We recently came back from a one month ride across Nepal and have tons of good memories from our adventures! All though, Nepal is a small country, it does pack a lot of variety. From the mountainous regions of Upper Mustang, Nagarkot to the wildlife reserves in the plains of the Chitwan National Park. The country has a lot to offer and even though we spent one month there, we could only cover 7-8 destinations and are left wanting more! One of our favorite stops in Nepal was Pokhara, as it’s such a beautiful destination with lots to see in and around and tons of activities to experience. Most tourists flock to Pokhara either for the Annapurna Base camp trek or for the Everest flights but the city has much more to offer! We cover some experiences from our stay in Pokhara, a few tips, and tons of activities that you can enjoy. So here goes a short Pokhara Travel Guide we prepared.
WHERE IS POKHARA?
Pokhara is a city located around the famous Phewa Lake in Western Nepal and offers stunning views of the Annapurna range on a clear day! It’s the 2nd most populated city in Nepal after Kathmandu and a major tourist attraction, especially for trekkers looking to complete the Annapurna Circuit.
HOW TO REACH POKHARA?
To get to Pokhara, you can take a direct flight from Kathmandu. There are local airlines like Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines, which have regular flights to and from both these destinations. If you’d like to drive, the roads between KTM and Pokhara are pretty good and scenic. From KTM, you will need to cross a mountain range first and the roads are bad with chock-a-bloc traffic due to trucks but if you leave early you can avoid it a bit. After you come down the mountain, the roads are paved and it’s smooth sailing all the way to Pokhara city. The travel time for covering these 200 kilometers is around 7 hours; don’t trust the timings shown in google maps and it tends to underestimate the road condition in Nepal.
HOTELS IN POKHARA
We don’t like staying in crowded cities so we looked for something close to the city but far away from the tourist population. Our research took us to Raniban Retreat, located just 9 kilometers from the city – in fact, located on a hill on top of the city. From our room, we had breathtaking views of the Phewa Lake, Pokhara City, and the Annapurna range including the Fish Tail mountain! The road to Raniban Retreat was quite rocky but we recently got word from the owner that the roads are now getting paved! Any Pokhara travel guide will persuade you to stay in the city and if you’re looking to be in the thick of the action then that’s the place to be. Otherwise, you can look up Raniban Retreat.
Perched on top of a hill, Raniban Retreat offers panoramic views of the Pokhara city landscape and the World Peace Pagoda. I remember that every morning we could see the sky turn golden as the first sun-rays hit them and the World Peace Pagoda, Pokhara Lake playing peek-a-boo with the floating clouds. Perfect place to take some stunning time-lapses and capture the mountains!
The hotel is run by a small staff but they are highly efficient, very friendly, and always ready to help out. Our lakeside room was quite cozy, comfortable, and had a cute little sit-out overlooking the city.
The World Peace Pagoda lies just a stone-throw away from the retreat and you can walk down and explore it or take a short hike and explore the surrounding hamlets. The resort’s restaurant menu may not be expansive but the food they serve is tasty and they also serve the traditional thakali thali. The retreat also has a bar, a terraced garden, a spa, and a really good wi-fi facility. If you are looking to stay in Pokhara, yet enjoy some privacy, peace, and tranquility then this should be your go-to hotel!
So what do you when you are in Pokhara? Here’s a list of things we found to be really exciting!
POKHARA TRAVEL GUIDE – THINGS TO DO IN POKHARA CITY
Landscape photography @ Raniban Retreat
If you are an avid landscape photographer or an Instagrammer then the views from Raniban Retreat are sure to captivate your creative self. Pre-monsoon views of the Annapurna range are crystal clear and you will get fantastic shots on the entire range from the hotel’s rooftop terrace. Every morning, we clicked pictures of the cloud cover on top of the city and the lake and got some stunning time-lapse videos of the sunrise and cloud movement!
Head to Davis Falls
4 kilometers away, Davis Waterfalls is also not far from Pokhara city. This place is a gorge with waterfalls that leads into an underground tunnel that leads to cave formations of Gupteshwar Mahadev. Interestingly, there are a couple of legends surrounding the name of these Falls. One of the versions tells of a trekker or hiker that went by the name of Devis. The unfortunate hiker was swept away suddenly by the water and carried down into the underground passages and caves that run below the waterfall. The other tells the story of a Mrs. Devis, a Swiss tourist in Nepal, who was swimming in the Phewa Lake. The dam unexpectedly started to overflow. Devi’s husband helplessly looked on while the water swept his wife down the waterfall.
