Machapuchare: The Enigmatic 'Fishtail' Peak of Nepal

Machapuchare Mountain, or 'Fishtail' Peak, is one of Nepal's most iconic and enigmatic landmarks. The Fishtail name refers to the fish-tail-like shape of its twin summits. With its distinctive fishtail-shaped double-summit, Machapuchare has captivated the imagination of trekkers, climbers, and nature enthusiasts worldwide. 

This blog aims to provide comprehensive insights into the allure of Machapuchare for those planning to witness its majestic beauty. 


Machapuchare Quick Facts

Macchapuchhre Mountain sits in the Annapurna mountain range of north-central Nepal. 

  • Height: 6,993m (22,943 ft) 
  • Location: Annapurna Himalayas, west of Pokhara (the tourist capital of Nepal)
  • First Ascent: Never summited - off limits for religious reasons
  • Nepali Name: मच्छपुछ्रे (Macchapucchre)

Machapuchare is the 32nd highest peak in Nepal, but its dramatic rise over Pokhara makes it feel towering and dominating. It lies on the route to Annapurna Base Camp and other Annapurna peaks. 


Where is Machapuchare located?

Machapuchare is located in the Annapurna Himalayas of north-central Nepal and is a part of the Annapurna Sanctuary. It lies 25 km north of Pokhara, the provincial capital of the Gandaki Province. Renowned for its distinctive fishtail-shaped double summit, Machapuchare is prominent and culturally significant. 

The Annapurna Sanctuary refers to the broader mountainous basin surrounded by the peaks of the Annapurna Massif, roughly 40 km north of Pokhara. This sanctuary is an oval-shaped plateau at 4,000 meters, and its entrance lies between the Hiuchuli and Machhapuchhare peaks.

The sanctuary promotes sustainable tourism practices and environmental conservation to maintain the pristine nature of this sanctuary. The local Gurungs hold the entire sanctuary sacred. 


Machapuchare: A Sacred Mountain

Unlike most Himalayan peaks, Machapuchare has never been officially climbed or summited. This is because it is considered sacred to locals and held in reverence. 

According to Gurung traditions, Macchapuchhre is the abode of Lord Shiva, protector of the region. Therefore, Machapuchere Peak should not be climbed. Several legends state Lord Shiva resides among the summit rocks. Hence, climbers are not allowed to set foot on the mountain top out of respect. 

Locals in the Parbat and Kaski districts hold another belief that the two peaks of Machapuchere represent two divine brothers, Nara and Narayan (Lord Vishnu).

Unlike other Himalayas, Machapuchare rises rapidly from below, which makes it spectacular to look at. There is a lake below Machhapuchhare, which is associated with the Hindu belief system. The animal herders in the Machhapuchhare region pray and offer to Machhapuchare mountain for their well-being and safety.

The Enigmatic Fishtail Peak 

When you see Machapuchare from Pokhara, you will see a perfect pyramid shape and twin summit points that resemble a giant fishtail. Due to its proximity to Pokhara, Machapuchare dominates the skyline here, unlike taller peaks further away. 

At sunrise and sunset, alpenglow turns Macchapucchre’s walls of snow and rock into a glowing orange spectacle. The iconic fishtail shape has become symbolic of Nepal’s natural splendor. Among Nepal's most photogenic peaks, images of Macchapuchhre adorn everything from posters to currency notes.


Physical Features of Machapuchare

  • Distinctive Shape: Machapuchare is renowned for its unique double-summit structure resembling the tail of a fish. The twin peaks rise dramatically from a common base, creating a spectacular and instantly recognizable silhouette against the Himalayan skyline.

  • Notable Features: The South Face of Machapuchare is particularly famous for its steepness and unclimbed profile, making it one of the few peaks in the world off-limits to climbers. The North and South peaks are connected by a long ridge, adding to the mountain's distinct character.

Machapuchare Mountain and its Significance

  • Sacred Mountain
    Machapuchare holds profound religious significance for the local Gurungs, Magars, and other communities living around Machhapuchare. As locals associate Machhapuchhare with the divine being, officially Machapuchare has never been summited. 

