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Will Dharan emerge as the next paragliding hub?

2016 marks the 20-year anniversary for aerial sports in Nepal. Since Sunrise Balloon and the Avia Club began offering hot air balloon rides and ultra-light aircraft flights in 1996, the sector has veritably boomed, with Pokhara establishing itself as the regional hub and paragliding emerging as a favourite adventure sport. According to Nepal Tourism Statistics (2015), an annual document published by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, there are currently 70 licensed paragliding companies in the country; out of which, 56 operate out of Pokhara. 

In 2015, a total of 8,999 paragliders took to the skies (including 5,692 foreign tourists), a huge jump from just 2,135 flyers in 2012. But with the sport reaching a saturation point in the Lake City, congesting airspace, there has been a concerted bid to encourage the sport to spread out over other equally conducive regions around the country.     And the seeds are already taking root. Not many people know about Dharan Sky Adventure Paragliding yet, but the robust strides taken by the only government-licensed paragliding operator in eastern Nepal has left many locals visibly excited. Satyam Limbu, a final year Law student in Kathmandu, learnt about paragliding in his hometown of Itahari only recently. 

After finally jumping off the hills of Bhedetar, he shared his excitement, “I could see everything from a bird’s eye view.” Paragliding in this region offers a spectacular view of Makalu and Kanchenjunga peaks, the Koshi River, Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, and famous Hindu shrines like Dantakali, Pindeshwar, Barahakshetra and Bishnupaduka, among others.

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