Tourism in Nepal is synonymous with Pokhara. However, this time it is not Pokhara, but Baglung that we are talking about. We had our eyes on Balewa, where the local airport had just come into operation after 28 years. We wanted to see for ourselves the untouched natural beauty and explore the hidden tourism treasure in Baglung and here’s what Baglung offered on a recent trip.
Panchkot Dham, Baglung
Conventionally, the first stop was Pokhara. We arrived at the airport at around 8:15 am. The majestic Mt Machhapuchchhre stood in front of us as if it wanted to welcome us in Pokhara. The view was breathtaking. We gathered our bags and hit onto the Pokhara-Baglung highway. As we traveled, we passed through Sarangkot, which is famous for paragliding, ziplining, and its breathtaking views.
After the busy airport road, the Pokhara- Baglung highway nudges the hectic urban sprawl, and without realizing, the highway started becoming narrower. Seti River flowed next to us for half an hour until it diverted its route; Mt Machhapuchhre never left our view. We came across many temples along the road – every hill-top had a small temple giving the hill its own holy identity. After reaching Nayapul, we took a break for some delightful breakfast. Nayapul is a one-road town lined with shops catering to trekkers. This is also the beginning point of the famous Annapurna Circuit trek.
Baglung Bazaar, the oldest and currently the largest settlement of Dhaulagiri Zone, is a 45-minute ride from Nayapul, which is the core area of the present Baglung municipality. We were surprised not to find any foreign tourists dwelling around the Baglung Bazaar. Perhaps there was not much to see, and the settlement seemed cramped. It seemed it had reached its saturation point. Unlike Pokhara, it is still not exposed to the global tourism economy. Up until now, the settlement of Baglung Bazaar had grown organically to meet the demands of the locals and for those who come for business purposes. The shocking fact is that even though the bazaar is unplanned, the land value is in par with Kathmandu’s. An hour-long drive from Baglung, there is a small village named Bhakunde – inhabited by the Magar community. It offers homestay and provides a cultural feel, especially to the domestic tourists.
The locals recommended us to visit Panchakot Dham. It is developing into a religious pilgrimage site which is situated on a hilltop – 13 km uphill from Baglung Bazaar. The place has a fascinating view of hills, ridges, and Dhaulagiri Mountain. There is a Kali Temple near Panchakot Dham, which complements and provides additional value to the entire set up. This site can be a catalyst to attract both Nepali and Indian pilgrims, especially those traveling to Muktinath.
Another fascinating attraction of Baglung is the Kalika Temple. The temple has an amazing set up which provides a feeling of serenity and tranquility. It is located at a distance of 5.5 km from Baglung Bazaar. It is nestled deep inside a dense forest at the bank of the Kali Gandaki River. People flock in the temple with a hope to fulfill their desires and wishes. Even marriages are conducted inside the temple.
The belief goes that animal sacrifices in Kalika temple will lead to wished being fulfilled. With this faith, thousands of goats, buffaloes, ducks, and pigs are sacrificed. The temple, along with its cultural and historical importance, supports the socio-economic development of the local area as well.
Though the Balewa Airport is in Baglung district, it is 19 km away from the town center and takes about an hour and a half to reach. The roads are still uncomfortable due to their poor quality. It does not have any road signs or milestones, which makes traveling difficult for first-time travelers. Additionally, the airport neither had any proper signposts, nor did it have a proper terminal building. It was apparent that the airport needed additional upgrades to ease the commute.
On our way back, we took a detour to the famous suspension bridge in Kushma. The bridge was thrilling to walk over; it was so high that the river beneath looked like a stream, and eagles were flying below it. We could see the possibility of adventure sports like bungee jumping from the bridge.
While returning from Baglung, we realized the depth of Robin Sharma's quote: “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”
We felt, and experienced what he said – the memories are still intoxicating. The shaky and mysterious roads that led to the mesmerizing beauty of Baglung are now a part of the adventure we had. Baglung can undoubtedly be an enchanting tourist destination in the years to come.