Phewa Tal loops
A shortish day’s circumnavigation of Phewa Tal is easily possible, heading out along the north shore and returning via Danda Kot and the World Peace Stupa – the last part takes you downhill along single tracks through the forest, coming out just west of Damside. This loop will take most people around five hours. A more adventurous, slightly longer option heads out across the face of the hillside underneath Sarangkot – but you’ll need a guide to find the mix of 4WD trails and single-track; the longer alternative would be to follow the Sarangkot ridge. To make a really full day-trip, you can extend the loop south of the Peace Stupa down the Seti Nadi.
Sarangkot and beyond
The hilltop viewpoint of Sarangkot makes a great focus for an intermediate-level day-trip or overnight, and one that can be easily done without a guide. From the Bindyabasini temple in the bazaar, follow the paved road 8km westwards to Sarangkot town and lodges, where there’s a junction: the hilltop viewpoint is another 3km along to the right, while the left-hand fork leads towards Naudaada. The first 10km of the Naudaada road contours pleasantly along the south side of the ridge through forest, terraced farmland and villages; at Naudaada you can head back to Pokhara on the busy Baglung Highway. A shorter, but more demanding alternative is to break off the Naudaada road at the saddle of Deurali, then descend steeply on off-road tracks via Kaskiot to Pame, a couple of kilometres west of Pokhara along the lakeshore.
Begnas and Rupa Tal
A fine road, paved only in its earliest sections, follows a ridge between two beautiful lakes, Rupa Tal and Begnas Tal, and then westwards to Besisahar. A network of trails developing in this region can offer one or several days’ riding – enquire at Pokhara bike shops. A fairly tough, long day’s route, involving some carrying, is known as the Begnas Loop: it takes you east of Pokhara (from the Bhadrakali Mandir), along the ridge road past Tiger Mountain Resort to Kalikasthan and Tiwaridanda; from here it’s downhill, heading south on a rough road to Kotbari and Sundari Danda, then back on the partially paved road between Begnas and Rupa Tal. Heading east of Begnas Tal, it’s a 40km three-day rough-road trip through Bhorletar and Sundaari Bazaar on the way to the paved road at Besisahar; from there you could head on up the new road up the Marsyangdi valley (the eastern side of the Annapurna Circuit) or return to Pokhara (with a side trip to Bandipur).
The Annapurna Circuit
Only the most committed mountain bikers take on the full, trekking-style Annapurna Circuit, carrying their bikes across the high pass of the Thorung La. Some tour companies offer the option of plane, bus and mule transport to the top, followed by an incredible downhill, but it’s expensive. If the complete circuit is beyond most people’s reach, it’s increasingly possible to follow either of its arms upwards, then turn around and descend the same way. The eastern side is the more popular. Attractive roads lead to Besisahar, from where you can now cycle up the Marsyangdi Valley all the way to Manang – though you may find yourself carrying your bike for up to a quarter of the ascent. The trip from Pokhara to Manang usually takes 7–10 days. The western side of the circuit is less varied, at first, though new roads being built will soon offer the possibility of a cut-through from Birethanti to Tatopani, via Ghorepani. Currently, however, it’s 90km from Pokhara to Beni, and then a fairly relentless climb along the mostly unpaved 80km road up the Kali Gandaki from Beni to Jomosom. Above Jomosom, dusty, Tibetan-style and relatively flat roads beckon on towards Muktinath (and, with a special permit, Upper Mustang).
No special bike permits are needed for the Annapurna Circuit, but if you are entering the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACAP) you will need a TIMS card and park entry ticket, just as trekkers do.
The Seti Nadi
Unpaved roads head downstream along the churning Seti Nadi, with dramatic overlooks of the canyon and views of the mountains. The road on the south side of the canyon goes on for many easy, downhill miles, and leads to some more remote trails further to the southeast. One good loop from Pokhara follows a trail south from the main road to Chhorepatan, stopping just short of Kristi Nachana Chaur, then turns east to Nirmal Pokhari; from here, you descend to the Seti, crossing at Dobila, below the huge Fulbari Resort – from where it’s a relatively gentle ride up the Seti towards Lakeside.
To the Terai: Chitwan, Lumbini and the Mahendra Highway
The easiest route to the Terai is along the Prithvi Highway to Mugling and then south from there to Narayangadh, which is only a short hop from Chitwan National Park. It does get heavy traffic, but is mostly downhill and you can pedal it in a day. A more adventurous and strenuous route follows the winding, scenic Siddhartha Highway southwards to Butwal, via Tansen. This ride requires some long stints in the saddle and several overnight stops. It’s a fast downhill ride from Tansen to Butwal, and from there it’s a flat and easy couple of hours to the Buddha’s birthplace, Lumbini. An even more adventurous option would be to head west of Pokhara to Baglung, and from there follow the incredible, switchbacking Tamghas Highway south – either looping round southeastwards via Ridi Bazaar to Tansen (it’s 80km from Tamghas to Tansen via Ridi), or continuing south and west from Tamghas via Sandhikarka, on 90km of rough roads, joining the Mahendra Highway at Gorusinge, 48km west of Butwal (and some 10km north of the Buddhist archeological site of Kapilvastu). West of Butwal, the Mahendra Highway leads through a beautiful dun valley towards the relatively undeveloped far west, the traffic lightening as you go
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