This trek is a hidden gem, just east of Annapurna Base Camp, spectacularly situated at the base of Mardi Himal and the beautiful and imposing Machapuchare. It's enough of a challenge (yet suitable for most travelers) and very accessible from Pokhara. You'll pass through Newar, Gurung, and Brahmin villages before you return for a night in Pokhara.

Highlights

  • Get off the beaten path in the Annapurna region and avoid the crowds
  • Trek to the foot of Mardi Himal Base Camp at 14,599 ft (4,450 m)
  • Stay in local villages and learn about Newar, Gurung, and Brahmin culture
  • Spend a night in Bandipur, one of the most picturesque villages in Nepal

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Kathmandu! Kathmandu
Day 2 Explore Kathmandu: Swayambhunath, Pashupatinath, & Patan Durbar Square Kathmandu
Day 3 Fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara, Trek to Pothana (6,102 feet / 1,860 m)   Pothana
Day 4 Pothana to Forest Camp (8,202 ft / 2,500 m) Forest Camp
Day 5 Forest Camp to Badal Danda (10,532 ft / 3,210 m) Badal Danda
Day 6 Badal Danda to High Camp (11,745 ft / 3,580 m) High Camp
Day 7 High Camp to Middle Camp via Mardi Himal Base Camp (14,763 ft / 4,500 m) Middle Camp
Day 8 Middle Camp to Kalimati Kalimati
Day 9 Kalimati to Lwang Village Home Stay Lwang
Day 10 Drive from Lwang Village to Pokhara Pokhara
Day 11 Fly from Pokhara to Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 12 Explore Pokhara, Drive to Bandipur Bandipur
Day 13 Drive from Bandipur to Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 14 Depart Kathmandu  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Kathmandu!

The cityscape of Kathmandu and Boudhanath Stupa
The cityscape of Kathmandu and Boudhanath Stupa

As you fly into Kathmandu, you'll have beautiful views over the city, the Himalaya, and of the terraced fields below. After going through customs, a representative will be waiting to greet you and guide you through the initial culture shock of Kathmandu’s narrow, winding streets to get you settled into your hotel.

Once you've settled in, head out and explore the city. Durbar Square is a great place to start your exploration, where you'll walk through narrow alleyways teeming with small shops, ancient temples, and local restaurants. If you want to stretch your legs, Swayambhunath, the white stupa rising above the valley, is the perfect spot to catch the sunset over the valley.

In the evening, the tourist hub of Thamel is a good place to grab your first meal, with a variety of restaurants to chose from offering both Western and local Nepali dishes.

Day 2: Explore Kathmandu: Swayambhunath, Pashupatinath, & Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square
Patan Durbar Square

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll be picked up by an English-speaking guide for a full-day tour of the Kathmandu Valley, visiting three sacred sites: Swayambhunath, Pashupatinath, and Patan Durbar Square.

This day fits quite a bit in—helpful for maximizing your time in Kathmandu—but doesn't overload you with too many sites. You can spend as much time as you like at each temple (this is a private tour just for you), although most people tend to spend an hour. For lunch, you'll stop at one of our recommended local restaurants. 

Return to your hotel in Kathmandu in the late afternoon and meet your trekking guide who will go over details for tomorrow's adventure.

Tour length: 7-8 hours (including transfers)

Day 3: Fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara, Trek to Pothana (6,102 feet / 1,860 m)  

Pristine forests on the way to Pothana
Pristine forests on the way to Pothana

Today is the first day of your trek! 

After an early breakfast, you'll be picked up from your hotel and driven to the airport to catch your flight to Pokhara. This is a city located west of Kathmandu. Your specialist can help you try to get a seat on the right-hand side of the plane for views of the Himalayas en-route.

Upon arrival, a jeep will be waiting to drive you to Phedi where the trek begins towards Pothana. The trail ascends through forests of rhododendron, magnolia, oak, sandalwood, and pine until you reach the village called Dhampus. This is an authentic Gurung village, which gives you an opportunity to look at the magnificent views of the Annapurna ranges, as well as notable peaks like Lamjung Himal.

From Dhampus, the trail continues to ascend along a stone-paved path through more forests and mossy trees (keep an eye out for orchids). Once you get to the small village of Pothana, you’ll find a range of trekker facilities including shops, teahouses, and eateries. Relax and enjoy the magnificent mountain views.

Trekking time: 4-5 hours (3.5 miles / 5.6 km)

Day 4: Trek from Pothana to Forest Camp (8,202 ft / 2,500 m)

Pothana to Forest Camp
Pothana to Forest Camp

Today, you'll leave the popular trekking trail and head off the beaten path. You'll enter an enchanted forest of birch, giant rhododendron, mountain oak, maple, and hemlock. If the weather is clear, you'll see stunning mountain views throughout the day.

Trekking time: 5 hours

Day 5: Trek from Forest Camp to Badal Danda (10,532 ft / 3,210 m)

Machapuchare views
Machapuchare views

As you climb, the flora transitions to ‘cloud forest’ with mosses and lichen, tree ferns and orchids hosted by the hardier trees. Through breaks in the forest, you'll have beautiful panoramas—towards Hiunchuli and the knife-sharp traverse towards Annapurna South. Far below, to your left, you can see the Modi Khola Valley leading up into the Annapurna Sanctuary.

