Today, more and more travellers seek an authentic experience, a change from familiar hotel chains, strict packages and lineups at scenic views. People want more than a sightseeing timetable, they want the chance to deeply experience another country’s culture, people and environment.
Eco-friendly rural tourism in Nepal is a rare jewel, offering visitors unique, diverse, and enriching experiences. With more than 80% of the country’s population living in rural areas, travelers can homestay in villages, learning and experiencing the rich values, religions, and traditions of the local people among some of the most stunning landscapes on earth.
There is also a huge diversity of activities that visitors can enjoy. From helping grow oranges to spending time exploring historic palaces, to learning about agricultural techniques and trekking nearby mountains and valleys. Such activities, combined with the hospitality and friendliness of a local family can provide visitors with a rewarding and unforgettable experience.
Rural tourism provides an avenue to sustainably improve the social, economic, and environmental well being of the entire community. Half of the people living in rural Nepal live below the poverty line and rural tourism can play a huge role in changing that statistic. Rural tourism creates opportunities for youth to gain skills and experience in hospitality, retail, guiding, transport, and catering and eco-friendly operations.
Rural tourism offers an alternative to experience the real Nepal, in a way that can benefit visitors, villagers, and the environment, for generations to come.
Community Hiking and Trekking around Pokhara, Nepal
There are ways and means to explore and embrace the beauty of this small Himalayan Kingdom. Trekking is probably the best option if you are adventurous enough to take the road less travelled and discover virgin places. The best time to venture out would be from March to June and October to November. It is best to avoid the monsoon and the winters due to the erratic climatic conditions. As most of the rural parts can only be conquered on foot, it becomes important to decide which place you want to visit. This problem can be solved with the help of various trekking agencies available to choose from. A word of caution, it is advisable to find a local guide who is well acquainted with the place and language.
Amongst many places in Nepal, Pokhara tops the list. Pokhara is a complete resort for an avid traveller. This scenic city has a lot to offer from waterfalls to museums, the famous Phewa Lake and the Machhapuchhre (Fishtail) Mountain. This third largest city in Nepal also boasts of eternal Mahindra cave and in numerous temples. You can either take a flight to reach this city or hit the road from Kathmandu as Kathmandu would probably be the first place you will land in Nepal.
You can plan either a day’s trip, short trip, or long trips from Pokhara as it is the best place to set out to the rural mountain villages. You will find cheap lodges to decent hotels along the way. There is an option to stay in local homes.
Fitness is the first thing that comes into the picture when you prepare yourself to scale up the mountains. Make sure you are physically fit and healthy. It is advisable to travel light and carry the right kind of equipment. Age-old commonsense will help you make your trekking experience memorable. So do not leave it behind. Here is a list of things that would come handy when you are trekking
- Sun hat/scarf
- Light balaclava or warm fleece hat
- Light and expedition weight thermal tops
- Fleece jacket or pullover
- Water bottle
- Walking stick or cane
- Heavyweight gloves or mittens with a waterproof shell outer
- Hiking shorts
- Lightweight cotton long pants
- Fleece or wool pants
- Basic First Aid Kit /Mosquito Repellent
- Thick, warm wool hiking socks
- Hiking boots with spare laces
- Camp shoes (sneakers and/or sandals)
- Small wash towel
- Sleeping bag rated to zero degrees F
- Headlamp with spare bulbs and batteries
COMMUNITY TREKS AROUND POKHARA
The mystic and magical view of the age-old Himalayas can be best viewed from Sarangkot. Located at an altitude of 1592 meters above sea level, this place is mostly visited to view the sun rising above the horizon. It is approximately 11 kilometers away from Pokhara. Sarangkot has well-maintained hotels and restaurants, offering excellent food, clean rooms with hot and cold showers, and even Wi-Fi connection. You can check-in into hotels or local homes and stay as their guests. If you want to be blessed to see the sun rising high up in the mountains then you have to be an early bird and start around 5 am. It is about a 5 km walk uphill so by the time you walk some distance you will definitely be able to see the sunrise. You can enjoy the view of some of the exotic snow-peaked mountains and start walking down towards the city crossing the dense and green forest. This is basically a 2 day’s trip. This trek is ideal for beginners as the trail is not so difficult and it is very close to Pokhara.
