Guide to Pokhara, Nepal

  • Fly against the backdrop of the snow-clad Himalaya
  • Warm winter thermals and a chilled travellers’ scene
  • October and November for relaxed flying; March and April for big air
  • The adventure centre of Nepal, with some of the hippie vibe of the 1970s
The stunning fishtail of Machaphuchare (6,993 m) dominates flying in Pokhara. Photo: Peter Wolf

The stunning fishtail of Machaphuchare (6,993 m) dominates flying in Pokhara. Photo: Peter Wolf

WHY GO?
Perfect for northern-latitude migrants escaping from the winter blues.

WHERE IS IT?

WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Pokhara is a must on any serious pilot’s world tour. Originally a hippie hangout in the 1970s, it still retains its laidback vibe, while catering to the mountain thrill-seeker with all the adventure activities you can think of.

Cheap and plentiful hotels, lakeside restaurants and bars make Pokhara an attractive destination for long-term seasonal bums of the flying, kayaking, and mountain biking variety. With the flying season between late September and early May, the sub-tropical climate never drops below freezing. An average daytime temperature in the mid-20s makes it perfect for Europeans or North Americans avoiding the winter’s gloom.

Sarangkot (1,500m) is the most accessible launch in Pokhara, situated at the south-eastern end of an 8km ridge. A 20-minute ride from Lakeside (800m) brings you to the numerous launches, all taking the daily light thermic breezes, which can start as early as 9 am. With three clearly defined landing zones along the lakeside road, getting back to your favourite bar is all too easy.

Dickie Danda (1,520m) is 6km north of town and a 40-minute ride brings you to this, the best XC site in Pokhara. Set at the base of the Green Wall (2,700m) it’s the go-to site if conditions are stable. It works best after the day has heated up. Use the terrain to ride dynamic lift through the inversions, and then enjoy the incredible views of three of the world’s fourteen 8,000m peaks.

Korchon (3,100m) is a huge grassy plateau above the tree line, a day’s walk north from Pokhara. At the base of Machapuchare (6,993m), this is a site that everyone must fly once, either for an early morning ride down to the valley floor (1,000m), or later on for the high altitude junkies who like getting boosted above 5,000m.

FLYING CONDITIONS
September to December is easy and suitable for all levels of pilot (2-3m/s). From January to May it picks up and the spring mountain thermals (Feb-April) are, as you would expect in the Himalayas, strong. Being closer to the equator than the Alps, the sun is directly overhead and the days are short. A typical day sees flying between 10 am and 3.30 pm, less in the dead of winter.

WHEN TO GO
October and November for cloud flying in shorts and T-shirts; March and April for big air and XC.

ALTITUDE
Cloudbase: 2,500m – 5,500m
Launches: 1,500m
Landings: 800m

HANG GLIDER ACCESS
There are no HG launches in Nepal

MUST BE FLOWN
Korchon Circuit: Once you’ve done it clockwise, try anticlockwise!

Sirkot to Besisahar: Starting in the low foothills hopping from one ridge to the next, a few committing glides bring you face to face with the big walls. Then spur-hop along the main Himalayan chain before ending in the shadow of Manaslu.

DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES
Bureaucracy. Nepal is full of it. In Pokhara, the no-fly zones are to the south and south east of Sarangkot. Because of the proximity of the airport to Sarangkot (less than 4km) no flying is allowed over Lakeside and the city. Crossing the lake is also not allowed, as it’s on the flight path.

Rotor low along the Sarangkot ridge is only an issue on those few days when the valley winds pick up during the spring.

ACCOMMODATION
Everything from $2 budget to luxury. $10 a night gets you basic but comfortable.

GUIDES AND COURSES
Adam Hill has guided there for 13 years: www.nepal-paragliding.com

EXPERT’S OPINION
“Nowhere else can you fly so close to the biggest mountains on Earth in such easy conditions” – Adam Hill

TAKE THE FAMILY
Nepalis love kids. Take the family trekking, on elephant back safaris, jungle walks, microlighting, hot air ballooning, mountain biking, white water rafting, chilling by or on the lake – it’s a great family destination.

BLOWN OUT DAYS
Pokhara is a new city, so no funky temples to visit on those rare rainy days. There are some Tibetan monasteries just outside the city and a peace pagoda on the ridge south of the lake.

WEATHER INFO
“If it’s not raining then we fly.” But you could try www.expeditionweather.info for winds aloft and www.accuweather.com for the general synopsis.

GETTING THERE
Kathmandu is Nepal’s only international airport with good connections from Delhi, Bangkok and Europe. Pokhara is a stunning 25-minute flight from Kathmandu, otherwise it’s 5-7 hours by bus or taxi.

USEFUL CONTACTS
www.nepal-paragliding.com


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