The Mardi Himal trek is a trek in the Annapurna mountain region that opened in 2012. Before 2012, you could do the trek on your own but had to camp along the way. Today, there are teahouses and clearly marked trails to make it easier.
We did the Mardi Himal trek in 2016 and honestly believe that it is one of the best treks in Nepal. It is much less crowded since it was officially opened to the public just a few years ago.
Compared to many of the other treks in the Annapurna region, the Mardi Himal trek is shorter and can be done in less than a week typically in 4-6 days.
This is an ideal trek for those looking for a shorter adventure and that want to avoid hordes of tourists you often find along the way to the famous Annapurna Base Camp.
In other words, what the Mardi Himal trek lacks in length it more than makes up for in terms of solitude and breathtaking views.
Hence why we recommend that you consider Mardi Himal if you're planning to go trekking in Nepal. On this page, we will answer all of the questions you might have about the Mardi Himal trek. We will also share our personal tips, packing list, costs, and suggestions based on our experience doing it in 2016.
Mardi Himal Trek Guide:
3 Reasons Why the Mardi Himal Trek is a Must
- Far from crowded so you'll often have the trail all to yourself.
- Ideal if you don’t have so much time since the trek can be done in a few days to a week.
- Perfect to combine with other treks in the region because it connects with ABC, Poonhill, and some other Annapurna treks.
The trek itself is absolutely stunning with varied landscapes, magical forests, incredible views, and an abundance of fresh air.
Victoria has trekked the Annapurna Base Camp before but was still completely taken aback by the sheer beauty of the Mardi Himal trek. Adam was in complete awe from minute one.
Let's just put it this way.
Spending a morning all alone at the Mardi Himal Base Camp without another soul in sight surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in the world was a once in a lifetime experience. And like all these experiences, it’s impossible to do it justice in words. The only way to understand the greatness of being on top of the world is to be there yourself.
Pro Tip: Before we get started, we need to highlight a very important issue that often gets overlooked. Trekking in Mardi Himal is an amazing experience that we recommend but there are certain risks associated with it.
In order to make sure that you are protected all the way through the trek you need to have a travel insurance. More importantly, most travel insurances do not cover trekking at these high altitudes. That's why we encourage you to sign up for World Nomads. We used World Nomads insurance for our Mardi Himal trek because their Explorer Plan is the best travel insurance for trekking in Nepal.
World Nomads also allows you to sign up for travel insurance even if you are already traveling in Nepal.
How Many Days is the Mardi Himal Trek?
Depending on what season it is, you start can start the Mardi Himal trek at a few different locations. However, after the first day, the route is the same and the goal is Mardi Himal Base Camp at 4,500 meters (14,800 ft).
As mentioned, the trek can be done in one week, but it’s usually done quicker than that. We did the trek in a total of 5 days spending four days trekking up to base camp and then one day returning. However, many people spend four days going up and two days going down. Hence, the duration of the Mardi Himal trek will depend on how much time you have as well as your physical capabilities.
The length of the trek is easy to arrange beforehand but can also be adjusted during the trek so it’s not something you have to worry about.
Where is the Mardi Himal Trek Located?
Mardi Himal is a mountain located in the Annapurna mountain region of Nepal just outside the lakeside city of Pokhara. This area is famous for its trekking opportunities and communities of Tibetan refugees. Pokhara will serve as your base before and after the trek.
Getting to Pokhara is easy, and you can either take a 45-minute flight or a 4-6 hours bus from Kathmandu. We took the bus, and it was an adventure that we’ll remember for forever but next time we might fly just to save us the hassle. Buses, as you can imagine, can be chaotic and can end up taking double the time to arrive especially if it is close to a Nepali holiday like Dashain.
Once you reach Pokhara, you will want to stay in the touristy area by the lake. Here you’ll find a large variety of hotels, guest houses, and hostels for every price range as well as restaurants, bars, and everything else you would need while preparing for the trek.
Check out the best hotels in Pokhara!
There is also a huge number of stores selling trekking gear and everything you could need for the trek. Just beware that most of the trekking gear is bootleg and far from the highest quality. Therefore it's preferable that you bring what you need from home, especially when it comes to boots, backpacks, and rain gear. You can find a complete packing list further down on this page where we recommend some of the gear you should bring with you.
That being said, it's good to know that you can find a replacement at one of the trekking stores in Pokhara in case you forget something.
Being the fact that this is Nepal, prices are more than fair but do be prepared to bargain as it’s customary in this part of the world. We spent almost 2 weeks in Pokhara before and after our trek and ended up spending less than $20 a night. For that price we got a beautiful hotel room overlooking the Himalayas at Hotel Orchid. A meal will set you back no more than a few dollars.