Records state that a British expedition in the 1950s came closer than 150m to the summit via North Ridge but turned back as a sign of respect to the local beliefs. However, there are claims that this expedition returned due to heavy snowfall.

Moreover, there are rumors that Bill Denz, from New Zealand, summited this peak in the 1980s, but died soon after in an avalanche. No climbing permits to Machapuchare have been issued since the 1950s.

  • Legends

Local folklore is rich with legends surrounding Machapuchare, and one popular tale suggests that the mountain is the home of the Hindu god Shiva. The forbidden nature of climbing Machapuchare stems from the belief that doing so would disturb the gods residing within.

Another local legend suggests that the fishtail shape of this mountain is the result of Lord Shiva detaching a powerful demon into three pieces - head, body, and tail, and the demon’s tail formed Machapuchare mountain.


Climbing Machapuchare

While the very top is off-limits, climbers often summit the lower West Peak (6,841m). Climbs follow the North Ridge or the Northwest Face starting from above Chomrong. A permit and an experienced guide are essential to attempt the technical climb. 

Ice axes, crampons, ropes, and rock climbing gear are required. Fitness, acclimatization, and mountaineering skills are a must. The summit offers incredible views of Annapurna South and Hiunchuli. 


Trekking and Viewing Opportunities of Machapuchare

Various viewpoints around the Annapurna region, such as Poon Hill, offer stunning panoramas of Machapuchare. These vantage points allow you to admire the mountain's grandeur without venturing into the restricted climbing zones.

The easiest and safest way to approach Machapuchare is by trekking along well-worn routes like the Annapurna Sanctuary Trail or Annapurna Circuit. These classic treks provide phenomenal views:

1. Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Machapuchare is a highlight of the popular Annapurna Base Camp Trek. Trekkers witness the awe-inspiring fishtail silhouette as they approach the Annapurna sanctuary, providing a memorable and photogenic experience.   

2. Annapurna Circuit Trek

The Annapurna Circuit is a renowned trekking route encircling the Annapurna Massif in the Himalayas of Nepal. This iconic trek is celebrated for its diverse landscapes, cultural richness, and breathtaking mountain views, making it one of the most sought-after trekking experiences in the world. You can appreciate the views of Macchapuchhre from the Annapurna Circuit Trek trails. 

3. Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek is an awe-inspiring journey that leads trekkers into the heart of the Annapurna Massif, a natural amphitheater surrounded by towering peaks. This trek meanders through lush rhododendron forests, charming Gurung villages, and terraced fields, gradually ascending to the sanctuary. 

Though the trek reaches Annapurna Base Camp, nestled at around 4,130 meters (13,550 feet), you will also pass the Machhapuchhare Base Camp on the way. From Machhapuchhare Base Camp, the fishtail peak looms right ahead. 

4. Poon Hill Ghorepani Trek

The Poon Hill Trek is a captivating adventure through the enchanting landscapes of the Annapurna region, offering not only panoramic views but also glimpses of the iconic Machapuchare mountain.

Starting from Nayapul, the trek winds through lush rhododendron forests, charming villages, and terraced fields, gradually ascending to the renowned Poon Hill viewpoint. At sunrise, trekkers can see a spectacular panorama that includes the majestic Machapuchare, with its distinctive fishtail summit standing tall amidst the surrounding peaks. 



Machapuchare, with its mystical aura and breathtaking beauty, continues to lure adventurers and nature lovers alike.

Whether viewed from the trails of the Annapurna Trek Regions or admired from the cultural villages below, the 'Fishtail' peak stands as a testament to the remarkable blend of natural wonders and cultural richness that defines Nepal's Himalayas.

For those planning to witness the allure of Machapuchare, a journey to this enigmatic mountain promises an unforgettable experience immersed in the grandeur of the Annapurna Himalayas.

Paul Gurung

Paul has an extensive experience in the tourism industry. Through his blogs, he shares his deep knowledge about the stunning trek regions in Nepal, inspiring trekkers worldwide to explore these regions and enrich their lives. In addition to geography, his writings delve into the human side of the trek regions, including culture, traditions, religions, and etiquette, offering a comprehensive and enriching perspective on the Himalayan trekking and expedition experience.