If you love adventure or just like to relax and unwind then Pokhara is the place for you! Situated 200km west of Kathmandu, Pokhara the second largest city in Nepal is a far contrast from the capital city. With its laid-back vibe and close proximity to the Annapurna mountain range, you can see why travellers and trekkers are attracted to Nepal’s second city, and that’s not forgetting its centrepiece, Phewa Lake. We hope you find this guide useful and find plenty of things to do in Pokhara.
The majority of visitors will arrive in Pokhara by either minivan or bus, arriving at the tourist bus stop just outside of Central Lakeside, the main tourist area in Pokhara. Two other popular tourist destinations that are connected by bus to Pokhara is Chitwan National Park and the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Lumbini. If you catch the tourist bus to and from these destinations expect to pay between 700 – 2000 NPR (£5.50 – £15.00) depending on location and type of bus.
There are numerous companies running coaches to and from Pokhara. Greenline is the most known but also most expensive. Debit travels run a bus between Kathmandu and Pokhara for 700 NPR (£5) and have a toilet and WiFi onboard. This is the company we used and thought they were brilliant and would highly recommend them.
Pokhara also has an airport with direct daily flights to and from Kathmandu, but these aren’t cheap, expect to pay around £80 – £90 one way. So if you can’t face a bumpy 8-hour bus journey, then flying is the option for you.
Once you’ve arrived in Pokhara lakeside everything is fairly assessable on foot, even the International Mountain Museum and airport can be reached by walking. But if you don’t fancy dragging your luggage to the hotel, or just fancy resting your feet then taxis are readily available during all hours of the day and will cost around 200 NPR (£1.50). For the more adventurous you can hire mountain bikes for a few hundred rupees a day and hit some of the trails in the surrounding areas outside of Pokhara.
Accommodation in Pokhara…
The majority of accommodation in Pokhara is located in either Lakeside or Damside, although a handful of guesthouses can be found upon the hillside at Sarangkot, providing stunning views of the Annapurna’s, especially at sunset. But because of the limited competition and views, both accommodation and food are more expensive than Lakeside. Most people only spend one night in Sarangkot, check out The Superview Lodge for fair priced rooms and good food, expect to pay around 2,700 NPR (£20) a night.
Back in Lakeside, you will have no trouble in finding accommodation to suit any budget, from dorm rooms at 150 NPR (£1.13) a night at Amrit Guest House to the luxurious Fishtail Lodge where British Royalty and World leaders have once stayed. It was also featured in the bestselling book “1000 Places to See Before You Die” by Patricia Schultz.
Our two favourite places where we stayed and highly recommend are New Annapurna Guest House which is located towards the start of Lakeside and a 10-minute walk from the tourist bus station. The rooms are clean, spacious and our room had a bath which is a rarity in Nepal. The owner is very friendly and happy to answer any questions you have and will help you book tours and treks.
The other place is Hotel the Coast, which can be found more centrally in Lakeside. All the rooms come with a balcony providing some great views of Phew Lake and surrounding hillsides, great WiFi and large clean and comfortable rooms. Breakfast is included in the room price and served on top on the hotel with great views. Both places we stayed at were low to mid-range budget and booked just by turning up at the hotel paying between 1,350 NPR – 2,700 NPR (£10 – £20) per night.
Where to Eat & Drink…
One thing that is certain when visiting Pokhara is that you will not go hungry. Lakeside is full of places to eat to suit all tastes and budgets. You will find a wide variety of foods on offer, including a few local dishes including the Nepali mainstay Dal Bhat, western food, middle eastern and Indian. Central Lakeside is where all the more expensive ‘but still cheap compared to western prices’ restaurants are located. Places such as Caffe Concerto, The Harbour Restaurant and Moondance are all popular places to eat which serve a range of western dishes, plus some token local dishes. We can recommend Caffe Concerto for its pizza’s, for an Asian country they were pretty damn good.
For more of your budget eateries, head away for central Lakeside either along the main road or up one of the side roads and you will find plenty of very cheap places to eat. They will mostly be serving Dal Bhat, vegetable rice, chow mien and curries, starting at around 200 NPR (£1.50). One place we highly recommend (we ate there nearly every day) is Hot Sandwich Corner & Cheese Shop, they serve some pretty amazing tasting sandwiches at very good prices. If it’s something sweet your fancy then head to Metro for some delicious banana and chocolate crepes. Place your order downstairs then head up to the roof terrace to enjoy your food with great views of Phewa Lake.
