Nepal has always been a trekkers’ paradise. Every year thousands of tourists from all over the world visit Nepal for its natural beauty, cultural diversity and spectacular high mountains. Annapurna region alone has dozens of trekking destinations ranging from short to multiday treks of 2-3 weeks duration.
Pokhara is a paradise city known for different adventure activities like sightseeing, boating, mountain biking, zip-line, bungee jumping, ultralight flight, rock climbing and many more. The valley is gifted with immense beauty surrounded by serene Nepali villages, great Phewa Lake and majestic Himalayan range stretching in the north.
It is a doorway to the world’s best trekking destinations like Annapurna Circuit, Upper Mustang, Dhaulagiri Trek, Khopra Trek, Poon Hill, Annapurna Base Camp and several others. Among these treks, Mardi Himal Trek is gaining popularity among foreign and domestic trekkers in recent years as a less crowded trail with easy access and eco-friendly trek that can be completed in 5-7 days depending on the availability of time.
Highlight of the Trek
A short and easily accessible trek passing through rural Nepali villages close by Pokhara, which provide stunning close-up views of Annapurna South (7219 m), Himchuli (6441 m), Annapurna I (8091 m), Gangapurna (7455 m), Mt. Fishtail (6998 m), Annapurna II (7937 m) and Mardi Himal (5587 m).
Trekking through the peaceful green lush forest, rhododendron jungle with abundant Himalayan flora and fauna is a beauty of the trek. Often cattle, sheep and yak are spotted during the trek. Tea house lodging facilities with delicious Nepali and basic western foods are available throughout the trails. And not to forget; the great Nepali hospitality with friendly smiles always ready to serve.
Although the normal trek starts from Dhampus, Kande or Lumle, we embarked on our short journey from Pokhara directly to Forest Camp via Kalimati.
It was dusk when our jeep diverted from Milan Chowk. It drove along the dirt road, passing through several rice terrace villages following Mardi Khola. As soon as we crossed Lumre Village, the jeep halted at a turning point due to a breakdown of the main axle. With no option left, we got off the jeep and decided to walk. We carried our bag, torched the light and moved on. Ram Gurung of Pokhara Canyoning told us that it would take an hour and a half walk to reach Kalimati; our overnight stay point.
Within a short hiking distance, we reached Ghalel, a typical Gurung village. The twinkling lights of the hamlet were seen with a dog barking in the quiet village. We slowly continued our ascending hike with sips of narepa (locally brewed alcohol from millet). We reached late at night, at a newly-built Mardi Himal Eco-lodge (1870 m). Shiba Prasad Bhandari, a 23 year old lodge owner was awaiting us. Feeling tired, we relaxed sitting around the campfire in the basement of the lodge.
Our trek resumed after a light breakfast of roti and milk in the morning. We passed through a little village in the midst of a community forest. Witnessing Mt. Fishtail along the trail, it was a 2.5 hours uphill climb to reach Forest Camp (2440m).
Trekkers from Dhampus or Kande via Deurali usually arrive here for lunch while some stay overnight too. Forest Camp is in the middle of the wilderness forest. The beautiful Ghandruk Village and Poon Hill can be seen westward.
We took a rest for a while and explored until our lunch was ready. After a delicious lunch at Green View Restaurant, we started our steady ascending trek passing through dense forests. The trek was enjoyable with birds chirping and encountering a group of trekkers along the way.
Dusk was approaching by the time we reached Low Camp (2990 m); Mt. Fishtail was turning to an amazing golden with the reflection of the sun setting down the hill slowly.
We stayed at Hotel Laligurans Guesthouse that day. The onward trail in the morning was a gentle ascending trail, deep inside the rhododendron forest. During spring season, the forest is covered with rhododendrons blooming everywhere.
After two hours of uphill trek, we reached First Viewpoint (3268 m), and were surprised to see a close-up view of Annapurna South including dozens of snow-clad mountains of Himchuli, Gangapurna, Mt. Fishtail, Mardi Himal, Annapurna II, etc. Without wasting time, we started capturing pictures of the beautiful landscapes and the snow-clad mountains that stood proudly before us. We stopped at Badal Camp for breakfast after taking a few steps ahead.
A group of French tourists were having breakfast at Badal Camp. They had returned from High Camp, and were heading towards their next destination for the ABC trek.
Just then, a group of Nepali guys were seen trekking down from High Camp. While waiting for breakfast to be prepared, Rajendra Dai, Gupta Dai, Ram and Pawan climbed up to the hill to erect lungdar; a typical Buddhist flag. Laxman Gurung and his wife, owners of the lodge served roti with honey and chutney as breakfast.
