Pokhara, the second biggest city in Nepal is the tourism capital of this beautiful mountainous country. Coming from the dusty, crazy Kathmandu you will love Pokhara, awesome riverside and mountain views from lakeside cafes, nice walks, and a chilled-out vibe. Many tourists that come for trekking in Nepal make Pokhara their base. Lakeside is the center of tourism packed with accommodation options, restaurants ranging from local food, great dal baht to fancy coffee shops, and good pizza places, and agencies selling every activity available.
Located on the shores of the emerald Phewa Tal Lake you can have amazing views of the lake and the snow-capped Annapurna mountains walking through the lakeside while dining or even from your hotel room. Pokhara is about a lot more than fantastic views and great food it is one of the top adventure playgrounds in Asia. A world-famous hub for trekking, abounding with hikes ranging from one-day routes to the legendary Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp trek. The spectacular mountains have become a playground for adrenaline junkies with a massive range of adventure activities; paragliding, bungee jumping, zip-lining, white water rafting, mountain biking, and canyoning being the most popular.
How to get to Pokhara?
Kathmandu is the only international airport in Nepal so you will probably arrive here. Kathmandu and Pokhara are only 200km apart, my first time in Nepal I expected a quick bus drive between the two biggest cities in Nepal, this is not the case. The most popular road in the country takes between 6 and 8 hours to drive a little more than 200km by public transport.
- Flying is the easiest way to get from Kathmandu to Pokhara, flights take 30 minutes, depart daily and start at about $100.
- Minibuses depart from the ‘new bus station’, our trip was 7 hours and cost 500 NPR (about $5)
- Tourist buses with Greenline Tours leave Thamel daily at 7.30 am. Tickets are $25 USD, these buses aren’t necessarily any faster than cheaper public buses.
Places to Visit in Pokhara
The majority of tourists visit Pokhara on-route to trekking in the Annapurna mountains. It is definitely worth spending a couple of days here to explore the city. We did 5 multi-day treks in the region and were lucky to have time to enjoy the city in between. These were some of our favorite places to visit in Pokhara.
The World Peace Pagoda
The World Peace Pagoda or Pokhara Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist pagoda-style monument on Anadu Hill overlooking Lake Phewa Tal and the Annapurna Mountains. Getting to the Pagoda is a nice half-day excursion from Pokhara it can be reached by hiking, taxi, or a boat ride from Pokhara. There are a couple of restaurant/coffee shops where you can get food or buy snacks and water. At Elite cafe, you can even get a proper Espresso or Cappuccino.
- We walked to the Shanti Stupa, it is a 5,5 km/3,4 mi hike from Lakeside (about 90 minutes). The walking route can be found on the maps.me application.
- You can hire a rowing boat to cross Lake Phewa Tal from Lakeside in Pokhara and then still about a 45 minute walk to the pagoda. The cost of a boat trip is 700 rupees one way and 1000 return ($9).
- Walk to the World Peace Pagoda, take a boat back to Lakeside.
- The stupa can be reached by taxi from Pokhara, but you still have to walk a bit to reach the pagoda.
Mahendra Gupha and Cave of Bats
Mahendra Cave named after the Late King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev is located in Pokhara-16, batulechaur, Kaski district, close to Devi’s falls. Not amazing, a long, dark cave with lime stone deposits and a small temple at the end. Gets crowded on weekends.
Just a ten minutes walk from the Mahendra Cave is a another cave named the Bat Cave. In Nepali language (Chameri Gufa). Bats cover the dark, damp cave’s wall and the ceilings. Bool place to see many bats in a dark cave!
Sarangkot is probably the most spectacular viewpoint from Pokhara, a great spot to see the sunrise over the Annapurna and Macchapuchara mountains. Try to get there about 20 minutes before sunrise, it is a 40 minute bumpy ride by taxi from Pokhara costing about 2000 rupees.
Beautiful Lake located around 15 km away from Pokhara, quiet place, nice getaway from Pokhara, nice views, can go for a boat ride on the lake. Begnas Lake is about half hour cab ride ( 1500 rupees ) or a 1 hour 10 minute bus ride ( 55 rupees ) from Lakeside Pokhara.
This beautiful emerald lake with Lakeside on it’s banks is the heart of tourism in Pokhara. Walking on the lakeshore at sunset is beautiful. Go for a boat ride on the lake, many birds to see, paddle around the little island hosting the Tal Barahi Temple Pokhara’s most famous Hindu temple. You can paddle around the lake in the brightly painted doongas(boats) available for rent at Lakeside or hire the doonga with a boatsman. Paddling around the island takes 45 minutes to an hour. (Paying for someone to paddle is ridiculously cheap).
