Apart from hiking and mountain-climbing, paragliding is one of the most popular adventure activities in Nepal, as the country provides an excellent opportunity to get an aerial view of the Himalayas.
One notable area for paragliding in Nepal is the Pokhara valley, a beautiful lakeside town located at the foot of the Annapurna mountain range. It is home to 3 of the world’s 8000-metre peaks and also has a consistently reliable climate for this sport.
Pokhara has such an impressive reputation in the paragliding world that a professional competition is held there every year. Whether you are a novice or a veteran, whether you’re looking for an advanced paragliding course, or a tandem flight for your first time, you can find it right here in this valley.
First thing first — let’s understand what paragliding is. It’s not to be confused with parasailing. Although both involve flying in the air using a parachute-like canopy, parasailing is done with the help of a motor boat, while paragliding is foot-launched by running down a slope.
What is Tandem Paragliding
Tandem paragliding is a paragliding flight in which the pilot carries a passenger for touristic purpose.
How to Get to Pokhara, Nepal
Pokhara has a small regional airport that you can fly to from Kathmandu or other airports in Nepal. Several reputable airlines operate regular flights from Kathmandu, such as Yeti Airlines, Buddha Air, and Simrik Air.
The flight takes approximately 30 minutes and can be booked online even at the last minute.
You can book a car with a driver at one of the many travel agents in Thamel area in Kathmandu. Prices depend on the season, the type of car, and whether it comes with air-conditioner. A car can fit up to a maximum of 3 passengers comfortably.
There are tourist buses and local buses that make the journey between Kathmandu and Pokhara every day. Staying true to our backpacker status, my travel partner and I chose to take a local bus for the 200-kilometre journey.
Local buses depart from Gonga Bu Bus Park every 15 minutes, from around 7 a.m. through late afternoon. The bus fare should be around NPR 400 – 700.
With that price, one must not expect luxury. The buses are very basic. There are no reclining seats and no air-cond. If you’re lucky, there might be a fan above the window. You can also slide the window open for ventilation.
Local buses may not be a suitable option if you carry a lot of luggage or big suitcases, as they will likely be removed to make way for more passengers. The luggage storage area is usually on top of the roof.
Expect to spend around 6 to 8 hours on the bus. It makes a few stops throughout the journey for toilet breaks and buying snacks.
The roads are bumpy and winding with many switchbacks. The drivers have a reputation for driving fast and rather dangerously, so depending on your anxiety threshold, this can either be a thrilling or a terrifying ride.
On the plus side, you’ll see wonderful sights of hills, green rivers, and rural Nepalese lifestyle.
So, try your best to sit back and enjoy the views as well as the various tunes of car horns.
Honking is not done out of necessity in Nepal, it’s done out of habit. Drivers tend to honk for no reason every few seconds. Not honking is like an awkward lull in the conversation — a silence that just demands to be filled.
The interesting thing is, the honks don’t sound like the normal ones we are used to hearing in other parts of the world — they are a lot more melodic and varied. Seriously, every vehicle seems to produce a unique sound — they could have formed an orchestra together.
Best Time to Go Paragliding in Pokhara, Nepal
Paragliding is a weather-dependent sport. It’s not safe to fly when there are strong winds, lightnings, rain showers, or storms.
The Best Months to Go
You can go paragliding in Pokhara in all seasons except the rainy season in July and August, during which there will be a few days when it’s not possible to fly. There’s no way to know in advance when that might be, so it would be best to avoid these wet months altogether.
The paragliding season in Nepal starts in September and ends in early June, the best months being November and December. During this period, the weather is consistent and therefore perfect for paragliding.
The Best Time of the Day to Go
In Sarangkot, flights are operated three times a day: in the morning at around 10 a.m., at 12 noon, and at 2 p.m. If you prefer a calm and smooth flight, try to book the morning session, as the thermal hasn’t yet formed early in the day.
By noon when the sun has warmed up the land, flights can be more turbulent — or more exciting, depending on how you look at it.
How Much Does Paragliding in Nepal Cost?
Paragliding cost may vary according to seasons, but most paragliding companies offer similar prices, with only small differences, if any.
Tandem flights typically cost around NPR 10,000 (USD 90) for a 30-minute flight and NPR 16,000 (USD 140) for a one-hour flight. The price should include transportation to and from your hotel and insurance. Photography and videography services are usually charged separately at about NPR 2,000 (USD 17) or so.
If you’re qualified, you can fly solo, but only after obtaining a clearance from the aviation office of Pokhara. Solo flights should cost around NPR 8,000 (USD 70).
