When friends ask me for recommendations for short treks around Pokhara, I am quick to suggest a trip to Sikles. I have been to Poon Hill, made my way around the Annapurna Circuit, wandered through Gosainkunda, and plowed up Everest Base Camp. But… the Sikles trek. A well-kept secret that is secret no longer.
Only a short drive from Pokhara, the Sikles trek rewards those who forgo the more traditional and well-known trails in the area. This trek packs scenery, culture, adventure, and history into a few days.
I took a taxi from Pokhara, past the neighborhood of Matepani Gumba, and out of the dense cluster of the city. Paved roads turned into a dusty track pocketed with rocks and roots. The driver stopped just outside of Chansu.
“Can drive no more,” he said. So it was here I began my journey to Tangting.
A water project caught my attention, the speed of blue-green rapids mesmerizing, until looming clouds called me back to the trail. A word of caution: there’s a dusty (did I say dusty?), snaking road used by buses and trucks that cuts up the mountainside. If you’re not paying attention (like me), you’ll miss the separate path for trekkers. I was worried about the rain and missed the turn off and ended up ducking under shepherds’ shelters along the way for cover.
Tangting, however, was well worth the effort.
From Tangting, the tiered village of Sikles is visible across the valley. White peaks frame the scene, luring trekkers across the ravine. I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
My accommodation for the evening was a quaint farmhouse-turned-guest house. The owners were clearly pleased to welcome me, perhaps surprised to see a foreigner wandering into their home during the off-season. I was welcomed with steaming cups of tea and freshly picked greens from their backyard garden, and was served hot popcorn beneath an awning made of wood. At night, a fire was built. I could dry out my clothes and spend the evening counting stars. Rumor has it this area throws a huge mela (party) each year; I’d love to see it.
Characteristic of the best Nepali homestays, the owners made me feel part of their family. They were warm, unobtrusive, and blessed me with khata and white rice tikkas before I set out in the morning.
My second day led me through a wooded forest. Deer scampered in the distance as I picked my way down to the bridge leading toward the Sikles side. After I crossed, hand-laid stones separated fields, and piles of hay sat like straw clouds on stilts.
This day is an ambitious walk, but Sikles offers plenty of rewards: Homes are picturesque, mountains rise in a stately manner in the background, and the ACAP museum houses historical photos, cultural artifacts, and a tribute to the tragic helicopter accident that claimed the lives of Dr. Chandra Gurung and other conservationists.
Villagers invited me into their wedding ceremonies to dance, and at our guesthouse I learned how jhilinga, a traditional snack served during festivals and celebrations, is made.
I was reluctant to leave Sikles. Rishing Danda is another half-day walk and is an avalanche viewpoint. A hot springs is nearby. With a few extra days, bird watching and honey hunting could be added to an itinerary. Unfortunately, I had a strict time schedule, and set off for Tara Hill Top in the morning. Yet again I was sent off with warm goodbyes, my tikka now a powdery red.
The walk to Tara Hill winds through a jungle. Pack a lunch because there are no stopping points, and by the time you reach the top, you’ll want to enjoy the view. More adventurous trekkers could set up a tent for sunrise, but I continued onto Ghale Karka for the night.
Ghale Karka offers more photo-worthy scenes. From the local school to a Buddhist shrine, women carry wood on their backs and curious children run up to greet visitors.
What I did not know was that a performance was planned for my arrival. In the evening, costumed women and children appeared, pulling me into a lively dancing circle. Coupled with a long day of walking, it was easy to sleep in Ghale Karka.
The trek back to Pokhara leads to unparalleled views of the valley, and there are several options to return to the city centre by bus or taxi, depending on your fitness level and time constraints.
This area is steeped with history and stories. From honey traders to Gurkha soldier recruits, Tangting and Sikles are worth putting on your next holiday list.