If there were mirrors for the skies to look into, this is where you’d see them gazing at themselves. Pokhara, the city of crystal water bodies, famous for its numerous lakes (most notably the gorgeous Phewa Lake), breathtaking sunsets, and overall heart-throbbing landscaping, is Nepal’s second-largest city.
How to reach
Land: Pokhara is 200 KM west of the national capital of Kathmandu, and about 8 hours of a journey (on a lucky day), given the terrain, there is a choice between local transport buses or cabs. There are good options for AC buses, or as the locals say, Tourist buses from Kathmandu. The one-way ticket from Kathmandu to Pokhara should cost a reasonable 1400 NPR (~12 $), and cab fares are subjective to your negotiation skills, try it the hard bargain style to get the best deal.
Air: There are 6-7 daily direct flights by Yeti Airlines and Budhha Air from Kathmandu to Pokhara. The flight time is 50 minutes, and the prices are reasonable. If you are short on time and want to skip the travel time, these flights are a huge time saver. For international travelers, Kathmandu has good connectivity, with daily flights, from Dubai, New Delhi, and from there on, you can arrive easily to Pokhara.
Getting around Pokhara
When you are in Pokhara, you have to admittedly accept that walking is the best way to get around the city with a magnificent view at every step. Still, if you are carrying luggage, it’s best to hire a taxi, do remember the bargain mantra, generally speaking, NPR 200 for a 2 KM ride is somewhat reasonable.
But here in Pokhara, there are more exciting ways to move around. Near the city center, around the Phewa Lake, is downtown Phewa Market, where scooters and bikes are available for rentals. You can hop on to one for as much as 1000 NPR/ day, but in peak season, these prices could go double.
Kathmandu Airport and many checkpoints through land routes offer Visa on arrival, preferably accepting visa fee in US$ terms, make sure you carry Passport and photos for the visa process. The Indian travelers don’t require a Visa but make sure to bring valid ID proofs, photos, and Passport (if any) along. Read our blog to know complete information on “How to obtain Visa for Nepal.”
If you fall in love with this city and would like to extend your tourist visa, you don’t have to travel to Kathmandu; you can visit the immigration office in Pokhara located at Damside Road.
Best time to visit Pokhara
Pokhara is best enjoyed in the months of October-November when you have a clear view of Annapurna ranges and Mount Fishtail, and trekkers can enjoy their hikes and treks to the higher mountains (especially the Annapurna Base Camp trek). The only downside which comes with peak season is, thousands of trekkers would head towards ABC (Annapurna Base Camp), and the famous Annapurna Circuit trek and pre-booking the tea houses would become a necessity. Any later then December could be difficult, as weather conditions are more challenging.
With the onset of Spring-Summer in the region, during March-April, life begins to come on track once again with the bloom season. It gives way to spectacular and colorful bounties to those who visit the city of Pokhara during this time of the year.
Caution: Peaks of the mountains that surround Pokhara rise a rapid elevation in short distances, as such precipitation levels are incredibly high during the monsoons (July-September), trekkers should be prepared for landslides and road blockages during this time.
Where to stay in Pokhara
Now here’s the thing, Pokhara is a massive tourist hub. In fact, the whole development near the lakeside is tourist-centric, while the main town of Pokhara is situated little off the lake. So if one thing you are going to have in abundance in this beautiful town is, it’s hotels, lodges, hostels, and some perfect boutique places to stay.
Here are a few places that we recommend:
1. Gaurishankar Backpackers Hostel
A perfect budget travel option, this beautiful hostel boasts of its open spaces and a garden in the middle, get to live in the center of the town for private rooms priced as low as NPR 1000/ night. There is a small restaurant within the hostel, and the reception staff was attentive and friendly.
There is an exchange corner for trekkers at Gaurishankar Backpackers Hostel, and people donate their gear and equipment for fellow trekkers so that it remains a sustainable choice for all, promote upcycling as well as reduces the hassle of carrying personal gear everywhere in the hills.
2. Hotel Middle Path & Spa:
Nestled very mindfully just 500 meters from the center of Phewa Lake, this boutique stay has more than a bed to offer. You get to relax on the rooftop with a view of mountains on a clear day and can work out in their gym and Yoga studio. There’s a swimming pool right by the restaurant, and with the relaxing experience of the spa, life sure would seem like a great gift to count upon. You can get a private room here for as low as 4000 NPR.
3. Hostel Nepal Pokhara
This comparatively new hostel has impressive staff, mind-blowing interiors, and it’s in the city center. We loved staying at the rooftops where they have a huge screen to watch matches and movies on nights, and there is a homely vibe here. Drinking water is free, and there is a small cafeteria on the rooftop.
4. Mingtang Garden Cottage
You’d love to go here any day. Now imagine, having a chic, Nepali cottage built with cobblestones and beautiful landscaping, renovated from a 30-year-old Nepali property-this one’s famous for its large terrace and a cycling track right in the vicinity. The incredible thing is that you can get a private room here, in solidarity, for as low as 5000 NPR. And by the way, it’s a 13-minute walk to the Phewa lake from here.
5. Zostel Pokhara
Zostel in Pokhara, of course, is beautiful, it’s just a little away from the city center, about 2 KMs further north of the Phewa lake, which is good in a way for travelers who wish to stay in a little solace. It’s a very calm ambiance that they have managed to keep up well, a good option overall. There’s a restaurant in the hostel, but if you want to have a meal out in the city, you have to travel at least 2 KMs to reach to the city center.
6. Temple Tree Resort
Himalayan architecture crafted around beautiful green gardens, gorgeous bougainvillea flowers, and a super size pool right in the middle of it. Grab a book and relax at the hammocks under the shades of huge trees, or take a splash in the pool to escape the summer heat. The temple tree resort is next to the Phewa Lake, hardly a few meters distance, and would thus cost you at least 14000 NPR, for their over the top amenities and chic private rooms.
