Pokhara Destination Guide
Pokhara and its surroundings are a good stopover for travellers to Nepal. With its lovely lake and serene surroundings, Pokhara is just the kind of restful place trekkers need before embarking on a challenging trek in the Himalayas. On a good day you can see as far as the Annapurna range.
Pokhara itself is a quiet little place and there isn't much to do. This solitude and lack of activity is exactly what makes it wonderful. Of late, though, even Pokhara has succumbed to the demand for tourism infrastructure and construction on a number of buildings has begun. The upside is that you will have more Pokhara hotel options than before, when most visitors had to stay at a resort at Lake Phewa.
At night in Pokhara Lake Phewa glistens in the moonlight, while the mornings are dominated by views of the sun glinting off the snow-capped peaks of the mountains nearby.
Our Pokhara destination guide below will give you an idea of the main attractions in and around town. A perfect way to see them is by taking a local tour in Pokhara. You can also take a look at some helpful information for your travels in Nepal. You should also check out some of the exciting things to see and do in other great Asian destinations such as India, Pakistan and China.
Things to see & do in Pokhara
One thing that every visitor does on their trip is to rent a boat and row out to the temple that sits on an island on the lake. Incidentally, birds are sacrificed at the altar here sometimes, so check if this is happening before you enter in case you are squeamish.
Another good trip is to the Mahendra Cave, which some say was the home of a female demon called Nidhini, infamous for devouring cattle and humans. The Peace Pagoda on top of the hill on the other side of the lake is worth visiting. The climb is a bit of an effort but well worth it for the gorgeous views it offers of the mountain and Pokhara.
In case you don't intend to do a long Himalayan trek then you may enjoy a single-day trek to the village Sarangkot. The trek lasts about two hours and has some stunning vistas en route. You will get to see so much more of the mountains than you would by just staying put around the town of Pokhara.
On the other side you can gaze out onto the resorts on Lake Phewa. There are some good lodges which are comfortable and clean, but they sometimes run out of water, so be warned.
The single biggest attraction at Pokhara is the stunning view of the Annapurna mountain range. As the range stretches out before you, you can see Annapurna2, Annapurna 4, Annapurna 3, Machapuchare or fish tail mountain, Hiunchuli, Annapurna 1, South Annapurna and Dhaulagiri. The mountain Machapuchare is considered holy and hasn't been climbed. It is right at the centre of the range and is directly in front of you as you look out from Pokhara.
Days begin early in Pokhara and the locals are busy with their daily chores before most city dwellers have even woken up. But the breathtaking views on an early morning in the mountains are enough to make an early bird of any traveller. The Machapuchare is especially awe inspiring.
As you go north, you will get to a tiny two-tiered shrine called the Bhimsen Temple. This 200-year-old structure is dedicated to the local Newari god of commerce and trade and is adorned with erotic carvings. The shops in the square nearby sell ceramics and baskets.
Built during the 17th century, this temple is consecrated to Durga (an incarnation of goddess Parvati), the goddess of war. Devotees worship the saligram or ammonite fossil placed here in her name.
These falls are the place where the Pardi Khola goes underground. As the water gushes down, the sound can be deafening but nevertheless awe inspiring. Sadly, the unsightly concrete walkways take away from the beauty. The falls are actually named after a Swiss tourist called David who drowned here along with his girlfriend when he fell into the sinkhole.
Over time the name was corrupted and became known as Devi's Falls instead of David's Falls. To reach the falls, head southwest of the airport for around 2km on the route to Butwal. The falls are just short of Tashi Ling Tibetan Village.
A giant stalagmite within the Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave is honoured as a Shiva lingam and the devout flock here to pray. Entry tickets allow you to enter the temple. For some extra money you can also obtain entry to the tunnel behind, which comes out at a wet cavern right behind the gushing Devi's Falls. Once inside the cave, look up at the ceiling and you will see detritus and branches in cracks in the rock. These have actually been pushed up there by flood waters that fill the cave during the monsoon.
The Gurkha regiment has its very own museum showcasing the valour and historic moments in the years since the regiment was first founded. The museum is close to the KI Singh Bridge at a new building north of Mahendra Pul.
