If Tuscany is to Italy, Pokhara is to Nepal. Pokhara Valley is truly a gem about 200 km west of Kathmandu and nestled among the three of the ten highest mountains in the world; Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, and Manaslu. With a population of about 250,000, Pokhara is the premier tourist destination in Nepal. Being situated so close to the Himalayas Pokhara serves as a base for trekkers, hikers, and adventurers of all kinds. Welcome to cheap places to travel in Nepal.
Phewa Tal Lake borders the shore of Pokhara and is actually a manmade lake after a damn collapse in 1974. No motorboats are allowed but there are plenty of lakefront shops that rent paddle boats, kayaks, and paddle canoes. These same shops have people for hire to take you out for an afternoon of sightseeing, relaxing, or fishing.
Pokhara is the second-largest city in Nepal next to Kathmandu and there’s no shortage of things to do, see and be a part of. Hotels and restaurants are plenty, especially along the lakefront. Hiking, trekking, and souvenir stores are bursting onto the sidewalk with merchandise right alongside money vendors and currency exchange kiosks. Due to the daily power outages, it’s best to use one of the many currency kiosks rather than a bank machine if you need money. The rates are posted and they are quite fair. USD is the preferred currency exchange throughout Nepal.
Note: The Nepalese Rupee is not a recognized currency outside of Nepal. When leaving the country it would be wise to exchange your Rupees back for USD or your preferred currency. Don’t rely on the kiosk at the airport as they’re often closed.
With a short boat ride, you’re brought to the trail leading up to the World Peace Pagoda monument. Be prepared for a 45 min hike above the city that is well worth the effort to walk this holy site. Take the time to read the story behind the peace monuments created around the world and, no shoes are allowed.
Across the southern shore of the lake is Sarangkot Mountain rising above the city. It’s hard to miss as this is the choice mountain for paragliding and the sky above the lake is often filled with colorful gliders riding the thermals. The south end of the Lakeshore district is dotted with many paragliding companies and for around $100 USD they will take you up for a tandem flight including video and photos.
Paragliding is regulated in Nepal and all the companies are top-notch. If you’re among the lucky the Para-hawks, as they call them, will come to fly with you steering you to the thermals. If it’s within your budget and you’re the adventurous type I highly recommend it. Once up in the air above Sarangkot, the Annapurna Himalayan range opens up and is a sight to behold.
If you’re inclined, rent a motorcycle for the day from the many shops that offer them and tour around Phewa Lake to the lesser-known villages. There are small Tibetan communities beyond the east shore of the lake that is welcoming and will put you and some friends up for the night for a small charge. Don’t be surprised when they offer you their bed and take the floor themselves. Be prepared for a bumpy ride on the rough roads, watch for the cows, and stay to the left! Licensing is very lax in Nepal and an international driver’s license is not required. Don’t forget to ask the locals about the many caves in and around the city. Most locals will be happy to be your guide for the day or know someone who will.
For those with a volunteering heart and some time, Pokhara offers many opportunities for you to lend your time and expertise, be it a local school, a Buddhist monastery, or a yoga retreat center. Ask your hotel manager about these opportunities.
Being closer to the Himalayas than Kathmandu the nights can get a bit chilly, even in the summer months. Most of the annual precipitation is during the summer months, (July-Sept). The fall and winter months are gorgeous with mild humidity and an average temperature of 25c.
If you are planning a trip to Nepal then consider Pokhara on your list. The bus ride from Kathmandu alone is worth the trip! Remain flexible with your itinerary when traveling to Nepal. Infrastructure is still building and delays will happen. Pokhara is a gem that you’ll not forget on your Nepal trip.