurna Base Camp, etc.) you’ll need 3-5 days extra.
How difficult is the Mardi Himal trek?
Mardi Himal is a moderate high-altitude trek that doesn’t require any mountaineering skills or a lot of experience. It’s a good route to do as an acclimatization trek. It’s quite easy to get quickly to lower altitudes if you start feeling unwell. Mardi Himal is one of the shortest treks in the Annapurna region.
Insurance for the trek
The Mardi Himal is a high-altitude trek through remote and difficult-to-access areas of the Annapurna Conservation Area, getting evacuated and medical treatment can be costly. In fact, it’s required to have medical insurance for getting a TIMS card and a permit. Nobody has ever asked us to show our insurance but when you fill out the form they ask you to provide the name and the phone number of your insurance company.
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Do I need a guide for the Mardi Himal trek?
Yes, from the 1st of April 2023, all international trekkers need a licensed guide for hiking in the country’s National Parks. You can hire a guide or join a tour. Guides usually charge US$25 per day including their food and accommodation. You can share one guide with a couple of people. Porters charge US$20 per day including their food and accommodation.
Where does the trek start?
The Mardi Himal trek starts in Kande and finishes in Siding. It’s the standard route to Mardi Himal, trekkers who come from Pokhara or Kathmandu usually do it this way. The route starts at Kande goes through Australian Camp to Landruk and then up to Forest Camp. For the first day, I’d suggest walking from Kande to Landruk, it’s about 12 km with moderate ascend. The next day, continue to Forest Camp. Finishing in Siding is probably the best option for the route if you’re not planning to do any other treks in the park and if you don’t want to walk the same way from Landruk to Forest Camp and back. You can take a jeep from Siding to Pokhara for about NPR 1000/US$8 pp.
Starting in Ghandruk/Kyumi/finishing in Siding. Trekkers who come to Mardi Himal after finishing Poon Hill or Annapurna Base Camp trek usually take this route. We started in Ghorepani it was quite a tough walking day to get from there to Forest Camp with a very steep a long descent in the beginning and an even longer ascent in the second half. There is a bus or jeep option from Landruk to Pokhara but the road is really bad we took a bus from Tolka (the next village after Landruk) and that ride was definitely the worst ride in our lives (on a terrible dirt road next to the edge) so I wouldn’t recommend it.
Starting in Landruk/finishing in Siding. It’s the shortest option for the Mardi Himal trek. If it’s your first hike in the area I’d recommend having an extra day for acclimatization at about 3000 m to make sure you don’t get altitude sickness at High Camp or Base Camp. If you want to start in Landruk you’ll have to take a bus or a jeep. The trip is really bad I’d say walking 12 km extra to Landruk from Kande is a much better option.
Starting in Ghandruk/finishing in Kande. The longest route option you get to see more plus you escape bumpy drives either from Siding or Landruk. From Kande, the road is far from perfect but it’s much better than the roads inside the park. To complete this route you’ll need 5 days.
How to combine Mardi Himal with the Annapurna Base Camp trek?
Both trekking routes start in Landruk it’s very easy to combine them. You’ll need 10 days to complete the loop. Here is the suggested itinerary;
- Day 1. Bus Pokhara – Kande. Trek Kande – Landruk, 16km
- Day 2. Landruk – Forest Camp, 5km
- Day 3. Forest Camp – High Camp, 8,5km
- Day 4. High Camp – Base Camp – High Camp, 9km
- Day 5. High Camp – Landruk, 12km
- Day 6. Landruk – Sinuwa, 12km. From Landruk you can follow our Annapurna Base Camp trek itinerary.
- Day 7. Sinuwa – Deurali, 14km
- Day 8. Deurali – ABC, 9km
- Day 9. ABC – Bamboo/Sinuwa, 15km/19km
- Day 10. Bamboo/Sinuwa – Ghandruk, 14km/10km
How to combine Mardi Himal with the Poon Hill trek?
Another popular option is to combine these two trekking routes. First, you walk on the Poon Hill trek till Ghandruk, from Ghandruk you go to Landruk, and from there start the Mari Himal trek. It’ll take about one week to complete the route. Here is the suggested itinerary;
- Day 1. Bus Pokhara – Nayapul. Trek Nayapul – Ulleri, 12km. From Nayapul you can follow our Poon Hill itinerary.
- Day 2. Ulleri – Ghorepani, 8km
- Day 3. Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Ghorepani – Ghandruk, 19km.
