For information on preparing for this trek, including when to go, what to bring, what permits are required, and safety precautions including altitude sickness, and water contamination, see Trekking in Nepal.
Mardi Himal is a lesser known trek that runs along the ridge just east of the popular Annapurna Sanctuary trek to Mardi Himal Base Camp. From high on the ridge, the trail provides panoramic views of the Annapurna range, Machhapuchhre (Fish Tail) and Mardi Himal as well as sweeping vistas of the Himalaya foothills and cities of Ghandruk, Chomrong and Pokhara.
While the route has been used by self-supported groups for many years, it was officially opened in 2012 with the addition of lodges that provide food and accommodation. Compared to nearby treks, it is less busy, shorter, and has a more consistent ascent to its maximum elevation of 4,500 m (14,800 ft).
The increased popularity of the trek has led to an accommodation shortage at peak times. In response, may tea houses have set up tents to accommodate the overflow. If you wish to be sure of securing a room either call to reserve or arrive early in the day.
Most lodges have gas showers and lights provided by solar power, although some have backup generators. Prices are fixed and regulated by a committee so they should be the same for all lodges at a single location.
There are several options to access the start of the trek. From Pokhara, most trekkers take a bus to Kande, although it's also possible to start from Phedi. Buses depart from the Baglung bus station.
From the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, take the trail to Landruk via New Bridge.
To Forest Camp
There are several options depending on where you are starting.
Kade to Deurali
6.5 km (4.0 mi), 2.5-3.5 hr
From Kande, climb to Australian Camp 2,060 m (6,760 ft), 1-1.5 hr and then descend slightly to Pothana 1,950 m (6,400 ft) before continuing on to Deurali 2,100 m (6,900 ft).
Deurali to Forest Camp
8 km (5.0 mi), 4-5 hr
Make a right turn at the Forest Camp signpost at Deurali and follow the trail through jungle along the top of the ridge.
4 km (2.5 mi), 2.5-3.5 hr
Be prepared for a gruelling climb on a south-facing aspect that will leave you sweating and gasping for air. This is a less frequented trail that gives good views of Ghandruk, Annapurna South and down the valley to Nayapul for the first half of the climb. From the jeep stand, follow the trail into Upper Landruk, turning left at the marker and following the pained blue and white trail markers north out of town. The trail climbs up steep switch-backing turns, alternating between roots, rocks and steps.
After about 1.5 km (0.93 mi) there is a viewpoint on the left that has good views of Annapurna. After this point the trail is more in the trees so it is a good place to stop for a break. In the last few hundred meters before connecting with the main trail to Forest Camp, the trail is somewhat exposed to falls due to a landslide.
Forest Camp to Low Camp
3.5 km (2.2 mi), 1.75-3.25 hr
Out of Forest Camp, the trail climbs gradually and heads to the right, skirting a high point on the ridge. As the forest thins, there are glimpses of a view to the south-east and Pokera. After 25-45 min, arrive in Rest Camp and enjoy the first close-up view of Machhapuchhre. The trail travels through rhododendron forests as it continues to Low Camp. In the last 500 m (1,600 ft) the trail levels out and you may encounter yaks.
Low Camp to High Camp
4.5 km (2.8 mi), 2.5-3.75 hr
Immediately out of Low camp, the trail is up to one meter below ground level due to wear and erosion. In this section, loose rocks may make footing tricky. Route finding can be difficult at times as the erosion has created several apparent paths. After climbing out of the heavily eroded section, stay left and gain the ridge.
Once on the ridge, the trail fragments again. Keep your eyes open for the blue and white trail markers pained on trees and as long as you keep heading uphill you can't get too far off course.
At Mid Camp, pass a single guest house and continue up the ridge to Lower High Camp where the trail permanently breaks from the trees giving panoramic views. High Camp is reached following the undulating ridge-top.
