Pokhara – A window to the Himalayas
This is a stunning city, filled with nature, great sites and an important hub for mountain trekkers.
Katmandu is a very interesting city with some of the most extraordinary heritage sites in the world, it is a big capital, and maybe not the greatest place to be surrounded by nature and tranquility.
Pokkhara on the other hand,seems to be paradise on earth. The air is so fresh, people are always friendly and helpful, the food is amazing and the scenery…. what can I say, when I open my window in the morning and see the Himalayas ripping the skies?
… But where is Pokhara exactly?
Pokhara is the second largest city in Nepal, after Kathmandhu.
Pokhara is an important spot for Eco-minded travelers. Three of the highest mountains in the world, are located in the surroundings of this city, that’s why mountain trekk lovers can be seen roaming around in Pokhara year round.
POKHARA IS ALL ABOUT THE NATURE
I spent nearly 3 weeks in Pokhara, enough time to soak up the beauty of this city and unwind after 5 months traveling in India.
As soon as I arrived, I knew I would stay here for a while. The Phewa lake is clean and peaceful, one of my favorite spots to enjoy stunning sunsets and… some animal company…!
Pokhara might not be the place for the wild party lovers. But let me tell you, you won’t have a single moment of boredom here, there are several activities you can do on a daily basis. I spent my days relaxing, trekking (even though I have to confess I’m usually too lazy for that – I knew I couldn’t miss the views from the mountains), eating and exploring the region around the lake.
THINGS TO DO IN POKHARA
NEPALI PEOPLE – THE FRIENDLIEST ON EARTH
I’ve traveled a bit in my lifetime, and I can tell you that very few people on earth have impressed me with their smile and friendliness as Nepali people did.
My travel buddy and I spent a lot of time just hanging out and chatting with the owners of our favorite restaurant. People are so genuine, simple and humble, I could have stayed in Pokhara longer, just to enjoy their company.
Although a very touristy city, I visited it during the low season when there were basically no tourists around, so we could lose ourselves into long conversations.
TAKE A BOAT RIDE ON LAKE PHEWA
Lake Phewa is gorgeous and clean. Nothing is more pleasant that getting a boat and explore this amazingly beautiful lake.
The nature surrounding the Phewa Lake is stunning and since I visited Pokhara during low season, there was not that many people around. For most of the time it was just me and my travel buddy.
VISIT THE PEACE STUPA
Visiting the peace stupa, also known as Shanti stupa was the perfect excuse for a long but gentle trek in the nature.
The Peace stupa is located at the height of 1100 meters on the Ananda Hill, with a breathtaking view of the Phewa lake, the Anapurna range and the Pokhara city. You’ll need to trek a bit in order to get there, but the walk is well worth it.
The Shanti stupa is a Buddhist monument dedicated to the world peace and is 115 feet tall and 344 feet in diameter. It displays four statues of Buddha, souvenirs from different countries: ‘Dharmacakra Mudra’ from Japan, ‘Bodh Gaya’ from Sri Lanka, ‘Kushinagar’ from Thailand and ‘Lumbini’ from Nepal.
This is definitely a must see monument.
VISIT THE LITTLE BAHARI TEMPLE
A pleasant surprise in the middle of Phewa Lake.
There’s more than stunning nature at Lake Phewa. There’s a beautiful little temple island waiting for you. This was a wonderful surprise I was not counting on. The island is not big, but it’s a great place to rest a bit and get some shade.
THE NEPALESE VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN FOODS
Being a vegan or vegetarian in Nepal is like being in heaven!
The Nepali food is so delicious, rich and with so much variety! With a very specific identity and taking influences from the Indian and Tibetan cuisine, I have to admit I fell in love with the food here!
Pokhara offers a wide selection of restaurants, most of them family owned business. I think that one of the highlights of my stay really was the food and I remember waking up with joy every morning, because a new day filled with vegan goodies was waiting for me.
NEPAL IS EVERY TREKKER’S PARADISE
We can not deny the fact that Nepal is a big hub for trekking and nature lovers. You see them everywhere, excited about their adventures in the beautiful country.
