PARAGLIDING IN POKHARA: WHAT TO EXPECT
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE PARAGLIDING IN POKHARA
Soaring above rice terraces, between the scenic Lake Phewa and the incredible Annapurna mountain range; paragliding in Pokhara is one of the most amazing adrenaline experiences in Asia.
As one of the most scenic places in the world, paragliding over Pokhara is a must do experience when visiting.
Most people come to Pokhara for the trekking and the hiking, but we believe the paragliding is enough reason to visit this town alone. Here is everything you need to know before paragliding in Pokhara, Nepal.
WHAT COMPANY WE USED – SUNRISE PARAGLIDING
HOW MUCH WE PAID – 8500 RUPEES / $75 USD
WHEN WE WENT – LATE DECEMBER – 09.30AM
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT?
Mountain scenery, adrenaline rush, unique experience.
To book our paragliding flight, we simply went into the Sunrise Paragliding office in Lakeside (I should probably say that we didn’t actually do any research on which company to go with. We just saw their office on the main street in Lakeside, and decided to go in and ask a few questions). We went in the evening before we wanted to go paragliding, and booked a flight for 9.30am the next day for the two of us. The lady in the office asked us to fill in a form and leave a small deposit (2000 rupees each) to guarantee our spots.
In order to fill out the form, we simply needed the following information: our passport numbers; home address; hotel name; emergency contact details; and some personal details (date of birth, name etc.). She then gave us a receipt, and asked us to come back to the office at 9.20am the following day.
Paragliding flights in Pokhara go everyday of the year. There are three flight times every day: 9.30am, 11.30am and 1.30pm. (See our when should I go section below for more information.)
Expect to arrive at the office around 10 – 15 minutes before your scheduled departure. Be aware that there may be delays. Once everyone has arrived, you will all jump into a small 4×4 jeep, and begin your drive up the mountain, to the launch point in Sarangkot.
This drive is little uncomfortable. It lasts around 30 – 40 minutes, and the road is VERY bendy and bumpy. Depending on what seat you’re in, you might be a little squashed against a stranger, and not facing forward. Bear this in mind if you are prone to travel sickness. We would recommend taking motion sickness tablets if you’re at all worried, as it isn’t the nicest ride.
Once you get to your take-off point in Sarangkot, you’ll all jump out of the vehicle and relax for a while. There are a few different launch areas in Sarangkot, so depending on what company you choose to go with, you may end up at a different one. Our take off point had toilets and benches.
At this point you’ll just relax whilst the pilots set up their gear and we all wait for the wind. You’ll then get partnered up with your pilot, and after introductions, they’ll explain everything that’s going to happen on the flight, including take off and landing. You’ll then get all suited up in the harness, and wait for your turn to run off the mountain. If your launch point is big enough, two people will set up and get ready to take off at the same time. If it is smaller, you will all go one by one – so this may take longer.
Once you’re in the air you’ll get about 30 minutes of flight time, depending on the season (see below). The first 20 minutes are spent in the main ‘terminus’. This is where you’ll see everyone circling around close to each other, not too far from the take off point. This is where you’ll get the nice views of the Annapurna mountain range. After 15 – 20 minutes here, your pilot will start taking you down toward the lake and the landing point. If you decide you want your pilot to do some ‘tricks’, then this is where they’ll do them.
After landing, you’ll wait for the last member of your group to arrive, and if that’s you, you’ll all walk together up to the same jeep you were taken up the mountain in earlier. This drive is only about 5 minutes, back into the centre of Lakeside.
PLAN EXTRA TIME
Don’t make plans too close to your paragliding session. When we went into the office the evening before, we found out that there was only two 9.30am slots available for the next day. We were told to arrive at the office no later than 9.20am, to be in the sky at 10am, and back at the office in Lakeside at 10.30am. Obviously, this is Nepal, so nothing seems to go as planned.
At around 10am, we all got in the jeep to ride up the mountain, 40 minutes after we were supposed to set off. We didn’t get back to Lakeside until just after noon (because we also had to wait for the wind for 45 minutes at the take off point). So, maybe don’t be like us and plan to pack your bags and check out of your hotel that morning if your check-out is at 12 (luckily the owner at the hotel we stayed in was very understandable, and gave us an extra 30 minutes to pack and leave).
TRICKS AND SPINS
Your pilot will only do any tricks or spins if you’re feeling alright. If you’re feeling at all sick or unwell, they won’t force you to go through that. They’ll also ask you if it’s okay with you. On our trip, Danielle didn’t feel so great, and thought she was going to vomit, so she gave it a miss. I felt great, so gave it shot. I didn’t feel so great afterward. But, I’m glad I did it!
