What To See And Do In Pokhara, Nepal
Pokhara: Nepal's Second City
Get away from the crazy, busy capital of Kathmandu and enjoy some R&R and outdoor activities in the smaller, calmer city of Pokhara.
In the summer of 2010, I traveled to Nepal for three months. While this was essentially a working trip, I had plenty of time for sightseeing and fun, and there's a lot of both to be found in Pokhara, surrounded by the Himalayan foothills and the awesome Annapurna Range beyond.
Planning a visit? The following are my suggestions for what you can do in and around Pokhara and a couple of lodging recommendations for you to consider.
About these photos of Pokhara: Unless otherwise credited, the following images are mine, taken during my trip to Nepal.
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Pokhara is Located in the Center of Nepal
Pokhara is 200 kilometers from Kathmandu. This means either a 25-minute plane flight or a very long bus or car trip. On a good day, with no traffic accidents or landslides, you can make it by vehicle in about 5 or 6 hours. On a not-so-good day, driving between Pokhara and Kathmandu can take all day ... or even more than one.
People wait by the long line of vehicles at a standstill for hours on the one road between Kathmandu and Pokhara. I say fly!
Visit Lakeside in Pokhara
A great area for dining, shopping, lodging and paddling on the lake
As its name implies, this area of Pokhara is located along the shore of a lake -- Phewa Lake, that is -- surrounded by the Himalayan foothills and six of the world's highest peaks, including the Annapurnas and Machhupuchhare (Fish Tail Peak) beyond.
Lakeside is a popular tourist area, with many nice but inexpensive hotels (when you consider what such places would cost in the West) and numerous restaurants serving all kinds of ethnic foods, from Nepali and Indian to Chinese, Tibetan, and American, some of which are open-air, garden restaurants with views of the lake.
You can spend a day or afternoon browsing through the many shops and check out what the street vendors are selling, including a number of Tibetan refugees selling their handicrafts. Many of the shops and street-sellers appear to be selling the same items, but if you look more closely, you can find many unique things. And if there is something you want that's sold at more than one shop, this gives you an opportunity to do a little more bargaining, if that's your cup of tea, and see which vendor will give you the best price.
Visit the Pokhara Lakeside website for more information and a map.
You can buy everything from textiles to trekking gear, clothing, jewelry, art, books and music and a lot more in Lakeside.
One of many shops in Lakeside, Pokhara
Go For a Paddle on Pokhara's Phewa Lake
Do your own paddling or hire a boatman
Phewa Lake is the second largest lake in Nepal. For less than $10 (USD), you can rent a brightly-painted, wooden boat for the day and either paddle yourself or hire a boatman to do the paddling while you sit back and relax.
On an island a short distance from the Lakeside shore, you'll see the Barahi Temple, the most important religious monument in Pokhara. The two-storied pagoda is dedicated to the boar manifestation of Ajima, the protectress deity representing the female force, Shakti.
There are other beautiful lakes near Pokhara, including:
Begnas Lake -- Located outside of town, Begnas Tal is quiet and clean, with a few basic hotels nearby.
Rupa Tal -- One of the more remote lakes in Pokhara with limited accessibility, so it's more peaceful and unspoiled compared to the other lakes in the area.
Dipang Tal -- Located about a fifteen-minute walk from Sisuwa, which is the city center of the Lekhnath municipality, this is a beautiful lake where you can find wild lotus and swans.
My friend from the U.S. and I spent a few hours paddling on Phewa Lake. The couple in the background are collecting water cress.
You can rent a boat on Phewa Lake for less than $10 (USD) for the day.
Hike to the World Peace Pagoda
The pagoda is a large Buddhist stupa located on top of a hill on the southern shore of Phewa lake. Not only is the stupa an impressive sight itself, but the location also offers spectacular views of the Annapurna range and Pokhara city.
You can get to the World Peace Pagoda by crossing the lake by boat and then hiking up the hill.
Another way to access the pagoda is to take the road that passes Devi's Fall, turning right at the end of Chhorepatan. Taxis can drive up to within 15 minutes' walk of the stupa.
Go Paragliding in Pokhara
Nepal's subtropical, monsoonal climate makes it a great place to fly, especially in the Pokhara area. With a subtropical climate there are no prevailing or valley winds, so you'll be riding the thermals.
