Header image courtesy of Chitradeep (Via Pixabay)
Imagine a tranquil little town that is blessed with a crystal clear lake and nestles below the snow-capped Himalayas—you have arrived at Nepal’s second-largest city, Pokhara. Playing an important role in the country’s trade routes between India and Tibet, this lakeside city also shares an ancient history with those from the great Kaski Kingdom (part of the Chaubisi Rajya) back in the 17th century.
Nowadays, visitors flock to Pokhara to hike up the Annapurna Circuit (named the tenth-highest peaks in the world), as it serves as the gateway to the mountainous treks. While this picturesque town is often used as a jumping-off point, it should come as no surprise that Pokhara also promises amazing adventures on its own. If you find yourself in town for a day, here are the things you should not miss!
There are two ways to travel to Pokhara—by a short flight or a six-hour bus ride from Kathmandu. Once you have arrived, you will notice the change of atmosphere as Pokhara exudes a more peaceful ambience. A short drive from the airport will get you to the lakeside where throngs of hotels and lodgings are scattered all around.
If you’re looking for something fancy then do check out Temple Tree Resort & Spa or Mountain Glory Forest Resort—the latter is an enclosed mountain resort only 15-minutes away from town. But, of course, there are heaps of affordable accommodations that not only offer comfortable rooms but also amazing scenic views.
Pokhara is becoming more visitor-friendly, which means that you can find lots of delightful restaurants and cafes nestled alongside the road offering a melange of cuisines. From classic Nepalese and Indian to Western and Tibetan, it seems that one day isn’t enough for restaurant-hopping.
When in town, do sample the famous Nepali Thali Set that’s made with rice, lentils, vegetables, curry (with or without meats), and pickles. Next to try is the jaw-dropping delicious Momo (minced filled dumplings), which can be found at the hidden gem MO2’s Delights. Located inside the Lakeside Bharai Chowk Street, this two-storey eatery serves a smorgasbord of momos with crowds made of foreigners and friendly locals. For vegans or vegetarians, fret not as Nepal is brimming with plant-based options.
With its splendid natural landscapes, visitors are treated for a fun day in the sun. First stop is the enchanting Phewa Lake (second largest lake in Nepal) where a canoe trip is highly recommended. Stop by the Barahi Temple that sits on a small island in the lake or hike up a short five kilometres trail next to the lake to see the World Peace Pagoda. The whimsical Shanti Stupa was built by a Japanese monk and boasts a splendid golden Buddha and the chance to gaze at the Annapurna range from up above.
Need more adventure? Pokhara is also a popular destination for thrill-seekers where they can paraglide over the pristine Phewa Lake, bungee jump, skydive, and even zip-line. For those who are not into an adrenaline rush, you can sit by the lake and marvel at the beautiful panoramic views.
Before the sun sets, you can still explore the town’s idyllic beauty on a mountain bike. From Pokhara Valley to Phewa Tal, there are heaps of cycling routes left to be explored. Elsewhere, you can also opt for bird watching activities around Pokhara, home to over 400 species of birds all around the mountainous region. With a handful of local tours offering myriad of activities, you can always switch up your agenda and choose to experience Pokhara’s nature the way you want to.
While nightlife in Pokhara is relatively different from what you can expect to find in other cities, there are still many pleasant things to do in the evening. Along the Lakeside Road, you can find an array of local shops selling a plethora of exquisite souvenirs—traditional Nepalese dress, Thangka paintings, Ghorka Knives, Nepali famous teas, singing bowls, Tibetan rugs, and jewellery. As a cold climate country, Nepal offers tons of warm clothing made from the country’s famous yak's wool. From scarves, Pashmina to shawl and ponchos, all items come in cosy fabrics and bright colours.
Elsewhere, there are no better gifts than delicious food and Pokhara is a small haven for them. If you’re into Nepal’s warm beverages, don’t forget to stop by and look for their Nepali teas (black, white, and oolong) and Himalayan coffees. Many visitors also like to hunt for Himalayan pink salt and exotic spices, such as cinnamon sticks, cloves, anise, and saffron, all organic and with modest price tags.
As the day comes to an end, you will realise that 24 hours isn’t enough to explore this heaven on earth and will long to return once you reach home. But, don’t worry, you can always repeat the things on this list or have your own new adventures in the sweet little lake town called Pokhara.