Pokhara is a remarkable place of natural beauty. Situated at an altitude of 827m from the sea level and 200km west of Kathmandu valley, the city is known as a center of adventure. The enchanting city with a population of around 95,000 has several beautiful lakes and offers stunning panaromic views of Himalayan peaks. The serenity of lakes and the magnificence of the Himalayas rising behind them create an ambience of peace and magic. So today the city has not only become the starting point for most popular trekking and rafting destinations but also a place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Pokhara is part of a once vibrant trade route extending between India and Tibet. To this day, mule trains can be seen camped on the outskirts of the town, bringing goods to trade from remote regions of the Himalaya. This is the land of Magars and Gurungs, hardworking farmers and valorous warriors who have earned worldwide fame as Gurkha soldiers. The Thakalis, another important ethnic group here, are known for their entrepreneurship.
The climate of Pokhara is slightly warmer than Kathmandu with daytime temperature hovering around 15 degrees Celsius in winter and 35 degrees in summer. The monsoon season which lasts from mid-June to mid-September is very wet; in fact Pokhara records the highest rainfall in the country. Best time to visit is between October and April.
The activities of foreign visitors to Pokhara focus around two districts known as Damside and Lakeside (or Pardi and Baidam, in Nepali, respectively). These two areas, with their strips of hotels and restaurants, are a few kilometers south-west of the main Pokhara bazaar.
Places in Pokhara to visit
Phewa Tal (Lake)
Phewa lake, the second largest lake in the kingdom, roughly measuring 1.5 km by 4 km, is the center of all attractions in Pokhara. The enchanting lake is an idyllic playground. Brightly painted wooden boats and sailboats can be rented on reasonable cost around lakeside.
The lake is neither deep (roughly 47 meters at most) nor particulary clean, but the water is warm and swimming is pleasant if you don't think about the probable pollution. The eastern shoreline of the lake, popularly known as Lakeside or Baidam, consists of seemingly endless strip of lodges, restaurants, bookshops and souvenir shops. One of the fascinating parts of lakeside is the splendid view of the mountains, especially when the still water reflects the peaks, creating a double image.
Begnas lake and Rupa lake
The lakes are located about 15km from Pokhara at the end of a road that turns north from the highway to Kathmandu. Divided by the forested hillock called Panchabhaiya Danda, the lakes offer the perfect nature retreat because of their relative seclusion. Splendid boating and fishing can be done here.
This is the most important religious monument in Pokhara. Built almost in the middle of Phewa lake, the two storied pagoda is dedicated to the boar manifestation of Ajima, the protectress deity representing the female force Shakti. Devotees can be seen, especially on Saturdays, carrying male animals and fowl across the lake to be sacrificed to the deity.
World Peace Pagoda
The pagoda is a massive Buddhist stupa and is situated on top of a hill on the southern shore of Phewa lake. Besides being an impressive sight in itself, the shrine is a great vantage point which offers spectacular views of the Annapurna range and Pokhara city. You can get there by crossing the lake by boat and then hiking up the hill.
Flowing right through the city, the boisterous river runs completely underground at places. Amazingly, at certain points the river appears hardly two meters wide. But its depth is quite beyond imagination - over 20 meters! Mahendra Pul, a small bridge near the old Mission Hospital, provides a perfect view of the river's dreadful rush and the deep gorge made by its powerful flow.
Locally known as Patale Chhango (Hell's Fall), Devi's fall (also known as Devin's or David's) is an awesome waterfall lying about 2 km south-west of Pokhara airport on the highway to Tansen. An interesting modern legend says that a foreigner named David was skinnydipping in the Pardi Khola (river) when the floodgates of the dam were opened, sweeping him into an underground passage beneath the fall, never to be seen again.
Gupteswar Gupha, a sacred cave, lies 2 km from Pokhara airport on the Siddhartha Highway leading southwest from the city. The entrance is right across from Devi's Fall and the cave is almost 3 km long. It has some big hall-size rooms and some passages where you have to crawl on all fours. This cave holds special value for Hindus since a phallic symbol of Lord Shiva is preserved here in the condition it was discovered. An entrance fee of Rs. 5 is charged and taking pictures inside the cave is prohibited.
