With around 400,000 people residing in it in 2018, Pokhara is the second-largest city in Nepal and it is the number one leisure and adventure destination for Nepal. With plenty of entertainment for solo travelers as well as families, for most of the treks in the Annapurna region, Pokhara is the starting point.
Pokhara is a very famous tourist destination among which most of the tourists prefer to stay near the Fewa Lake. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants there and nowadays more and more are opening up. So it is much easier to find an ideal place to stay. A new international airport is said to be opened in 2020 so there should be a significant increase in the number of people who travel here.
While Pokhara is developing, nowadays it has started losing its charm and it feels more like a tourist point than anything else with its reiki, yoga, overpriced souvenirs, massages by blind people and disingenuous locals. The place is still exquisite and there are many amazing people there but it takes some work to find them. You will find exquisite scenery, memories that will stay for a lifetime and amazing people if you get out of the tourist areas. You will get to see an inauthentic version of Nepal if you choose to paraglide or trek to Annapurna.
Things To Do in Pokhara
You will be able to get the experience of adventure if you visit Pokhara. You can go hiking, paragliding, boating, zip-lining, bungee jumping, or you can relax at one of the lakes that can be found there.
With its natural beauty, Pokhara will overwhelm you. It is also a great place for photo ops. You can walk around Fewa lake's shores or enjoy the panoramic view of the amazing Himalayan peaks of the Annapurna Massif and can enjoy the greenery. With paragliders floating down from above slowly and the vividly bright wooden boats, Pokhara is quite a sight to behold. One of the highlights of your trip is probably going to be flying over the lake.
Hiking in and around Pokhara
Hiking is definitely one of the best things you can do in Pokhara and its surrounding especially in the eccentric and gorgeous mountains of the Annapurna range. While there are lots of places you can hike to, here are two of the best ones:
This is a short hike which will only take 3 days to be completed. This is recommended to those who have a limited amount of time to be spent in Nepal but do want to experience the popular Himalayan Range and the Nepali mountain culture.
This three-day trek basically gives a brief overview of what the longer Nepalese mountain trek is like. During this trip, you will pass through whimsical villages and up many stairs. Before ending up at an altitude of 3,200 m you will pass over rivers and in between jungles and will at the end have your head amongst the biggest mountains in the world. This trek is a perfect way to get into the habit of trekking.
Poon Hill gives one of the best views of the mountains. Himalayan mountains like Dhaulagiri, Annapurna II, Nilgiri, Machhapuchhare can be seen from here in panoramic views. You will also be able to see Lamjung from here. The trek is also affordable and usually costs start from USD $150.
This trek is the long trek and takes about 16 or more days to be completed. During this trek, you will encounter some of the most daunting and inspiring tasks. Through the tropics to alpine peaks, you will be traveling through diverse climate zones in between some of the world's largest mountains. You will be able to enjoy the incredible hospitality of the Nepal indigenous tribes nestled in the mountains while passing through peculiar villages. This is the only place you will be able to bask in the sun while sipping tea and admiring 8,000-meter peaks.
The weather is fickle and the altitude is hard to manage after day six. The sleeping arrangements are also not very ideal but when you reach Thorong La pass, the highest point there is one of the best feelings in the world.
Enjoy Pokhara from the stunning Phewa Lake
Phewa Lake is one of the best things to see in Pokhara because of its natural beauty and is also quite a popular tourist destination. The vividly bright-colored paddle boats add to the beauty of the lake and life jackets are compulsory if you plan on taking a ride around the lake. There is a temple in the middle of the lake and the view of the densely forested slopes of Anadu Hill is on one side while snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna range are seen on the other side.
The lake is serene and the only sound you will hear is of the paddles while boating. Bookings for the paddled boats are available for an hour or two. You can also book the boats for a whole day.
Watch the sunrise from Sarangkot Viewpoint
Sarangkot is best known for giving the best views of the Annapurna range without having to trek to Poon hill or the Annapurna Circuit. As the first ray of light hits the Annapurna range in the distance, you will be dazzled.
