Unwinding Hikes around Pokhara

Pokhara’s bewitching beauty has been the subject of many travel writers. Its pristine air, spectacular backdrop of snowy peaks, serene lakes and surrounding greenery make it ‘the jewel in the Himalaya’, a place of remarkable natural beauty. With the magnificent Annapurna range forming the backdrop and the serenity of three major lakes – Phewa, Rupa and Begnas – Pokhara is the ultimate destination for relaxation. It is the second largest city in Nepal and sits high on the list of ‘must visit’ places in Nepal.

Pokhara Valley is not only the end of the famous Annapurna Circuit and the gateway to some of the most famous long-distance treks in Nepal, but it also has plenty of rewarding short walks and day trips that are suitable even for children and weary trekkers.

Along with several trails used by local residents leading to different villages, fields and viewpoints, below are a few popular hiking trails around Pokhara. These day hikes are ideal for those wanting to take some time away from the happening city life and immerse in the serene natural beauty that surrounds the Pokhara valley.

1. Hike to Begnas Lake
Hike Duration: 4 to 5 hours approx.
Drive Time from Phewa Lake: 45 minutes approx.
Transfer to Begnas Lake, the second largest lake of the valley after the Phewa Lake. A popular tourist destination, the area is filled with numerous resorts and eateries. There are different points from where you can begin walking.

Hike along the ridges as the trail slowly leads higher through forests of Horse-Chestnut and Saal trees. The view of the surrounding hill sides and of the twin lakes of Rupa and Begnas is simply breathtaking. Walk steadily north gaining a slight altitude through Begnas village, a spread out spectacle of clean mud houses and terraced fields. Higher up is Begnas Maidan, an open meadow perched on a hilltop from where one can have the most spectacular mountain views sweeping from east to west in a vast snowy expanse; Manaslu (8156m) the entire Annapurna massif with such prominent peaks as Annapurna II (7937m), Annapurna III & IV as well as Mt. Macchapuchhre (6993m) and weather permitting, the distant Dhaulagiri (8167m) in the far west.

After lunch at one of the many local restaurants around Begnas, you have an option of hiring a boat for a short ride in the tranquil surroundings, before meeting your vehicle for the 40 minutes’ drive back to your hotel.

2. Hike to Shanti Stupa or World Peace Pagoda
Hike Duration: 3 hours approx.
Drive to the dam at the end of Phewa Tal, the second largest lake in Nepal. The lake is stream fed but the dam regulates the water reserve, therefore being classified as semi-natural freshwater lake from where the water goes to a small hydro-power plant at the southern edge of the valley. Walk up the forested hill called Raniban to the Shanti Stupa, or World Peace Pagoda, a Buddhist stupa built by the Buddhist monks of the Japanese Nipponzan Fujii organization at a narrow ridge above the Phewa Taal. Walk around the stupa that offers good views of the Phewa Tal and the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Himal.

The path then descends to the lake shore where you can take a boat across to the other side while paying your respects at the Barahi Temple located at the heart of the lake.

3. Hike Naudanda to Sarangkot
Drive Time: 45 minutes approx.
Hike Duration: 5 hours approx.
Drive from Pokhara to Naudanda, a small hill offering pleasant views of the greenery and mountain ranges of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu. Start hiking from Naudanda (1600 meters) from a trail that leads you through the traditional Brahmin and Chhetri villages. After a four hours’ hike you will reach the vantage point of Sarangkot.

Sarangkot is a beautiful village located on a mountainside ridge at an altitude of 1600m with panoramic Himalayan views, from Dhaulagiri in the far west and Pokhara city in the south with the Phewa Lake on the north-western outskirts of the city. It is also famous for sunrise views and paragliding. Take a rest here while admiring the far-reaching views of the Himalayas and watch the acrobatics of the many adventurous paragliders that launch from here.

Our descent back down to Pokhara is steep in places. After approx. an hour and a half, it brings us back to Pokhara.

In addition to visiting various sites in Pokhara, the above day hikes can be included and customized as per your inclination to make for an exhilarating experience. These hikes can also be initiated as a warm-up to prepare for lengthier treks in the Annapurna region.

Traditional Attires of the Himalayas

Blessed with one of the richest cultures of the world, these power places of the Himalayas proudly embrace their traditional attires as an integral part of their daily lives.