The Himalayas are what bring most people to Nepal, and Pokhara is easily one of the most ideal places to get up close and personal with the greatest range in the world. The peaks tower over you and the Annapurna range is an ever-present sentinel for the town of Pokhara and the lake nearby. The tall mountains range from 8091m (Annapurna 1) to 6441m (Hiunchuli), with other peaks stacking up at heights in between (the 6997 m high Machhapuchhare, the 7525 m high Annapurna 4 and the 7555 m high Annapurna 3).
You may have been to all kinds of museums, but how about one dedicated to the mountains? This museum of the mountains honours the mountains in Nepal as well as the great men and women who tried to conquer these giants. Memorabilia from several treks such as camping and trekking gear as well as showcases of culture, history and even the flora and fauna of the mountains fill the museum. A taxi ride to and from the lake to the museum (which is just south of the airfield close to the Himalaya Eye Hospital) will cost about Rs400.
To the east of the river Seti is the big Karma Dubgyu Chokhorling Monastery. The monastery is at a vantage point for wonderful views of the surrounding region. Inside the central prayer hall is a golden statue of the Buddha in his historical form called Sakyamuni. There are several statues of Buddhist icons in the gardens outside as well.
While many people arrive in Pokhara with lofty goals of long Himalayan treks, for those who aren't up for that much of a challenge there are lots of lighter and shorter treks possible. The walk to Sarangkot is worthwhile, and the four hours spent hiking get you to a wonderful viewpoint where you can see the Phewa Lake, the Annapurnas, the Seti River and even the Hyangza village. If you want to try an overnight trek, opt for the trip to Naudanda and Ghachowk. En route you will pass Hyangza and once at Naudanda you will have great views of both peaks of Machhapuchhre.
The 6997 m high fishtail mountain or Mt Machhapuchhare is ironically not one of the tallest mountains in the Annapurna Range. It appears to dominate the skyline due to its proximity to Pokhara and seems much taller than it is. The second peak that has resulted in its name can be seen tucked away behind the taller peak if you do a two day trek on the Jomsom route.
The Natural History museum of Pokhara has well preserved animal specimens of species found in the region. There are some rather odd-looking concrete likenesses too, which seem out of place.
The Newari houses near the Nala Mukh intersection are worth visiting. Their distinctive brickwork and ornately carved windows made from wood are a photographer's delight.
West of Pokhara is the vast expanse of Nepal's second biggest lake, Phewa Tal. When the waters are still and the sky is clear, a perfect mirror image of the Annapurna mountains can be seen on the tal.
The waters of the lake deeper inside are clear and clean, and the forests running along the southern edge of the lake make a lovely home for stark white egrets. To truly appreciate the lake, hire a boat and row out away from shore. Another option is to cycle around the perimeter or just walk up to the Peace Pagoda with its one of a kind view.
Close to the town is a huge canyon called the Phusre Khola Gorge. The best views are from the Phewa Power House. You can get here by taking the small country road off from the Butwal Highway, to the south of Pardi Birauta Chowk (close to a tiny bridge). The townspeople visit the area in the afternoon to see aircraft do unusual manoeuvres as they set themselves down on the short airstrip at Pokhara.
The regional museum in Pokhara is filled with historical and cultural artefacts and a visit here takes visitors through the beliefs of the people down the ages. An interesting section is the one on mystic shamans who were greatly revered by early inhabitants. If you intend taking pictures or videos you will be charged extra. The museum shuts an hour earlier in winter except for Fridays.
Gazing upon the Annapurna Range from Sarangkot is nothing short of a spiritual experience for many people. The Himalayas tower majestically on the horizon with the 8167 m high Dhaulagiri to the west and the Annapurna 2 and Machhapuchhare to the east.
The village at Sarangkot is under the ridge, so for the best views, walk up the concrete stairs to the viewpoint in the hill fort or kot. This fort is a Nepal army fortification but visitors are allowed to take photographs. Just don't try and take shots of the soldiers - that could get you in serious trouble. The ruins of the Kasikot Fort are a scenic hour long trek away from Sarangkot to the west. Since you will be on the ridge road, the views are breathtaking.
The World Peace Stupa has been constructed at the top of a hill that sits beautifully above the Phewa Tal and affords unique views of the area. To get to the stupa, hire a row boat and get across the lake. Then walk up the track to the site or via the road near Devi's Falls. Either way, keep an eye out for leeches - wear socks and tuck your jeans or trousers into them to avoid a nasty experience.