- Day 4. Ghandruk – Forest Camp, 9,5km
- Day 5. Forest Camp – High Camp, 8,5km
- Day 6. High Camp – Base Camp – High Camp, 9km
- Day 7. High Camp – Siding/Landruk, 8,5km/12,5km
How to get to Mardi Himal?
There are many buses from Pokhara that go to Kande. The journey takes 1h30min., price NRP 400/US$3 pp. Buses leave all day long both ways. Note! Sometimes after heavy rains, the road gets very muddy (it’s not a tarred road) and the same trip can take 4-5 hours.
If you’re starting in Landruk. There are a few buses and some jeeps going to Landruk from Pokhara but not in the monsoon season then it’ll be difficult to find transport to get all the way there or back. Buses leave in the morning between 8am and 9am but from a different bus station (outside of Pokhara), taxi drivers usually know where buses leave from. Bus price NPR 500/US$4, jeep – NPR 1000/US$8.
For any trek inside the Annapurna Sanctuary area, you need the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) and the TIMS card. You can get both at the Tourism Information Center in Pokhara or in Kathmandu. Both offices are open Mon-Fri and Sun from 10am to 5pm (closed on Saturdays). We prefer doing paperwork and staying in Pokhara because it’s a nicer place than Kathmandu.
To get a TIMS card (trekkers information management system) and a permit you’ll need a passport, insurance, a contact person in Nepal (we usually give our hotel details), and 4 passport-size photos.
To get the TIMS card;
- First, fill in the form that you get at the counter
- Second, take a photo. You don’t have to bring your own photos they take them right there at the office and it’s free of charge (4 passport-size photos, it’s included in the price of your TIMS card).
- Third, give the filled form, two photos, and NPR 2000/US$15 pp. (paid only in Nepalese Rupee) at the counter
- Forth, get your TIMS.
Note! The TIMS card and the permit are valid only for one entry to the park.
To get the Annapurna Sanctuary Permit;
- First, after getting your TIMS card go to the next-door room and get the form
- Second, fill in the form
- Third, hand the filled form, passport, two photos, and NPR 3000/US$23 pp.(paid only in Nepalese Rupee) at the counter.
- Forth, get your permit.
Important! Don’t lose your TIMS and permit keep them till you exit the park there are control points throughout the park.
When is the best time for trekking?
April and October are considered to be the peak hiking season in Nepal when you get the best weather conditions as a result all trekking routes are very busy. We always try to hike in border season; March or November. There are significantly fewer people but sometimes you can be quite unlucky with the weather.
We trekked Mardi Himal at the beginning of March and got a lot of snow on the route. The Base Camp was closed nobody could walk, and you couldn’t even see the route it was buried under snow. Some other routes like the Annapurna Base Camp trek and the parts of the Annapurna circuit were closed so we had to wait in Pokhara for about a week before we could start hiking. It was the most snow in February and March that they got in Nepal in the last 30 years I guess it doesn’t happen every year. Luckily there are many great things to do in Pokhara to keep one busy! While waiting we did the Panchase trek, an easy 3-day route outside the Annapurna Sanctuary.
From May to September is the monsoon season which means a lot of rain. The roads and trails get very muddy not nice weather for hiking in the mountains. As for the winter months, I read that some people like hiking in December – February because there are very few people but it gets very cold and on the routes like Mardi Himal where there are no local villages it might be difficult to find accommodation and food because most places are closed for offseason.
How much does the Mardi Himal trek cost?
Guide. We did the Mardi Himal trek independently from the 1st of April 2023 it’s compulsory to have a guide. A guide charges US$25 per day you can share one guide between several people to reduce the cost.
Accommodation prices change according to the season, in April and October they’re the highest. In March we paid NPR 400/US$3 for accommodation for two people but in the high season, it can be between NPR 500/US$4 and NPR 600/U$5 on average.
Food prices on the Mardi Himal trek are fixed. At least it says so on the menus. The prices increase steadily with the altitude and depend on how long it takes to deliver supplies to a specific place. From Landruk on there are no roads, it’s people and donkeys who carry stuff up, obviously, the higher you go the most expensive everything gets.
- Breakfast (eggs, porridge, muesli, etc.) – between NPR 400-500/US$3-4 pp.
- Meal (pasta, rice, Dal Bhat, noodles etc.) – between NPR 500-600/US$4-5 pp.
- Tea – from NPR 50 to NPR 150/US$0,3-1 per cup
- Drinking water – from NPR 50/US$0,4 to NPR 150/US$1 per liter
The facilities on the route are quite basic compared to the more popular routes around the Annapurna massive. On the Poon Hill and the Annapurna Circuit, at most places, you can get free wi-fi, a hot shower, and electricity. On Mardi Himal, most of the time for all these you have to pay extra and many places at higher altitudes don’t have these facilities.