Mahendra Gufa, locally called Chamero Odhaar ("House of Bats"), is the large limestone cave. Shepherd boys are said to have discovered it around 1950. A two hour walk to the north of Pokhara, it is best to bring your own torch to see the stalactites and stalagmites, although most of them have been carted out by souvenir hunters.
The Old Bazaar
Pokhara's traditional bazaar is colorful and so are its ethnically diverse traders. In its temples and monuments can be seen ties to the Newar architecture of the Kathmandu Valley. Located about 4 km from Lakeside, the market's original charm is alive and well.
Bindhyabasini temple is the center of religious activity in the old bazaar. It is dedicated to goddess Bhagwati, yet another manifestation of shakti. Worshippers flock here to perform sacrifices, and especially on Saturdays the parklike grounds take on a festive fair.
Pokhara Museum, located between the airport and Mahendra Pul, reflects the ethnic mosaic of western Nepal. The lifestyles and history of ethnic groups such as the Gurung, Thakali and the Tharu are attractively displayed. Open daily, except Tuesdays and holidays, from 10 am to 4 pm. Entrance fee is Rs. 5 and there is an extra Rs. 10 for cameras (Tel: 0612041 3).
Annapurna Museum, also known as the Natural History Museum, is located at Prithvi Narayan Campus east of the old bazaar. Managed by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), the museum has an exceptional collection of butterflies, insects, birds, and models of wildlife as well as samples of various precious and semi-precious stones and volcanic rocks. Open daily, except Saturdays and holidays, from 9 am to 4 pm. Entrance is free (Tel: 061-21102).
International Mountain Museum
The International Mountain Museum, a project of Nepal Mountaineering Association, is the first of its kind in the world. The museum seeks to present geography, ecology and culture of world mountains, in addition to exhibiting mountaineering history and methods. The museum is situated on a 6-hectare site in scenic Pokhara city, located 200 km west of Kathmandu. Appeal For Your Support NMA appeals to all climbers, mountain lovers, mountaineering associations, federations, and alpine clubs, to extend their generous support in cash or kind towards the International Mountain Museum.
The magnificent Annapurna panorama that's visible on the northern skyline of Pokhara is quite incredible. The main peaks are Annapurna I to IV and the beautiful Machhapuchhare (or Fishtail Mountaian, so named after its twin peaks). Besides these, you can also see the Himchuli, Varahashikhar, Gangapurna and other peaks. The himal mountains will probably be hidden in the clouds between April and September. A nice evening on the banks of Fewa Lake with the mountain range as the backdrop is what Pokhara is really about!
Nightlife and Entertainment
There is not much of a nightlife in Pokhara other than dining. The town shuts down by about 10:30 in the evening. Until you can hang out some of the bars and pubs that are becoming trendy in the area. Fishtail Lodge puts up an hour long nightly Nepali cultural show with dances and such.
Pokhara is the starting and ending point for many of the popular trekking routes in Nepal. Longer treks (one to three week long) such as the Jomsom trek, Annapurna Circuit, and Annapurna Sanctuary begin here. Check a book on Nepal trekking for more details on this. Otherwise, you can also visit this site Pilgrims Book House for information on trekking books of Nepal.
For those with less time, Pokhara also provides shorter (one to seven days) more leisurely treks around the neighboring hills and villages. The popular ones are:
Ghachowk Trek: two days, a circuit through Lhachowk to Ghachowk and down to Batulechaur, north of Pokhara, close up view of Fishtail mountain.
Naudanda Trek: two days, to Naudanda from Suikhet and then back through Kaski, west of Pokhara.
Ghorepani Circuit: five to seven days long, upto the Gurung village of Ghandruk village, great views of the Annapurna range, north-west of Pokhara.
Kahun Danda: day trip, north east of Pokhara, 1560m altitude.
Sarangkot: day trip, great view of the mountain range including Dhaulagiri, north of Fewa Lake, 1592m altitude.