World → Asia → Nepal → Mardi Himal
UPDATE. As of April 1, 2023 the Nepal government required that major treks can no longer be done independently. Hiring a guide is mandatory. The obvious alternative is the Indian Himalaya.
High altitude trekking is dangerous – Oct 2014 Nepal snowstorm disaster
- Poon Hill
- Annapurna Panorama Trek
- Annapurna Sanctuary (Annapurna Base Camp)
AT A GLANCE
Most hikers think of Kathmandu and Everest when they hear the word Nepal, but Annapurna (close to Pokhara) has been a more popular destination.
- Mardi Himal, an alternative to the Annapurna Circuit is getting increasingly popular. It officially opened 2012.
- it’s a short, scenic up-and-back trek for which you should already be acclimatized
- ridge walk, great views
- few villages, more wilderness
- Oct – Nov best months
- Mar – May next best
- 4 days recommended. Total distance about 40km / 25mi depending on start and finish points. Elevation gain about 3274m.
- highest point is Mardi Himal Base Camp 4500m
- ACAP permit, TIMS card required
- many hire a guide, porter(s) and/or pack animal(s) but it’s easy to do independently if you are acclimatized
- independent hikers buy food as they go and stay in simple lodges
- the Annapurna region is inexpensive, but more expensive than in the past. Many hikers run out of cash. Budget at least $30 / day / person and carry more for emergencies.
- be clear — you might have to QUIT if you suffer altitude sickness (Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS).
- wifi and electricity available at most guest houses, sometimes at no extra cost
Why We Like This Hike
The Annapurna massif has one peak over 8,000m (26,000 ft), thirteen peaks over 7,000m (23,000 ft), and sixteen more over 6,000m (20,000 ft). It’s 55km (34 mi) long.
An amazing part of the world.
- you walk from lush sub-tropic to high altitude
- less crowded than other Annapurna trails
- new airport will be opening in Pokhara 2021. Easier access.
- very little gear is needed
- you can easily get pack weight down to 10kg (22lbs)
- walk with no tent and little food.
- safe and easy to hike solo
- no need to speak Nepali, only English
- food is good and quite safe (compared with Kathmandu)
- lodges are fairly new built. Many have gas showers and lights provided by solar power.
- the mountain culture is lovely but this particular route goes through fewer village than most other Nepal hikes
- for sure the worst thing about Himalayan treks is getting to and from the trailheads. Local buses, shared jeeps and private vehicles are all slow. The roads terrible and often dangerous. Best of bad options, for us, is paying for an expensive regular taxi at the start. Taking the inexpensive local bus on the return.
- independent hikers need to manage their own health and medical issues. Bring a first aid kit.
- you MUST bring footwear you love and trust. Almost everyone brings walking shoes as well as guest house shoes for the evening.
- some buy Diamox in Nepal. It’s called Diamox Sequels in the USA.
- some even carry a course of antibiotics, just in case
- Dengue Fever reached Nepal 2004. Cases increasing ever since. Tourists advised to avoid mosquito bites.
- Waterborne diseases are a big concern in Nepal. Treat water. Don’t trust that water used in restaurants is safe. If worried, order a “sizzler“. Your meal arrives very hot, covered with gravy, sometimes in flame. Order vegetable. Meat cannot always be stored safely before cooking. Refrigeration in Nepal is compromised by electricity cuts.
- both men and women are advised to wear modest clothing respecting local culture
- sunglasses / eye protection needed
- Please do not buy bottled water on the trek
- mobile phone service access rapidly improving. Get a SIM card from Nepal Telecom Namaste. Data inexpensive.
- “squater” pit toilets wer the norm but western sit-down toilets are increasingly available. Bring your own toilet paper.
- bring a tiny combination padlock for your door in lodges
Visa on arrival for most nations at Tribhuvan International, Kathmandu in 2019:
Multiple entry 15 days US$ 30
Multiple entry 30 days US$ 50
Multiple entry 90 days US$ 125
You can pay with credit card or other major currencies. The visa on arrival process is much faster and simpler than in the past. No need to bring passport photos as machines now take your mugshot photo.
In 2019 while on the trail we spent about $30 / day. No alcohol.
You might budget $40 / day / person to be on the safe side.
Very frugal hikers might average $20 / day.
Costs for bed and food tend to increase the further you hike from a road.
Carry more cash than you need for your planned trip in case of emergency. Bring Nepalese rupees. It’s a cash economy in the mountains.
In 2019 the most we could take out of a bank machine at one time in Pokhara was 35000 NPR (about $300). We used Nabil Bank machines withdrawing directly from our bank cards, not credit card, to reduce the transaction fee cost and avoid interest.
Independents need to buy their own hiking permits for Mardi Himal:
- 2019 $20 (NPR 2,000) / person TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card.
- 2019 $30 (NPR 3,000)/ person Annapurna Conservation Area Park (ACAP) permit – single entry
It’s easiest to purchase permits in advance of your hike:
- Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu
- Nepal Tourism Board in Pokhara (faster, easier)
In the past you needed to bring passport photos. In 2019 those offices take your photo while there. No cost.
Evacuation by helicopter is expensive. Payment must be guaranteed in advance. Bring your credit card, just in case.
Consider purchasing good insurance coverage for this trip. World Nomads, for example, offers policies covering hikers up to 3000m, 4500m or 6000m.
In 2019 we bought 30 day visas for Nepal. And World Nomads insurance for those same 30 days.
In 2018 Chase spent $213 including permits & transport to and from Pokhara.
Stingy Nomads lays out the options for you.
One itinerary they recommend:
- Ghandruk to Forest Camp
- Forest Camp to High Camp
- High Camp to Base Camp back to High Camp
- High Camp to to Siding (easier) or Landruk (harder)
Altitude sickness is an important consideration. Do you have enough days to acclimatize?
