Lakes of Nepal: Ghodaghodi Lake an eco-diverse Lake in Kailali

Ghodaghodi Lake is a beautiful lake located in the Sudurpashchim Province of far-western Nepal, near the city of Dhangadhi. Here’s a brief introduction to this scenic lake:

Ghodaghodi Lake is part of the Ghodaghodi Lake Complex, which includes several small lakes and marshes. It covers an area of around 2.63 square kilometers (1.02 square miles) and is surrounded by lush forests, making it an important wetland ecosystem.

The lake is named after the Ghoda (horse) and Ghodi (mare) shaped islands within it. According to local legend, the lake was formed when the gods’ horses stamped their hooves into the ground.

Ghodaghodi Lake is home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded here, including migratory birds that use it as a stopover site. It’s an important bird area and a prime destination for birdwatchers.

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The lake and its surroundings are protected as the Ghodaghodi Lake Complex Ramsar Site, a wetland of international importance. It’s also part of the Ghodaghodi Lake Area Conservation Project.

For visitors, popular activities include boating, nature walks, bird watching, and just relaxing in the serene environs. Nearby attractions include the beautiful Sukarmukhi waterfall and the historic Rani Mahal palace.

With its natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and cultural significance, Ghodaghodi Lake is considered one of the ecological and tourism gems of far-western Nepal.

History of Ghodaghodi Lake

The origins of Ghodaghodi Lake date back thousands of years, formed naturally as an oxbow lake when the Mohana River changed its course over time, leaving behind the curved body of water.

According to local Tharu folklore and legends, the lake was created by the hoofprints of the divine horses (ghoda and ghodi) of the gods when they came down to bathe in the waters. This is how it got its name meaning “Lake of Horses.”

In ancient times, the area around the lake was inhabited by indigenous Tharu communities who depended on the wetlands for fishing, grazing animals, and farming. The lake and its surrounding forests held immense cultural and religious significance for them.

Ghodaghodi Lake View
Image: Eco-diverse lake of Nepal Ghodaghodi Lake (Source: Film Gov NP)

During the Rana regime in the 19th century, prime ministers like Jung Bahadur Rana and Ranodip Singh Kunwar built recreation palaces like the Ranipokhari and Patbangla near the lake as royal getaways.

In more recent history, Ghodaghodi gained importance as a biodiversity hotspot. In 2003, the Ghodaghodi Lake Complex was designated as a Ramsar site (wetland of international significance) due to its rich bird habitats.

Conservation efforts intensified in the 1990s-2000s with the establishment of the Ghodaghodi Lake Area Conservation Project to preserve the lake’s ecosystem against threats like overgrazing, deforestation, and invasive species.

Today, Ghodaghodi Lake remains an ecological tourism destination celebrated for its natural beauty, birdwatching opportunities, and cultural heritage value in Nepal’s far-western region.

Surroundings of Ghodaghodi Lake

Ghodaghodi Lake is surrounded by lush subtropical forests that are part of the larger Ghodaghodi Lake Complex. These forests provide habitat for a variety of flora and fauna. Tree species found here include sal, silk cotton, sisau, and sissoo among others.

The forested areas around the lake support diverse wildlife such as spotted deer, barking deer, wild boar, rhesus monkeys, and common leopards. Reptiles like marsh mugger crocodiles and different snake species are also present. Over 200 species of resident and migratory birds have been recorded in this area.

The Mohana River flows near Ghodaghodi Lake and was responsible for creating this oxbow lake through its shifting course over centuries. The Sotakhola stream also joins the lake.

Mohana River Near Ghodaghodi Lake
Image: Mohana River in Dhangadi, Bhada Village (Image: Amrit Bhadgaonle)

Ghodaghodi is part of an interconnected wetland system with marshes, swamps, and other small lakes in the vicinity like Nakhraudighat Lake, Baghavdau Lake, and Bhujhawa Oxbow Lake among others.

Remnants of ancient settlements and ruins dating back to the Soma dynasty (around 500 BC) have been found around Ghodaghodi, indicating human habitation from very early times.

The area has palaces built during the Rana regime like the Ranipokhari Palace and Patbangla Palace, which were recreational summer homes for the Nepali nobility.

Overall, the lush green surroundings of forests, wetlands, rivers, and archaeological vestiges add to the natural, ecological, and cultural significance of Ghodaghodi Lake.

Flora and fauna


  • Aquatic vegetation: The lake supports rich aquatic flora including submerged, floating, and emergent vegetation like water lilies, lotus, hydrilla, and various algal forms.
  • Forest trees: The surrounding forests have trees like sal (Shorea robusta), silk cotton (Bombax ceiba), sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo), and sisau (Dalbergia latifolia) among others.
  • Wetland plants: Reeds, rushes, sedges, and grasses are abundant in the marshy wetland areas around the lake.