The paragliding season runs from early October until the beginning of May. The most popular months are November, December and January because of the very consistent weather during this time.
People come from all over the world to paraglide in Pokhara and take advantage of the prime jump-off spots at Sarangkot at 1425 meters. From there, you can catch a thermal and fly around Phewa Lake to enjoy the view of Machapucre (Fish Tail Peak). There are many landing spots to choose from.
Paragliding in Pokhara
Paragliding Tour Companies To Consider
Visit The Fruit and Vegetable Market in Pokhara - Even if you're not buying, it's a fun and fascinating place to visit
This open-air market in downtown Pokhara is a fun place to shop or just browse and people-watch. Here, you can buy fresh vegetables and fruit (mangoes, yum!), grains, dried fish, and even get yourself a VERY fresh chicken.
Rent a Bicycle or Moped in Pokhara
There are many places to rent bikes in the Lakeside area of Pokhara. Prices vary according to bike quality and rental time, starting at just $1 a day! Bargaining is expected. Just be sure, though, that the seat isn't too hard!
In addition to riding around the Phewa Lake area, you can ride down to a nearby Tibetan refugee settlement where you'll see a monastery, a school, and jewelry and crafts for sale.
It's also possible to rent a motorbike or scooter, staring around Rs 450 (less than $7 USD) per day. You'll have to buy the diesel fuel, which is just a little over a dollar per liter at this time. One place to rent motorbikes in Pokhara is the Hearts & Tears Motorcycle Club in Lakeside. They have custom bikes available for short-term rental.
See Devi's Fall
A beautiful waterfall in Pokhara
Locally known as Patale Chhango (meaning "Hell's Fall"), Devi's Fall is located about 2 kilometers southwest of Pokhara airport on the highway to Tansen. Devi's Fall is also known as Devin's or David's Fall.
Modern legend has it that a foreigner named David was skinny-dipping in the Pardi Khola (river) when the floodgates of the dam were opened, sweeping him into an underground passage beneath the fall, never to be seen again.
Have a Look at Devi's Fall
Visit the Outskirts of Pokhara
During my more than two months in Pokhara, I stayed in a private home, a good distance from the popular Lakeside area, on the outskirts of town. While it was fun to take a taxi to Lakeside now and then, I really enjoyed the peaceful experience on the rural edge of Pokhara, where I took long walks, watched the water buffalo lazing around in large mud puddles and watering holes, saw locals working in the rice paddies, explored along the river, and wandered along the quiet homesteads away from the heavy traffic.
If you stay in the Lakeside area, where most of the hotels, guest houses, lodges and resorts are located, a ride to the outskirts of town on a rented bicycle or motor scooter is a great way to spend a day.
The outskirts of Pokhara are lush and green, with rice paddies and corn fields surrounding the small homesteads.
Visit The Caves of Pokhara
The 3-kilometer-long, sacred cave called Gupteswar Gupha is located 2 kilometers from Pokhara airport on the Siddhartha Highway, heading southwest from the city. The entrance is across from Devi's Fall. This cave has some large, hall-size rooms and passages where you have to get down on hands and knees. With a phallic symbol of Lord Shiva that's been preserved in the condition in which it was discovered, Gupteswar Gupha is very special to Hindus. There is an entrance fee of Rs. 5 (less than $1 USD), and taking pictures inside the cave is prohibited.
Located to the north of Pokhara, Mahendra Gupha, locally called Chamero Odhaar meaning "House of Bats", is a large limestone cave said to have been discovered by shepherd boys around 1950. It's recommended that you bring your own flashlight or headlamp to see the stalactites and stalagmites, although most of them have been removed by souvenir hunters.
See The Himalayas From A Micro-Light Aircraft
These two-seater planes carry one pilot and one passenger and can fly for four hours and up to an altitude of 5000 meters (15,900 feet). The aerodynamic qualities of the micro-light, delta wing aircraft allow them to make long flights with the engine turned off. The operational speed ranges from 50 to 130 km/h.
Angel Nepal offers flights up to one hour, covering areas such as Pokhara City, Phewa Lake, Sarangkot hill, the foothills of Fishtail Peak, and the Annapurna Range at 10,500 to 12,000 feet of altitude. They also do longer flights upon request and provide windsheets, trousers, helmet and gloves.
