Ghandruk: A Cultural Oasis in the Annapurna Sanctuary

Ghandruk, at 1,940 meters (6,364 feet), is a village inside the Annapurna Sanctuary in the Kaski District of the Gandaki Province of Nepal.  This charming village is a cultural gem that offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty and rich heritage.

It is strategically positioned on a hillside with stunning views of the surrounding Himalayan peaks, making it a must-visit destination for trekkers and culture enthusiasts. Most trekkers stop at Ghandruk as they trek the Annapurna region,  mainly Annapurna Base Camp, Annapurna Circuit, and Mardi Himal.


Location, History, and Lifestyle

Historians believe Mongolians via Tibet entered Nepal and built their settlement at Ghandruk. Historically, Ghandruk has served as a crucial stop on the ancient trading route between Nepal and Tibet. The village has a rich history of Gurkha soldiers who valiantly served in the British and Indian armies, earning a reputation for their bravery and resilience.

Ghandrukh is not a Gurung word. The word Ghandruk seems to have originated from “Ghana” which means “big” and rukh, which means tree in Nepali. However, “Ghana” can also mean “compact/dense”. It seems the name Ghandrukh is related to rukh (tree). Perhaps there was a giant tree (or trees) by the side of this village when it was founded.

This village lies on the western slope of the Annapurna ranges, between Lumle and Dnagsing villages. The mountain tops from Ghandruk to Ghorepani and Ulleri are covered with forests. 

Ghandruk is surprisingly accessible. A regular bus leaves for Ghandruk from Nayapul in Pokhara every twenty minutes. The distance from Nayapul is approximately 72 km. You can also trek for about six hours from Pokhara to reach Ghandruk. 

Seven small villages - Kotgaun, Majhgaun,  Tallogaun, Dandagaun, Dhyagoyargaun, Adbadaiyayargaun, and Gairigaun - make Ghandruk. There are around one thousand homes in Ghandruk, and the Nepal government runs a Shree Meshrom Baraha Secondary School in this village for children aged five to eighteen.

The village is populated by the Gurungs, renowned for their distinct culture, traditions, and hospitality. However, other castes/ethnicities, including Magars, Kamis, Sarkis, Brahmins, Chhetris, and Newars, also live here.

In Ghandruk, you will find many families with at least one of their members recruited in the British Army, Indian Army, Nepali Army, and Nepali police force. However, there are still families who earn their living from agricultural activities. 

Like in most hills of Nepal, the farmlands in Ghandruk are terraced, and local farmers grow rice, maize, millet, vegetables, potatoes, and green tea. Sheep breeding is also on the rise, but a vital source of income is the money the family members send from their employment in the armed forces and police.

The hospitality industry is growing quite fast in Ghandruk. 

Cultural Importance

Ghandruk holds immense cultural significance as a living Gurung heritage. The village is adorned with traditional Gurung houses, often built with stone and featuring intricately carved wooden windows and doors. Visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture by participating in cultural programs, observing traditional dances, and learning about Gurung customs and rituals.

The Gurungs of Ghandruk are known for their craftsmanship, particularly in weaving and handicrafts. You can witness women skillfully weaving intricate patterns on traditional looms, creating beautiful handmade textiles that reflect their vibrant culture.

The houses of Ghandruk were built by laying stones, and locals call it “Dhungeni Village (stone village)”. The village is paved with stones, and you can see nearby green vegetable fields that supply veggies to the local hotels and restaurants. 

One of the defining characteristics of Gurungs is their compact housing, built mostly of stone slabs, timber, and mud. The flat roofs are of slate. Most Gurung houses are two-storied and have rectangular shapes.

According to recent estimates, around sixty hotels/lodges in this village, with a total capacity of around 1,200 people. While most villages in Nepal are getting depopulated as youths seek employment elsewhere, Ghandruk is among the few exceptions that have seen population rise thanks to the tourism opportunities Ghandruk provides.

In terms of clothes, the Gurung men wear includes Bhangra, Kachhad, Kamlo, Raadi-Paakhi, Bhoto, black Vaadgaaule Topi, black Istakot, Khukhuri, and Sikagapuri belt.

The females (Gurungnis) wear velveteen or cotton blouses, that are tied at the front and a sari, mostly dark reddish. Other clothes and ornaments female Gurungnis wear include Lungi Mugiya and Jari, Makhmali cholo, Patuka, Ghalek, Majetro, White Pachari, Tikis, Jantar, Kanthasri, and Nugedi.

Gurungs also take music seriously and incorporate music into their daily lives. You will encounter typical musical instruments in Ghandruk, including the Flute, Dhumpu, Dhyangro, Girling, Jhurma, Sankha, Karnaal, Damai Baja, and Maadal. In this age of growing global influences in all parts of the world, the Gurungs have formed committees to preserve their cultural heritage.