- 1 hour – 500 NPR
- 1 hour with boatsman – 550NPR
- Full day – 1000NPR
Waterfalls in Pokhara, located about 5km from Lakeside. Nice waterfalls won’t keep you busy for a long time. Good if you rent a scooter for a day to make a trip here, otherwise I think it is too much of a mission to get here. Entrance only 30NPR
International Mountain Museum
Interesting museum on the mountains of Nepal, the communities who live here and the mountaineers who climbed them. Displays on history, culture, geology, fauna and flora as well as famous climbs of the Himalayas. If you are a mountaineer or did some trekking in Nepal you will enjoy this museum. I liked the displays on well known climbing expeditions, the exhibitions on the impact of pollution and global warming on these mountains is an eye opener. Outside there is a 21m climbing wall. Located 4km from lakeside walking here took about 45 minutes and I paid 300 NPR for a taxi back. Located near Gharipatan city bus stop it is cheap to get here by bus, but you have to take more than one bus.
Entrance Fee 500NPR
Old Town Pokhara
Known as Purano Bazaar by the locals, the Old Town is located in the north of Pokhara, 4km from Lakeside. Interesting area to walk around, narrow street lined with red brick face old shops and houses.
Things To Do in Pokhara
We did a lot of hiking around Pokhara and since we have done all these awesome activities in other locations we decided to save a couple of dollars and just be jealous this time around. New friends we made on the trails did however do some of the activities and we are reporting their experiences.
Paragliding is one of the most popular adrenaline charged activities done from Pokhara and you can see many pilots flying among huge eagles and vultures above Lakeside everyday. Our friends from the circuit loved paragliding here and said they felt safe. I will recommend you read some TripAdvisor reviews when choosing an agency. This is an extremely popular place for paragliding for good reason; flights are cheap with tandem flights by experienced operators selling in Pokhara for about $50, the scenery is truly spectacular soaring over lakes, jungles, local villages, ancient monasteries looking at the snow capped Annapurna mountains. Flights launch from the viewpoint Sarangkot about 20 minutes drive from the town. Two types of flights are offered by many companies; a high flight with thermal currents lifting you for a spectacular flight of about 30 minutes landing close to the lake and a longer cross country flight up to an hour taking you over the valleys and close up to the surrounding mountains.
You can book a well rated paragliding experience here. Including:
- Transfer with hotel pick up & drop
- 30-minute flight with a professional pilot
- Professional photo & video
Go on a whitewater rafting adventure on the Upper Seti river. 1 and half hours of rafting bashing through class III and IV rapids. Action packed day suitable for family and children, the Company ‘Paddle Nepal’ comes highly recommended.
From Pokhara you can bungee from a 80m high tower with a 3 second free fall, the jump site is located 20 minutes drive from Pokhara and is run by Highground Adventures. From reviews people seemed happy with the activity, but there are a mixed bag of reviews online regarding service from office and transport staff. I will recommend read some reviews and discuss concerns when booking.
Zipflyer operated by HighGround Adventures claim to be the tallest, the longest and the steepest zipline in the world. With an incline of 56 degree, total length of 1.8 km and a vertical drop of 600 meters, reaching speeds up to 120kmh it is a pretty fast zipline! You can book the zipline in a combo with the bungee.
Yoga and mindfulness is very popular in this beautiful, peaceful environment. A combination of trekking, yoga and mindfulness is popular on multi day excursions. Purna Yoga & Treks runs highly recommended yoga trekking tours.
There are several yoga classes being offered in Pokhara, book a morning class for a great way to start your day!
The Annapurna Mountains offer a range of spectacular treks ranging from one day to multiple weeks and multiple altitudes up to the incredible Thorong La Pass at over 5200 meters or even some hardcore climbs over 7000m! These treks are easily reached from Pokhara and all permits and transport can easily be organised here. We used Pokhara as a base and did multiple treks from here, it was a great place to relax between trekking missions.
The Panchase trek is a fantastic trek of medium difficulty. It only takes 3 days to hike the 44km, it is great that you don’t need to organize transport to the starting point since you start walking in Pokhara from your hotel walking past the World Peace Pagoda on the way!
The Poon Hill trek is a very popular 4-day trek in the Annapurna Sanctuary that we did being based in Pokhara. The trek offers beautiful views of the sunrise over the Annapurna mountains from Poon Hill at 3210m. At this altitude, acclimatization is not really required, with little danger of altitude sickness. This trek is most commonly done from Nayapul to Ghandruk, you can reach Nayapul by bus in 2 to 3 hours from Pokhara. Many people combine this route with the Mardi Himal trek.
The Annapurna circuit trek is one of the hikes with the most spectacular and varied views we have done around the world. This amazing 15 day hike took us through spectacular scenery while trekking through every possible climate zone. We started of in tropical conditions with hot rainy days walking through forests to heavy snow and negative temperatures slowly making our way over Thorong La Pass 5200m above sea level.
