Making our way through the long, unwinding hilly roads with occasional peek into the Nepali culture on the way, we travel some 200 kilometers from Kathmandu to reach the second largest city of Nepal – Pokhara. As you reach here, you instantly get the casual, laid back vibe in the air. Surrounded by hills and lakes, this place is a charming escape, perfect for leisure in the vicinity of nature. Pokhara is also known as the city of lakes. On south it is bordered by Phewa/Fewa Lake, the biggest lake of the city. While in the north, the Annapurna mountain range forms its backdrop. Pokhara has sub-tropical weather and is the second most happening place in Nepal after its capital city, Kathmandu. The place was once part of the trade route between India and Tibet.
Pokhara is especially famous among trekkers and adventure sports enthusiasts. It is the starting point of many treks including Annapurna Circuit trek and Jomsom- Muktinath trek. So basically it is the ‘Phuket’ of Thailand – that was my first instinct about this place. And it lends the same exotic vibes accompanied with amazing food, festivities, nightlife and entertainment.
How To Reach
From Kathmandu (Nepal)- You can rent a car or take a tourist bus, there are plenty of them. It is advisable to avoid the night bus because of the hilly terrain. Also there are regular flights from Kathmandu which can be booked online and even at the last moment. Yeti Airlines, Buddha Air and Simrik Air are the preferred ones.
From India – If you are coming from India, you can very well reach Pokhara directly by taking the bus itself from Sanauli (on the Indian side) and enter the Nepal territory. Make sure you have all the visa documents ready beforehand.
POKHARA’S MAJOR ATTRACTIONS
- Phewa/Fewa Lake is a pristine lake that borders the city’s south. Chill at the lakeside or hire a small colorful boat called ‘doonga’ and paddle around. You can go to the small island temple named Varahi /Barahi temple. It is a two-storied, pagoda style temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Shakti situated on an island in the middle of the lake. The lake is about 2 miles long and 1 mile wide. The mirror like water of the lake is a visual treat to the eyes. You can spend your day by soaking in the sun at the shore or reading or simply sneaking into any lakeside café for food just as pleasant as the views.
- World Peace Pagoda / Shanti Stupa – Situated on the top of Ananada Hill, the pagoda style world-class Buddhist temple is a symbol of ‘peace’. It is one of the eight peace pagodas in the world. The pagoda is 115 feet tall and 344 feet wide exhibiting four statues of Buddha on the four sides, depicting the important events from Buddha’s life and referring to the places where they occurred. Each statue is a souvenir from different countries; Dharmachakra posture statue at the front from Japan, Meditating statue (at Bodh Gaya) on the west from Sri Lanka, Mahaparinirvana statue on the north from Thailand and statue depicting Budhha’s birth (at Lumbini)on the south from Nepal. You can reach the Pagoda by hiking or cycling or by simply taking a taxi. The hiking trail is the most popular one that goes through the local villages and it needs you to cross the Phewa Lake by a boat first and then start the uphill climb.The Pagoda provides a perfect vantage point to witness the Annapurna mountain range, Pokhara city and Phewa Lake altogether. Soak in the spectacular views of Pokhara from the above and the peaceful surroundings. The views are especially amazing if it’s not a cloudy day but guess it wasn’t our lucky day. The skyline producing amazing views and the paragliders hovering over our heads speedily were good enough to give us the adrenaline rush. It was such a worthy sight, a spectacle indeed! For more information about World Peace Pagoda, click here
- Fishtail Mountain/ Machhapuchhare – The peak of the mountain looks like a fish tail hence the name Fishtail Mountain or Machhapuchhare (the Nepali version with same meaning). The mountain stands tall at an elevation of 6993 meters and looks so surreal. I have never seen such amazing view, I swear I wanted to just forget all about Pokahara and go right in the direction of mountain to see it up close.
- Devi’s/ Davis Fall – Also known as Hell’s fall or Patale Chhango, it’s an average spot at a place called Chhorepatan, some two kilometers away from downtown Pokhara. It can be reached via local bus or micro bus service. The falls got their name from a tourist named Davis, who accidentally discovered these falls and died while taking a bath with her husband. After that the name got corrupted from Davis Fall to Devi’s Fall.
- Gupteshwar Mahadev Cave – A three-kilometer long limestone cave is located on the opposite side of Devi’s Fall. The cave is revered because of the limestone formations inside that resemble Lord Shiva Linga, the manifestation of Lord Shiva. It’s a long, poorly lit cave that goes pretty deep and ends in a narrow passage with a view of waterfall from devi’s fall. Better to bring your own torch and the claustrophobics beware! If you’re afraid of closed spaces (like me), carry a water bottle along with you and avoid going so deep inside. The entry fee is 50 NPR per person.
Other than the above mentioned places, you may explore other lakes of the city namely Begnas Lake, Rupa Lake and Dipang Lake. Bat Cave is another cave famous as a spooky cave full of bats where only daredevils attempt to go. Not a recommended hangout for the claustrophobics! Sarangkot is yet another place, a small hill station nearby that is famous for its gorgeous views, sunset and sunrise.
Pokhara is a hotbed of adventure sports like hiking/trekking, whitewater rafting, paragliding, mountain biking, rock climbing, boating/canoeing. Go to the lakeside (of Phewa Lake) and you can witness the colorful parachutes and paragliders hovering in the sky all day long like some giant birds. You can feel the adrenaline rush in the air that amplifies intoxication. You can’t afford to miss out on the adventure while in Pokhara. Apart from these, you can also learn courses like Reiki, yoga and meditation.
Pokhara is a backpacker hub mainly because it is a trekker base. The famous Annapurna Circuit Trek begins here and so do other famous treks and expeditions. That’s why Pokhara is the perfect stopover to enjoy thoroughly and get oneself ready for the daunting journey forward. So you can shop for all the trekking essentials to stock up for major treks. Also you can find the official outlet of North Face in Pokhara if you missed the one in Kathmandu.
STAY – EAT – INDULGE
There are many multi cuisine options in Pokhara with quality food. You can opt for a lakeside café; enjoy live music with great atmosphere and pool tables. Even though there are plethora of clubs and bars, nightlife in Pokhara rarely extends beyond 11pm so basically it’s all about dining and enjoying live music. Busy Bee Café has been my favorite hangout among others. It’s the best and the most popular live music venue in the town with amazing food and cocktails.
You can easily find a comfortable stay ranging from a budget hotel/guest house to reasonable mid range inns or lavish resorts starting from USD 4 or 200 NPR.
P.S. I’d love to hear about your experience in Pokhara (Nepal) in the comments below. Do share 🙂