In addition to their musical traditions, Gurungs have their dances. The tradition of “Rodhi”, you can see in big Nepali cities like Kathmandu, is actually a Gurung one. The “Rodhi” is a public house where boys and girls meet for singing and dancing, and in the process, facilitate exchanges between them. Rodh's environment can be flirtatious, and the dancing season begins in January or February and lasts till April or May. Rodhi's activities used to play a huge role in forging marriage relationships.

Gurungs follow Buddhism, and there is a post for Lama (priest), Dhami, and Jhankri (traditional healers). However, Gurungs are open to the advice of Hindu priests as well. The Meshram Baraha Temple in Ghadruk is the largest place of worship.

Permits required

To visit Ghandruk, you need two essential permits: the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) and the Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) card. 

The ACAP is a mandatory permit required for entering and trekking within the Annapurna Conservation Area, which includes Ghandruk. This permit supports conservation efforts and ensures sustainable tourism practices in the region. 

The fee for the ACAP varies depending on your nationality, with SAARC nationals (excluding Nepali) paying NPR 1,000 and other foreign nationals NPR 3,000 to acquire this permit. You can obtain the ACAP from the Nepal Tourism Board office in Kathmandu or at entry checkpoints along the trekking routes leading to Ghandruk.

In addition to the ACAP, you will also need the Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) card. The fee for the TIMS card is NPR 1,000 for SAARC nationals (excluding Nepalis) and NPR 2,000 for other foreigners.


Best Season 

When considering the best time for a Ghandruk visit, you'll find that the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) seasons offer ideal conditions to explore this picturesque village.

In the spring, Ghandruk bursts into life with an explosion of colors as rhododendrons and other wildflowers bloom across the hillsides. The weather during this time is pleasant, with mild temperatures and clear skies. The surrounding Himalayan peaks, including Annapurna South and Machapuchare, stand out against the backdrop of lush greenery and colorful blooms, creating a truly captivating and scenic landscape. Spring is also a great time for birdwatching, as you can spot many migratory bird species in this area.

Similarly, autumn is another fantastic season to visit Ghandruk. During this time, the weather remains stable with clear skies and excellent visibility of the snow-capped mountains. The days are sunny and comfortable for trekking, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks. The hillsides are adorned with vibrant autumn colors, providing a stunning backdrop for outdoor activities and photography. Autumn is also a festive season in Nepal, and you may have the opportunity to witness and participate in local cultural festivals such as Dashain and Tihar, adding an extra layer of cultural richness to your visit.

Both spring and autumn offer comfortable trekking conditions in Ghandruk, with well-defined trails and optimum temperatures.  Whether you're trekking to Ghandruk as part of a larger Annapurna Circuit adventure or simply exploring the village and its surroundings, spring and autumn are undoubtedly the best times to soak in the natural beauty, cultural heritage, and tranquility of Ghandruk.


Things to Do in Ghandruk

1. Trekking

Ghandruk is a popular trekking destination within the Annapurna region. You can embark on short hikes or longer treks, including the Annapurna Base Camp trek, which passes through this picturesque village.

2. Exploring Local Culture

You can stroll through this village to admire the traditional Gurung architecture and interact with friendly locals. You must not miss visiting the Old Gurung Museum, where ancient and typical Gurung items are displayed. Most of these items are labeled in English and have small descriptions. You will notice that Gurungs use several bamboo objects, such as bamboo grain baskets, bamboo milk containers, and cages for chickens. This museum also displays wooden objects such as plates, platters, cups, and bowls. You can even request the museum authority to try typical Gurung clothes. They have both male and female dresses.

3. Enjoying Scenic Views

Ghandruk offers stunning panoramic views of Annapurna South (7,219m), Machapuchare /Fishtail (6,993m), Gangapurna (7,455m), Hiuchuli (6,441m), and many other snow-capped peaks. You can capture breathtaking sunrise and sunset views from various vantage points around Ghandruk.

4. Homestay Experience

You will find enough hotels and lodges in Ghandruk. However, to uplift their income, many residents have started homestays. The homestays are modest in terms of luxury, but you will surely get delicious Nepali meals (mainly rice, lentils, curry) and a warm bed. This immersive experience allows you to learn about daily life, savor traditional meals, and participate in cultural activities.

5. Visiting Annapurna Conservation Area

Ghandruk lies within the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), home to diverse flora and fauna. You can explore nearby trails, waterfalls, and forests teeming with wildlife. ACA is home to 1,226 species of flowering plants, 518 birds, 105 mammals, 40 reptiles, and 23 amphibians.


Ghandruk stands as a cultural oasis amidst the majestic Annapurna Sanctuary, offering visitors a unique opportunity to delve into the rich heritage of the Gurung community while enjoying stunning mountain vistas and immersive outdoor experiences.

Whether you are a trekking enthusiast or a cultural explorer, Ghandruk promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of Nepal's Himalayas. If you want to explore Ghandruk, you can contact us