A lake, forests, and small villages—a hike to Thulakot offers almost the full range of sights one associates with Nepal’s countryside. However, its biggest attraction is the fact that it fails to draw crowds of trekkers.


Where sceneries and vistas are concerned, the morning or evening light bathing the peaks of the Annapurna range are hard to surpass. Little wonder then that places that offer such views are mostly crowded with tourists. Having company is fine, but it turns a bit distasteful once you need to jostle to find a spot. Before long you are wishing for a vantage point all for yourself.


 

The search for a place like that is not easy. But there is a relatively secluded destination just beyond Pokhara where you can enjoy a cup of morning tea standing in front of mighty peaks. And there probably won’t be a crowd of fellow tourists standing beside you as you wait for the sun to come up. Thulakot is where you need to head for such a morning of standing face-to-face with the Annapurnas.


The hike to this tiny hamlet begins from the tranquil Begnas Tal. The climb is eased by the landscape through which the trail passes. Walking on a dappled forest floor you might be shaken out of your reverie or fatigue by a sudden burst of jungle fowl that you have inadvertently spooked. Bird songs ring out in the forest. Stepping out into clearings you see vultures and eagles wheeling in the blue sky.


Thulakot’s relative anonymity and the fact that it is not popular with trekkers for a night halt means that you will probably have little or no company during your stay there. It is the perfect destination for those who do not wish to go on longer treks to enjoy the Annapurnas or for those who hanker for a place where they can get up, get out of bed, grab a cup of tea, and walk a few steps to where they can stand gazing at towering peaks.

 

Where sceneries and vistas are concerned, the morning or evening light bathing the peaks of the Annapurna range are hard to surpass. Little wonder then that places that offer such views are mostly crowded with tourists. Having company is fine, but it turns a bit distasteful once you need to jostle to find a spot. Before long you are wishing for a vantage point all for yourself.


The search for a place like that is not easy. But there is a relatively secluded destination just beyond Pokhara where you can enjoy a cup of morning tea standing in front of mighty peaks. And there probably won’t be a crowd of fellow tourists standing beside you as you wait for the sun to come up. Thulakot is where you need to head for such a morning of standing face-to-face with the Annapurnas.


 

The hike to this tiny hamlet begins from the tranquil Begnas Tal. The climb is eased by the landscape through which the trail passes. Walking on a dappled forest floor you might be shaken out of your reverie or fatigue by a sudden burst of jungle fowl that you have inadvertently spooked. Bird songs ring out in the forest. Stepping out into clearings you see vultures and eagles wheeling in the blue sky.


Thulakot’s relative anonymity and the fact that it is not popular with trekkers for a night halt means that you will probably have little or no company during your stay there. It is the perfect destination for those who do not wish to go on longer treks to enjoy the Annapurnas or for those who hanker for a place where they can get up, get out of bed, grab a cup of tea, and walk a few steps to where they can stand gazing at towering peaks.

 

Must Haves
If you are visiting Thulakot during the tourist season (February-April and September-November) pack for cold weather; a sleeping bag is worth carrying if you are going in winter. Load-shedding makes headlamps and flashlights indispensible. The rich birdlife and the mesmerizing mountain panorama necessitate binoculars. Pack a couple of chocolate or granola bars to fuel the uphill climb. Hats and sunscreen lotion are a must unless you are intent on getting a deep tan.

 

Special Things to Remember
There are several small villages on the way to Thulakot. However, in some places the trail forks, confusing hikers. Make it a point to ask the people in the villages for directions. Booking rooms in advance is advisable in a place that has a limited number of lodges. Drinking water is scarce on the trail from Begnas Tal to Thulakot, so carry plenty of it.

 

On the Way to Thulakot


Lakes Galore
One of the several routes for hiking to Thulakot begins from the pristine Begnas Tal. The lake, which covers an area of 3.6 sq km, is one of seven lakes in the Lekhnath Village Development Committee (VDC). Dubbed the ‘VDC of seven lakes,’ Lekhnath is the perfect destination for seekers of solitude and quiet. Rupa Tal, which lies three kilometers southeast of Begnas, is another lake worth visiting.

 


Organic Offerings
Lekhnath VDC has earned a name in recent years for its organic produce. There are several farms along the road going up (east) from Begnas Bazar to Rupa Tal. Beside the winter harvest of oranges, these farms produce fruits and vegetables year round. However, the most sought after products here are honey and coffee.

 


Kali Shrine and an Old Sentinel
Thulakot’s highest point has an old Kali shrine. Its other interesting feature is a tree that is – if the information painted on its trunk is to be believed – over five hundred years old.

 


An Impressive Cast
Standing on the little courtyard of the Kali shrine you can take in the magnificence and grandeur of the massive Himalayan peaks, including Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchhre, Annapurna II (aka The Black Tent), Lamjung Himal and Manaslu.


High-Fliers
Large birds of prey patrol the skies above Thulakot and its surrounding areas. Looking up to inquire about the swift shadows gliding on the ground, you are likely to see the white underside of an Egyptian vulture. Another impressive sight is the large wingspan of the Black eagle.

To Get There
Buses leave frequently from Prithvi Chok for Begnas Tal. To hike to Thulakot from here walk west along the southern shore of the lake. Turn right at the intersection of the southern and western shores then continue on the small trail that hugs the western shore. Climb up to where there is a cluster of lodges and restaurants. Although the trail is easy to follow, ask at this place for landmarks. After an hour or so the trail will open onto a paved road.

The trail to Thulakot begins again at the base of a big tree, beside which is a long flight of stone steps. From there on make it a point to ask for directions, even if you are told continually that the trail you are on is the right one, until you reach a concrete temple on top of a small hill. Thulakot is on the hill behind it.

 

Where to Stay
Thulakot does not have many places to stay. Sabi Homestay, with its enviable location of only fifty meters from the Kali shrine, is the place to stay if you want the best view of the mountains with the least effort. There are limited beds in Sabi Homestay; it’s best to call in advance to book rooms (Sabi Didi: 9846574238). There a few other options lower down, in the main settlement along the road.


In Begnas, the Grand Hotel Begnas is one of the best places to stay (www.grandhotelbegnas.com). Stay in any of the numerous hotels located on the bluffs on the western shore if you want to be closer to the lake. The Begnas Lake Resort on the eastern shore (www.begnaslakeresort.com) is the priciest option in the area.

 

Where to Eat
Sabi Didi has simple fares, with vegetables coming from her kitchen garden. There are more choices on the road below. Eateries there have bigger and more diverse menus. The most tantalizing menus, however, are lower down, on the shores of Begnas. Fish curry and fried fish (the fish are from the lake) are a delicacy not to be missed. A walk up from Begnas Bajar will also be rewarded with unforgettable food like parantha cooked in gheeyu (clarified butter) from the farm, and served with organic honey.