Pokhara is the jack of all trades, with panoramic scenery, extreme adventure activities, hotels, and food choices galore. Whether you’ve endured a bus trip from hell or returned from a three-week trek, Lakeside Pokhara is an ideal place to recharge your body.
There’s much more to Pokhara than its laid-back appeal. It also flaunts a ‘sexy’ adventure-sports industry: it is the best paragliding venue globally and is surrounded by whitewater rivers. There’s a charming museum devoted to the world-famous Gurkha soldier. And last but not least, it’s the entrance to the popular treks in and around the Annapurna range and beyond. One in every four trekkers trying to peak Annapurna Mountain has died doing so.
Places to visit in Pokhara:
Devi’s Falls: This waterfall marks the spot where the Pardi Khola stream disappears underground. When the water is at full bore after monsoon rains, the sound of the water rushing over the falls is overpowering. The falls are about 2km south of the airport on the road to Butwal, before the Tashi Ling Tibetan camp. It is peaceful during the early afternoons before tourists start rushing in.
Varahi Mandir: Pokhara’s most popular Hindu temple, the two-tiered Mandir, stands on a small island in Phewa Tal, near the ancient Ratna Mandir (Royal Palace). Constructed in the 18th century, the temple is devoted to Vishnu in his boar manifestation. It’s been extensively restored over the years and is occupied by pigeons. Rowboats to the temple leave from Varahi Ghat in Lakeside.
Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave: Across the street from Devi’s Falls, this revered cave contains a large stalagmite worshipped as a Shiva lingam. The ticket allows you to climb through a tunnel behind the shrine, arising in a damp cavern next to the thundering waters of Devi’s Falls.
Phewa Tal: Phewa Tal is the travelers’ favorite destination in Pokhara and is the second-largest lake in all of Nepal. In contrast to Lakeside’s flashy tourist development, the steep southwestern shore is forested and alive with birdlife. The lush Rani Ban offers an emerald hue to the lake, and on a clear day, the Annapurna mountains are beautifully reflected on its mirror surface.
You can take to the lake in one of the gaily painted boats (doongas) accessible for Lakeside rent. Many people cycle or walk around the lakeshore – the trek up to the World Peace Pagoda yields breathtaking panoramas over the tal to the peaks beyond.
World Peace Pagoda: Balanced on a thin rim high above Phewa Tal, the brilliant-white World Peace Pagoda was built by Buddhist monks. There are three routes up to the pagoda and numerous small cafes once you reach. Sadly, there have been muggings on the paths in the past. Stay safe.
Bindhya Basini Temple: One of the oldest temples in the Himalayas, Bindhya Basini Temple, sits atop a tiny hill in Old Pokhara. The temple is sacred to Durga, the warlike incarnation of Mata Parvati.
Things to do in Pokhara:
- Hiking and trekking: There are numerous hills worth hiking here in Pokhara. Start with easy treks and gradually scale up. Prebook the expeditions to avoid last-minute surge charges. I suggest exploring Dhampus Trek, Jomsom & Muktinath, Annapurna Base Camp Trek, and The Begnas Hiking.
- Boating and canoeing: You should definitely rent a boat for a day out on the water. Canoes can be challenging to steer on the flat lakes.
- Whitewater rafting: Many operators are offering Whitewater rafting, with some being GRG’s Adventure Kayaking, Rapidrunner Expeditions, Paddle Nepal, and adrenaline Rush. Prebook to avoid disappointments.
- Paragliding: Don’t miss soaring around Lake Pokhara and the Annapurnas.
- Sarankot/Naudada/Hemja Mountain Biking: 3 hours solid from Lakeside is a fast time. Go towards the center (Mahendrapul) from Lakeside, turn north at “Zero Mile” along the road to Baglung. Be cautious as it’s crowded. Ride about 4 km north, slowly up, past the dirty old bus park, to the Sarankot Road junction, turn west. The mounting time starts at the fork 50 m further. Follow the concrete road up an incredibly steep climb, 1st gear almost all the way. Good road mostly, rise zigs past houses and ends at a small village on a saddle. It takes around 40 min from the bottom. From here, you can park the bike and hike up old rim trail to Sarankot, but for this loop, continue west along rugged jeep road along hill south slopes, past parasail place and onwards, rolling slope to Kalipani village, and after an hour or so jeep road hits the “hi-way” at Naudada village on the ridgetop. Great road zigs are steep down to valley bottom; then it’s a long continuous slope to Hemja village and back into Pokhara.
What to eat at Pokhara?
The cheapest (and often the yummiest) food is located at the street stalls, selling dumplings/momos (Rs90 for ten pieces), Indian veg samosas (Rs10 each), or fried noodles (Rs40). Early in the morning, kids walk the streets with trays of delicious fresh pastries, cinnamon rolls, chocolate croissants, and other cakes—each cost about Rs12.
Many good hygienic restaurants serve different cuisines in Pokhara. The China Town, Asian Tea House, Busy Bee Cafe, Jazz Pub, Godfather Pizzeria, and Once upon a time being the local favorites.
The bazaar across the old bus station has basic Nepali dishes from 60 rupees and a friendly atmosphere amongst vendors’ bustle.