Pokhara Restaurants and Cafés
– Great local food in Pokhara
The Kebab King
A small local restaurant in a side street on the south side of Lakeside with amazing Indian food and awesome chicken kebabs (skewers). We ate lunch here a couple of times, the food is cheap and delicious. I love their Dal Fry with Garlic Naan, basic, but one of my Indian favorites, the Nepali Veg Tali Set here is one of the best value meals we had in Nepal.
This vegetarian restaurant in the north of Lakeside has a huge local and Indian menu and the food is great. The Masala Dosa here is fantastic, this was my favorite food for breakfast in India, if you have never had it, don’t miss it! The Tali set and Dal Makhani was also great.
– Cafés and Coffee shops in Pokhara
Black and White Cafe
Black and White is located on the south side of Pokhara on lakeside road with a nice view over the lake, we had many coffees here and can recommend the cappuccino and double espresso. They serve good local and European food. We enjoyed their pastries; the chicken, hot dog and vegetable pastries between 50 and 80 NPR each. If you return from a trek and feel like a nice cheese burger for about 500 NPR Black and White Cafe is a great place to go.
White Rabbit Coffee
Locatated on the north side of lakeside we enjoyed the coffee at White Rabbit, they make a good Doppio and nice Cappuccino from local grown beans. You will love this place if you have a sweet tooth, we enjoyed the cheese cake and they make very fancy milk shakes and other sweet and coffee based drinks.
AM/PM Organic Cafe
A very environmental concision cafe using locally sourced ingredients from organic farms or their own garden with no chemicals & preservatives and they make a mean cup of Himalayan coffee! Want something fresh? they make great salads was awesome to get more cheese avo and olives in our food. Excellent smoothies and great baguettes. Just up a sidestreet in south lakeside.
– International cuisine in Pokhara
A great place to go in Pokhara for good Italian food located in south lakeside with a view of the lake. Cafe Concerto makes nice wood-fired pizzas, beer is not cheap in Pokhara, go to Cafe Concerto between 17:00 and 19:00 during happy hour for well priced beer.
Nice salads, good soup they sell their own freshly baked breads, can buy per slice or a whole loaf, located in south lakeside. Friendly staff, makes a nice espresso from local sourced coffee. Can pay by card.
Hotels in Lakeside Pokhara
Lakeside is the main touristy area of Pokhara it’s filled with hotels, guest houses, restaurants, bars etc. here you can find accommodation on any budget from cheap home stays to fancy spa hotels. We loved staying in the south side of lakeside with nice views of the lake, we experienced it as less busy than the north side, maybe a bit more expensive.
Budget options | Pokhara Youth Hostel | OYO 128 Hotel Dream Pokhara | Gauri Shankar backpackers hostel | OYO 11460 Hotel Romantica (we stayed here several times and stored our luggage when went hiking) |the staff were all fantastic, super friendly and helpful.
Things to pack for your Nepal Trip
Backpack – we used our normal backpack 50L and 60L.
LifeStraw – drinking water from taps while trekking and in towns is not recommended, we drank tap water for 6 weeks using our lifestraw, the bottle has a 0.2 microns filter making water safe for drinking. Saved us a lot of money and it is great for the environment not to buy disposable plastic bottles.
Smartphone – all routes we hiked were on the Maps.me navigation app on your phone.
Headlamp – all tea houses we stayed had electricity. it was not always working though.
Hiking socks – merino wool socks are our secret weapon when hiking! they work great; last long, don’t absorb odors, protect your feet from blister etc. You can wear these amazing socks for a couple of long hiking days without washing or the smell killing someone – well that is our experience.
Hiking poles – there are some pretty steep ups and downs trekking in the area, the poles will be quite handy especially on a rainy day.
Buff – we use it mainly for sun protection instead of putting sunscreen all over our faces.
Hiking towel – most of the guesthouses if not all of them have hot shower.
Waterproof pouch for documents, money, phone etc.
Kindle – Always take Kindle Paperwhite with on hikes, great to spend a whole day in bed reading while it is snowing outside on acclimatization days! If you’re a owner of Kindle by joining Kindle unlimited program by Amazon you’ll get an access to hundreds of thousands of e-books and audio books.
GoPro HERO7 amazed by the photo and video quality of this action cam, not carrying a DSLR everywhere anymore. Majority of photos and videos in Nepal taken with our GoPro.
Garmin Fenix 5X thanks to this watch we could add elevation profiles, distances, maps etc. to our posts, check out our Nepal hiking posts with exact elevation, maps and distance stats of everyday we walked.
Annapurna trekking map (make sure to buy an updated version) or Poon Hill trek map, we had the first one and it was quite handy on the trek, we bought it in Pokhara, there are a couple of shops in Lakeside with many trekking maps and guide books.
About Author – Campbell
The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.
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