Bhutan, ‘the last Shangri – La’, is known worldwide for their brilliance in being able to guard their cultural values. The Bhutanese people are bound by a strict rule of national dress code in their day to day lives. Even today, Bhutanese people can be seen in their colorful traditional Bhutanese attire – Gho worn by men and Kira worn by women, which is believed to be a 16th century old custom. Their national costume adds to their national pride and serves as a unique identity.

Gho is a knee-length dress, identical to the Japanese kimono and the Scottish kilt. It is tied up at the waist with a hand woven belt called kera, forming a pouch in the front. The sleeves are usually made of raw silk, cotton or polyester, which are neatly folded to form white cuffs called lagey. The costume is complete with long socks or stockings and traditional handmade boots. Men also can be seen wearing Kabney, a long scarf made of raw silk, worn from left shoulder to opposite hip; especially when visiting dzong or a temple, or even when appearing before a high level official. The locals, regional officials, ministers and the King, wear significant coloured Kabney, indicating varied status on its own.

Kira is an ankle – length long skirt piece, made with fine woven fabrics and beautiful colour patterns. Inside the kira, a long sleeve blouse called wonju is worn. The set is completed with a short open jacket called as tego worn over the dress. Rachu, an embroidered woven scarf, also made of raw silk and rich patterns is hung over the shoulder.


Nepal is a multi – ethnic country with over 100 ethnic groups, each having unique cultural values, practices, traditional attires, accessories and jewelries different than the others. While the national dress of Nepal is Daura – Suruwal or Labeda Suruwal for men and Gunyo-Cholo for women, the Nepalese are greatly influenced by clothing styles of the neighboring countries which have led to significant variations in the costumes.

Daura is a double breasted sleeved shirt of knee length, which is tied up at the sides. It is worn with Suruwal, a loosely fitted trouser, with a long cloth called Patuka wrapped around the waist. The set is complete with Dhaka Topi, a traditional cap made of fabric – Dhaka, which is a symbol of national pride. Some also wear a waist – coat over the shirt and carry a khukuri, the national weapon and the symbol of the brave Gurkha soldiers of Nepal. The Nepalese men proudly wear their traditional costume during festivals and special occasions as it holds a religious importance for the Hindu and Buddhist practitioners of Nepal.

Cholo is a top or blouse which is tied at the sides and Gunyo is a sari (skirt like), woven from cotton or silk fabrics, draped around the waist. On top of the Gunyo, a long cloth called Patuki is wrapped around the waist. The costume is complete with traditional jewelries.

Nepalese women can mostly be seen in elegant Sari, a five to nine yards length fabric, draped around the waist with one end draped over the shoulder. The sari is worn with a fitted crop blouse having short or long sleeves. A matching petticoat or inner skirt is worn under the sari. The sari is linked with grace and is widely popular as traditional attire worn during various festivals and special occasions of Nepal.


Tibet also has several ethnicities each with their own set of customary attire. The main costume is the chuba, a distinctive piece of ankle length robe tied around the waist with wide elongated sleeves, worn by both men and women differently. Women wear dark-colored wrap dresses over a silk blouse called wonju, and a colorfully striped, woven wool apron, called pangden signifying the marital status of a woman. Men wear the unique woolen hat while ladies adorn their crowns with ornaments made of precious stones. The dress originated as a clothing to protect themselves in the high altitude and from the cold temperatures of the Himalayas.

Tihar at Dharma!

Tihar is the festival of lights. The five day long festival is a joyous annual festival that brings happiness, prosperity and good wishes into the lives of people.
Being the festival of lights, butter lamps known as diyos are lit and the entire country illuminates to celebrate with immense joy and ecstasy.
Here’s a picture of the ladies at Dharma during Tihar in October 2017.

National Geographic: Best Spring Trips 2017

Pokhara is the second largest city of Nepal and tops the list of must visit places. With its bewitching beauty extended in forms of snow-capped peaks, tranquil lakes, greenery, adventure sports and trek trails, Pokhara is a place for anyone and everyone. With the magnificent Annapurna range forming the backdrop and the serenity of three major lakes – Phewa, Rupa and Begnas – Pokhara is the ultimate gateway for relaxation. While most famous treks begin here, Pokhara also offers adventure activities like paragliding, ultralight flight, and the world’s longest and fastest zip line.