Day 01: Drive to Naudanda from Pokhara city for about an hour and start the trek to Sarangkot. It would take a couple of hours to reach Sarangkot.
Day 02: Get up early in the morning to view the sunrise over the whole Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Ranges including the Fishtail Mountain as well as other soaring mountains. Trekking down to Pokhara will take you about three hours.
Pokhara- Dhampus –Sarangkot
Dhampus is a village situated at an elevation of 1750m above sea level, in western Nepal. This village is popular among tourists s it provides an excellent view of most of the snow-clad peaks in Nepal. Dhampus is 18 kilometers away from Pokhara. It is a gateway to the Annapurna Base Camp and other trekking trails in the Annapurna range. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants in this village.
This would be a 3 days trip. Start early from Pokhara and reach Phedi. Your trek begins at Phedi and after walking for about five hours you will reach Dhampus. This trek gives you a glimpse of the panoramic view of the Himalayan Range. In between your trek you can stop at the village homes and be the guest of honor. You will be mesmerized by the local hospitality and courtesy. These people living far from civilization still treat their guests as a god in their abodes and accept you with warm hearts. You will get to know a lot about village life and their hundreds of year-old tradition and culture. Watch out for the rich bio-diversity, the flora and fauna and get lost into the wild. The view here is breathtaking, stand and look beyond what you see, in a distance, you will see a few stone houses, sometimes smoke coming out of these houses amidst the wild rhododendron, pines, and orchids. On the second day after breakfast trek from Dhampus to Sarangkot(1720m) via Naudanda, which takes approximately five hours.
Day 01: Drive from Pokhara to Phedi (950m.) Begin your trek from Phedi to Dhampus (1650m) which will take approximately four hours.
Day 02: Get the early morning view of Annapurna, Fishtail, Dhaulagiri Mountain and other peaks glitter in the sunshine fondly called as the golden view.
Day 03: The third day is a little relaxed in terms of walking. In the morning you can walk uphill and get the Mountain View, view of Pokhara city from the top and the Phewa Lake. Trekking down to Pokhara (827m) will take approximately three hours.
Lahachok-Ghachok Cultural Trek
Lahachowk and Ghachok are beautiful villages situated in the northwest region of Pokhara. This village is situated at an altitude of 1200m above sea level. This is a 2 day’s trek and it starts from Hemja, famous for its orange groves. This route offers scenic beauty and an old settlement rich in culture. This trek is ideal for beginners and all levels of trekkers as the distance is not so far and the trail is easy. These villages are one of the oldest settlements of the Kaski region. This is a short and easy cultural trek, providing an insight into the lifestyles of the local community of Kaski as well as great views of Himalayas. Be well equipped to cross 2 rivers (Seti and Mardi) to reach this destination.
Day 1: After 40 minutes drive from Pokhara, you will reach Milanchok, Hyanja. You can start your trek from Milanchowk. After 30 minutes walk, you will reach Mardi River which is popular for Himalayan Traut Fish. Once you crossed the Mardi river, you will follow the path that goes to Lahachowk village. Our destination for 1st day is Armala Hill, a locally popular hill located in the North of Lahachowk. After 2-3 hours of walk, we will reach Armala Hill. From Armada Hill, you will be able to view the spectacular view of Pokhara Valley.
Day 2: On the early morning, you will be able to enjoy the view of sunrise from Armala Hill. In the morning, you can also visit Deurali Temple and Tea Garden nearby homestay. After the launch, you will walk down to go to Ghachok. Keep walking until you reach the Mardi River.
Ghandruk is a town and village development committee in the Kaski District in the Gandaki Zone of northern-central Nepal. At the time of the 1991 census, it had a population of 4748 people living in 1013 individual households. Ghandruk is popular for treks in the Annapurna range of Nepal, with easy trails and various accommodation possibilities. This is by far the most sought after the trek. It is a 3-day trek from Pokhara. The trek starts just outside the Pokhara valley ascending through the Modi river valley. The climb leads you to stunning trails and luscious green forest taking you deep into the Gurung village of Ghandruk. The view of the sun rising and setting as seen from this small village is a view worth dying for. Till today the Gurungs of Ghandruk have been able to protect their tradition and culture. Generations have come and gone by but the culture is very much alive here. After a long day’s trip, you can halt in Ghandruk and save your energy for the next day’s trail. On day two, you can walk through the villages of Landrung, Deurali, and finally retire in Pothana. You can opt for homestay or there are a couple of cheap lodges available with the thick forest view. The third day you can walk back to the city trying to catch up on the views and glimpses of the eternal Himalayas just in case you had missed anything while climbing up.