It was a continuous 2.5 hour moderate hike along the ridge. The grassland path leads to a steady ascend with spectacular views of the breathtaking snow-covered mountains with panoramic hills on the other side. The Annapurna Base Camp trail was seen far below, along the Mardi Khola.
For centuries, these highlands were pastureland and homeland to yaks, buffaloes and sheep. A decade ago, only a few camping sites were operated by some companies in these areas. Gradually, there was an influx in the number of trekkers after the trek officially opened in 2012. The locals started operating tea houses after seeing tourists’ inflow said Sudip Gautam, who owned lodges at High Camp and Sidhing. There are half a dozen lodges operating now along the Mardi Himal trail. The lodges provide breakfast, lunch and dinner along with accommodation for trekkers.
Nowadays, both domestic and foreign tourists visit the trail in equal numbers throughout the year.
The last overnight stay is at High Camp (3540 m). There are currently two lodges at High Camp that provide good lodging and food facilities. We stayed the night at Hotel Trekkers’ Paradise.
Early the next morning, we started our final trek and were excited to reach Upper Viewpoint as soon as possible. As there are no water sources above High Camp, it is essential to carry water and pack breakfast if possible. Careful footstep is required while hiking along the ridge and grassy trail. At a few places, we had to cross rocky paths too. Finally, after 3 hours of vigorous trekking, we reached Upper Viewpoint (4200 m), from where we witnessed the breathtaking Annapurna range with other snow-clad mountains. We were thrilled observing tall mountains around us. After exploring Mardi Base Camp, we took the same route back to High Camp for lunch. In the same day, we advanced our descending journey to Low Camp, and then trekked down to Sidhing for overnight stay. It was a long knee cracking descending trail.
The next day, we trekked down to Ghalel to visit Canyoning spot at Khudi Waterfall near Lumre Village.
On our way back, we visited Lwang Homestay, a beautiful Gurung village where the Aama Samuha warmly welcomed us with garland and served delicious organic food with narepa. We encountered a group of young boys from Pokhara at the homestay. In the morning, Rajendra Gurung, a local leader and social worker accompanied us to visit a community garden while Boney Gurung guided us for village tour and walked around the community-operated canyoning spot.
On our departure, the Amma Samuha from the homestay graciously bid us adieu with garlands, tika and smiles. We boarded a direct jeep to Pokhara, leaving behind Mardi Himal, the beautiful Lwang and Ghalel Villages with full of good memories in our hearts and minds.
Kalsee Eco-lodge is located at Kayabari, Tanchowk in the midst of a green forest with the backdrop of the Himalayan range, which include Annapurna South, Himchuli, etc. The lodge was built on community-owned properties. There are options to stay in comfortable cabins or at open air tented camps. The cabins are built with local wood in Alaskan style said tourism entrepreneur Chitra Gurung, who led the project. It has marvelous spacious rooms with attached bathrooms and composting toilets. The organic foods prepared from the local farm nearby the village are served at the lodge. Ecological conservation is fully maintained and equipped with solar energy for light, water heating and charging purpose. The route from Lumle takes one and a half hour of hiking to reach the eco-lodge. It is recommended for nature lovers who like the true eco-lodge experience in the Himalayas. Follow the trek to Pothana and Deurali for onward journey to Mardi Himal Trek.
Lwang Community Homestay
Situated in the lap of Mt. Fishtail, Annapurna South and Himchuli, Lwang Community Homestay provides rural accommodation that serves organic Nepali food, curd, milk and local chicken and vegetables. Locally brewed millet alcohol and tea are served too. It is a typical Gurung village, with houses built with stone roof and wall. The major highlights of the homestay are Gurung lifestyles with rich local culture. Currently, there are 10 houses running homestay facilities in the village. It is a peaceful place, worth experiencing authentic Nepali rural lifestyle. Local cultural programs are hosted by women committee during the night. There is a community-managed tea garden at the height of 1500 m to 2100 m that covers 1200 ropanis of land. Some other places to visit are Buddhist Monastery, Lord Shiva Temple and the ancient fort of King Furlong.
For adventure enthusiasts, there is a canyoning spot at Kudi River at Machhapuchhre rural municipality – 8, near Lumre Village. Hundreds of domestic and foreign tourists have already enjoyed exhilarating canyoning experiences since its establishment, said Ram Gurung, Chairman of Pokhara Canyoning. Descending through a series of 45 m and 75 m waterfalls through canyon rappelling is physically and mentally challenging, but a refreshing and great experience.
Overnight stay is available at Ghalel Homestay nearby. It provides basic lodge facility with Nepali food and local vegetables. The homestay is located along Mardi Trek at the base of Mt. Fishtail and Mardi Himal.