Visit the World Peace Pagoda
Located just 10 minutes away fro Raniban Retreat or 8 kilometers from Pokhara city, the World Peace Pagoda is a hilltop structure offering majestic views of the city below and the Annapurna Range. It stays covered under a thick blanket of clouds early morning and the best time to go there is just before sunset!
World Peace Pagoda view from Raniban Retreat
Annapurna Base Camp
Annapurna Base Camp Trek is the second most extreme trek in Nepal, apart from Mount Everest. This magnificent trail passes through the mountains of Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchhre, Manaslu, Gangapurna, and Tilicho Peak, finally culminating at the Annapurna peaks 1 to 8. The specialty of this trek is the different trails that it has – that decides the difficulty level as well as the duration of the trek. Also, this trek is comfortable because you get to stay in tea houses after a tiring trek.
Spend the evening @ Phewa Lake
An expansive freshwater lake, around which Pokhara is located is a great way to spend your evenings in the city. The atmosphere changes as the afternoons fade away and you will see local shopkeepers setting up small eateries near the lake, selling momos, and fast food. Scores of shacks dot the coastline and the evenings become alive with live music and band performances in the restaurants. Pick the one with live music and you are sure to enjoy a lovely sunset, drinks, and yummy Nepali cuisine. We spent two evenings in the lakeside bars and thoroughly enjoyed the live singing and the long strolls by the lake.
Go boating in Phewa Lake
If the weather is clear, we highly recommend a boating trip on the lake from where you not only get to see lakeside sights but also have plenty of photo opportunities. You can try Kayaking or go on a boat ride in the lake, and enjoy the views of the city in the evening. This one is perfect for some soft adventure, for those who are averse to extreme physical activities! The price and availability depend on the season but can be covered easily if you plan a little ahead during the high season.
Take a Himalayan flight
Now we didn’t try this but from our room in Raniban Retreat, we saw plenty of flights take off from the rather busy Pokhara Airport. There are many operators in the city that offer Ultralight flying experiences, helicopter rides that fly close to the Fishtail mountain and this is the most popular activity in Pokhara at the moment. You can be a pilot of an ultralight flight and maneuver it while enjoying the stunning snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas and a bird view of Pokhara. There are a few companies that offer various flying tours, which can be booked online as well.
Go Zip-line crazy!
Pokhara is home to the world’s most extreme zip line adventure, which is going to give you just the perfect adrenaline kick you need! With an incline of 56 degrees, a total length of 1.8km, and a vertical drop of 600 meters, it is the tallest, the longest, and the steepest zip-line in the whole world. Due to the weather, we had to miss this, but how I wish I could this! High Ground Adventures’ Zip-flyers conduct this zip line from one of the mountain tops in Pokhara. You can check the details on their website.
Visit Gupteshwar Mahadev
This cave temple is more popular among the religious locals of Nepal and Even on a weekday afternoon, the crowd was strong in the caves. The inside of the cave has a lovely formation of stalagmites that give way to a stream and a faint waterfall that you can see up close by hiking downstairs. The sanctum was recently renovated, passing through which you go underground to reach the ancient caves. The temple of Gupteshwar or Lord Shiva can be seen at the center once you navigate through the narrow caves. The cave is in the city area and is easy to locate! You can probably do this on a hot afternoon to escape the sun before heading to the lake or the pagoda for views. The entry fee is NR 100 for foreigners.
WHERE TO EAT IN POKHARA?
Well, if you decide to stay in the city and near the lake you have plenty to choose from. From traditional Nepali food to American, Israeli, Chinese, Korean to Indian food, Pokhara will spoil you with choices. But since we like to try local food cooked the local way (and not for tourists), we looked for small family run Mess/roadside shanties. Our favorite go-to dish was the thakali thali seen below, samosas, and street food. You can also read the Pokhara travel guide that talks about local food to know what more you can try here.
These are the usual things to do in Pokhara but if you really want to experience the local and the culture then you should just take off the surrounding villages of Sarangkot, Astam, Dhampus, Kusuma villages. And in these places, you can truly experience the real essence of Nepal, the Newari cultures, and the local lives. Let us know what you thought of this Pokhara travel guide and do leave your comments!