15 years ago
Sarangkot (1500m ASL) is the main flying site in Nepal. This ridge is situated in the Annapurna region, only 20 minutes far from Pokhara city, on the northern side of the Phewa lake. The startplace is accessible by car (it’s unique at this area!) and it’s the only purpose built take off in the country. The height difference is 700 meters.
Besides the great acro possibilities, this area has big XC potential also:
West: Along the lake valley.
North: To the foothills of 8000m peaks like the Annapurnas and Machapuchare.
East: Along the Himalayen foothills.
Due to the humid subtropical climate, the yearly mean temperature is 20 degrees and the the weather is flyable all the year exept the couldy and rainy monsuun season, from June to August. The conditions are the best from October to May.
Bit of update to georg's comment:
Prices: Taxi to takeoff it 6-800NPR from lakeside, and 8-1000NRP from the blue sky landing field, 200NPR/person in a tandem jeep if you fit. If you land in Bluesky landing, you can catch a local bus to ride back to Lakeside, which costs 20NPR. A meal cost somewhere between 150 and 400NPR in most of the restaurants (+10% service charge), but there are more expensive ones and less expensives also if you like rat meat :)
Accomodation: we stayed in Banana Garden Lodge (west end of lakeside) for 400NPR/day for a double room. This lodge is simple, but the owners are nice and honset. I can only recommend them. Generally look for a hotel further away from the main street on Lakeside, as the main street is very noise!
Local licence: we haven't payed for it, although some sad it is still necessary, but no one asked for it. We heard the price is around 100USD or so, but it seams to be a steal, so don't pay until it not completely necessary.
Acro possibilities: as said below, the height is not ideal, and the taxi costs a lot if you want to make many runs a day, not a place to train, but nice to keep your knowledge warm in the wintertime. The place is much better for cross country!
Nepal and Pokhara is really nice place to visit and fly, and yes, the 8000m peaks in the background are amazing view. On the other hand be always aware, because the locals look at us as money bags, and like to charge way more for Westerners than for locals. Always bargin aggressively, and learn the price of everything, and never pay more as before. Keep change with you! You will quickly learn, that their common praise "Best price my friend" is bullshit...
We were in Pokhara this February/March for a few weeks of training. Here is some of the information that might be useful if you are planning to go as well.
The main takeoff (and as of this year officially the only legal one) is close to the top of sarangkot. To reach the takeoff site you either take a taxi (500-800 NPR depending on your negotiation skills and if you are riding up from town, or the landing site), ride along with one of the local paragling school buses (150-200 NPR, run three times a day, but will only take you if they are not full), or if there is enough people you arrange the acro bus (roughly 6000 NPR per day for the bus with driver – fits about 10 people, i.e. 600 per person). Either way it is roughly a 30 minute ride to the takeoff. There are two purpose built takeoffs, one run by blue sky paragliding, the other by sunrise paragliding (there is a small hut next to the blue sky takeoff that serves food and drinks, should you get stuck in bad weather – or just having a soup with the annapurna range in the background before takeoff really is quite a treat).
Flying out straight over the lake from takeoff will give you only about 300-400 m of altitude to play with. On average (at the time we were there) thermals were strong enough only on one flight per day, to have more than 500 m or so over the lake.
There are four landing sites. The landing site on the camping ground right on the lake in lakeside pokhara is not used frequently, due to the apparently rather turbulent air here. The main landing site nowadays is a small patch of grass between road and lake next to the maya devi village north of lakeside pokhara. If you fly directly from sarangkot to the lake you cant miss it, it lies in a small bay and is marked by a large “blue sky” sign in the grass). If the wind is too strong here for safe landing, you can land one bay south from here on the edge of a rice paddy. The last landing field is a large field at the north end of the lake, that is also used regularly as a place for ground handling.
If you come down in the lake, don't expect fast rescue – motorboats are not allowed on the lake, so in the best case a fisherman in a rowboat will come pick you in exchange for some money. We were advised to open our harness before hitting the water, and swimming to shore.
When you land, be prepared to be “overrun” by “packing boys” offering to pack your glider, in exchange for money, or a chance to ground handle your glider. We were advised by locals not to pay them more than 10 or 20 NPR – or else they'll no longer go to school.
Officially you need (at least) two licenses two fly in Nepal, one roughly 12 USD, the other roughly 50 USD. Most pilots do not bother getting them – as apparently they are rarely enforced. We only heard of one occasion, when apparently the police showed up at takeoff and would only let people with a valid license take off.
As for accommodation, there are plenty of hotels to choose from in lakeside. We stayed at the small family run hotel Crown (just in bit north of the hotel blue heaven), that I can only recommend – aside from being nice , clean and relatively cheap (600 NPR for a double room) we could also trust the owner with our gliders, that we left with the hotel while away for a few days on a trek.
Overall, Pokhara is an amazing place to fly and well worth going. Flying with the Himalayas in the background is an unforgettable experience. However if you are used to flying in the alps with 800m over water, with motorboats to pick you up in case you land in the lake, and season tickets for cable cars that cost less than what you spend on buses and taxis in pokhara in a couple of weeks – don't expect it to be an ideal place to start practicing your infinite.