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Biking lake-to-lake in Pokhara

ByEleanor Bainbridge,
Former Urban Infrastructure Advisor, FCDO

The unique landscape of Nepal has been inspiring people to take on new challenges for generations. As a long-term resident of the country, I have become more adventurous in trekking, mountain biking and rafting, as new ways to experience the country and challenge my physical limits. Experiencing Nepal on a bike, you encounter culture and wildlife that you wouldn’t otherwise, and it is the perfect way to appreciate the unique landscape through every tough uphill and thrilling descent. 

Pokhara is a secondary city in Nepal and is growing in population and economic activity. It is famous for being the gateway to the Annapurna Mountain range. Usually when visiting Pokhara, a few days might be spent by the famous lakeside, an area packed with bars and restaurants, before and after trekking. All of this is changing, as the city of Pokhara has unveiled plans to become zero-carbon within the next 25 years. This includes opportunities for sustainable transport, improving walking and biking as ways to get around the city, and new, greener economic opportunities which enable the unique landscape to be preserved, while still allowing the economy to grow. New areas of the city are being opened up for tourism, to enable visitors to prolong their stay, and for residents to find new ways to enjoy the city. 

Cycling the newly-opened Lake-to-Lake route was the perfect opportunity to explore what else Pokhara has to offer and to take on a new challenge.  

The 85 km lake-to-lake cycle route that connects 9 out of 10 lakes of Pokhara is a part of leisure tourism that promotes eco-tourism while facilitating rural-urban linkages and will play a major role in supporting inclusive local economic development.

The lake-to-lake cycle route supported by Sudridh-NURP and Cycle City Pokhara (CCP) is a Green, Resilient and Inclusive Development (GRID) initiative promoting green mobility, helping to improve the resilience of tourism industry and contributing to building a diverse and inclusive local economy. The 85 km lake-to-lake cycle route that connects 9 out of 10 lakes of Pokhara is a part of leisure tourism that also helps to reduce fuel consumption by commuters and promotes eco-tourism while facilitating rural-urban linkages. The lake-to-lake cycle route will play a major role in supporting inclusive local economic development as it provides special consideration to places and spots where women and marginalised communities can receive enhanced benefits from various tourism avenues and thus be better mainstreamed into regular markets.  

 

Complete lake-to-lake cycle route

At the start of our journey, we knew that cycling the full 100km in one day would be challenging. An experienced cyclist might be able to complete the route in one single day given the weather conditions, but for novice cyclists or adventurous tourists, the route can be comfortably split over 2 to 4 days depending on the pace. There are places to stay along the route as well for those who would prefer a multi-day journey. The Begnas/Rupa area is perhaps the most accessible to respite for the night as it also marks the mid-point of the entire trip, but since we were raising money for local charities, the aim was to keep going for as long as possible, while still enjoying stops along the way.   

The first climb of the day is always the hardest, but the views would motivate even the most tired cyclists.

The Cycle City route is circular and can be ridden in either direction, with signposts at the various junctions. We decided to take the clockwise route starting at Fewa Lake. This Lakeside area has numerous cycle shops for renting sturdy bikes according to need and experience. You may also get lucky and find some bike renters that provide guided tours. We started early, leaving the hotel at 6:30am, in time to see the sunrise over the iconic Machhapuchchhre Mountain as we left the Lakeside and taking in the different neighbourhoods of Pokhara. The first climb of the day is always the hardest, but the views would motivate even the most tired cyclists. After warming up, it was an easy descent into Kamal Pokhari, a hidden neighbourhood surrounded by smaller hills. The route has multiple resting places, viewpoints, temples and places for tea and snacks and in case anyone requires medical attention on the way, there are multiple health posts run by the Metropolitan City along the route.  

 

NURP supported signposts can be seen along the scenic route.

We passed around smaller lakes among gentle terrain, before stopping for lunch to refuel. After lunch we continued up until we reached Begnas Lake – arguably Pokhara’s best asset. The route took us most of the way around the sizeable well-preserved lake, with some tough uphill sections and incredible views to reward the effort. 

The descent down to Rupa Lake was long and beautiful, before riding on the flat area around the lake itself; another hidden treasure of Pokhara. The climb back up the ridge was difficult with the tiredness starting to set in.  

After crossing the main highway to final section of the route, it was starting to get dark, and we decided that the full route would not be possible in one day, as there were sections without street lighting. Since we were traveling in July, we were hampered at times by intensity of the sun, but during winters, it would be much easier to complete the whole route in a day. The best season for cycling the route, according to locals, is during the spring and autumn, avoiding the fierce monsoon and winters. Our group took a shorter route back into town and arrived back at the hotel at around 21.30. It was a full and very tiring day, but a great challenge and way to experience Pokhara and all it has to offer. The views and different landscapes encounters made it really rewarding.  

The next day we completed the rest of the route and relaxed around the lakeside to recover. There were multiple biking groups while we were cycling along the route, and it is clear that the potential for Pokhara to lead the way on zero-carbon is already being realised.

Update:  Asian Development Bank (ADB) has confirmed funding for further development of the 85km cycle route at critical sections to improve rideability, safety and signage. More on the news: https://risingnepaldaily.com/news/32572 

 

Enjoying the view while taking a brief rest.

To learn more, watch this video on the cycle route, prepared by Cycle City Pokhara with the support from Sudridh-NURP.