Our Mardi Himal trek cost
- Permits (TIMS and Annapurna Sanctuary permit) – NPR 5000/US$37 pp.
- Accommodation (3 nights) – NPR 900/US$7 for 2 people, NPR 450/US$3,5 per person.
- Food (meals, tea, snacks) – NPR 5000/US$38 per person for 3 meals a day.
- Transport – NPR 850/US$6,5; a bus from Pokhara to Kande – NPR 250/US$2 pp.; a bus from Landruk to Pokhara – NPR 500/US$4 pp.; a bus from Lakeside to the bus terminal – NPR 60/US$0,5 pp. Transport is a big money-saving aspect of hiking in the Annapurna region which makes the cost of trekking significantly less compared for example to the cost of the Everest Base Camp trek.
Total: NPR 11 550/US$88 per person for 4 days or NPR 2887/US$22 per person per day. Add to our budget the cost of a guide which is US$25 per day (if you’re more than one trekker the guide will work out cheaper per person).
Money-saving tips for the trek
- The higher you go the more expensive food gets so bring some snacks and chocolate with you.
- Bring a water filter or any other water purification system with it’ll save you between US$2-4 per person per day.
- Try to negotiate accommodation price if it seems too high, we usually say that we’re going to eat 3 meals in the place (we don’t stop for lunch on the way) and they give a discount.
- Make sure to bring enough cash with there will be no place on the route to draw money.
What is the accommodation like on the trek?
The Mardi Himal trek doesn’t go through local villages. All stops on the route from Landruk to Base Camp are set only for the season and exclusively for trekkers, nobody lives there permanently. It explains poorer infrastructure on this route e.g. no electricity, no gas shower, etc.
Accommodation on the Mardi Himal trek is cheap like on any other hiking route in Nepal. You have to eat at your guesthouse twice a day, usually for dinner and breakfast. Food is the main source of income for the local community.
Trekkers can stay in guest houses or camps. There are two campsites at lower altitudes e.g. Forest Camp and Low Camp. I’m not sure if it’s worth it because you pay basically the same for camping and staying indoors it’s not really a money-saving option. The guesthouses are quite standard. All have simple rooms with beds, an outside toilet, a shower, and a dining area.
On this route, there are more shared rooms (for 4-6 people) than private rooms. We never had shared rooms on any other trekking route in Nepal. Usually, you get your own double room. We shared a room with other people (4 beds) at Forest Camp and High Camp. It’s different at lower altitudes e.g. in Landruk, Siding where you can get a private room with electricity and power outlets.
In high season (April and October) it’s recommended to book guesthouses in advance, especially at High Camp. You can do so over the phone (2-3 days beforehand should be fine). If you arrive without a booking they will find a place for you to sleep but it might be a bench in the dining room or something similar. Outside these months you should be able to get a spot without a previous booking.
You’re usually charged extra for a hot shower, charging your phone, and using wi-fi. Before you use any of these facilities make sure if you have to pay extra or not. They don’t always put signs with prices when you leave you might get a surprise.
All the places we stayed had blankets. At High Camp, where it can get quite cold we used our sleeping bags and blankets.
What is the food like on the trek?
Typical food you usually get trekking in Nepal; Nepalese, Indian, Chinese, and Western dishes. Local Dal Bhat (rice, lentil soup, chapati, grilled vegetable, and spinach) is the best value for money you are guaranteed to get bottomless rice and dal and sometimes vegetables. It’s the best meal if you want to be full and not pay a lot. Soups are a great option for the starter they are always good and tasty. For hungry trekkers who need a lot of calories, I can recommend a spring roll, it’s not a traditional small deep-fried roll it’s more like a big fried pie usually stuffed with whatever they have in the kitchen (spaghetti, vegetables, rice, etc.). Overall the food on the Mardi Himal trek is similar to the food on the Everest Base Camp trek.
A fatty and filling thing for dessert is a Mars or a Sneakers roll. It’s a chocolate bar inside deep-fried dough a good addition to the main meal. The menu on the trek is quite diverse the main problem is finding something fresh like vegetables or fruit you end up eating a lot of pasta, rice, bread, and sweets but after a tough day in the mountains, I guess it’s what your body needs.
