Hidden from all is a secret that Pokhara keeps to itself. Begnas Tal (the lake is referred to as Tal) happens to be a color-coded secret that nature whispered to these mountains here in the hinterlands of Nepal.
Unquestionably one of the best offbeat tours for many, it’s situated in the laps of the Himalayas, about 15 KM east of the populous city of Pokhara.
Hidden by local forests and peaks, no popular trails practically reach here. Colorful boats glide through the waters while the still waters reflect the huge peaks that surround it.
To get there
It’s a direct bus ride to Begnas from Pokhara and would cost a nominal amount of NPR 60 per person, for about one hour of a bus ride.
You can also hire a taxi which would be quicker than the bus but of course, would cost way more. Enroute, be prepared to watch and admire the countryside, a few old villages, and homestays from back in times when Begnas was on a popular hiking trail.
Taxi: You can take a taxi to get around Begnas from the bus stop, which would cost NPR 200-300. However, most times for short-distance, due to the uneven terrain, walking happens to be the best choice around here.
Buses: Local buses run every hour from nearby villages, like Pachbhaiya to the Begnas Tal Bus Stop, and the cost would be NPR 15-20. From there, you can take a direct bus to Pokhara.
Walk: If the weather is good (which mostly is the case), you’d be pleasantly surprised at every step with miraculous imagery. You can choose to hike around too to get an aerial view of this little beauty of a town. Carry a camera with you to get incredible shots back home as your souvenirs.
Hitchhike: Locals in Nepal are really warm, they would love to talk to you, and if they are riding alone, they would be happy to drop you. They’ll tell you insider secrets, and you’d have a fresh perspective of the local town.
Places to stay
Rupa Kot Resort
If there is the best spot to pick a hotel in Begnas, it has to be this one. This 4-star property does insane justice to the heart-throbbing landscape by putting a show of it all through its doors and windows. Nestled on a hill (this is the only property on that hill), it renders a 360-degree panoramic view of Begnas Lake and Rupa Lake, and you’d love this.
The Begnas Lake Resort and Villas
Rest on a bench by the lakeside, watching boats glide through the rippling water is one thing about this place you’d love. How does it sound having a villa to yourself overlooking a vast lake in the middle of abundant greenery? Therapeutic, isn’t it?
Of all the things that you can do in this beautiful 4-star property, meditating by the lake is one, pampering yourself with some spa is another, and having breakfast in bed with a great view is yet one more to make your stay memorable.
Dinesh Guest House
To live here is to have a home in the hills. Our personal favorite and a home-away-from-home, this is where we stayed for nearly a month in Begnas Tal.
Strategically situated on a ridge in the middle of Rupa Tal and Begnas Tal (two different lakes on either side), Dinesh Guest House probably runs the legacy of homestays (not exaggerating a bit) in Begnas Tal. Dinesh, the host, was a teacher until he started managing his father’s homestay, which first opened its doors for tourists in 1978.
“Since then, it has been a journey. We have hosted hundreds of people and have them stay with us for months altogether at a go”, he says.
To get there, you can take a taxi for 200-300 NPR to Pachbhaiya, and from there it is a short uphill walk. Since there is no connecting road (which is a total charm), and when you get there, you straight away enter into their beautiful garden. A swing and two hammocks add a very relaxing element to the entire vibe of their garden, but what’s lovelier? It’s his family, and their charisma draws you to be a part of their dinnertime stories and jokes.
His wife cooked meals for us, and we enjoyed the delicious rice and lentils, with varieties of vegetables and marinated salads. Whenever we felt like having lemon tea, Dinesh Ji himself would pluck mints and lemons from his organic kitchen garden and make a soothing beverage out of it. We enjoyed all those mornings where we sat in his garden, sipping on tea, talking, and watching the sunrise above the mountains across Phewa Lake.
The rooms on the ground floor are small, we preferred to stay in their newly built room on the 1st floor. It had four huge windows from where we could see the mist rising from one lake, over the ridge to another. The sunsets also were amazing from our room. Sometimes in the night, our windows would glow from the outside with fireflies swarming around the lake. It was a delight to see Milky way from the terrace. Moreover, we saw multiple shooting stars on a few nights, so you can tell from it why we stayed here for a whole month.
Robin’s Nest Hotel and Restaurant
Very humble and basic, this place is right next door to Dinesh Guest House. A rooftop terrace that overlooks the mountains and lake and a garden that adds up to the beauty, their spotless cleanliness is one more thing to appreciate. The homestay is also a good pick if you want to enjoy a delicious meal with a tasty cup of chai! The host is extremely warm and would answer your call every time with a smile.
Sanu lake on d water
Decorated with a lot of greenery and flower plants, this is the place you should be at in case you have planned to relax after a long trek. The homestay is ideal for taking a break from the hustle and bustle of Pokhara city and for swimming in the Begnas Lake. The home is right by the side of Begnas Tal, and the section of the lake that surrounds this homestay is very clean and thus makes up for a great swimming experience.
