Rara Lake: The Gem of the West
This Nepali year (2075 BS) has been declared “Karnali Rara Tourism Year” by the Government of Nepal. This is part of a larger effort to increase tourism in the western part of the country, an area that is still very much off the beaten path. One of the top travel destinations that has grown in popularity for both domestic and international tourists is Rara Lake, the biggest and deepest freshwater lake in Nepal, located in Mugu District.
Getting to Rara Lake is fairly straightforward. There is road access all the way to Gamgadhi, the main town that provides access to the lake, but it is a long and bumpy journey to get there. A much faster alternative is to fly from Nepalgunj to Talcha Airport, just above Gamgadhi. These flights are weather dependent and are not always regularly scheduled. If you are traveling independently without the assistance of a travel company, the easiest option is to first fly to Nepalgunj and then visit one of the travel offices just outside the airport to get a ticket from Nepalgunj to Talcha. Tickets for foreigners are roughly $180.
After you arrive in Talcha, it takes about two hours to walk to the lake. Rara Lake is located inside Rara National Park, so you will need to buy a permit (NRS 3,390 per person for foreigners) when you pass through the entrance to the park. After you reach the lake, it is another 1-2 hours walk counter-clockwise to reach the only accommodation at the lakeside. Here, there are two options for accommodation, Danfe Lodge and Village Heritage & Resort.
Though there are a number of trails to explore in the National Park, one of the best and easiest options is a walk around the whole lake. The trail around the lake is about 15km, and brings you along the edge of the lake through pine forest and some open grasslands. The trail is well-maintained and mostly flat. During the late spring and early summer, the forest is filled with wild strawberries to snack on as you meander around the lake.
From Rara, you can either return to Talcha/Gamgadhi, or you could continue trekking towards Simikot or Kolti if you want to explore more of Nepal’s wild west.