Marfa is a village in Mustang District under Dhaulagiri Zone of the Western Development Region of Nepal. Marpha village of Mustang, situated at 2,680m from the sea level, is famous for its apple production. Besides the apple and wine production, this village is also famous for the Thakali community, the original architecture of the Thakali community, and their culture and traditions. According to the National Census of Nepal 2068, out of the total population of 1,551, 839 males and 712 females live in 414 individual households. Marpha has been home to the Tibetan refugees for a long time, so people here mostly speak Tibetan language.
Tourists going to Muktinath are better off staying in Marpha because sometimes it is difficult to stay in Muktinath due to the high number of internal and Indian tourists. In a situation like this, one and only alternative solution is overnight stay at Marpha. Similarly, in Jomsom, sometimes when the weather is unfavourable, you can also visit Marpha as it has a pleasant and vibrant environment. Being a remote village in Nepal, it is a must visit spot to get the glimpse of the happy lifestyle of rural people.
Beauty of Marpha Village
Surrounded by mountains, Marpha is characterized by beautiful, wide-roofed houses. The exterior part of houses is mural painted, which makes the aesthetic look. The desert-like settlement is adorned with dense apple orchards. At the highest point of the village is the Samten Choling Gumba, which is considered to be the heritage of the Marpha people. This village is also very famous for photography and videography. On the clear days, the visibility of the surrounding areas, surrounded by mountain ranges, are unexplainable.
The road within this village area is very good and clean. The roads are mostly stone laid, which takes you to the Marpha’s market. You can give a try to apple pie; dried fruit packed in a package and buy souvenirs for your closed ones. Most of the souvenir’s products found here are based on Tibetan design and style. Likewise, the alleys of this village give you the serene vibes along with the bright and innocent laugh of the children.
A few miles from this village lead to the Tibetan settlement Chhairo. It is a monastery which is 300 years old and helps a lot to preserve the culture. This place is now regarded as both a museum and cultural destination, which is promoting the arts and architecture of Marpha and also making a huge impact in bridging the harmony between locals from different backgrounds.
History of Marpha Brandy
There is an interesting context in how apple wine production started in Nepal. King Mahendra had gone to Britain around 2027 BS. He also traveled from the UK to the US and France. There, Pasang Sherpa of Solu, who was studying vitti culture (making wine from fruits), arrives at the airport to welcome the king. The king asks what you are doing. Sherpa then said that he was studying Viticulture. French wine is world famous. King Mahendra was a visionary. So, he advised Sherpa to return to Nepal and cultivate apples in remote areas.
After this, he immediately returned to Nepal and decided to cultivate apples in Marpha, Mustang. The Marpha brand has become global after the wine was made from apples, which was started by Sherpa’s initiative. Apple wine is being made from house to house in Marpha. Marpha brand wines have been sold in Kathmandu, Pokhara and other cities and abroad, too.
Things to do in Marpha
- Learn about Apple Production and Marpha Brandy
Marpha is very famous for the production of Apple. The horticulture farm was started around 1966 in this village. Since that time, the local people here have been fascinated by the apple and its unique farming. Apples produced here are sold to main city areas like Kathmandu, Pokhara etc. The apples produced here have a unique identity and are treated as tasty and original. Thus, visitors can stroll around the village and learn about how the apple farmland is set up. Besides this, they can also discover a local distillery, from which ‘Marpha Brandy’ is made.
- Visit Samten Choling Monastery
One can find several monasteries, stupas, chortens etc. in this village. So, those who want to be part of a religious journey can visit a monastery like Samten Choling Gumba and perform puja. Since the monasteries are located at high altitude, one can also explore the birds found in this village. From the top, you can get the panoramic views of Marpha market, locals performing their day-to-day activities etc.
- Visit Ekai Kawaguchi Museum
This museum is named after japanese monk Ekai Kawaguchi, who visited here for some purpose. He lived in this village for around two years. During this time, he wrote the book named ‘A Stranger in Tibet’. So, today the house in which he used to live is turned into a museum. In this museum, you can explore some of the monk’s possessions and architecture.
- Visit Marpha Foundation
This foundation was operated by Jessica Kain. The main motto of this foundation is to promote the Nepali Artist and culture. They welcome the creativity and are giving a life goal to the villagers living there.
How to get there?
You have the option of both drive and flight to get there. It takes 10 hours by bus from Pokhara to Marfa. However, if you are short on time, then we suggest you go by the flight from Pokhara to Jomsom Airport, which takes just 20 minutes. From there, you can either drive by local bus or car. If you take the local bus, you need to go through the dusty trail and an uncomfortable journey. So, it is better to hire a car and reach Marfa in 20 minutes.
Accommodation and Meals on Marpha
If you are worrying about the accommodation facilities, then you don’t need to as there are a lot of hotels and restaurants for tourists. They all are well-equipped with needed services like Wi-Fi, hot shower, warm rooms etc. You can also get to taste the unique hospitality of local people.
The meals in Marpha are based on Thakali sets since this village is highly influenced by Thakali culture and traditions. You can order pancakes and special fresh juice, also known as Olivella, which is produced in Marpha. It is made by including vitamin C and antioxidants, which will help in maintaining the immunity power and fight against the different health related problems.
The arrival of domestic tourists has increased after Marpha was touched by the road network. However, not as many domestic tourists have been able to reach Marpha. The main reason for this is that the Pokhara-Muktinath road goes a little below Marpha village. Marpha is also a hindrance for domestic tourists as there is a predominance of domestic tourists who go there without prior knowledge of this place. However, for foreign tourists, Marpha is very famous.
Likewise, domestic tourists usually go to the trending destinations. But there is zero promotion for Marpha. Neither government nor provincial ministers are making any effort to develop and introduce this stunning village in a broad way. Also, since it is located below the Pokhara-Muktinath route, nobody usually notices it. That is why Marpha is a little overshadowed. Although Marpha is famous all over the world for its brandy of wine, it is not so famous in Nepal.
Keeping all this in mind, if the information about Marpha is distributed in all districts by organizing different programs from its promotion, then Marpha can be one of the top tourist spots on the way from Pokhara to Upper Mustang.
-By: Kusum Kharel for Land Nepal