Pokhara, a city amongst the mountains, in Nepal is a place that you MUST visit when traveling through Nepal. Pokhara is one of the most magical, adventurous and romantic spots to visit in Nepal. Nestled right next to Lake Phewa, the city offers amazing views of mountains from just about anywhere! The Annapurna range of the Himalayas is very close-by.
Annapurna Massif soaked in the warmth of the sun and the distant peaks sparkle like gold-studded snow cones. The stillness of the atmosphere is broken by invigorant cool breezes. The beauty is so illicit, one feels almost nervous about heading straight for it. Surrounded by stupefying beauty, the place is a holiday for the soul!
Acting as a gateway to the Annapurna mountains for most who visit the city, there is a lack of appreciation for the city itself. But, the city has so much to offer all who pass through! From exhilarating activities like hiking, paragliding and bungee jumping to more peaceful activities like boating and relaxing by the lakes, the city of Pokhara can be overwhelming.
Pokhara is simply the perfect place to be, with its spectacular scenery, adventure activities, accommodations and food choices galore. Also known as the city of lakes, Pokhara has seven lakes, namely, Phewa, Begnas, Rupa, Maidi, Khaste, Gunde, and Dipang. You can find your Shangri-La like many other trekkers. If you are a writer or painter, then Pokhara's pristine air, spectacular snow-covered backdrops will entice you!
Go on fishing and boating excursions in the pristine Fewa Lake. Later, fix your cravings on the comfy restaurants dotted around the lake. Enjoy the natural beauty of the spectacular Himalayan peaks of the Annapurna massif as you take in the fresh air and tranquillity near the many lakes of the city including the famous Phewa Lake and the more serene Begnas Lake.
From wandering around markets to catching a view of the mountains, we will now list some of the best things to do in Pokhara.
1. Admire the Mountains from Basundhara Park
In the early morning, you can see the snow-capped mountains of Annapurna from just about anywhere in the city. But, to get the best view, walk up to a rooftop or one of the parks along Lake Phewa. Basundhara and Miteri parks are right next to each other and offer a great view of the mountains as you step back from the busy streets amongst all the tall buildings and are able to see over them.
As the morning progresses, the view of the snow caps disappears as the clouds form from the evaporation of ice atop the mountains. Needless to say, there are other mountains to be admired so it is not entirely useless to go later in the day.
Side note: the parks listed are great for much more than simply getting a peek at the mountains. Positioned right on the lake, they are wonderful places for relaxing and clearing your head.
2. Go Out on Phewa Lake
Everyone who visits Pokhara should rent a canoe on Lake Fewa! It's very inexpensive even on a backpacker budget and you are allowed the better part of a day with it. While out on the lake, you are presented with such wonderful sights in all directions. The city on one side, the foot of a mountain of the other. There is little that can be compared to the mix of tranquility yet adventure that is felt out on the lake.
Have you ever wanted to walk on water? Fewa Lake in Pokhara offers you the second-best option with Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP). The sport lets you explore the lake freely on a paddleboard. However, balancing on the board can be a challenge initially. SUP can be a relaxing activity, and although it's usually a calm sport, you can also get a tiring workout out of it without even realizing it.
SUP is an experience that is completely different from other sports and will leave you completely relaxed in the end. If you are planning to do Stand Up Paddling then the best time is around the months October-November and March-April when the weather is perfect for outdoor sports. It is certainly one of the top things to do in Pokhara.
3. Ride a canoe to Tal Barahi Temple
For the temple hoppers reading this, mark Tal Barahi Temple on your map before setting out in your canoe. This temple sits on its own island in the lake. This experience is one of the best things to do in Pokhara, and it's certainly one that you do not want to miss!
4. Paragliding in Sarangkot
If you thought the view of the mountains was good from the roof of your hotel, think again. Imagine the view OVER the mountains. You know, the one where your hotel seems miniscule. This view is possible from the heights of paragliding in Pokhara. Thus, cementing itself as one of the best things to do in Pokhara.
The experience is once in a lifetime! But finding an agency that will get you up there? Not so much. There are countless agencies that do bookings for paragliding in the city. Most agencies offer close to the same rate. Depending on the season and the length of the flight you choose, you can expect to pay somewhere between NPR 10,000-15,000 (US$85-130).
Sarangkot, at 1,592 m above Lakeside in Pokhara Valley, is the jumping off point for paragliders. From here, one can take in stunning views of three of the world's Eight Thousander's, namely Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu.
As one of the most sought out tourist destinations in Nepal, Sarangkot is a great spot to view the sunrise over the Himalayas. It also has a magnificent view of the snow-covered mountains including Annapurna Massif, Fishtail Mountain, Dhaulagiri range, and Manaslu. The hill is located on the outskirts of Pokhara city. It is best viewed at dawn or dusk due to the spectacular pink and orange hues the mountain range takes on during these hours.
This area also offers views of the Pokhara Valley with all its natural beauty. If you're a nature lover then Sarangkot is where you need to be! However, adventure lovers are also welcome because the area is also a popular launching point for paragliders in Pokhara. Sarangkot hill offers a wonderful panoramic view of the Machhapuchhre (Fishtail) mountain and nearby Annapurnas.
5. Trek to Sarangkot View Tower
This goes without saying, as most people travel to Pokhara for this reason alone. Pokhara is practically the gateway to Annapurna. With Annapurna being recognized as one of the most awe-inspiring mountain ranges in the world, there's little reason to NOT go on a trek if you are in Pokhara.