Nepal is widely known for its vast trekking trails and spectacular views, however, there are many short trails as well that offer views equally stunning and splendid. Ghandruk, a beautiful Gurung settlement, takes you through rhododendron forests and rural areas, giving you an insight into the conventional lifestyle of the locals with glimpses of Machhapuchhre and Annapurna.

Ghorepani – Ghandruk Trek – 10 Days

Lhosar Tashi Delek!


Pola & Mola (Tibetan for grandfather and grandmother) are an old Tibetan couple living in Nepal. Originally from Lhasa, Tibet, they migrated to Kathmandu in the late 1950’s to begin a new life in Nepal. A young 20 year old Pola had on his shoulders, the responsibilities of educating his younger siblings and taking care of his parents. Despite cultural and language differences, he set foot exploring the streets of Kathmandu.

Initially, he bought Nepalese spices, tobacco and candles; and exported them to Lhasa. He recalls those days when there were no roads and they had to send men on foot till the border carrying the supplies for days. “The Nepalese people are very hard working and with a Khukuri attached to their shirts, they carried goods on their backs,” he recalls. This went on till 1969, after which the highway was built and the Tibet – Nepal trade flourished. Since then, he traveled back and forth for 48 years between Nepal and Tibet, importing raw wool, musk, Tibetan thermos, campus shoes and later the famous Tibetan carpets from Lhasa to Nepal and likewise, exporting herbs, cotton, jute, ghee etc. to Lhasa.

While Pola sold Nepalese imported goods in the popular Barkhor Street in Lhasa, Mola stayed in a small retail shop they opened in the busy streets of Ason in Kathmandu selling all types of clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. “I made a lot of friends in Ason”, she says. “Those were the carefree days; chitchatting and drinking tea with fellow shopkeepers is how I improved my Nepali.

After 57 years in Nepal, Pola & Mola share fond memories of Tibet and Nepal comparing similarities & differences between the two places they call home. “The same astounding landscape, mountains, hard-working people yet so distinct in culture and language.

With 4 children and 6 grandchildren, they now live a happy retired life in Nepal. “Life has shown us so many phases, between being born and brought up in Tibet and retiring in Nepal. We love our life and are happy but what is important to us is that we do not forget our Tibetan culture and heritage, the place that defined our existence. We are proud of our traditional dress – Bakhu and our Tibetan language. Also, on this happy occasion, we would like to wish everyone a very happy Lhosar. Lhosar Tashi Delek!”

Learn Five Fun Facts

BHUTAN:

1. Bhutan is the only country that measures its progress by its “Gross National Happiness.” This tiny nation is arguably the happiest country on earth.

2. Bhutan’s people planted 108,000 trees to celebrate the birth of their new prince in 2016. Not to forget, plastic bags have been banned in Bhutan since 1999.

3. Bhutan is the only nation in the world where the sale of tobacco is banned. Those who bring their own tobacco products into Bhutan are subject to duties and customs at the Paro Airport.

4. Until the 1960’s, Bhutan had no roads, automobiles, telephone, postal system or electricity. Bhutanese had no access to TV or Internet until limited access was permitted in 1999.

5. The first foreign tourists were allowed into Bhutan in 1974.

NEPAL:

1. The flag of Nepal is the only National flag that is not rectangular in shape and is over 2000 years old.

2. 8 of the world’s 10 highest peaks are in Nepal, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest at 8,848 m (29.029 ft).

3. Nepal has the world’s densest concentration of World Heritage Sites.

4. Nepal has over 80 ethnic groups and 123 languages.

5. “Better to die than be a coward” is the motto of the world-famous Nepalese Gurkha soldiers who are an integral part of the British Army since 1815.

TIBET:

1. Titled the “Roof of the World”, Tibet is literally the highest place on earth with an average elevation of 4,500 m (14,764 ft).

2. Tibetan people by tradition place prayer flags around their houses & properties for spiritual protection. These prayer flags are made up of 5 natural elements each a different color of blue, white, red, green, yellow each symbolizing Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth.

3. Tibet is known as the world’s “Third Pole” as, after the North and South Poles, it holds the third largest quantity of glacially stored water.