High Camp to MBC
5 km (3.1 mi), 3-5 hr (one way)
As there is no accommodation past High Camp, most people make a return day trip up to Mardi Himal Base Camp (MBC). There are several destinations along the ridge, Lower View Point 2.2 km (1.4 mi), 1.5-2.5 hr; Upper View Point 4 km (2.5 mi), 2.5-3 hr; MBC 4.7 km (2.9 mi), 3.5-4 hr; and Upper MBC 5.7 km (3.5 mi), 4-6 hr.
It is a popular option to stat walking in the dark to reach the Lower Viewpoint and beyond for sunrise. There are tea houses at Lower and Upper Viewpoints, but they are quite expensive (Milk Tea Rs. 300) so consider packing snacks and water.
After leaving High Camp, descend slightly into a saddle. From here the trail forks, the left route is a steep but short climb up a rise that may make those afraid of heights uncomfortable. The right fork is a circuitous route that has an easier grade an no exposure to falls. After Lower Viewpoint the grade noticeably mellows and it is a fairly easy walk (except for the elevation) to Upper Viewpoint and MBC.
The more adventurous may wish to continue beyond MBC to Upper MBC which is 300 m (980 ft) higher. The trail is steep and difficult to follow in sections so trekkers should have alpine experience and rudimentary route finding abilities. Follow the trail to the right across the rocky slope and cross the slide path. As you reach the first shoulder you have the option to follow a faint trail up the ridge directly above you, or continue east to the next ridge and follow it to the summit.
From Upper MBC you'll enjoy spectacular views towards Annapurna I, Machhapuchhre, Mardi Himal and south along the trail.
If you don't want to backtrack to Kande or continue onto Annapurna Sanctuary via Landruk, there are trails descending from High, Low and Forest Camps to Sidhig (where you can catch a jeep) or Lumre (where you can catch a bus). It takes about 6.5 hr from High Camp to Lumre. Pokhara bound buses leave three times a day at 9, 12, and 4 and cost around Rs. 200.
1 Forest Camp. 3 lodges with a large grassy area for tents. A clearing provides good views to the south-west, down to Ghandruk and Nayapul; however, Annapurna and Machhapuchhre are not visible
- Hotel Forest Camp and Restaurant, ☏ .
- Hotel Green View and Restaurant, ☏ , , . Has WiFi
- Hotel Mardi and Restaurant, ☏ , .
2 Rest Camp. A single lodge on the east side of the ridge. Good views of Machhapuchhre and it's possible to see Pokhara on a clear day. Sunset views and Annapurna are blocked by the ridge but the camp has good morning sun.
- Hotel Rest Camp and Restaurant, ☏ , , , . Has WiFi
3 Low Camp. 2 lodges. Has a similar aspect as Rest camp: south-east facing with views of Machhapuchhre but no sunsets or Annapurna.
- Hotel Laligurans Garden and Restaurant, ☏ , , , . Has WiFi
- Hotel Machhapuchre Samjhana and Restaurant, ☏ , , , . Has WiFi
4 Mid Camp (Low-High Camp, Badal Danda). A collection of loosely grouped lodges strung out along the ridge after the trail breaks treeline. The views vary from lodge to lodge, but they generally have good views of Machhapuchhre and Annapurna.
- Hotel Lucky View and Restaurant, ☏ , , . Has WiFi
5 High Camp. The highest accommodation on the trek at an elevation of 3,550 m (11,650 ft). Panoramic views of Machhapuchhre, Annapurna, and the Himalaya foothills. .
- Double View Guest House, ☏ , , . Set farther south from the main cluster of lodges, has good views to the south and of sunsets. Has WiFi.
- Hotel Fishtail and Restaurant, ☏ , , , .
- Hotel High Camp and Restaurant, ☏ , , .
- Hotel Trekker's Paradise and Restaurant, ☏ , , , , , .
The trail primarily follows a ridge so there is little surface water most of the year. All lodges have filtered / boiled water for purchase as well as free water that you can purify yourself.
Most lodges have shared dining rooms that feature a wood stove that can be used to dry clothes and warm up in the cold months.