See also Intertours Nepal.
Go Trekking From Pokhara
Pokhara is the beginning and end point for a number of Nepal's popular trekking routes, including the Jomsom trek, Annapurna Circuit, and Annapurna Sanctuary. These are longer treks of up to three weeks.
For those with less time or who just don't want to walk as long or as far, Pokhara also offers shorter, more leisurely one- to seven-days treks around the surrounding hills and villages. These include:
Ghachowk Trek: a two-day circuit through Lhachowk to Ghachowk and down to Batulechaur, north of Pokhara, featuring a close up view of Fishtail mountain.
Naudanda Trek: a two-day walk to Naudanda from Suikhet and then back through Kaski, west of Pokhara.
Ghorepani Circuit: a five- to seven-day trek up to the Gurung village of Ghandruk, with great views of the Annapurna range, north-west of Pokhara.
Kahun Danda: a day trip, north east of Pokhara, at 1,560m altitude.
Sarangkot: a day trip with a fantastic view of the mountain range including Dhaulagiri, north of Phewa Lake.
Rupa and Begnas Lakes: a day trip, 15km southeast of Pokhara. You take a bus there and then enjoy this leisurely walk along the ridge that separates the twin lakes.
**It is not advisable to go trekking alone, whether you do a one-day trek or walk for weeks. For your own safety, hire a local guide. There are many trekking agencies located in Lakeside, where you can find guides and help deciding which trek is right for you.**
Great Places To Stay in Pokhara
The Castle and Green Tara Hotel
These are the two places I can recommend in Pokhara, though there are, I'm sure, a number of other nice options for lodging in the city.
The Castle Resort is located high on a hill overlooking Phewa Lake. This beautiful property offers a variety of rooms, each opening onto the immaculate grounds, filled with flowers. There's a heated swimming pool and a comfortable, homey lodge, where you can eat all of your meals if you'd like and hang out in the old-style pub. Or the friendly wait staff will serve you in your room, on a patio or around the pool. You can also enjoy a game of volleyball, some badminton, darts or table tennis, or just relax to your heart's delight. The Castle is a wonderful place to stay and put your feet up after a long trek.
Owners Joe from Ireland and Sylvia from Portugal are THE nicest, warmest people! They told me how they literally carried every piece of The Castle up the hill, on their backs, because there was no road at the time it was built.
Joe and Sylvia can help you plan your vacation and even arrange your domestic travel.
Be advised, though ... even though there's a road, the condition of that road is uncertain, especially during the monsoon season, so you may need to do some walking, either along the road or on the trail through the jungle when traveling between this peaceful lodge off the beaten path and Lakeside. One highlight of the walk, though, is the common sight of monkeys leaping from tree to tree.
Another very nice and very affordable place to stay is the Green Tara Hotel in Lakeside. My very clean room with two single beds, a television, ceiling fan, and spacious bathroom with reliable hot water was $10 USD per night (during the off-season). The hotel offers free wireless internet and relaxing common areas, including covered patios and a dining area where you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with a nice variety of menu items. Some rooms have air conditioning
The Green Tara Hotel is in a quiet area, just a short walk from Phewa Lake, shops and restaurants.
One view from The Castle, looking down at Phewa Lake and Lake Side. See the World Peace Pagoda in the distance on the hill.
The Green Tara Hotel is VERY affordable, clean, comfortable, and serves very good food.
More Information About Pokhara, Nepal
- Pokhara on Wikipedia
Read about the geography, history, and economy of Pokhara.
- Pokhara, Nepal Home Page
Read more about things to see and do in Pokhara. From this page you can learn about other places in Nepal.
- Introducing Pokhara
A page from the Lonely Planet
- Pokhara on WikiTravel
Here you'll find good lists of restaurants and hotels grouped by budget, mid-range, and "splurge."
A Guide To Nepal - Read through it before you go and bring it along for a helpful reference
I found an earlier version of this book very helpful both before and during my trip. These Lonely Planet guides are written by experts who really get to the heart of a destination. This fully updated edition is packed with practical advice, to give you the information you need.
© 2010 Deb Kingsbury