In terms of population, Pokhara is the second largest city in Nepal. Pokhara is also known as the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, so it’s a place where many trekkers will be staying before & after their trek. Although it’s one of the biggest cities in Nepal, it doesn’t feel as crowded as Kathmandu, which is nice. This is probably because in terms of km2, it’s bigger than Kathmandu. In Pokhara you will find the city life and nature very close together, which is something many travellers appreciate.
I’ll give you a top things to do and see in Pokhara, so you will get the most out of your stay in this beautiful city.
Pokhara is situated next to a beautiful fresh water lake: Phewa Lake. This is one of the top places to visit in Pokhara: it’s a peaceful place to just sit back and relax. There are several restaurants in the city with a lake view which are worth checking out. Plus there a few activities to do on and around the lake. For example hire a boat to visit Tal Barahi Temple, which is situated on a little island in the middle of the lake. Or you can do a paragliding tandem flight, taking off from Sarangkot Hill and enjoy the gorgeous Pokhara views.
iPhone quality pic, since I seem to have lost an SD card / map with some of my high quality photos of Nepal 🙁
Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa)
In Pokhara, on the other side of the lake on Ananda Hill, you can find the Shanti Stupa. It’s also known as one of the World Peace Pagodas. There’s one more in Nepal (in Lumbini), and more than 80 in total all over the world. The Shanti Stupa is a big Stupa which was constructed by Buddhist monks. When you finally reach the top of the hill, you will be treated with an amazing view over the city of Pokhara, as well as the Annapurna range. The Stupa itself is bright white, with a golden Buddha statue at the top of the stairs. This is definitely one of the places to visit in Pokhara.
There are two ways of getting to the Peace Pagoda in Pokhara. You either take a row boat (row yourself or hire a rower with it) and cross the lake like that. Or you take a taxi or minivan which takes you over land to the other side of the lake. How I did it: To get there, I took a taxi to the beginning of the incline and walked the last bit up. The way down I decided to walk all the way back to the hostel. That’s about a 2 hour hike, but I loved it.
Cycling the valley of Pokhara
Pokhara Valley is a beautiful place to explore by push bike. When you are a bit of a cyclist, you can opt for one of the more difficult mountainbike rides which will take you up to 6 hours. For example the Royal Trek route. This is the trek Prince Charles of the UK did, back in the eighties. You will cycle through small vilages, rice fields and will be amazed by breathtaking views over the Annapurna Massif and its 7000m high Fish Tail mountain. No worries, if you not that much of a cyclist, it’s also possible to rent a bike and just go explore by yourself, without a guide.
Can’t say this enough: when in Nepal, do a trek. A lot of treks leave from or near Pokhara, so it’s the ideal starting point for an awesome hiking experience. There are a lot of travel agencies in Pokhara where you can book a trek, but some hostels offer the service as well. There are many different treks to choose from. I did the Poon Hill Trek, which is 4 or 5 days. You can also go for a more advanced trek, for example Annapurna Circuit or Annapurna Base Camp.
Keep in mind: If you want to do the Everest Base Camp trek, you have to fly from Kathmandu to Lukla. There’s no direct connection between Pokhara and Lukla, so no need to go to Pokhara first.
Also important: make sure to know the best time to travel to Nepal, especially when you want to do a trek.
International Mountain Museum
While you’re in Nepal, you might as well learn a thing or two about mountaineering and the Himalayas in general, right? The International Mountain Museum is definitely one of the places to visit in Pokhara, if you ask me. It’s not only about the history of climbing the Everest and Annapurna, but also about the clean-up missions which made them retrieve an insane amount of waste from the mountain. They also try to teach you something about the dangers of climate change, and how the Nepali people deal with those problems.
I wish I could show you some photos, but those are unfortunately on the missing SD card. I do still have the ticket, so that’s something :).
(Free) Meditation in Pokhara
I don’t know if it’s still the case, but when I was there, there was a “free meditation at 11am” sign outside on the street, in the same street as my hostel (The North Face Inn). I ended up walking passed it quite a few times before I had the balls to actually go in and see what it was like. It was great! They do a different kind of meditation every single day, and I did regular meditation and dance meditation. Especially the latter is fun and definitely worth a try, if you’re into those things of course.