The owner Sanu lives at the property with his wife and a lovely daughter. The family is heartwarming, and the daughter is extremely adorable. As soon as she comes back from preschool, she would grab her small lifejacket and would jump in the lake, and her joy would be unparalleled. The hosts boast about their non-vegetarian cuisines, especially fish, but for vegetarians, the food was good, a bit pricey considering the portion size that they serve.
Begnas Coffee House
Cherish a good hot cup of coffee? You’ll get it here. Along with the fantastic coffee that they serve here, they also run a decent place to stay. The Begnas Coffee House is the right choice for you to stay with a family that is loving and caring. The rooms are clean, and few of them have a good view of the mountains too, the menu is small, but everything is cooked from scratch. The family has their coffee farms, and the coffee was one of the best in the region.
Rupa View Guest House
Surrounded by nature, jungle, and birds, this is a traditional Nepali family home. The place has a gorgeous terrace, and the family serves one of the best home-cooked Dal Bhat. The walks around the village and the lake are excellent, and you’ll very much love their garden. The rooms are clean and offer a nice ambiance.
Places to eat
Begnas is famous for lovely homestays and warm hosts, who would go to any extent to make your stay comfortable. They would bring the freshest vegetables to your plate, and Dal-Bhaat (Lentils & rice) cooked with much love and affection that we didn’t feel the need to go out and find a place to eat. During our three weeks of stay in Begnas, we preferred to eat at home, but during our walks around Begnas, we found these small local places to eat that we can’t resist sharing. So here we go:
Begnas Coffee House
The Begnas Coffee House is a family-run place, and the Coffee beans used in their cafe comes from their Coffee farms. The aroma of freshly ground coffee beans and the view of mountains make a perfect combination. If it is too difficult to leave the place, the family runs a small guesthouse too.
If there were a motto for this quiet little place, it would be ‘freshly baked, freshly brewed.’ Offering a tasty variety of bakery items, they make coffee from the beans and even have mastery at making handmade chocolates. The Chocolate fudge, whole wheat bread, and lemongrass tea would bring you to this place again and again.
Hotel Day Break
On a slow summer evening, when you sit out in their open seating and enjoy a good plate of snacks coupled with a refreshing beverage, you’d be happy about coming here already. The snacks were delicious, and the service was excellent.
A local’s attempt (and quite a successful one) to serve authentic coffee to tourists and visitors at the Begnas, Nira brings a charm to her cafe. While walking back from the lake to the Begnas bus stand, halfway through the cafe comes on the righthand side at the bend. You’ll be having some of the best Espresso and Lattes here.
Alex’s Restaurant, Majhikuna
Majhikuna is a hippy pocket, having restaurants and guest houses right by the lake. The section of the lake here is clean and which makes it a nice spot to swim. Many restaurants in Majhikuna have menus in Hebrew and serve authentic Israeli food. Alex’s restaurant is right by the lakeside and is an excellent location to have coffee with a view of mountains reflecting in the lake on a clear day.
Small restaurants serving homemade food
Begnas Tal has multiple little restaurants run by the local families residing there, serving fresh Daal Bhat and curries. You can always have a stroll around the region and try your luck with it. We dined at many such places, and there was never a bad experience.
Things to do
In every moment that you’re here, there is something you’re doing on your own. It’s often said that sometimes, doing nothing is the best you can do. Begnas is a perfect place to relax and pick a book, or to walk leisurely on the hills, but if you want to lean onto something, here’s what you can do:
Swim in the pristine water
Many do it, and this is something you can only do in springtime since, in winter, it’s quite chilly (the water). Few sections of the lake are exceptionally clean, one on the Majhikuna side and another side from Sanu lake on d water, shoot for dive in those corners.
Although Majhikuna is a popular spot to swim, we found Sanu Lake on d water, a better choice as the water was cleaner there. On a sunny afternoon, when Jai entered the lake, it was quite an experience as the top layer of water was warm due to bright sun, but as he peddled, the water below 1 meter was ice cold.
Hike around the hills of Begnas Lake
Surrounded by small hills, the two lakes, Begnas Lake and Rupa Kot Lake, give ample opportunities to go hiking around. Try trekking the mountain, go for a ridge walk or walk around the lake, you will find yourself in the open wilderness, chirping birds and view of snow-covered mountains. You’ll have some of the most spectacular panoramas when you hike around the lake.
Enjoy the Mud festival
Monsoon season in Nepal is the Rice-sowing time. “Ropai Jatra” or the Rice sowing festival is celebrated widely in rural villages of Nepal. Very recently, people started calling it Mud-festival.
With the arrival of monsoon, the fields become wet, which makes it perfect for sowing rice. The celebration begins with a mud race with a different set of teams. The youngsters soaked in mud, celebrating there win, and cheering up for their friends brings a zeal and a lot of fun to the local town. It was serendipitous as we didn’t plan our visit to Begnas Tal around “Ropai-Jatra.” I must say it’s an excellent trade-off for traveling in the offseason.
Looking at these pictures, I can feel the fresh air and the chirping birds, the jungle around, and morning clouds. I miss the Chai in cold mornings and the delicious local meals. But sitting some thousand kilometers away from this little heaven, I know I have a home in Begnas.