Click the image to book the best hotel in Pokhara!
How To Book the Mardi Himal Trek
We have read a lot about people booking treks in Nepal online before even arriving in the country, and we would recommend against this. As we see it, there are two major problems with booking the Mardi Himal trek online.
Firstly, when booking the Mardi Himal trek online, you will pay inflated prices, often as much as 10 times the actual cost of the trek. In fact, we heard about people paying thousands of dollars to go trekking in Nepal which is absolutely crazy. Don’t forget that Nepal is one of the cheapest countries in the world and that you don’t get anything extra in terms of equipment or guides when booking online or paying more. We understand that it can be a bit nerve-wracking to not book a trek in advance, but trust us on this. Most people book the Mardi Himal trek when they are in Nepal and never experience an issue. The also pay way less than any of the prices we've seen listed online.
The second problem is that not all guides and trekking companies are created equal and some are outright untrustworthy. Therefore, it’s better to be in Pokhara so that you can get a feel of the trekking company. But more importantly, so you can meet your guide in person to make sure you click and that they have a good grasp of trekking in this region and extensive experience. You will have to spend several days with your guide in a remote mountain range, so you want to make sure you enjoy being around him and that you trust him.
Case in point, we asked our hotel for help setting up a trek, and they brought us a guide that didn’t speak English or knew how to read a map. Imagine if you paid thousands of dollars for a guide like that upfront.
Luckily, we later found a reputable trekking company in Pokhara and were paired up with a super competent guide and couldn’t have been happier about it. Our guide supported us all the way up to Mardi Himal Base Camp and would have carried us both down if he had to.
Other Activities in Pokhara:
When To Do the Mardi Himal Trek
The Mardi Himal trek can be done during two seasons. You can either do it in the fall, between mid-September and mid-November, which is the peak trekking season in Nepal. The other option is to do the trek in the spring between the end of February through April. During these two seasons, the weather is the most pleasant, and you'll most likely have the best experience.
During the summer months, there are heavy monsoon rains in the region and the risk for landslides and flooding are too high to go trekking. On the other hand, during December and January the snowfall reaches its peak.
As mentioned, we did the trek in October which was great, and we had mostly good weather all the way to the top. However, if we returned we would consider doing the Mardi Himal trek in the spring because we've heard that the blooming of rhododendrons is magnificent.
The Tea Houses and Food
Tea houses are small settlements along the route where you will eat most of your meals and spend each night. These establishments are basic, to say the least. Although, they are fairly comfortable and offer everything you need, just don’t expect anything lavish.
You’ll be sleeping in small concrete rooms without heating and shared toilets. At the beginning of the Mardi Himal trek, you'll find Western toilets and hot water but this will quickly switch to your standard Nepalese squatter for the rest of the duration. There is always a common area where you and the other trekkers eat and can hang out, play cards, and relax after a hard day of trekking.
Most of the teahouses do not have hot water. However, you can pay around 150 NPR to get a bucket of hot water to use for showering if you prefer.
Note that the Mardi Himal trek recently opened and is still under some construction, only a few years ago camping was the only option during the trek. Today, things are different, and we expect the tea houses to improve as the trek becomes more popular.
The food on the Mardi Himal trek is quite good. At every tea house, you will be served standard Nepalese food, and your main fuel will be Dhal Bhat and lemon ginger tea. But there is more to choose from such as noodles, soup, and even vegan momos. Note that the price of food increases as you make your way up. A plate of momos at High Camp will cost you around 600 NPR which is more than ten times what you pay in Pokhara.
And guess what? Since Nepal is one of the most vegan-friendly countries in Asia, you will easily find vegan food along the Mardi Himal route. In fact, Dhal Baht, which is the traditional staple of Nepal and the most popular meal on the whole trek, is a vegan dish made from lentils and rice. Meat and dairy products are scarce since it’s hard to transport and even harder to store at such altitude. In other words, the Mardi Himal trek is easy for vegans!
Mardi Himal Trek Costs
As mentioned, a lot of people end up paying too much for the Mardi Himal trek especially when booking it online. Therefore we thought we’d break down how much we paid for the Mardi Himal trek as well as things we would have done differently.
How Much Does the Mardi Himal Trek Cost?
Everyone who enters any of the mountain ranges in Nepal has to pay for a trekking permit. This is used to help pay for teahouses, development, as well as to keep track of all the people that are trekking, making sure that no one disappears.