Day 01: Pokhara to Ghandruk
Day 02: Ghandruk to Pothana, decent down to Modi Khola and start climbing up to Landruk village, the trail passes through the paddy fields then again starts to climb up to Pothana via Deuarli.
Day 03: Pothana to Pokhara. You can descend down to Phedi through the village of Dhampus enjoying the scenic and picturesque view of the mountain range.
Machhapuchhre (Fishtail) Model Trek through Ghachok Village
Machhapuchhre (Fishtail) is a mountain in the Annapurna range. If you are trekking for the first time, you shouldn’t miss this trek. This is by far the most adventurous trek. The difficulty level of trekking increases here as the trails start getting steeper and much more difficult. This is the most exciting and adventurous trek. It is an 8-day long trek from Pokhara. The best season to trek in this region is from September to May. This trek also starts from the outskirts of Pokhara and ends at the Machhapuchhre base camp. The first few days of the trek you can still enjoy the luxury of a proper bed and food when you retire however in the days that follow you will have to retire into tents and eat whatever is available. On the route, you will live through snow-clad mountains, dense forest that houses varied species of flora and fauna and you can take a quick dip in the natural hot springs. You will be lucky to witness the waterfalls and caves. It is a dream come true to be a part of this trail for any trekker. Your imagination of the place- of whatever you had read or seen in pictures comes alive in front of you. Traditional hospitality awaits you, the local villagers will welcome with you open arms. Make sure you walk for only about 5 to 6 hours a day.
Day 01: Drive from Pokhara to Mardi Pool. Start trekking to Ghachok (1254m) and halt in Hille (2160m).
Day 02: Hile- Khumai (3245m). Overnight at Camp
Day 03: Khumai- Korchung (3682m)- Kharka. Overnight at Camp
Day 04: Kharka- Pipar (3310m). Overnight at Camp
Day 05: Pipar- napping area. Overnight at Camp
Day 06: Pipar- Karuwa (1380m). Overnight at Camp
Day 07: Karuwa- Ghiprang (1440m) – Ghachok (1254m). Overnight at Camp
Day 08: Ghachok- Mardi Pool. Drive back to Pokhara.
Mardi Himal Trek
Mardi Himal Trek is a newly discovered route that leads to the majestic view of Machhapuchhre and other mountains in the Annapurna range. It is a quieter trek in the Annapurna region where you will see few other trekkers and meet friendly locals along the way. There are a few basic lodges coming along the Mardi Himal ridge. This is a 6-day long trek from Pokhara. It starts from Kande, a small village about 40 kilometers away from Pokhara. As the saying goes “ when the going gets tough, the tough get going- likewise, the route starts getting steeper as you continue to ascend the trail. Conquering Pothana and Deurali you will reach the forest camp through the jungle. The climb gets all the more steeper and the forest becomes less green. Along the way, you will see a couple of viewpoints that provides an excellent view of the mountain range. Once you reach back Deurali be a little more adventurous and venture out into the wilderness until you come across the Jhinu Hot Spring. This trek can be ended at Nayapul via Ghandruk.
Day 1: Pokhara to Pothana. (1970m/5 hours.)
Day 2: Pothana to Forest Camp (2550m/ 7 hours.)
Day 3: Forest Camp to High Camp (4100m/ 6 hours.)
Day 4: High Camp, trek to Base Camp
Day 5: High Camp to Siding Village (1280m/ 7 hours.)
Day 6: Siding Village to Pokhara (850m/2.5 hours trek and 1-hour drive.)