HOW LONG WILL I GET?
Most companies will offer different packages, but the regular and most popular one is the 20 – 30 minute flight. That means you’ll get at least 20 minutes in the air, dependent on the weather and the season. If you go at a good time of year, you’ll get longer.
Another factor in the amount of flight time is whether or not you choose to do and ‘spins’ or ‘tricks’. If you and your pilot agree to do a couple of spins above the lake, your flight time will be massively reduced. But, if you’re really excited to just be in the air as long as possible, maybe just give that a miss. If not, give it a go (I promise it’s not as scary as it looks).
The whole experience should – in theory – take around 1 hour 30 minutes, including getting to and from the take off and landing points. Obviously, there can potentially be a lot of waiting around for the wind at the take off point (if the wind isn’t good, the pilots won’t take off). So, this can extend the length of your whole experience (see plan extra time above).
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
We paid a grand total of: 8500 Nepalese Rupees ($75) PER PERSON
We took a 30 minute flight, and that price included everything. This is the cheaper option offered by ‘Sunrise Paragliding’. There is also the optional extra of a “photo and video package” at 2500 rupees per person. If you choose to pay this, your pilot will take a GoPro along on your flight, taking pictures and video, and you’ll get all the footage when you get back to the office. We didn’t go with this option, as it was free to take along our own GoPro and camera (as long as it is safe to do so: no dropping it out of the sky).
There are other companies in Pokhara offering paragliding trips. There are (at the time of writing) around 70 paragliding companies in Pokhara. So, the price can vary a little, but will most likely be about the same price. Having said that, if you really want to save $15, it’s definitely possible. But it’s potentially not worth it. Obviously, we can only speak about our experience, but we felt VERY safe the entire time, and we were very happy to have fluent English speaking pilots. This might not be the case with other companies.
WHEN SHOULD I GO?
All paragliding companies in Pokhara offer 3 flight times per day. They are (give or take) around 10am, 12pm and 2pm. What time you decide to go may depend on availability, but if you’ve got the choice, there may be a few factors to take in before deciding.
In the autumn and winter season (October, November, December, January), in the morning, the haze and dust are at their lowest (generally speaking of course). There is also a lot less cloud around the Annapurna’s, obscuring the view from Pokhara. However, later in the day, there is a much higher chance of a longer flight time, as the air warmed by the sun is now rising – keeping you in the sky for longer.
Visibility: For the best views and visibility choose autumn or winter. Skies are clearer and visibility is much greater in the winter months (December – February). If you want to see as much as possible, and aren’t as bothered by sheer amount of time in the sky, winter is your best option. There is less cloud, which means better views of the Annapurna mountain range.
In winter there will also be less people up in the sky with you. At the main ‘terminus’, there can – at peak times – be a huge number of people circling around up there. In December, we flew with around 20 people in the ‘terminus’ with us, and my pilot assured me that this was a very small number!
Flight time: For longer, higher flights, choose Spring (March, April, May). The chance of clouds obscuring views over the Pokhara and the Annapurna’s is much greater, but you’ll get a longer flight, and you’ll be able to get much higher. In Spring, the geothermals mean that pilots can achieve much greater heights. When we went in winter (December), the highest our pilots could get was just below our take off point, but allegedly in Spring, they can reach heights hundreds of metres higher.
IS IT WORTH IT?
In short: yes.
If you’re on a short holiday/vacation in Nepal and Pokhara, I’d say you should definitely squeeze it into your itinerary. Paragliding is an iconic thing to do here in Pokhara, and it’s a really amazing experience.
Even if you’re backpacking and on a budget, it’s still worth it. Most people end up in Pokhara to go hiking and trekking into the Annapurna mountains, but we would say that paragliding is reason enough alone to visit Pokhara. It’s not something we have seen offered (or so popular) elsewhere in Asia, and the mountain scenery in Pokhara makes it one of the best places in Asia (if not the world) to give it a go.
For more of our posts about Nepal and Pokhara, click here.
For more adrenaline and adventures, visit our adventure page here.
OUR PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR
LAPTOP – Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch
SMALL CAMERA – Olympus OMD- E-M10 Mark II
ZOOM LENS – Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm Lens
DSLR BODY – Canon 60D
WIDE ANGLE LENS – Sigma 10-20mm Lens
DRONE – DJI Mavic Pro
ACTION CAMERA – GoPro Hero 7 Black Edition
MICROPHONE – Rode VideoMicro
CAMERA BAG – Lowepro Fastpack 250 AW II