Today, you need two different permits to go trekking in the Annapurna region. The first is an Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) which is used to pay for conservation of the Annapurna trekking region. The second is the Trekkers' Information Management Systems (TIMS) card used to track everyone who is trekking in Nepal.
The ACAP costs 2,000 NPR ($17) for foreigners +13% VAT while the TIMS card costs 2,000 NPR ($17) for a single person and 1,000 NPR ($9) per person if you are in a group.
Pay a Guide
We also recommend that you get yourself a guide because you never know if you might need help. For example, Victoria trekked ABC before without problems but struggled to get down from Mardi Himal Base Camp to High Camp because of altitude and sheer exhaustion. Our guide helped her down otherwise we might have been in trouble. Guides can also call ahead to reserve rooms at nicer teahouses.
We ended up paying $25 per day for our guide who was extremely experienced. Some people also bring porters to help carry their belongings, although they cost less than a guide. In our opinion, porters are not necessary for the Mardi Himal trek since it’s relatively short and there are tea houses along the way. Although, if you’re unable to carry your own backpack then we would we recommend a porter. Just remember not to overload your them since this is a common issue in Nepal.
In addition, you will have to pay for the guides ACAP and TIM. Luckily, an ACAP for nationals from South Asia is only 200 NPR ($2). Totaling, $12 for the guide's permits.
Pay for Food and Tea Houses
In addition, you will have to pay for food and housing in the various tea houses en route. You should expect to pay more for food on the trek than in Pokhara and Kathmandu. Prices also tend to increase the higher up you get, which is perfectly natural since someone has to carry all the supplies up in the first place.
Meals cost from 300 NPR upwards to 700 NPR at High Camp. A room at a teahouse will cost anywhere from 150-400 NPR.
We also had to pay for a jeep to bring us to the starting point and we ended up splitting another jeep with a few other trekkers that brought us from the last point back to Pokhara. Some people opt to walk all the way from Pokhara but we would recommend against this since you'll be spending most of your first day walking along dirty and very busy roads in the heart of the second largest city in Nepal.
You will also have to buy or rent the gear if you didn't bring it from home. Since we were out on a longer trip and were planning on renting a house in Bali after the trek, we didn’t have anything with us except for backpacks. Therefore we had to get boots - Victoria bought a pair and Adam rented a pair. But as you can imagine, this isn’t a perfect scenario. Ideally, you would want to have trekking boots that are already broken in so you don’t get blisters during the trek. Trust us, blisters while trekking is not fun. Quality trekking boots will also offer proper support for the terrain of the trek.
We also got long johns, sweaters, socks, and rain gear. Since we did the trek in October there was no need to pack winter gear but that might be needed later on in the season - check with your guide or trekking company to see what they recommend. We also rented two sleeping bags from our trekking company.
Before we headed off we also bought some snacks such as nuts as well as water purification tablets. This stuff is sold at most grocery stores and shops in Nepal and is easy to come by.
What to Pack for Mardi Himal
It’s important that you pack everything you'll need for the trek. In addition, bring clothes suited for trekking as well as warmer clothes to wear at night/while sleeping.
There are a few trekking essentials that we wish we would have packed, and we're going to share what your Mardi Himal packing list should look like so you can be better prepared. With that in mind, don’t forget that you have to carry everything with you, and unless your planning to bring a porter, you should pack as light as possible.
Mardi Himal Packing List:
- Boots - Great boots that have been walked-in are essential. You don't want a pair of cheap boots that won't support you or will start leaking when it rains. You also don't want to get blisters on the way because it will ruin your experience. Trust us on this. Not packing a great pair of trekking boots and buying cheap ones in Pokhara was our biggest downfall. Here is a great pair of vegan trekking boots for women, and these synthetic Timberland boots would be a great first choice for men.
- Waterproof jacket and pants - It rained for the better part of one day during our trek, and we are glad we had a rain jacket and water-resistant pants. If you're trekking later in the season, you might also need to bring a thicker winter coat and pants to keep you warm. In our opinion, you can never go wrong with North Face in terms of jackets and Fjäll Räven's trekking pants.
- Winter hat and gloves - It gets cold the further up you go, and a hat and gloves will help keep you warm. In fact, you will probably end up sleeping in them too.
- Shorts - Some days are warmer than others, and for about half of the trek, we wore shorts and t-shirts during the day.
- T-shirts - At least two basic t-shirts are needed to wear under your sweater/jacket or during hotter days. These t-shirts are Adam's favorite and Victoria really likes these ones.
- Fleece Jacket - An insulating sweater or fleece jacket will be used most evenings in the tea houses as well as the last leg of the trek up to base camp.
