Most adrenaline junkies to Pokhara head for the Annapurna Circuit, but there are more ways than a three-week walk through the Himalayas to get the blood pumping. Pokhara’s mix of culture and adventure gives the city a unique opportunity to wow visitors who come to test their mettle against the elements – and maybe chill out in the swank surroundings of the Tiger Mountain Lodge afterward.
September to June are the best months for going to see unique views of Nepal, and one of the best ways to see Pokhara is from the sky. Pokhara averages 250 paraglides per day during peak season: tandem for the inexperienced and solo, for which experience and a flying permit are required.
Most flights take off half an hour from Pokhara in Sarangkot, which offers sweeping panoramas of the Himalayan peaks and land in the densely forested surroundings of Phewa Tal freshwater lake. Paragliders should be prepared to share the air, of course, not just with fellow adventurers, but with some of the locals, including Crested Serpent Eagles, Himalayan Griffons, and White-Backed Vultures.
Waters from Nepal’s glaciers provide challenging rapids through the valleys at the base of the Annapurna mountains. These fast waters make Pokhara an ideal jumping off point for rapids enthusiasts, said to be some of the top whitewaters for rafting in the world. Most tours offer eight-person rafts, with a separate raft carrying luggage and supplies so that rafters are not weighed down by gear.
Both single-day and multi-day excursions are available; popular routes include the Upper Seti, 30 minutes from lakeside and just 1.5 hours long, while the Trisuli River, with its pool and drop rapids, can be navigated all the way to Kathmandu.
Pokhara has the highest and longest zipline ride in the world, referred to locally as the “Roof of the Gods” at Sarangkot. Taking off slightly farther up the mountain than paragliders, and zooming nearly 6,000 feet off the ground at 75 miles per hour, this experience offers views of Machhapuchhre, Annapurna, and the city of Pokhara.
But catch those views quick, as the ride only lasts two minutes. The zipline is high and fast, but many travelers can take solace in the fact that they are in a secure harness, rather than hanging by a rope.
ABOVE: One of the longer routes is known as the Royal Trek.
There are many ways to cycle on different trails around Pokhara. Lakes Phewa Tal, Rupa Tal, and Begnas Tal are to be seen along some of the rides. Alternatively, visitors may travel up the ridge to Sarangkot on heavily forested trails. There are heavy dirt roads along the Seti Nadi, or a challenging ride can be found along the Siddhartha Highway – a multi-day route to Lumbini to see the famed birthplace of Buddha. The trails are marked and there are rest areas along the way. One of the longer routes is known as the Royal Trek.
Away from the city, this path takes cyclists through winding mountainous terrain and small villages. This route is popular with larger groups. Half, full day, and marathon cycling trips are available for both the novice and experienced bike riders.
To see Nepal’s landscape from the skies in a fixed wing aircraft is a memorable adventure that’s perhaps a slightly less daunting method than paragliding. The Ultralite takes passengers up and over the ranges to see Nepal’s rugged landscape, gliding above the villages, rivers, forests, and peaks of Pokhara, along with the prominent and sacred Fishtail Peak standing just short of 23,000 feet.
Tours usually range from 15 to 90 minutes, soaring through the airspace at between 30 to 55 miles per hour, with locally knowledgeable pilots.