How to Book a Paragliding Flight in Nepal
Booking can be done through your hotel reception/concierge. Or you could walk around in Pokhara town to find the best company that suits your needs.
Some companies have Nepalese pilots while others have foreign ones, if this matters to you. Other things to ask are what the price includes and whether they have company insurance.
However, it’s impossible to know which company is reputable based only on their brochures. I recommend doing some research online before you go. Here are five of the top-rated paragliding companies in Pokhara according to Google:
- Open Sky Paragliding
- Team 5 Nepal Paragliding
- Sunrise Paragliding
- Flying Buddha Paragliding
- Hanuman Paragliding
Alternatively, you could also make your booking online through travel apps like Klook that allows you to read previous customers’ reviews of the particular company.
What to Expect When Paragliding in Pokhara, Nepal
The take-off point is in a place called Sarangkot, which stands at an altitude of 1,592 metres (5,223 feet) and the landing is by the Phewa Lake. Depending on which company you book with, you will either have to wait for the pickup at your hotel or meet at the booking office.
You will then take a 20-minute ride in a jeep from Pokhara to Sarangkot take-off point. From there, if the weather is clear, you should be able to see three of the highest mountains in the world: Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, and Annapurna — all measuring over 8,000 metres in height.
Feel free to enjoy the view while the crew sets up the equipment.
About 15 minutes before the flight, your pilot will strap you into the harness and explains the entire process.
Basically there’s not much that you need to know apart from what to do with your legs during takeoff and landing. Your pilot will take care of everything else.
The purpose of the briefing is primarily so that you know what to expect and not panic unnecessarily.
In order to launch, the wind condition needs to be just right, so you will probably need to wait a minute or so — much like a surfer waiting to catch a wave.
Once the wind is right, your pilot will tell you to start running down the slope. Note that you might have to repeat this process if the wind is not in your favor.
When the wind catches, you will be off the ground in no time, joining the many other paragliders in the sky. It might surprise you how unscary the takeoff feels despite how it looks.
A tandem flight typically lasts about 30 minutes, during which you can see panoramic views of the Phewa Lake, the Pokhara valley, and surrounding villages. See if you can spot the snow-capped mountains. If you’re lucky you might also see eagles soaring in the air next to you.
We went in March and the sky was unfortunately too hazy for us to see the mountains. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable flight. It’s amazing how quiet and calming it can be up there.
Based on your comfort level, the pilot might offer to do an acrobatic stunt (turning the parachute sideways so that you’re flying horizontally). This is entirely optional and you can ask your pilot not to do it if you feel uncomfortable.
Is it possible to take photos during the flight?
Most companies offer photography / videography services at an additional fee of around NPR 2,000. They also allow you to bring your camera during the flight, but it will be at your own risk.
If you’re planning to bring your own device, please make sure that it can be securely strapped to your body. If you drop your camera, not only will you lose the device and all the pictures in it, but even a small object can be deadly if it falls from a great height onto someone on the ground.
Is It Safe to Paraglide in Nepal?
Safety must be your biggest concern when it comes to extreme sports, and it should be.
So, is paragliding in Nepal completely safe?
Nope. No extreme sport is 100% free from accidents. There have been a few accidents in Pokhara as well. However, if it’s any consolation, almost all of those accidents involved solo pilots. Solo pilots are trainees who are collecting flight hours before they are allowed to carry passengers.
Tandem pilots, on the other hand, have to undergo rigorous training to get their licence. This includes flying solo for more than a thousand hours over a period of 18 months, going through health check-ups, first-aid training, and flight incident simulators.
The Nepal Airsports Association has implemented a few new rules to make paragliding safer:
- Separating the solo pilots from the tandem flyers. While previously they would all fly from Sarangkot, now solo pilots fly from another take-off point, thus making Sarangkot less crowded and reducing the risk of accidents.
- Allowing pilots to only fly one shift per day.
- Allotting a certain time for each company to avoid overcrowding.
There have reportedly been no accident since the implementations of these rules. Still, there are always risks involved. Make sure you have personal travel insurance to cover medical expenses as well as repatriation.
World Nomads has had a reputation for providing affordable travel insurance that cover a wide range of adventure activities including paragliding.
How Scary is Paragliding?
For someone with a fear of heights, I was actually not as scared as I should be. Everything had been briefed to me, including the safety measures and what to do during takeoff and landing, so I knew what to expect.
On top of that, my pilot’s relaxed and easy-going nature also helped put me at ease. Just looking at him made me want to break into the Bob Marley song: Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
Most passengers are nervous about the take-off because you’ll practically be running off a cliff. However, you’ll be surprised to find that it’s actually not scary at all.