You'll reach camp at lunchtime, as you'll want to walk slowly today given the gain in altitude (walk at an even pace where you don't lose your breath). Though still surrounded by forest, you'll have spectacular views of Machapuchare to the north.

Trekking time: 5 hours

Day 6: Trek from Badal Danda to High Camp (11,745 ft / 3,580 m)

Annapurna South from High Camp
Annapurna South from High Camp

A short, steep climb and you're out of the forest. A ridge, now grassy and sometimes under snow, takes you up to High Camp where you'll reach at lunchtime and where a second consecutive afternoon is spent acclimatizing and enjoying the views. Annapurna South seems near enough to throw a rock at and Machhapuchare itself close enough to touch.

Trekking time: 4 hours

Day 7: Trek from High Camp to Middle Camp via Mardi Himal Base Camp (14,763 ft / 4,500 m)

Mardi Himal Base Camp
Mardi Himal Base Camp

Today, you'll have breakfast earlier than usual. With a packed lunch, you'll then set off to Mardi Himal Base Camp.

Conditions being favorable, you should reach up to 5,000m and only the crest of Mardi Himal itself will separate you from the south face of Machhapuchare. The great ice fields and blue glaciers of the Sanctuary Wall lie below. Annapurna I, highest of all is beyond, and around you, and an arc from horizon to horizon, from Dhaulagiri to the Ganesh Himal, are a dozen or more glistening snow-bound giants.

You have reached the main goal of the trek! A place, a time, a view that is almost impossible to equal—and you’ve earned it. By 1 pm at the latest, you'll need to descend, returning to the welcome steaming mug, the hot food, and the teahouse at Middle Camp.

Trekking time: 8 hours

Day 8: Trek from Middle Camp to Kalimati

Trekking to Kalimati
Trekking to Kalimati

After a relaxed breakfast, tired bodies make an unhurried decent through the shade of the forest and out onto terraced fields, down 1600m in all. This is a different route down—down to the upper Mardi Khola, the torrent that has been the ice and snow of the Mardi Himal.

Although remote and still away from all the much-used ‘Teahouse’ trekking routes, the trek now takes on the mood of the arm valley and the friendly villages into Kalimati.

Trekking time: 5 hours

Day 9: Trek from Kalimati to Lwang Village Home Stay

Lwang village homestay
Lwang village homestay

The path from Siding now follows the contour of the river valley gradually down between the pastures and through Tamang and Gurung villages. Lwang village has organic tea gardens. In the evening, you'll meet a mothers' group that is a part of an organization that works to raise money for local projects. Tonight, you'll experience a unique homestay.

Trekking time: 5 hours

Day 10: Drive from Lwang Village to Pokhara

Back to Pokhara
Back to Pokhara

Soon the trail skirts an outcrop—there’s the road, and there’s your transport, and soon you'll back in Pokhara celebrate your trek with a nice dinner.

Day 11: Fly from Pokhara to Kathmandu

Pashupatinath at night
Pashupatinath at night

After breakfast, you may have time to do more sightseeing, relax, or check out one of the Pokhara's coffee shops. About 1.5 hours before your flight, you'll be picked up from your hotel and taken to the domestic airport to catch your flight back to Kathmandu.

In Kathmandu, you'll be transferred to your hotel and can enjoy the rest of the afternoon and evening at your leisure. Explore Kathmandu's streets on foot, bicycle, or rickshaw, perhaps shopping for souvenirs or seeing anything you may have missed at the beginning of your trip.

In the evening, choose from a selection of Nepali, French, Vietnamese, and Middle Eastern dishes in Kathmandu.

Day 12: Explore Pokhara, Drive to Bandipur

Views of the valley from the Old Inn
Views of the valley from the Old Inn

In the morning, after breakfast, you'll have time to explore the streets of Pokhara or walk along the lake. You could also take a short boat tour, paragliding trip, or a hike/drive to the Peace Pagoda for great views over Pokhara. 

In the afternoon, you'll be met by your driver and head to Bandipur, a beautiful hilltop village 2-3 hours drive east of Pokhara. It is a small town perched high on a ridge, at 1030 meters. As the center of the town is pedestrianized, you can walk among the red-brick temples and traditional old homes without the same stress of traffic as in Kathmandu. Bandipur used to be an important center of garment manufacturing and was a trading stop along the India-Tibet route.

You'll arrive just before sunset in time to enjoy the views, explore the village, and take in a meal at your hotel overlooking the valley below.

Stay at The Old Inn Bandipur, a renovated red-brick Newari townhouse with lots of little homely touches.

Accommodation. The Old Inn

Day 13: Drive from Bandipur to Kathmandu

The main street of Bandipur in the morning
The main street of Bandipur in the morning

After enjoying breakfast and sunrise from Bandipur, you'll start the drive mid-morning for your trip to Kathmandu. The road follows a valley for a couple hours before veering north and upwards to the Kathmandu Valley. 

You'll have time to stop for breaks and snacks along the way.

Day 14: Depart Kathmandu

The all-seeing eyes of Buddha at Swayambhunath
The all-seeing eyes of Buddha at Swayambhunath

It's time to say farewell to Nepal. Enjoy your last moments in Kathmandu with breakfast in a café, a city stroll, and/or souvenir shopping. A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home. It's good to be at the airport at least 2 hours prior to departure.