Our Mardi Himal trek itinerary – 4 days
As I already mentioned before we did this trek in between two other routes, for this reason, we started in Ghandruk and finished in Landruk. If after Mardi Himal you’re planning to exit the sanctuary and go back to Pokhara or Kathmandu you can finish in Siding, this option is included in the itinerary.
Day 1. Ghandruk – Forest Camp, 9,5 km/6 mi
Route: Ghandruk (2780 m) – Kyuni (1358 m) – Landruk (1673 m) – Forest Camp (2459m)
- Starting point – Ghandruk
- Finishing point – Forest Camp
- Distance – 9,5 km/6 mi
- Time – 4h16min.
- Total ascent – 1110 m
- Total descent – 754 m
The route was marked pretty well at some places there were arrows pointing to Forest Camp at some just white & blue markers on rocks or trees (all secondary trails in the park are marked with white and blue). We didn’t use any GPS navigation except for walking out of Ghandruk.
We started the day at Ghandruk it’s not the most traditional start of the Mardi Himal trek but we just finished the Poon Hill trek and happened to be there. The first part of the walk was a long and steep descent all the way down to the river. It took us about 1h30min. to get there. On the way down there are a couple of places to stop for food and water.
At Kyuni (a small place at the river) you can stop for lunch or rest from there you start a long and steep ascent. After about 240 m up you’ll reach Landruk, we’d suggest stopping there as well, rest a little bit and refill water, after Landruk there will be no places to buy or get water till Forest Camp. The ascent from Landruk is very long and steep you’ll get very thirsty. It’s possible to get to Landruk by jeep or even by bus from Pokhara and start walking from here.
The ascend from Landruk to Forest Camp is very long and tiring, about 870 m up, it took us about 1h45min. to get to Forest Camp.
Views from Forest Camp were by far not as impressive as from Ghandruk or even Landruk. Unlike other places on the way Forest Camp is not an actual village it’s basically just a couple of guest houses built for tourists there are no local people who live there permanently.
Day 2. Forest Camp – High Camp, 8,5 km/5,2 mi
Route: Forest Camp (2459 m) – Rest Camp (2621 m) – Low Camp (2985 m) – Middle Camp (3250 m) – High Camp (3550 m)
- Starting point – Forest Camp
- Finishing point – High Camp
- Distance – 8,5 km/5,2 mi
- Time – 3h45min.
- Total ascent – 1100 m
- Total descent – 75 m
The first half of the day was through the forest you could spot many different birds hiding between the tree. From Low Camp on we started seeing some snow peaks and far-away mountain ranges. There were many places to stop on the way for rest, tea, food, water, etc. From Low Camp, the views are getting better and better if you’re lucky with the weather you can see several peaks e.g. Machhapchhre, Annapurna South, and Mardi Himal. The walk is tough but not as tough as the previous day, the ascend is quite long but not as steep and tiring as on the way to Forest Camp.
If you feel tired or weak you can stop at Low Camp, it’s about 1h30min. from Forest Camp, there are a couple of tea houses there. The facilities are very similar everywhere on the trail. Room NPR 400/US$3 for two people, hot shower – NPR 300/US$2, wi-fi – NPR 300/US$2, charging the phone – free.
From Low Camp you go over 3000 m going up is getting more and more challenging. The best you can do is to walk up slowly, frequently stop for rest, and drink enough water. There will be several tea houses on the way where you can rest. If you start having a headache or any symptoms of altitude sickness stay for a night at a lower altitude, give yourself more time to adjust to the altitude, and continue walking up the next day.
After the Middle Camp, the scenery was breathtaking you could see mountains and canyons around, snow peaks looked very close, massive vultures were gliding in the skies, etc. some of the best views in this part of the park.
As I mentioned, in the beginning, we got a lot of snow on the route due to it Base Camp was closed, and High Camp was the last place to stop. Even at High Camp snow was up to the roofs, water in pipes was frozen so no running water in the whole settlement and locals melted snow for cooking and making tea. High Camp has the most basic facilities on the route but the views from up here are spectacular if you’re lucky you can see the amazing night sky and stunning sunrise.
There are four or five smallish guest houses at High Camp in high season it’s highly recommended to book a spot in advance over the phone.
Day 3. High Camp – Base Camp – High Camp, 9 km, 5,5 mi
Route: High Camp (3550 m) – Base Camp (4500 m) – High Camp (3550 m)
- Starting point – High Camp
- Finishing point – High Camp
- Distance – 9 km/5,5 mi
- Time – 5-6 hours
- Total ascent – 950 m
- Total descent – 950 m
As I already said Base Camp was closed; due to a lot of snow the route was very dangerous and slippery in fact a couple of days before we arrived a hiker from Japan had slipped down on the way to Base Camp. We saw a helicopter looking for him or more likely his body for two days (not sure if they ever found it). We decided not to risk besides we didn’t even have crampons or trekking poles.