- Trekking socks - Bring good thick socks to wear in your boots and to keep you warm at night. Fast drying socks are also recommended due to rainfall and sweat.
- Sunglasses - The sun is awfully strong when you're 4,000+ meters surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and you will need sunglasses to keep you from getting blinded. We love these sunglasses in particular because they are made in the USA, polarized with 100% UV protection, and great reviews.
- Trekking Pole - It is advisable that you bring a trekking pole on the trek since it will help you with the steepest inclines. Our guide made two poles for us from sticks but we wish we had brought some with us.
Other Trekking Essentials:
- Reusable Water Bottle - We always travel with reusable bottles and brought two each with us.
- Water Purification Tablets - You can buy boiled water along the trek, but it’s recommended to also use purification tablets to make sure you don’t get sick.
- Baby Wipes - The combination of cold weather, long sweaty days, and a lack of hot water means baby wipes will be your best friend. Trust us. Also, bring biodegradable baby wipes since you'll be spending time in nature and don't want to leave behind rubbish.
- Ibuprofen - You never know what can happen during the trek and bringing ibuprofen is advisable. Also, some people experience mild altitude sickness during the Mardi Himal trek, and if you're prone to headaches, ibuprofen will be a lifesaver.
- Snacks - We brought nuts and dried fruit to boost our morale between the meals but would have probably packed some snacks from home to ensure the quality.
- Headlamp or Torch - The teahouses get pitch black at night so a torch is always needed. In our opinion, a headlamp is more practical than a regular torch during trekking.
- Band-aids - You might get blisters and band-aids will be your best friend.
Mardi Himal Trek Route
This is our Mardi Himal trek itinerary and a rough idea of what you can expect. Although your route may differ since there is more than one way to begin the trek.
Day 1 - Pokhara to Pitam Deurali
On the first day, you’ll be picked up in Pokhara and taken to your starting point. We started our trek in Kande but it can vary depending on the season and trekking company. During the first day, you’ll pass Australian Camp and then continue to Pothana where the trek officially starts and you register your trekking permits.
We got to eat lunch in Pothana before we set off to Pitam Deurali which was the first camp where we spent the night. This was also the only camp during the trek with running hot water.
The first day takes you through mostly forested areas with a steep incline over stairs at the beginning. The trail becomes a bit flatter after Pothana. You will also get to enjoy your first views of the Annapurna Range up close.
Day 2 - Pitam Deurali to Forest Camp
Day two will be one of the longest days on the Mardi Himal trek. You will be walking from Deurali to Forest Camp which takes about 5 to 6 hours. If you’re planning to do a shorter version of the trek, you might skip Forest Camp and do another 1-2 hours to the next camp. Otherwise, you’ll reach Forest Camp in the late afternoon and spend the night there.
You won’t be spoiled with as many breathtaking views this day, however, you will walk through the magical forest and experience the complete serenity that Mardi Himal is famous for.
Day 3 - Forest Camp to High Camp
The incline after Forest Camp is steep and you’ll definitely get your heart rate up. You'll pass through the rhododendron forest which is supposed to be beautiful in the spring when in full bloom. A few hours into the third day the terrain becomes barren and rocky.
We stopped at Badal Danda for a lunch before proceeding on with the trek. Here you can catch your first glimpse of the stunning snowcapped mountains.
The day ends at High Camp which is the highest located camp before Base Camp. Make sure you get to bed early because the next day will be a killer.
Day 4 - High Camp to Base Camp
Day four starts early at around 5 am. It will be freezing cold but if you're lucky the sky will be clear and you'll get to see some stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
Make sure to eat a sturdy breakfast and pack some food because you will have a rough few hours ahead of you.
When we did the trek, we set off at 5:30 am on an almost vertical climb for about an hour and then we started following the ridge leading to Base Camp while the sun started to rise. It was magical in every sense of the world and seeing the sunrise over the Himalayas is by far one of the most humbling experiences we've ever had.
You will pass two viewpoints on the way to Mardi Himal Base Camp. The first viewpoint is located about a third of the way and the second viewpoint is located halfway to base camp. Some trekkers choose to turn back at these stops. However, we pushed on all the way to the end. Naturally, you get the best views from Mardi Himal Base Camp, but if you’re running low on time, you can opt to turn back sooner.
On the day we did the trek, no one else made it to Mardi Himal Base Camp meaning we got to enjoy it all for ourselves which was more than we could have ever hoped for.
As you start descending, you have two options. You can either go back to High Camp, get your gear and start heading down to the next camp. Or you can spend another night at High Camp, enjoying the views and the great atmosphere at the top. We decided to stay another night at High Camp, and since Victoria had some problems getting down it made the most sense anyway.