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  • Birds: Over 200 species of resident and migratory birds have been recorded, making it an Important Bird Area (IBA). Species include ducks, geese, storks, herons, cormorants and waders.
  • Mammals: Spotted deer, barking deer, wild boar, rhesus monkey, common leopard, fishing cat, jungle cat, otters.
  • Reptiles: Marsh mugger crocodile, Indian python, rat snake, common cobra among other snake species.
  • Fish: The lake supports over 20 species of fish like rohu, catla, mrigal, and various carp varieties.
  • Amphibians: Frogs and toads are commonly found in wetland habitats.
  • Invertebrates: Molluscs, dragonflies, butterflies, and other insect species are abundant.

The rich biodiversity, especially the variety of birdlife, is a major attraction of Ghodaghodi Lake. Conservation efforts aim to protect this biodiverse wetland ecosystem and its inhabitants from threats like poaching, overgrazing, and invasive species.

Culture and tradition

The indigenous Tharu community, who have lived around Ghodaghodi Lake for centuries, consider the lake sacred and integral to their cultural traditions.

According to Tharu folklore, the lake was created by the hoofprints of divine horses that descended to bathe in its waters, giving it the name “Lake of Horses.

The Tharus use the lake’s waters for ritual bathing and celebrations during festivals like Jitiya, which holds great cultural significance.

Fishing, grazing animals, and collecting wild foods and materials from the lake’s wetlands have been traditional livelihood practices of the Tharu people.

Tharu Culture Dance
Image: Tharu Culture Dance

During the Rana regime in the 19th century, Nepali nobles built palaces like Ranipokhari and Patbangla near the lake as summer retreats and recreation sites.

Archaeological remains found around Ghodaghodi indicate the presence of ancient human settlements like the Soma dynasty, highlighting the area’s long cultural heritage.

Sustainable use and conservation practices followed by local communities have played a crucial role in preserving the lake’s ecological and cultural significance over time.

With its natural splendor, diverse wildlife, and rich indigenous traditions, Ghodaghodi Lake has become an important eco-tourism and pilgrimage destination in western Nepal.

Best things to do at Ghodaghodi Lake

  • Boating: Taking a boat ride on the serene waters of the lake is a must-do activity. You can rent rowboats, pedal boats, or motorboats to explore the lake and its islands up close.
  • Bird Watching: Ghodaghodi is an Important Bird Area with over 200 species recorded. Bird-watching walks or boat tours in the early morning are incredible for spotting resident and migratory birds.
  • Nature Trails: Go hiking or walking on the nature trails around the lake through the lush forests and wetlands to observe the rich flora and fauna.
  • Visit Sukarmukhi Waterfall: Take a short trek to see the beautiful Sukarmukhi waterfall, located just a few kilometers from the lake.
  • Rana Palaces: Explore the historic Ranipokhari and Patbangla palaces built by Nepali nobility in the 19th century as summer retreats near the lake.
  • Cultural Immersion: Interact with the indigenous Tharu community to learn about their culture, traditions, and way of life closely tied to Ghodaghodi Lake.
  • Camping: Set up camp along the lakeshore for an overnight experience amid nature and spectacular sunrise/sunset views.
  • Picnicking: Find a scenic spot and enjoy a picnic by the tranquil lake waters surrounded by greenery.
  • Photography: The stunning natural scenery with reflections on the lake’s surface provides ample photography opportunities.
  • Wildlife Watching: Keep an eye out for spotted deer, monkeys, reptiles, and other wildlife that inhabit the areas around the lake.

With its incredible natural beauty and rich biodiversity, Ghodaghodi Lake offers a range of outdoor experiences for nature lovers and cultural enthusiasts.

Best season to visit Ghodaghodi Lake

The best season to visit Ghodaghodi Lake in western Nepal is:

Autumn (September – November)

– Clear skies and pleasant weather with low humidity

– Migratory birds start arriving making it prime for birdwatching

– Lake waters are calm and ideal for boating

– Lush green surroundings after the monsoon rains

– Lower tourist crowds compared to peak season

– Temperatures range from 20-30°C, quite comfortable

Winter (December – February) 

– Clearest visibility with chances of spotting Himalayan peaks

– The best time for viewing migratory fowl at the lake

– Cooler temperatures averaging 15-25°C, can get cold at night

– Low rainfall and fewer insects like mosquitoes

– A good season for nature walks and hiking in the area

Spring (March-May)

– Dry season with manageable heat during the day

– Wildflowers in bloom enhance scenic beauty 

– Comfortable temperatures of 25-35°C on average

– Waters are still and good for boating activities

– More migratory birds can be spotted before they leave

The monsoon season from June to August is generally not advised due to heavy rainfall, potential flooding, and leech problems on trails.

However, some visitors enjoy the lush greenery after the rains in late August/early September as well. Whenever you go, early mornings tend to be the best for outdoor activities and wildlife viewing around Ghodaghodi Lake.

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