4. Potala Palace, the chief residence of the Dalai Lama is exclusively constructed on “Marpori” that translates as “Red Mountain”. The 13-storied palace has no elevator with about 1,000 rooms to explore and houses 200,000 Buddhist images.

5. Namtso, ‘the heavenly lake’, is the highest saltwater lake in the world that leaves one spellbound by its glistening beauty, pure blue water, and spiritual element.

Nuwakot and The Famous Farm

A good three hours of bumpy ride, about 75 km north from Kathmandu, driving over a hill after another through the meandering Trishuli River brought us to the hills of Nuwakot. Embellished with rich history and traditional royal architecture, Nuwakot was once the capital of the valley. It is here that King Prithivi Narayan Shah, the unifier and the first king of Nepal formulated his strategy to conquer Kathmandu.

For the four of us, this was our first time to Nuwakot. Stories of the first king of Nepal and his beautiful palace, the famous Saat Tale Durbar, a seven-storey fortress built in 1762 were little details we had grown up hearing about. When we finally made it there last weekend, we were saddened to see the catastrophe caused by the April 2015 earthquake. While the seven-storey fortress still remained put, entering it was prohibited because the structure looked fragile. Little village houses and temples around the area were in ruins; and though slowly, there were signs of restoration. Big pictures of pre, and post-earthquake that now adorned the area gave us an idea of what life would have been here before.

With a heavy heart, we drove to our overnight destination, The Famous Farm which was a stone’s throw away from the durbar. At first glance, The Famous Farm was simply an oasis of tranquility. Built in a 100-year-old mud house, this place is an amalgam of old and modern. The Famous Farm beautifully combines village life with modern facilities like a clean bathroom, comfortable bed, hot shower and a scrumptious cuisine. We spent the night warm and cozy in the open courtyard by the fire as we sipped wine and sang along to old country songs. Later we walked to our rooms through small wooden stairs and doors and hopped into our bed waiting for dawn.

We watched the sun rise over the hills as we sipped coffee from our wooden balcony. The ambiance was spectacular as we breathed clean fresh air that is difficult to find in Kathmandu. Quickly we realized that day light accentuated the beauty of The Famous Farm as blooming bright pink bougainvillea adorned the building. Breakfast in the garden was a delight, one could spend hours simply basking in the sun or enjoying a drink but we wanted to make the most of our short trip so we decided to go for a quick hike around the village.

We walked through patchy settlements and terraced farms as little children waved at us while others went about their daily chores. We passed old men and women basking in the sun, looking up to smile at us before getting back into conversations that eluded us. The view from our highest trek point was exceptional as we overlooked hills of dense forests and the meandering Trishuli River flowing smoothly below.

As we returned from the hike, we had a chilled jar of lemonade waiting for us at the hotel. A surprise treat after the hike! Quenching our thirst and thanking the staff for their wonderful service, it was time to say goodbye. As much as we wanted to stay, we left The Famous Farm with tons of stories to tell and a promise to visit again.

Later we stopped at the bazaar for a hearty Nepali meal and left Nuwakot with bellies full and lots of memories to share.

That was a weekend well spent!

Everest from Tibet

An amalgam of culture, history and nature, Everest from Tibet takes you amidst a wild and uncompromising landscape, through soaring snow-capped mountains, freshwater lakes and glided temples to the very heart of Tibet.

Everest-from-Tibet

Call it The Roof of the World, The Forbidden City or the Third Pole – so magnetic is its fame that a mere mention conjures up images of grandeur and spirituality. It has the earth’s highest ecosystem and is one of its last remaining wildernesses with its lush forests supporting abundant wildlife. Its many mountains feed some of Asia’s most revered rivers and Mt. Kailash is the most sacred mountain in the world. Its people are some of the most resilient in the world and through their richness and deep religious convictions, were built many captivating monuments.
It is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Asia.

Trip Highlights:

• Everest Base Camp with the spectacular view of the North Face of Mount Everest.
• Dalai Lama’s summer and winter retreats, The Potala Palace and Norbulingkha.
• The sacred Yamdrok Lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
• Witness monks in philosophical debates.
• Tread the path of Lhasa’s pilgrimage route to experience the firsthand religious fervor of Tibet.

Itinerary in Detail