If you enjoy a drink and want to meet other travelers then head to Busy Bee. The music is questionable and it can get very crowded, but it’s in a great location and it does have a great selection of drinks. Just a quick note, alcohol is reasonable expensive in Nepal compared to other Asian countries, you can actually get a decent meal cheaper than a bottle of beer.
Things to do in Pokhara…
With plenty of trekking agencies to plan your trek and shops to buy the gear you need, Pokhara is a great place to base yourself before or after trekking in the Himalayas. You can choose from short treks such as Ghorepani Poon Hill trek or Dhampus trek which last between 2 to 5 days. Or if you like a challenge you can attempt the classic Annapurna circuit trek which takes 21 days or the shorter Annapurna sanctuary (base camp) trek which takes 14 days. Both of these treks are challenging but you are rewarded with some spectacular views of the Himalayas.
Located up in the hills above Pokhara Sarangkot is the perfect pre-trek warm-up that will reward you with panoramic views of the Annapurna mountain range. The majority of people arrive for sunrise or sunset to view the spectacular transformation of the mountains as the sun touches the peaks and turns them gold. The viewpoint is reached by a set of steps from the village below. To reach Sarangkot you can catch a taxi from Pokhara up to the village or you can walk from Lakeside. Head towards Greenpeace resort to find the start of the trail up to Sarangkot, which will lead you through woodland and paddy fields and take 2 – 3 hours for the average trekker.
International Mountain Museum
If you love mountaineering or trekking then the International Mountain Museum is a great place to spend a couple hours viewing the exhibitions they have on display. The displays are well-curated and have a great collection of historical mountaineering equipment from mountaineers who have climbed the highest peaks in the Himalayas. There are also displays on the local communities who live in the Himalayas, the history of the mountains, the different types of animals and how climate change is affecting the surrounding area and mountains. The museum can be reached on foot from Lakeside, it’s near the airport and took us around 40 minutes. Or you can catch a taxi for a couple hundred rupees.
World Peace Pagoda
One of the first things you will spot once in Pokhara is the World Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa) sat atop of the hill overlooking Phewa Lake. Opened in 1999 the stupa is the first peace Pagoda to be constructed in Nepal and is one of the eighty that can be found across the globe. There are three main ways to reach the Pagoda. The most popular and easiest is to catch a taxi from Pokhara to the entrance and walk the last couple hundred yards up the steps to the entrance. Another way is to walk around the lake towards Damside, then pick up the trail that leads up through the forest towards the peace pagoda. The third and final way is to rent a boat and row across Phewa lake and then hike straight up the steep path to the entrance of the Pagoda. Whichever way you pick you will be rewarded with great views across Phewa lake, Pokhara and the Annapurna mountain range. Like Sarangkot the most popular time to head to the world peace Pagoda is for sunset or sunrise.
Pokhara is known as Nepal’s adventure capital and it’s not just trekking that’s on offer. From Whitewater rafting on Nepal’s many rapids to paragliding over Phewa lake, there’s an adventure to suit all types and budgets. If paragliding isn’t your thing and you’d prefer to be on terra firma then you can rent a mountain bike and hit one of the many trails surrounding the city or try your hand at rock climbing.
There are plenty of agencies in Pokhara offering all these activities or you could pop into the Highground Adventures shop which can be found in central Lakeside. They provide all the activities mentioned plus bungy jumping and Zip flyer, a 1.8km zip line with a vertical drop of 600m. It’s apparently the tallest, longest, and steepest zip line in the world.
Lakes, Caves & Waterfalls
Of course, Phewa Lake is the main focus when visiting Pokhara, it’s one of Nepal’s most famous spots. But as Lakeside is based around the lake it does attract the crowds. Thankfully there is more than one lake you can explore, three to be precise and all within 15km from Pokhara. Begnas Lake, Rupa Lake and Dipang Lake are all more remote and of course less spoilt, making it a great place to escape the crowds and relax.
If waterfalls are your thing then pay a visit to Devi’s falls, located on the outskirts of Pokhara and on the way to the Peace Pagoda by taxi, the falls are named a Swiss couple who apparently drowned in them. It’s worth a visit if heading that way out don’t expect anything spectacular.
There are also a few caves that can be visited. Mahendra cave which is the most famous and is located at the northern end of Pokhara. Chamare Gufa (bat cave) which is near Mahendra cave, there are bats everywhere in the cave and there is a little climb involved. Lastly, Gupteswar Mahadev cave can be found opposite Devi’s falls and is famous for its religious importance, the Hindu god Shiva.