Once your feet leave the ground, the parachute immediately supports your weight. So, you’ll have none of that free-fall sensation that makes your heart drop to your stomach.
The flight is so smooth and relaxing that you can easily converse with the pilot during the flight. He will be checking on you and keeping you informed all the way, which usually helps to calm nervous passengers.
If you’re feeling up for it, you can let your pilot do some acrobatic stunts in the air (this is included on all flights, but let the pilot know if you’re not comfortable with it).
I was fine throughout the flight. My friend, however, felt a little nauseous, so she skipped the acrobatic part and asked to land early.
Is Paragliding Suitable for Everyone?
Paragliding is not a physically demanding activity — at least not for the passenger. So, don’t worry if you’re not very athletic. As long as you’re in reasonably good health, you’re fit to fly.
However, paragliding is not suitable for pregnant women or those with asthma, epilepsy, osteoporosis, or heart disease. If you suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes, it is best to get your doctor’s advice before taking part in this sport.
Additionally, if you have extreme fear of heights or a tendency to behave erratically when scared, perhaps paragliding is not for you, as it can put both you and your pilot in a dangerous situation.
The maximum weight limit is 100 kilograms. This may vary slightly depending on the company, so do check beforehand.
There’s usually no age limit for paragliding — even children as young as 4 years old are welcome to join — but again, please check with the company you’re booking with.
What to Wear for Paragliding in Nepal
As paragliding is not a strenuous activity for the passenger, there’s no strict guideline on what to wear or not to wear.
Ideally, you should put on something comfortable that does not restrict movement. Avoid wearing anything flowy or with hooks that may catch the glider lines. Shoes must be closed and secure. No flip flops or anything that might slip off your feet.
It can be pretty chilly up there especially in the colder months. I’d recommend wearing long pants, a long-sleeved top, and a windbreaker. Since it was not so cold when I went, I was fine with a tank top and jeans.
High up in the air, you will be more exposed to the damaging sun rays. Don’t forget to put on sunscreen before you fly.
There are usually lockers where you can leave your personal belongings at, but it’s best not to bring any valuables at all.
Where to Stay in Pokhara, Nepal
Pokhara is one of the most popular destinations in Nepal, and as such, it is well set-up for tourists. There is a large range of accommodation options — from cheap dormitory beds to five-star resorts.
Many of the hotels are clustered near Phewa Lake, the main tourist area of Pokhara. This is a good place to stay if you like to be at the center of all the action and close to shops, restaurants, and tour companies.
Here are your options:
Gaurishankar Backpackers Hostel – Only 500 metres from Phewa Lake, this hostel provides guests with a restaurant, bar, shared lounge, terrace, and garden. Guests have a choice of dormitory rooms or private rooms with en suite bathrooms. The hostel offers 24-hour front desk, airport transfers, and free WiFi throughout the property. You can also play table tennis and darts at the accommodation. Rates start from NPR 483 (USD 4.10) for a bed in an 8-bed dormitory room. Continental or ala carte breakfast is available for NPR 227 (USD 2).
Hotel Forest Lake Backpackers Hostel – A very clean and modern hostel with a terrace or balcony in some rooms. Every room is equipped with a private bathroom with hot shower. Free WiFi and luggage storage space is available on site. According to Booking.com, this property has more repeat guests than most. From NPR 470 (USD 4.80) for a bed in a 4-bed female or mixed dormitory room.
Hotel Middle Path & Spa – Offering clean, air-conditioned rooms with views of the mountains, this hotel has more than 1,200 positive reviews on Booking.com — more than any other property in the area. The in-house restaurant serves Nepali, Indian, and Chinese cuisines. From NPR 3,700 (USD 31) for a Standard Double Room, including breakfast.
Temple Tree Resort & Spa – Featuring traditional Western Himalayan architecture, the rooms are housed in double-story cottages with wooden pillars and hand-cut stone walls with private balconies and garden views. Facilities include an infinity pool, business center, tour desk, restaurant, cafe, bar, free parking, and a spa offering body massages and flower baths. From NPR 12,450 (USD 105) for a Deluxe Double or Twin Room, including breakfast.
Final Thoughts on Paragliding in Pokhara, Nepal
Paragliding is definitely one of the must-do activities in Pokhara, Nepal. Of course there are many other places in the world where you can try this sport, but it would be hard to find one that offers views as spectacular as the Himalayan peaks.
If you’re a first-timer, tandem paragliding is a great choice for you. The best thing about it is you don’t have to worry about anything except sitting back and enjoying the views.