Pics: Milan Thapa
Once a famous destination for honeymooners, Pokhara has increasingly become an adrenaline junkie’s go-to paradise. Not that newlyweds cannot partake of the range of sporting activities, but Pokhara — widely known as the Lake City — is now more renowned as a place for both chill and thrill seekers.
When I was young, Pokhara meant a visit to Devi’s Fall, Barahi Temple and Mahendra Gufa. While these places are still popular, and Pokhara is still the takeoff point for treks to the Annapurnas, it is now a mandatory adventure destination for Nepali youngsters. Pokhara hoteliers say Nepalis now spend more and stay longer than many foreign tourists.
The first thing that sets Pokhara apart is its gorgeous setting: almost tropical at only 800 m above sea level but startlingly close to the mountains — Machhapuchhre’s 6,993 m-high summit is only 25 km away in a straight line. The lakes in Pokhara provide a stunning foreground to the high horizon.
Pokhara has accommodation that caters to everyone: Nepalis on shoestring budgets, foreign budget tourists, middle-class urbanites with family, as well as high-end tourists willing to spend up to $300 a night. The new Pokhara airport, scheduled for completion by 2018, should improve the town’s connectivity, with direct flights to countries in the region.
Pokhara is preparing itself for a tourism windfall, but for many the adventure boom is already here.
On my last visit to Pokhara, I got hands-on with several outdoor activities there. I ranked the activities on a scale of 5 to 1 based on the thrill threshold, with 1 being the most fun:
5 Water balling: This new aquatic sport on Fewa and Begnas Lakes involves zipping oneself inside a large transparent floating ball. I tried a slightly larger water ball that can hold up to four or five persons, while the other type can fit only one. All you have to do is get inside the ball, and run as fast as you can. You have to be extremely fit to keep up, but that’s the joy of it.
Fun tip: It is much more enjoyable water balling with friends than strangers. If you are claustrophobic, this is not for you.
4 Stand-up paddling: The closest thing to surfing in landlocked Nepal is stand-up paddling. I did not expect to enjoy the sport as much as I did, but going solo really maxed the thrill element.
Fun tip: If going solo, inform the company you hire the paddle board from, so they keep a lookout and have their rescue boat on standby in case of an emergency.
3 Zip-lining: When it comes to adventure Nepal boasts the world’s fastest and longest zip-line in Sarangkot. The intense safety instruction session by the conductors builds up the thrill. Then a 600 m vertical drop at the start of the ride spikes the adrenaline. But after the initial spell, the rest of the two-minute ride is
not quite as heart-thumpingly scary.
Fun tip: Don’t forget to soak in the lush green beauty around you.
2 Paragliding: Paragliding has been synonymous with Pokhara for some time now. What is unbeatable is not just being able to soar with the eagles that are always alongside, but also to look up at the Annapurnas and down at the lake throughout the glide. Make the most out of a tandem flight by establishing a connection with your pilot, who can provide a vivid running commentary on the mountains and landmarks all around, and even allow you to try out a few safe aerial stunts.
Fun tip: If you are prone to motion sickness, beware. Either eat something at least an hour before paragliding, or not at all.
1 Bungee jumping: This always tops the list of adrenaline sports, and for all the right reasons. After all, looking down at the canyon below from a dizzying 90 m height, and still choosing to jump off, is a decision your mind makes despite how hard your physical body fights against it. The senses are heightened, the heart races, the breath becomes shorter and more rapid, and the sweating is not due to the heat! Ultimately, the triumphant glory of having conquered the fear, wins the day.
Fun tip: Wear comfortable attire, and make sure your t-shirt is well-fitted or tucked in so it does not hinder your movements when you are dangling upside down. It helps to stretch before the jump ,to prep your muscles for the bungee jolt.
Lwang Ghalel is the best location for a day of canyoning in Pokhara. Even if canyoning is not on your itinerary, pay a visit to this gigantic waterfall just to witness its sheer beauty.
Lower Seti is perfect for a half-day rafting trip, with its crystal clear water, fascinating rapids and a breathtaking view of the Annapurnas. The Kali Gandaki, Marsyangdi, Trisuli and Upper Seti also offer options for rafting nearby.
Tubing is simply going solo down the white rivers in a huge tyre tube. Most rafting companies also feature tubing. It is advisable to indulge in this after the monsoon, and with trustworthy expertise.
Whether it be for a relaxing ride by the lakeside or along a forest trail, renting a mountain bike for at least one day on your trip to Pokhara is mandatory.
As opposed to trekking, hiking involves a day walk along Pokhara’s scenic ridges. Popular hikes include stops at Naudanda, Panchase, Thulokot, Sarangkot and the World Peace Pagoda.
Chitlang Heritage Trail, Samriddhi Rai
Going underground, Samriddhi Rai
Falling with water, Samriddhi Rai