You will be able to see panoramic views of some of the most remarkable Himalayan peaks from the viewpoint. Some of the mountains are the Dhaulagiri, Lamjung, Machhapuchhare and Annapurna II. The color changes from bright pink to orange and stays at white. Near the viewpoint, you will be able to find a number of tea and coffee houses that serve fresh tea and coffee. You can hire a taxi or a bike in Pokhara to get to Sarangkot.
Paragliding in Pokhara
Pokhara is one of the best places paraglide in and is rated as one of the top 5 commercial paragliding locations in the world. It has a perfect combination of a couple of things like the take-off location and landing zone, stable thermal currents and the spectacular views.
This flight takes about 30 minutes and while the initial adrenaline makes it seem scary, it is peaceful and calm after a while. With the views of the dazzling mountains of the Annapurna range and Phewa Lake below, this is as picture-perfect as it could be.
From Pokhara, you will need to drive about 30 minutes to get to the paragliding flight launch. Depending on the season and weather there is usually three flights a day. The first one is at 10:30 am the second one at 12 pm and the final one at 2 pm. The flight is most enjoyable during midday as the thermals will be active then.
Hiking to the World Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa)
The Shanti stupa or famously known as the World Peace Pagoda is situated on top of the Anadu Hill, the World Peace Pagoda is a famous tourist attraction. As a gift to Nepal, it was built by Japanese monks in 1973 as a symbol of peace. The pagoda is of cultural importance and has some of the best views of the Phewa lake, Annapurna range, and Pokhara. Although it is an extremely famous tourist destination you do have to follow the rules and regulations here.
You can take a small local boat to the small town across the lakeside on the opposite side of the lake. It then takes about an hour to get there through the trials in the forest. Or you can take a taxi and get there in about 45 minutes. The best time to visit it is in the morning so that you can avoid the heat. During the morning you get the best views of the mountains of the Annapurna range as the sky is clear.
Explore the Cave around Pokhara
There are a number of cave systems in the hills surrounding Pokhara among which some are more than hundreds of years old. Located on the road up to the Japanese Peace Pagoda, Gupteshwar Mahadev is the most popular cave there. After a descent down a wooden staircase decorated with Shiva Parvati murals, you will see the entrance of the cave. The path goes further down after passing the gate into the slippery and wet wide cave. Then you will get to the popular Lord Shiva temple which people claim is over 600 years old. As Davi's Fall flows through the cave system into the underground river, you will be able to witness its lower parts.
Another cave is the bat cave which in October is especially filled with bats. The exit has to be done through a very narrow gap so people usually go back the way they came.
Next is a small limestone cave filled with stalagmites and stalactites called the Mahendra cave. This cave also has a Lord Shiva statue as its main selling point.
How to get to Pokhara from Kathmandu
Bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara
Going to Pokhara from a tourist bus is the easiest and the cheapest way to get to Pokhara from Kathmandu. It takes about 6-7 hours to get there but it usually depends on how much traffic there is and the road condition.
Tourist buses are of two kinds: one with air conditioning and food and the other with nothing. The one with the facilities are more expensive and it is usually 2 way. For a little expensive cost, you will get air conditioning, professional drivers, charging facilities as well as lunch while going to and coming from Pokhara. Tickets can be purchased online as well as through ticketing officers. Buses usually depart at 7 am.
If you are on a budget, you can also get a microbus which is faster but is not as comfortable as the tourist bus from Thankot.
Flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara
The quickest way to get to Pokhara from Kathmandu is via a plane. It is quite expensive but if you are in a rush, this is the best option for you. Around 20 flights per day travel from Kathmandu to Pokhara through local airlines. It usually takes about 25 minutes to get to Pokhara and price is according to season and availability. Hence, off-season flights are usually cheaper.
In the last decade, Pokhara has transformed into a tourist destination offering almost everything from paragliding to light flights, and zip-lining and skydiving to bungee jumping. Pokhara has become a complete package for adventurers and thrill-seekers.