Day 5 - High Camp to Pokhara
We had originally planned to do the trek over 6 days but after talking to some other trekkers at High Camp we decided to cut it short and make it back to Pokhara in one day. It was going to be a tough day but we were prepared for it.
It took us almost 6 hours walking down to Siddhing where the last official camp is located and where many spend the last night. It was a very steep and rocky descent down but we got some great last views of the Annapurna region.
At Siddhing we had a pre-booked jeep waiting for us that brought us and a group of other trekkers back to Pokhara. You can arrange for a jeep to pick you up with the staff at Mardi Himal Base Camp or your guide.
The ride was crazy like only rides in the Nepalese Himalayas can be. Our driver spoke on the phone the whole way and drove with one hand while speeding down tiny dirt roads lined with several hundred meter high drops on each side. Yep, we were scared for our lives, and the ride is not for the faint of heart.
Mardi Himal Risks and Tips
All types of trekking are associated with certain risks such as injuries and illness. However, all these risks are tenfold when you're trekking at high altitude in a developing country with little to no reliable infrastructure. Because of this, you have to take special precautionary actions before embarking on a trek in Nepal. It's good to know a bit more about the risks but also how to best protect yourself.
There is always the risk of hurting yourself while trekking. You might strain or even break a limb, or worse. That's why we suggest you bring a simple first aid kit with you. We also suggest you bring a guide with you since they are trained to help out when needed, they also have the ability to get in contact with local help if needed.
There is always the risk of getting sick on the trail, and it happens quite often. Stomach problems are especially prominent which is why we advise you to pack charcoal tablets and ibuprofen.
Generally speaking, altitude sickness can happen to anyone above 2,500 meters, and since you will be spending most of your trek above that altitude, there is always the risk of getting sick. Luckily, altitude sickness only happens to very few people that set out on the Mardi Himal trek.
Today, the Mardi Himal trek is very well marked with signs and color codes making it easy to do on your own. However, there is always the risk of getting lost so make sure you're always aware of your surroundings. Many people that get lost in the mountains get disoriented quickly, and the altitude can hurt your judgment. Most people that get lost on the Mardi Himal trek are found within hours because the locals usually know where to look or because other trekkers stumble upon them, but it can end pretty badly.
When we did the Mardi Himal trek in 2016, an Israeli guy had left Mardi Himal High Camp on his own and never returned. When we got up to High Camp there was a massive search party led by an Isreali group with dogs, helicopters, and everything you could think of. Unfortunately, they never found him or his body. Since 2016, at least another two trekkers have gone missing on the Mardi Himal route so this is a serious matter.
The Best Travel Insurance for Trekking in Nepal
Practicing common sense and bringing a local guide are two easy ways to stay safe on the Mardi Himal trek, however, having the right travel insurance in Nepal is crucial.
Obviously, you should always sign up for travel insurance when traveling. But when you're trekking in Nepal, it is not the time to take chances and try your luck. So many things can go wrong that can not only threaten your life but cost you thousands of dollars.
On top of that, you need to make sure that your travel insurance covers trekking at high altitudes. Mardi Himal Base Camp is located at 4,500 meters and many travel insurance policies only cover treks up to 4,000 meters.
Luckily, World Nomads, our favorite travel insurance, has a practical add-on that allows you to upgrade your Standard Plan to an Explorer plan which will cover you while trekking. Better yet, World Nomads lets you sign up for travel insurance even while you're already on the road!
Remember that there is no medical help to get on the mountain in case an accident happens and in the worst case scenario, they'll have to bring you down in a helicopter which can cost upwards of $3,000 to $5,000 per hour depending how bad the situation is. That's why we always use World Nomads for our regular travel but especially when we're trekking. There is no other way to put it, World Nomads is the best travel insurance for trekking in Nepal.
You can sign up for your insurance and get more information below:
With the risks out of the way, we want to end this post on a positive note. The truth is that most people that set off on the Mardi Himal trek, or any other trek in the Annapurna Region, do so without experiencing any problems.
We had the time of our lives while trekking in Nepal and got to experience some of the most breathtaking landscapes we've ever seen before.
If you're plan on visiting Nepal, we hope you consider doing the Mardi Himal trek because it's unique compared to many of the other more popular treks in the region. It's short but stunning, tough enough to offer a real challenge, and rewarding like few things in life.
All in all, we loved the Mardi Himal trek and can't wait to return to Nepal for another adventure.
This page contains affiliate links which means we receive a small commission at no additional cost to you when using our link to make a purchase. We will only ever recommend products that we use and love ourselves.