Popular starting points include Kande, Ghandruk, Landruk.
Popular end points include Sidling and Landruk.
This site is mainly for independent trekkers. But if you really want or need a guide compare offers like these:
- Discovery World Trekking
- Kimkim – Mardi Himal Trek
It is tempting to sign on with an organized international tour from abroad.
Talking to tour group hikers on the trail, however, a good percentage once there wish they had done it on their own. There are a number of downsides to being locked into the group itinerary.
If you wait until you arrive Nepal there are dozens of local companies eager to sign you on. Some are great, others less reliable. We would join up only with a company for which we had personal references.
Only TAAN registered trekking agencies in Kathmandu and Pokhara can legally organize treks and provide the services of a guide and/or porter with insurance. Be aware that no one else, no hotel, no street broker, no nice person you just met, not even a trekking guide is legally authorized to organize a trek. During the main seasons the agencies run regular group treks, both tea-house and camping styles …
If you do not sign on with a tour, you can still hire your own local guide or porter at any village or lodge en route. We like this option better.
A guide will show you the way, but not carry your gear. They may be Nepali or foreign. Many hikers are happier to be led — though you certainly can do this hike on your own without a guide. A good guide may enrich the trip for you.
A porter guide from the Trekking Workers’ Association of Nepal is a local who speaks English who may also carry a limited load, perhaps 15kg (33lbs). You can hire a porter guide if and when you need one on the trail for something like US$20 / day plus tip (2019). There is often an insurance fee added.
Check the website of one such porter guide to give you an idea of how it works – Devendra Pun.
Certainly, trekkers regularly have trouble with guides:
- some can be insistent on where they want you to stop each night. This sometimes leads to conflict.
- they ask for more money, or gear they “forgot” to bring
- they may want to change / shorten the itinerary
- they may ask you hire an additional porter once you get on the trail
Most international hikers arrive via Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathamandu. It’s not very good.
Due to severe traffic congestion and the airport running out of its maximum capacity, the government of Nepal decided to construct more international airports, notably, Nijgadh International Airport, Pokhara International Airport and Gautam Buddha Airport.
In 2019 we flew into Kathmandu. Walked over to the domestic terminal. And flew on to Pokhara skipping Kathmandu altogether. Sit on the right (mountain side of the plane) for excellent views.
If you sign on with a guided trip, logistics will be organized for you. This section is for hikers traveling to Nepal independently.
- most hikers buy a tourist visa at the airport
- a couple of days sightseeing in Kathmandu or Pokhara is standard while you adjust to the time zone change and while waiting to purchase your trekking permits. Don’t stay too long in polluted Kathmandu city as there’s a chance you’ll get SICK from the air and water.
- you can rent or buy gear in Kathmandu or Pokhara if needed, though selection is limited
- the best bus Kathmandu – Pokhara is Greenline.
- $25 one way in 2019
- buffet lunch at a riverside resort included
- 6-8 hours depending on traffic
In Pokhara there are hundreds of commission touts that will tell you anything you want to hear about Mardi Himal.
Instead, ask at the Nepal Tourism Board in Pokhara where you buy your permits. In fact, the very best source of up-to-date information is to hang out at the office talking to other trekkers. Ask if any have done Mardi Himal.
Best Trekking Guidebooks
Check to be sure you’re buying the most recent edition. We normally purchase a paper copy for advanced research at home. And a digital copy for use on the trail.
- Lonely Planet Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya does NOT include it
- Cicerone Annapurna: A Trekker’s Guide (2017) – Bob Gibbons and Siân Pritchard Jones DOES include Mardi Himal
Best Travel Guidebooks
Other Recommended Books
Get your guidebooks in advance. Most of these will be available in Nepal. There are great bookshops in Kathmandu.
- A Beard In Nepal (2012) – Fiona Roberts
- Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal (2011) – Conor Grennan
- A Nepalese Journey: The Essence of the Annapurna Circuit (2002) – Andrew Stevenson
- The Snow Leopard – Peter Matthiessen
- Travelers’ Tales Nepal – Rajendra S. Khadka
- Nepal Trek – A Woman Alone (2006) – Kay Petterson Shaw
- Annapurna Circuit – Himalayan Journey (1998) -Andrew Stevenson
- Annapurna – Maurice Herzog, 1950 first ascent, climbing classic
- True Summit: What Really Happened on the Legendary Ascent of Annapurna (2002) – David Roberts, 2002
- Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna – Lionel Terray, climbing classic
- Annapurna South Face – Bonington & Willis, climbing classic
- Annapurna: 50 Years of Expeditions in the Death Zone – Reinhold Messner, 2000
- Annapurna: A Woman’s Place – Arlene Blum, 1998
- East of Lo Monthang – Peter Matthiessen, 1995
- The Ascent of Rum Doodle – W.E. Bowman
- Annapurna: Trekking Map and Complete Guide – 162 pages (2012) – Partha S Banerjee
There are many similar maps available in Pokhara. Check the options when you get there.
Online Maps / Apps
In 2019 most hikers relay on mobile phone apps. We used the free Maps.me app.
Best Web Pages
- Third Rock Adventures – Mardi Himal
- Chase Tucker – Base Camp Training – Mardi Himal Trek Review
- TrekkingPartners.com (find others to hike with you)
Best Trip Reports
- Stingy Nomads – Mardi Himal Trek – Complete Guide and Itinerary (2019)
- Mardi Himal Trek to Base Camp (4500 m) – Important Informative Guide
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch Kraig Adams (2020) on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch a guided trek on YouTube. With crampons.
Click PLAY or watch a flyover on YouTube.
Some of the other best hikes in the Annapurna region include:
Annapurna Sanctuary (ABC)
Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment on this page. Our editors will reply.