We walked early morning to one of the viewpoints and back, it took us about 1 hour. After breakfast, we decided to go down so our itinerary was 1 day shorter than it was supposed to be but we couldn’t do anything about it. We’re planning to go back to the Annapurna region this year in October and will try our luck with Base Camp again.
Usually, people start walking to Base Camp in the dark before sunrise for two reasons; first, the weather is better in the morning (less cloudy and windy), and second, to see the sunrise on the way.
Alternative! Depending on how long it takes to go all the way to Base Camp and back and how tired you’re you can stay at High Camp or start going down and overnight at Middle Camp or Low Camp, it’ll take you between 1h30min.-2h. to get to one of these places.
Day 4. Option 1. High Camp – Landruk, 13 km/7,8 mi
Route: High Camp (3550 m) – Middle Camp (3250 m) – Low Camp (2985 m) – Rest Camp (2621 m) – Forest Camp (2459 m) – Landruk (1673 m)
- Starting point – High Camp
- Finishing point – Landruk
- Distance – 12,7 km/7,8 mi
- Time – 4h30min.
- Total ascent – 114 m
- Total descent – 1952 m
It was a long day of descending, almost 2000 meters down it’s not advisable to do if you have any knee issues. As an option you can split it into two days; stay overnight at Forest Camp and continue going down the next day. The part from Forest Camp to Landruk is the steepest part of the Mardi Himal trek. The way down went quickly and almost effortlessly compared to the two days that took us to get up and we actually could enjoy the scenery and spotted many birds in the forest on the way.
We really liked this town on the way up and thought that we’d like to stay here and so we did. There are several guesthouses in the village. Some are quite fancy and expensive NPR 800/US$6 but there are traditional tea houses for NPR 400/US$3 for two people. To find cheaper options go a little bit down from the jeep station.
Day 4. Option 2. High Camp – Siding, 8,5 km/5,2 mi
Route: High Camp (3550 m) – Middle Camp (3250 m) – Low Camp (2985 m) – Siding (1885 m)
- Starting point – High Camp
- Finishing point – Siding
- Distance – 8,5 km/5,2 mi
- Time – 4h.
- Total ascent – 120 m
- Total descent – 1744 m
If you’re not planning to do any other treks after finishing the Mardi Himal the best option is to go to Siding and take a jeep back to Pokhara. At Low Camp there is a split one route goes to Forest Camp and one goes to Siding. Note! There is an alternative route to Siding from High Camp we did see a sign pointing in that direction but the route itself was buried under the snow I wouldn’t recommend taking this route it didn’t look safe and it’s very isolated, on the map it didn’t seem to be any shorter than going down through Low Camp.
Mardi Himal trek packing list
It’s a 4-day trek with staying in guest houses so try to pack light to make the walk easier. Overall for this trek, we had the same stuff we packed for the Everest Base Camp trek.
Places to stay in Pokhara
Lakeside is the main touristy area of Pokhara it’s full of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, bars, etc. There you can find accommodation for any budget from cheap homestays to fancy spa hotels.
Budget | Gauri Shankar backpackers hostel | Pokhara Youth Hostel |
Middle price | Hotel Middle Path & Spa | Hotel Lake Shore (we stayed here several times) |
High-end | Temple Tree Resort & Spa | Glacier Hotel & Spa |
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Recommended books and guidebooks
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- Lonely Planet Nepal (Travel Guide), 2018. Paper book & Kindle
- Trekking Everest: Base Camp, Kala Patar and Other Trekking Routes in Nepal and Tibet. Cicerone, 2019. Paper book & Kindle
- Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal by Dorje Dolma. Paperback & Kindle.
- The Snow Leopard by Pieter Matthiessen. Paper book & Kindle
- Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer. Paper book & Kindle.
- Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan. Paper book & Kindle
- A Step Away from Paradise: The True Story of a Tibetan Lama’s Journey to a Land of Immortality by Thomas K. Shore. Paper book & Kindle
The pretty half of Stingy Nomads, responsible for all our land adventures (hiking, climbing, walking the Camino) and following them write-ups. Alya loves walking since she was a child, she prefers to walk 1000 km with a backpack rather than to do a 10 000 km road trip (actually any road trip). Alya is a big fan of Latin America, the Spanish language, and dancing. Every time we go away she desperately misses our dog Chile.