What to see around
1. Phewa Lake
You enter the walkway of Phewa lake, and you know you have opted for a gorgeous treat. The lake reflecting the glimpse of beautiful mountains from the background is open for boating, and if it’s a clear sky, sunsets from the lake are an experience altogether. You can choose to relax and enjoy a drink with snacks, from the numerous lake facing cafes.
2. The Shanti Stupa
A famous dome-shaped structure at the top of one of the hills, this sight is blessed with some otherworldly views, you can see the entire of Pokhara from here and the Phewa lake too.
3. Tal Barahi Temple
Also known as Lake temple, it is a two-storeyed pagoda temple located on an island in the south of Phewa lake. If that doesn’t sound exciting, we wonder what will. This one is covered in the thick wilderness and looks like a charm from inside out.
4. Devi’s Waterfall:
What is interesting about this site is that it’s an underground waterfall and immensely popular among tourists, so if any day you want to go for touristy sightseeing, you know where to head to. Very close to this waterfall is Gupteshwor Mahadev cave, which is a temple popularly revered by Hindus.
A marvel in these hills, this majestic sightseeing point is one we relished the most. This place is located at an altitude of 1600 meters, and has the most amazing views in all of Pokhara, no debate on that; you may even stay here for a night or two. There is a small entrance fee of NPR 60 in Sarangkot, which would include the entrance fees to Sarangkot viewpoint too. I would recommend going there early to see the sky changing colors at sunrise. After watching the sunset, the previous morning, we decided to stay at Sarangkot for the next three nights.
Not to be missed cafes in Pokhara
Nepali cuisine is pretty excellent, with your regular rice and lentils taking a simple form and authentic Newari flavors satiating you to the fullest.
1. Nepali Kitchen
We loved our visits to Nepali Kitchen, just a few minutes’ walk from Gaurishankar Backpacker Hostel, with its amazing variety to choose from as well as freshly cooked meals, so you are eating only seasonal, fresh veggies most times. The owner is a very welcoming person.
It was an experience to sit traditionally, legs crossed, and on the floor with a small table on which each one of us was supposed to eat.
2. Fresh Elements
Fresh Elements is a good choice to dine and wine, with a very classic wooden inspired ambiance and fairy lights in the evenings. Here you get amazingly fresh salads, good wine, and extraordinary food service. Having a meal out on the open rooftop is just going to be one other reason to be here.
3. Roadhouse Pokhara
The cafe is a famed name you must be aware of by now if you’re a frequent traveler. Here in Pokhara, we happened to visit this restaurant chain once again, after a very recent visit to their Thamel counterparts. The interiors are great, there’s a rustic touch to it, and the seating area is more extensive than it’s Thamel counterpart. If you want a break from Daal-Bhat and Asian cuisine, come here for a fabulous wood-burned pizza with other varieties of western food and a good variety of drinks to accompany.
4. Juicery Cafe
Head to this cafe for the freshest cold-pressed juices in the whole of Pokhara. The place is best for breakfast or brunch. The smoothies and the juices would bring you to this place again and again. The cafe has a beautiful outdoor seating area with sun-umbrellas and gravel floor (there is no floor, only gravels). The cafe has a big menu catering Vegan and Vegetarian dishes, and at the backside, there is a common area facing the lake, where you can sit cross-legged, relax and meet fellow travelers.
5. Jiva Cafe and Spa
Why settle just for food when you can spoil yourself with some soothing massages as well. This place surrounded by a garden is ultimate in terms of their taste palate and super relaxing massages. Jiva Cafe and Spa is one secret kind of destination, which could also be hard to locate for some. So, choose between sleeping under a huge garden tree, lay reading on the sunbeds, or just lazing around during a massage. Oh, did we mention their smoothies are quite up to the mark?
6. Olive Cafe
How awesome is it when with good food, you get to have a good cityscape in front of you? Well, it works like a therapy for me to sit by the first-floor windows of Olive cafe in the main market area, choose from their wide variety of Italian, Asian and Middle- Eastern cuisines, and cherish the city view all this time.
7. Krazy Gecko
Then you have an amazing natural setup, Krazy Gecko, amusing as much as the name itself, this place is a beautiful setup. Mostly natural trees covering every section of it, there are hammocks and small huts here. We took a book and ended up staying long after finishing breakfast. There were some friendly cats, and we completely loved the chill vibe. It’s halfway on the route to Zostel, about a KM north to the Phewa Lake. Though famous for burgers, their french fries and taco bowl is a must-try too.
Experience the city
Treks around Pokhara:
Being the base for all trekkers who wish to do numerous treks, Pokhara is filled with adventures of all kinds. Few famous treks that start from Pokhara are ABC (Annapurna Base Camp), Annapurna Circuit, Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek, Mardi Himal Trek, Dhampus Village Trek, Upper Mustang Trek, and various others.
If you are planning to take it slow and enjoy the vibe of the city, you can go for a bicycle ride in the nearby hills or boat through the Phewa lake.
Pokhara- The paragliding hub of Nepal
If you’re into more extreme adventures, you can opt to fly over the Phewa lake with hundred other colorful paragliders. Pokhara has Nepal’s only paragliding spot at Sarangkot, and the pilots boast about their flying experience and the mid-air Acros if you prefer.
And who doesn’t like camping, bonfires, and forest runs, well, Pokhara is just the town to do that too.
(We stayed in Pokhara for ten days during June, it also included three days visit to Sarangkot. During this time, the rush is low, and prices are way more economical, so if you do plan to travel during peak months of September-November, rates mentioned in the blog could differ from actual prices due to the seasonal boom.)