While staying in Pokhara, I got talking to Albert, who had been living in Pokhara for five years. After asking him what his favorite place in the surrounding area was, he told me about Panchase. This was reason enough for me to give the hike to Panchase a try.
If you are looking for a beautiful, less touristy hike near Pokhara, search no more. While I was trekking, I did not meet a single other person, except for really friendly villagers.
I started the journey in Pokhara, from the Hallan Chowk bus station near the lakeside area. Ask for a bus to Ghatchhina. It was one of the bumpiest bus rides of my life–I hit my head several times on the ceiling (I am just too tall for this country!) I shared the bus with a whole school class, and seemed to be entertaining them. They made keeping your butt in the seat look so easy.
It takes you an hour from Pokhara to reach Ghatchhina. The hiking trail begins from there. It is unnecessary to take a guide, as if you need help, just ask around and someone will give it. There are two ways up to Panchase: you can either take the road or the steps. I took the steps, and would recommend this way unless it’s wet, when it will be extremely slippery.
The hike to Panchase was supposed to take five and a half hours, but thanks to my long legs, I managed to do it in a little over four hours. It was one of my first proper hikes in Nepal, and I was completely blown away by the beauty of it. Stone steps will guide you along ancient paths, a lush rainforest and little villages. The people are incredibly friendly, and the flora and fauna never fails to surprise. I had some chocolate with me and made a lot of children really happy. Butterflies as big as my hand would follow me as I followed little creeks, supplying me with excellent spring water.
The only really annoying thing was the leeches. I was trekking in September, and it was still a bit wet from the tail end of the monsoon. I even set an alarm on my phone to ring every 15 minutes, to remind me to check my feet. It was exhausting but effective.
I got pretty lucky with the weather. I experienced a bit of everything, sun in the beginning, a little cloudy and later on really misty, which made the whole hike really mystical. An hour into my stay in Panchase, the heavens opened and down came massive thunderstorm and rain. Only seven people are living in Panchase (you read it right – seven!), some chickens and a lot of water-buffaloes. The people live off the land, with only a few goods coming from the city. The main income is from tourism.
Panchase is exceptionally clean. I stayed at the Happy Heart Guesthouse, run by three sisters. Ask for Maya if you stay here; she was really kind and helpful. The people of Panchase were incredibly friendly, with so much love and respect, it makes you question where we went wrong in the Western world.
I had planned on staying just one day, but I fell in love with the place and stayed there for almost five days. I had some really nice evenings where I talked to the people, cooked on a little fire and explored the surroundings. An hour from Panchase is an excellent viewpoint, perfect for watching the sunrise. The scenery from Panchase is ridiculously beautiful.
If you are around Pokhara looking for a small hike, I highly recommend Panchase.
Article by Lukas Steingässer.