Pokhara is no exception.
There are a few highly recommended treks around Pokhara you shouldn’t miss. I’m too lazy for trekking, so I enjoyed the views from the my roof top. Getting an experienced guide that knows the are well is highly recommended, both for safety reasons and to get the most out of it.
Please be aware that this is a very physically demanding job and most of the porters and guides have to stay away from their families in order to work and put food on the table. Be generous with your tips. I’ve heard of stories where the tourists tried to bargain hard and avoid paying them what their work was worth. We want a tourism that supports the local economy, not one that tries to exploit it.
PARAGLIDING IN POKHARA
Paragliding seems to be a very popular, if not, very seeked after activity. And no wonder why, with such a unique and dramatic landscape, Pokhara from above must be an unforgettable experience.
YOGA AND MEDITATION IN POKHARA
Pokhara is a place for nature and healthy living enthusiasts. You’ll bump into a few Yoga schools, located at peaceful spots with great views.
I wanted to practice some Yoga during my 3 weeks in Pokhara, but the prices for the classes were the same, if not more expensive than in Portugal, so I decided not to attend any class.
GO FOR LONG WALKS IN THE NATURE
Seems like everything exciting in Pokhara, will lead you to some walking or treking. Once more, if you’re not as lazy as I am, you can follow some routes that will lead you to the waterfall, the view point, the dam side or the peace stupa.
I went to the peace stupa and decided that was my trekk for the next 10 years to come.. Yes, I really don’t like to trek. If you do, let me know how the other spots look like!
BEST TIME TO VISIT POKHARA
Pokhara has a nice and mild weather, but during winter time the low temperatures might be a bit chill. Here’s the graphic with the average temperatures around the year.
* ECO TIP *
Nepal and many other countries in Asia are struggling with the amount of plastic that is thrown away on a daily basis. Be aware of this serious problem and try to avoid using plastics as much as possible! Keep your bottle and refill it with water whenever you can. Ask around for places where you can do that. If you can’t find a place to refill your water, then think about buying 5 liter bottles instead of many bottles of half liter. Use that to refill it.
HOW TO GET TO POKHARA
Well, the only way to get to Pokhara is by bus. Now you can either get a regular public bus or a private one for tourists. We traveled from Kathmandu on a tourist bus which took about 6 hours and I have to admit it was a very painful trip for me. The roads were very dangerous, in terrible shape, we were constantly passing by buses and trucks which fell out of the roads and crashed.
We had a very young teenager driving our bus, and he drove like a maniac through those steep and extreme curves along the way. I don’t remember ever praying during a trip, but I hink for some moments I did! Seriously!
Take the tourist buses instead of the public ones, although they might drive crazy, the buses might be in a better shape.
Royal Nepal Airlines corporation run flights between Kathmandu to Pokhara. It will take less than an hour and you’ll witness some incredible views of the Himalayas.
When entering Nepal through the Indian border, we noticed the scams going on. We were asked to pay way more money than the Visa is worth with the excuse of a new norm. We pretended we didn’t notice the scam and money extortion schemes and to avoid direct conflict we simply said, we had no money on us, other than the price of the visa. The borger guard stamped our passport and we left.
This scam goes on daily and we’ve seen it happening to other people, so BE AWARE of this and don’t pay more than the official price for the visa.
There are so many things to do in Pokhara, I truly believe this city will stay in your memory forever. I fell in love for Pokhara, the nature, the people and the food. If you traveled to India and decided you need a break from the chaos, come to Pokhara! You’ll feel in paradise here.
NOTE: I was informed that since my last visit to Pokhara the city changed radically and it’s now overwhelmingly commercial. This is really sad because the Pokhara I experienced was beautiful and very peaceful. If you have updated info about Pokhara, let me know so I can update the article. Seems like things in Asia can change incredibly fast
Need more info? Visit the official tourism website for Nepal
Featured photo: All credits for the author: Jean Marie Hullod