Experiencing the Sunrise at Sarankot
A guide to viewing the sunrise from the Sarankot Viewpoint(s)
If your travel itinerary includes Pokhara, Nepal as a destination, it's a good bet that you'll be there to start off a great overland trekking journey. But, even if you do, and even if you're not planning on taking the mountains - visiting Sarankot to witness the sun rise over the Annapurna range is a must do thing.
For us it was an initiation into the snow capped peaks we'd always dreamed. And it was here that we understand how mountains can shape the human soul.
Back home (in srilanka) we'd had minimal exposure to mountains as a couple - the although one of us had roamed all over the hill countryside, it was far far FAR different from the experience from home.
Looking back, some might say Sarankot is overrated, but that does not take away what it offers. The dawn breaking over the Annapurna range, turning the sky from deep blue to a crimson yellow is a sight that would kindle a spark; something that will never die down.
How to get there.
Once at Pokhara, the viewpoint of Sarankot is only about 5 to 6 km's away - taking about 45 mins to arrive at the base if you go there via car. You can either hire a taxi to pick you up at the hotel where you're staying and go along on your own OR you can ask get hold of a mini tour, that has Sarankot in its one day itinerary trips.
A taxi will cost you around 1500 rupees (nepali rupees) but you'll need to bargain with them about the price and how much time they will be there for you, if you plan to return back the same way.
A tour can cost upto 1000 rupees, depending on the services offered. This is great if you want a safe and affordable way up, and can be organised from your hotel or online, prior to arrival.
There's also the mode of bicycle and also getting there simply by legging it _ but keep in mind hurting on a bike - IN the dark, ON bad roads is FAR from safe. Also hiking there will take you about 3 to 4 hours, starting from the base of lake pewa, but it'll be through dark trails with absolutely no lights except your own to make your way there. So saying that's not for everyone is understandable.
Legging it to Sarankot in the morning is very very hard as public transport is almost nonexistent at this hour. So it's best to stick with with a guided tour (solo, Couple or group) - this will make sure that the cost of entry and vehicle toll (entry onto Sarankot) will be included in your reservation.
And like us, if you're not a so keen on making trails with company, a private tour is what we recommend.
Tip - you can always reserve one of the hotels within Sarankot itself, thereby offering you the chance to walk to the observation point(s) in as little as 20 minutes.
Also you can take a taxi up, and walk the way down(after sunrise ) if you have the time to spare.
We wanted to a be a little extra early, so we asked to be picked up at 4.30 am. The being the latter months of winter the temperature was pretty low with the cold so king all the way up your feet. So it's imperative that you wear good cold weather garb, and most of all a good pair of woolly socks - plus a mood mitten : to keep your hands from getting numb.
We crossed over the city of Pokhara, very much asleep and almost eerily silent and made our way up the Sarankot road. The road was not that well paved when we traveled there, and it was a bumpy and dusty ride up, over switchbacks and narrow turns. Looking through the window, the lights of Pokhara began to get distant until they looked like fairy lights in the far distance.
There is a toll gate on the way up and after that you can disembark the car, and walk up over cobbled steps over the main viewing stand. The walk takes about 35 minutes and has over 2500 steps that need negotiating.
We didn't go up though,and we opted instead to go over to one ( of a few) teahouses that are along the way - Almost at the base of where the car park is. The view is no different here from the top but the added advantage is you get to a few dozen feet over the treeline - the tea House had a rooftop terrace.
So we settled in for the glory that unfolded in front of our eyes, when mother nature put out one of the most magnificent displays you could ever witness.
If you're early enough, and if it's a clear night without haze and the moon, the stars will be a treat to see. Initially we didn't see the shape of the mountains, but as the light started to get better and better we came to understand the true magic and magnitude of the Annapurna range that rims the Pokhara Valley.
We'll never forget how the rising sun made fiery golden hues in the sky, and how the mountains shifted color from a pure white to a golden yellow and back again. The breaking dawn an the shadows it casts on the smaller hills and valleys of Pokhara are impossible to put into words. Photographs do justice, but only just. You need to experience it on your own, on your own terms.
For us, it sparked an awe of the mountains that superseded the love we just had for them. On that day, mountains became something more.
Things to consider.
It's best to visit Pokhara in the winter months. The drier air provides better views and near perfect weather
That said, the winter months are dusty and really cold. Good winter clothing - especially for your feet and hands are a must.
Early morning is the best time to visit Sarankot - the earlier the better. Come noon, clouds and haze usually obscure the peaks.
Bring a small light, or you can make do with your flashlight on your phone. It's going to be dark, and it's a good idea to see where you're going, instead of tripping and falling face first on the hard stone lined steps.
A tripod is a must if you plan on taking photographs. For more on this you can read our guide to better travel photography here.
You can either walk to the viewing stand on top of the mountain or stop at one of the tea houses along the way. The viewing point has a fee of 100 Nepalese rupees and at the tea Houses you are obliged to buy tea or snacks. (a cuppa tea in the cold mornings does wonders)
The weather can be unpredictable so there is a chance that mountains will be obscured - we were really lucky, and got a pristine view with maximum visibility.
Any place you go, (either viewpoint or teahouse) is bound to get crowded as people start cramming in to get a better view. Arrive early and get a good spot.
The sun rises from the opposite side of where the Annapurna range is. the mountains get illuminated from the fort light, turning from a golden yellow to a deep pink.
It's almost impossible to get both the mountains and the sunrise in one frame.
A lot of people means it's going to get noisy . Be prepared for that. But the sound of Tibetan singing bowls are magical! - vendors ring them off, showcasing their wares to the tourists at the tea House.
The crowd up there can get unruly, and you might get pushed around if you are not in a good spot or when people try to squeeze into your spot (especially in the time of the sunrise) get yourself a chair (in the tea house) and being seated is the best solution. If not there are a few open spaces just at the start of the stairs and in between the tea houses and the main viewing stand that are overlooked and have little or no sightseers.
It's not going to be easy - but it's all worth it.
We hope you enjoyed reading our adventure and also got some insight if you are planning to go to Sarankot yourselves. For us, it was an adventure that transformed our views of the world and gave us an insight into the pure untamed majesty of Nepal in a truly unique and amazing way.
“You are not in the mountains. The mountains are in you.” - John Muir