The Ghorepani Poon hill trek starts from the Modi River. After crossing the suspension bridge over the Modi River, you will ascend through the ethnic villages and farm terraces enjoying the views of Machhapuchhre peeking between the hills. On the second day, you will walk mostly through woods before you reach Ghorepani hill. An early start and an hour’s hike to Poon Hill (3210m) leads you to a brilliant viewpoint. This viewpoint provides an unobstructed beautiful sunrise over the high Himalayas. From Ghorepani the trail climbs along ridges and through pine and rhododendron forests and if the weather allows you can see panoramic view all the way south to the plains of India. The trail follows a stream bed which becomes larger as you continue. The stream has some clear pools alongside the trail and finally becomes a series of waterfalls
On the third day, you will have to make an early climb for about an hour to the nearby Poon hill for a spectacular view of the Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Nilgiri, and other famous mountains of the region. The whole of Ghorepani is densely forested with rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal.
Day 01: Trek to Tikhedhunga from Pokhara. Trekking starts from Modi River
Day 02: Trek to Ghorepani 2885 m
Day 03: Early morning climb to Poon Hill (3200m)
Day 04: Trek to Nayapul and drive back to Pokhara
Responsible tourism is a term used to describe a way of traveling that minimizes any negative social, economic, cultural or environmental impact in the country being visited. In addition, responsible tourism attempts to boost these sectors, by creating a space for positive exchanges between locals and tourists.
Responsible tourism is more than a form of tourism; it is a behavior and a mindset that acknowledges the responsibility of the tourist to give back to the country he or she has been welcomed into. Although there are varying degrees of responsible tourism that depend on the country and the goals of the governments and incoming tourists, the underlying principles of responsible tourism were chartered in Cape Town in 2002, and the goals remain similar throughout the world.
In 2012, the Tourism sector employed 553,500 people in Nepal, and the number is growing. Still, since Nepal opened its borders in 1950 tourism has inevitably lead to an increase in pollution, urbanization, and environmental degradation. The Nepalese government is attempting to alleviate some of the damage done by working with the development partners and implementing tourism practices that promote the country’s social, economic, and environmental sustainability.
But these initiatives are of little use if visitors do not take these principles to heart. Nepal Rural Tourism asks its participants to please internalize the principles of responsible tourism during their homestay in Nepal and beyond. Being mindful of one’s actions while in a foreign country can only be beneficial!
As an organization, we do our best to support rural communities and ensure that our practices comply with the values of responsible tourism, and we encourage guests to do the same. Here are some guidelines on how to be a responsible tourist while traveling/visiting in Nepal specifically:
- Please inform yourself of and respect Nepalese culture, politics, and social expectations before your arrival in the country.
- If you are unsure about a particular customer and how you should be responding, please ask your host family. Do not assume or try to guess what is appropriate, respectfully asking is always preferable.
- When visiting holy places, ask before entering. Many times you will be permitted to enter, but some temples are solely for practitioners.
- Always ask before taking someone’s photograph or photographing a holy site.
- While traveling throughout Nepal, help sustain the local business by favoring businesses that conserve cultural heritage and traditional values. For example, support local restaurants and other businesses catered toward the western tourist. When thinking of buying souvenirs for friends and family back home, consider buying crafts made locally.
- When purchasing food goods during your stay, give preference to local produce rather than imported goods, to minimize your carbon footprint.
- When considering traveling to Nepal, it is important to note that not all dietary needs can be met. People who practice a gluten-free or vegetarian diet may find it difficult to maintain a balanced diet. However, the Nepalese diet consists primarily of Dal Bhat, white rice and lentils, and is very nutritious.
- Do not buy goods made from endangered species or ancient artifacts as it will only encourage sellers to continue this line of work.
- Do your best to ensure that the businesses you are supporting are environmentally conscious. The greener, the better! It is always best if companies have a written environmental policy. It is also important to know how many local people they employ, and how they treat water waste.
- Please, use water sparingly! Clean water is a precious resource in Nepal and should not be taken for granted.
- Avoid bringing things with you that will contribute to local pollution. Bring a few plastic bags, disposable water bottles and toiletries, wrappers, and the like from your home country. Instead, try to bring things that you will keep with you. If you do need disposable items, do your best to purchase them in Nepal, so that you are not bringing waste into the country.
- Be mindful! Keep in mind that the goal is to give back to the local communities, and fulfill our social and environmental responsibilities. During your stay, Nepal will be your new home, just remember to treat it as such by integrating your quotidian practices as best you can!
All it takes to be a responsible tourist is a little more attention to detail. With Nepal’s future in mind, through your mindfulness, local communities will benefit through economic development, job creation, and a positive rapport between local people and responsible tourists.