With eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, epic valleys and rivers with personalities that run from gentle to ferocious, Nepal is one of the most famous outdoor destinations on the planet. But visitors are just starting to discover that the adventure-sports scene consists of more than just trekking. Rafting world-class rapids, soaring among the Himalaya on a paraglider and taking a plunge on one of the world’s highest bungee jumps are just a few of the ways to get your blood pumping.
White-water rafting and kayaking
With an outstanding selection of rivers, there are choices suitable for all levels, from fun Grade 2 and 3 rapids, to hardcore rides with waves that will flip you into raging torrents of water (if that is your thing). Nepal is also famous for its multiday trips, such as a 12-day journey into the wilderness along the remote Karnali River. Or if you are short on time, there are day trips along the Trisuli River that will have you back in Kathmandu by evening. But arguably the crowning jewel is the Sun Kosi, a wild ride along monster rapids that begins near the Tibetan border.
Rafting is far from new in Nepal and there are numerous long-established companies with considerable international experience and good safety records. Himalayan Encounters is recommended for its day trips along the Trisuli, while Ultimate Descents can arrange multiday journeys for more adventurous rafters.
White-water rafting is possible year round, except during monsoon season from June to August. October and November are considered the prime months to grab a paddle.
Paragliding and parahawking
Paragliding is another adventure sport that carved out a niche for itself in Nepal. In Pokhara, you will find numerous companies offering the undisputed best view in town via a tandem paraglide flight. Once up there, high over the valley and in the presence of the mighty Annapurna range, the silence is a sublime experience.
If you want to make things even more interesting, give parahawking a shot. It is essentially the same thing, but with a feathery twist. As you take off, a trained bird of prey will travel with you, leading the pilot to the best thermals. In exchange for its efforts, the pilot will blow his whistle to signal the bird’s reward, which it receives from you while perched on your outstretched, gloved arm -- all while flying 2,000ft in the air! All birds involved are rescued as injured or orphaned birds and are not able to survive in the wild on their own.
Leaving behind the highways and fumes, and leading you to a side of the country that most tourists will never see, the rural tracks in Nepal seem to be made for mountain biking. While serious bikers bring their own wheels, there are also several companies in Kathmandu that hire out quality bikes and arrange tours. It is a scene that is fast emerging -- while the completion of the road from Jomson along the Annapurna circuit has trekkers mourning, mountain bikers are rejoicing over this thrilling new route.
There are many ways to tailor your route, combining cultural sites with mountain views on a mix of single tracks and jeep trails. Dawn till Dusk and Himalayan Single Track are two Kathmandu-based companies that can offer good advice for off-road trails.
Any mountain-bike odyssey across Nepal will have a lot of uphill sections, so you will need to be a fairly experienced rider with good fitness levels.
If you are still searching for an added shot of adrenaline, the Last Resort near the Tibetan border may be able to help. Home to one of the world’s highest bungee jumps, the 160m-drop into the Bhote Kosi gorge is guaranteed to scare the wits out of you. Canyoning provides an equally unconventional route, as you abseil down the face of a waterfall before plunging into the natural pools.
If travelling up is more your preference, head to Bimal Nagar near Bandipur, where rock climbing is the latest addition to Nepal’s adventure sports, with several routes bolted in.