If you go to Nepal, Pokhara – is a must-visit place. After hectic and dusty Kathmandu you feel like you arrived to some resort:) Pokhara is located around a big gorgeous sacred lake Fewa. And it’s surrounded by the most beautiful of the Himalayan mountains: the Annapurna range, the Fish Tail peak… In fact, many trekking routes start from here. On top of that, Pokhara has a milder, warmer climate than Kathmandu.
All that – and particularly the mountains – draw lots of backpackers looking for adventures here. I came for a few days, stayed for at least a week, and then came back for another week to celebrate the New Year’s! Here are some to-do highlights of Pokhara, the place of heights and adventures, and mindfulness and peace at the same time.
1. Pokhara is one of the world’s hot spots for paragliding.
Due to its unique terrain and adequate air flows (aerodynamics, beatchez!) Pokhara is a famous place for paragliding. You meet a lot of expats here, who moved to Pokhara to be paragliding pilots. Or to live here and learn/ practice paragliding.
I asked for the best (read: craziest) pilot in the city , and of course he turned out to be a Russian guy:) In fact, I was surprised that there’s a big Russian-speaking community of paragliders in this small town in the center of Nepal. Anyway, I started looking for that pilot and found him in the first paragliding office I went to, Avia. Very professional guys as a matter of fact! And the next day…
How it works: you and the pilot are attached to each other and the ‘wing’. When the wind is right, you (you specifically, not the instructor) have to make and effort and run very fast – and its very heavy, the wing is holding you back – and not bending your legs run off the cliff. The wind picks the wing up and you start gliding! You have you continue running in the air for the first few steps and first you might go down, but no worries (mhmmm…)
Well, I didn’t catch it the first time and as we approached to the very edge of the cliff, I panicked a little bit and bent my legs and it wasn’t so smooth, but the momentum was already going and the wind picked us up! We were soaring! Among the snow-covered Himalayas, blinding sun, soaring eagles and other paragliders and above the shining lake. It’s 700 meters above the lake and 1,500 m above the sea level.
Apparently, the wind/ weather conditions weren’t too turbulent for a naturally fun paragliding. So my pilot Vitaly offered two options: 1. To soar more or less steadily for more time and just look around, nothing crazy. 2.Or to land pretty fast but through some tricks. I opted for the latter, and never regretted!
Here is a short video I made about paragliding. Spinning and swinging and helicoptering down:)
I ended up meeting more people from that company of friends and they “adopted” me:) I even got to fly for free, testing some wing. My advice about paragliding: if you’re thinking to do that and even more so, if you’re interested in learning it, refrain from going to the agencies first. I highly recommend going to the Sunrise field (ask anyone for directions) – that’s where all the paragliders ultimately land and hang out. Mingle, look around, talk to people. You will find pilots, teachers, wings to buy and new adventure-loving friends:)
2. Pokhara is Famous for Bungee Jumping
I am totally terrified of heights. So I decided to try bungee jumping to celebrate that fear, and to do it specifically on the New Year’s eve. It was me and one Nepali guy who thought it was a good idea to do it on December 31st:)
Who goes first? – and the Nepali guys starts pointing at me. Okay, I guess that’s more fun. On the way up I – in hopes for relief – ask the instructor: it’s not THAT scary, is it? No, – he said – it actually IS very scary, I tried many other extreme things, and this is the most terrifying. Not. Cool:)
You get a cord attached to your foot and that’s it. Nothing else is holding you and you have nothing to hold on to. That’s the whole thing about it: literally it’s all about these few seconds when you JUST LET GO… And you have to make that step yourself.
A short video where I share impressions and shots from bungee jumping. Afterwards I was so ready to kick it in the new year!
3. Hike up to Shanti Stupa
Shanti means ‘peace’ in Sanskrit. Stupa (or pagoda) is a Buddhist monument. It’s a beautiful 35-meter high shrine, with golden statues of Buddha on four sides.
Besides its religious and architectural significance, stupa is also famous for its location. It’s situated on a 1,100 m hill, from where you can see gorgeous views of snowy Himalayan range, lake Fewa and Pokhara city.
Since it’s a pretty famous tourist attraction, there’re a lot of offers how to get there, including buses and cars and boats to cover parts of the way. My sincere advice: at least on the way there, hike! Don’t use any transportation, just walk straight from Lakeside, around the lake and then up. It will take at least couple of hours, but 1) You will actually get to see real Pokhara, not just the pretty lakeside, 2) it’s a good tiring hike, you’ll feel good about this exercise, and 3) splendid views open up as you go up.
And on the way back you can take a shorter route: take the steep hill right down (it’s marked), via amazing villages on the hillside along the way. Some local kids might beg you for candy, or anything you might have. You’ll come down to a little boat station and can hire a person with a boat to take you to Pokhara, the other side of the lake.
4. Explore the local heights on a motorbike
Of course, the best is to hike the Himalayan ranges around Pokhara, but these are many-day hikes;) I’m talking about renting a bike in one of the many shops in Pokhara, and going up and down the crazy broken but amazing roads in Pokhara whereabouts. Just be very careful and alert on these mountain roads, and always honk on the turns.
Well, especially at that time I didn’t drive anything that moves. I was kindly taken to these places by my backpacker friend on wheels, who was at that time living in Pokhara.
The most famous is probably Sarangkot village, 1,600m high up, with stunning views to the Himalayan range, including mountain Fish Tail. Many tourists go there for sunset or sunrise. I’m sure it’s gorgeous, but I was more down for sunsets than sunrises:) So one evening we went to some off the beaten track village and watched the sunset. Looks like wallpaper in the background, surreal!
There’s much more to do in Pokhara, but for me it’s steadily associated with heights and flying, and a surprising combination of adventure and peace. There’s always so much to do and try and see there! And at the same time if you just need some quietness, go to the lake, lay down and watch the mountains and be meditative. Fun and calmness go hand in hand here!