Trekking doesn't necessarily mean going out and spending weeks in the mountains, though it can. There are many different trekking options, ranging from the 5-6 day Mardi Himal to the infamous Annapurna Circuit. While each one offers its own views and experiences, you really can't go wrong in your choosing.
For those who wish to perform a shorter trek can do the Mardi Himal trek. Traditionally, the trek is a 5-6 day venture, but you can complete it in 4 days too.
The trek leads you up to the best viewpoint from which you can see the Annapurna South, Mardi Himal, Fishtail and a couple of other towering snow-capped mountains. It's truly an experience like no other without consuming weeks of your time. To see some of the wondrous sights from the trek, refer to this gallery post. For a detailed story, refer to this story-time post here.
Now, what you may be waiting for: how and how much? Well, there are countless agencies throughout the city and, usually, hotel owners either run their own agency or sponsor another in their lobby. You will have no trouble finding a way. And, for reference, the cost would be around NPR 26,000 (US$220) for the trek which can include a guide, 3 teahouse meals a day, stays in teahouses and permit to enter the mountain range.
Don't forget to witness the spellbinding sunrise at Sarangkot. You'll feel like you are in dreamland when you witness that the sun rays are sprinkled all over the Annapurna Range and Pokhara Valley.
6. Visit International Mountain Museum
The International Mountain Museum in Pokhara has a stunning collection of artifacts, original gears, stories and photographs of the mountains, their inhabitants and mountaineers.
7. Make a trip to the Annapurna Museum
Do you want a different kind of adventure in Pokhara? Make a trip to the Annapurna Butterfly Museum to see more than 600 species of butterflies found in Nepal all under one roof. Situated on the second floor of a building on the Prithvi Narayan Campus premises, the Annapurna Butterfly Museum offers nature lovers an opportunity to explore an amazing collection of butterflies and moths found in Nepal and Southeast Asia.
The butterflies and moths are preserved in handmade dioramas which index the areas of Nepal where the beautiful winged insects are found. Attacus atlas (the largest moth in the world by wingspan) is the main attraction in this museum.
8. Visit Shree Bindhyabasini Temple
Bindhyabasini Temple, one of the many fascinating attractions in Pokhara, stands atop a hill near Bagar. The temple premise offers a spectacular view of the famous Macchapuchhre mountain as well as part of the magnificent Annapurna range. The white pagoda-style temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga who is said to be the chosen as a guardian deity of Pokhara.
It is believed that this deity was brought to the city of Pokhara by King Siddhi Narayan Shah of Kaski before the unification of Nepal. The pleasant park-like atmosphere surrounding the historic temple provides a great place to relax and enjoy a picnic with the family.
9. Visit World Peace Pagoda
The World Peace Pagoda is a must visit destination if you are traveling to Pokhara. Situated at an altitude of almost 1000 meters, World Peace Pagoda (aka Shanti Stupa) hosts the ravishing view of the Himalayas along with the beautiful Phewa Lake. You can hire a taxi or a bike or a motorcycle to reach the World Peace Pagoda via Siddhartha Highway.
However, you will have to hike for 5 to 10 minutes to reach the pagoda and its main viewpoint. While you are at it, you can also stopover Davis Fall and Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave which are on your way to the World Peace Pagoda. Alternatively, you can also reach the stupa by hiking through the forests from Pokhara Damside for 2 to 3 hours.
10. Stroll, Dine and Shop on Pokhara Lakeside
Do you like to wander in the places you visit in search of specialty goods and great food. One of the best places to do this in Pokhara is all along Lakeside Drive. There are so many shops and restaurants lining the street. The shops sell a strong variety of items. With some selling trekking gear, some jewelers, some handicrafts and some general souvenirs.
The hemp market in Pokhara is especially strong, with some shops devoted to anything hemp. From clothing to backpacks to house decor, hemp is there. Due to the high interest in hemp products, there are quite a bit of people who sell fake hemp products which hold much less durability. Always be on the lookout and investigate each item thoroughly before purchasing.
Side note: Though mainly Nepali based, there is a solid presence of branded items including the likes of The North Face.
As for the restaurant scene, there is just about any food that you could want in the Lakeside area. Between the smaller Nepali roadside locations to the huge restaurants lining Lakeside Drive, you will be able to find anything from a buffalo burger to sushi to authentic dal bhat. Though, after stepping off of Lakeside Drive onto one of the side roads will help you to see prices drop drastically in an instant.
11. Spend a Night Out at Mahendra Chowk
The nightlife in Pokhara is special. As soon as that sun goes down, the lights go up throughout the city. Bars and restaurants turn up the music and set the mood for a great night. With plenty of people around, there's little left to be desired in terms of good times and good company.
Along with the bars serving the good times, the shops turn on the lights and set the mood for a wonderful night. With all of the lights on at the storefronts, the setting created is very comfortable and inviting.
One bar to highlight is the Busy Bee Cafe. The bar is huge with picnic tables lining the center, private tables scattered throughout, a full bar area and even a dance floor by the stage where the band plays. The picnic tables create a great environment for meeting new people. The mood is always joyful and exciting. With the words 'A place like nowhere else' hanging over the entrance, this place is one of the top spots in Pokhara.
The city of Pokhara is full of excitement and adventure. With things like paragliding, canoeing and trekking all available, this city is a super city. There is so much to do in this city, and these are only some of the best things to do in Pokhara. Should you ever enter the city, be sure to make the most of it!
|Pokhara ticks all the right boxes, with spectacular scenery|