Tourism Can Be A Catalyst For Change in Karnali Province

Published On: March 25, 2024 08:30 AM NPT By: Hari Prasad Shrestha

In 1999, a Nepali film “Himalayan; Caravan” directed by Éric Valli, was the first Nepalese film nominated in the Best Foreign Film Category at the 72nd Academy Awards. This film was shot over nine months in locations in upper Dolpo, including the magnificent Phoksundo Lake that can only be reached on foot. The film depicted not only the lifestyle of the upper Dolpo people of the Karnali uphills of Nepal but it also publicized tourist attractions towards Karnali region as a whole. The film was made at the cost of US$ 4 million, however it earned US$ 40 million in box office.

Karnali Province has high potential for tourism development equivalent to Gandaki Province. The province has a number of notable tourist attractions, such as the pristine Rara and Phoksundo lakes; the  Kankre Vihar in Surkhet and Bhurti Temple in Dailekh resembling the Angkor Wat temples of Cambodia. Saipal Himal and Kanjirowa Himal are among the highest peaks. Limi and Sinja valleys  are places of historical importances and Karnali and Bheri rivers have high potential for river sports in Karnali Province. Jumla and Humla districts are appropriate to be developed as  hill stations like Shimla in India.

Tourism can act as a catalyst in establishing a prosperous future for generations in this province. Some tourism destinations already known to the global markets as Dolpo region are widely known to the European and other western markets, whereas Humla is known to the Indian pilgrims as a gateway to Kailash. In recent years, Rara and Pohksundo lakes have become major tourism destinations and are also contributing to tourism in the surrounding areas with its spillover effects. 

As Phewa Lake in Pokhara district has been developed as the destination of highest attraction in Gandaki Province, in similar way Rara Lake could be also developed as a center point of tourist attraction in Karnali Province. Along with Rara Lake, other important lake sites, trekking trails, religious sites and rivers in the province have the highest possibilities for tourism activities; their development could be a game changer for economic transformation of the province as a whole. The  tourist destinations in the province should be develop for tourism activities and attractions as follows:

Winter sports

Many districts are situated in the upper Himalayan region where a lot of snow falls during the winter season. Snow skiing  in plateaus (Patan) in these districts and in the mountain basecamps could be a new sport not only for  Karnali Province but also in Nepal. This sport would attract domestic and foreign tourists, which is popular in Europe and America. Recently, basic ski training has started at Triveni Patan in Chetadi in Kalikot District.

Water sports

During the summer and spring seasons, major lakes, rivers and waterfalls in the province are suitable for water sports and beach activities. Popular activities such as parasailing, jet ski, eco-friendly paddle sport, fishing, kayaking, boating and stand-up paddle boards could be developed in Rara lake and Karnali river as a popular water sports.

An extremely popular sport in Europe, cannoning is suitable in Karnali and Bheri rivers, which gives the freedom to explore some of the most ruggedly beautiful, yet forbidden places. Moreover,  Karnali River is considered to be the world's 5th most adventurous rafting river, and offers a diverse range of tourism functions, including scenic, wild, adventurous, recreational and so on.  

Adventure sports

Paragliding, Bungee Jumping, Rock Climbing, Jungle Safari, Ziplining, Mountaineering and High Altitude Sports are adventure sports activities of high possibilities in many places in the province. For paragliding, some locations in Surkhet, Jumla, Rukum and Jajarkot are appropriate. The ultimate thrill of a bungee jump can be experienced by constructing a Bungee Jump in Tila River george of Kalikot. Chankheli Hill in the Humla is suitable for rock climbing. 

Hiking and Bicycling

Numerous hiking and mountain biking trails could be developed around the lakes and other locations in the mountains.  Some locations of the trails could be developed as great hiking and wilderness camping sites with some facilities and safety.

National parks located in the Rara and Shey Phokdundo areas in the province are capable of attracting visitors from all over the world. A visit to national parks through pony, bicycle, hiking could be appropriate to see musk deer, red panda, bears and other Himalayan  creatures and birds. 

The best way to experience an unbeatable combination of natural beauty and culture riches is to walk  through the trails in the  mountains. Similarly, mountain biking offers an environmentally sound way of exploring this magnificent province and its landscape and living heritage.

Religious Tourism

Important places of religious significance such as Badimalika, Deuti Bajai, Chandannath, Kakre Bihar, Bhurti Deval, Bala Tripura Sundari, Panch Koshi temples should be developed and promoted to attract tourists.  More Indian tourists could be attracted through popular Surkhet Simikot Hilsa flights to visit Kailash Mansarovar Darshan in Tibet of China. And for those who are restricted by time or other considerations from going for a long journey, mountain flights to Kailash Mansarovar and numerous mountain views from Surkhet airport to mountain flight could be the best  to attract Indian tourists.

Moreover, the movie Himalayan: Caravan and numerous other movies shot and based on Karnali culture have already testified this province as an open film shooting location. Many locations in Jumla, Dolpa and Mugu offer the best place for film shooting. 

Above all, as a center point of Karnali tourism, the Rara Lake side should be constructed and developed with appropriate plans. For this purpose,  a core area, in a suitable location of the lake, should be planned and developed under short term and long term plannings, which would be the first entry point for tourists. It should be developed by federal and provincial planning commissions under a new project, based on the concept of small touristic town  planning with all necessary infrastructures such as lands, roads, power, water etc in a similar model with Nainital in India. Private investors should be encouraged with tax and other incentives to construct necessary hotels, resorts, restaurants, shops, children parks, entertainment centers, vehicle parking areas, public toilets  by providing them the necessary lands on long term lease.

Development of all the above mentioned areas is possible under moderate targeted investments in the short term. Based on the flow of tourists and demands, additional  facilities of high investment, such as Cable Cars, Star Hotels with Casinos, Cruise Ships, Film Shooting Locations, Cannabis Farming (if it becomes legal), Apple Wineries and Organic Food and Local Product Markets etc. could be developed in organized way to attract more tourists as well. Lastly, for the success of infrastructure development in tourist spots, three levels of government, especially provincial and local governments must be proactive. It is also necessary for good coordination between the public and private sector including external development partners for the development, promotion and marketing of these destinations.

Leave A Comment