Pokhara is Nepal’s not so secret holiday getaway spot for Nepali’s and international tourists and there’s good reason for that. Pokhara’s has the best all year round climate in Nepal with temperatures reaching no lower than 15°C on a winter’s day, while maximum temperatures can reach 30° C.
Pokhara is located some seven hour’s drive west of the capital, Kathmandu or a quick but stunning 22-minute flight where views of the Himalaya are awe-inspiring. Once you arrive in Pokhara, life will begin to mellow out and you’ll notice a relaxed vibe giving the complete opposite feel of being in Kathmandu.
With mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and treks, Pokhara has become the adventure capital of Nepal. Here are the best things to do in Pokhara, including information on how to get to Pokhara from Kathmandu.
Best Things to do in Pokhara, Nepal
1. Lake Phewa
Lake Phewa, Fewa or Fewa Lake is the one and only lake in Pokhara and is quite magnificent. Lake Phewa is the main attraction in Pokhara as the city wraps around it grassy shores for as far as the eye can see and one of the best things to see in Pokhara.
This lake is known for having reflections of the Himalaya upon its surface including the sacred peak of Machapuchare, and neighboring peaks such as Annapurna. It’s also one of the busiest places to visit in Pokhara and remains that way until sundown. Daily, thousands of pilgrims take colorful wooden boats to the Phewa Tal Temple situated a few hundred meters off-shore.
Getting to the World Peace Pagoda often requires the hiring of a boat or a doonga and rower to cross the calm waters to the trailhead that leads up Ananda Hill taking usually 30 to 40 minutes each way. Getting to the trailhead is the easy part as there are hundreds of boats available for hire but after the steep hike and time spent at the World Peace Pagoda, there’s a good chance your rower and boat have long set course for the other side of the lake. Not to worry as there is the odd Nepali waiting for tourists at the shore or if not, sit back at a local lakeside restaurant and have a cold beer. More on the World Peace Pagoda later.
Lake Phewa is also the most photographed site in Pokhara, as boats not in use line the shores all while glorious peaks fill the skies in almost every direction. Sunrise is the best time to get the camera out especially if it’s a clear morning when the alpenglow hits the peaks of the Himalaya. Make sure to read up on other Nepal hikes!
2. Phewa Tal Temple
Phewa Tal Temple or Varahi Mandir Temple is one of the smallest temples in Pokhara, but one of the most fun to get to! This temple requires the use of a boat to get to and costs 50 Nepalese rupees for a return trip. Located about 300 meters off the shore of Lake Phewa, the Varahi Mandir Temple is sacred to the Hindu and celebrates the god, Vishnu; the protector of the universe. Visiting this temple is one of the best things to do in Pokhara.
The Varahi Mandir Temple is insanely busy with a constant queue of boats lining up to dock on the little island so if you are keen on checking it out, get down to dock at Lakeside Pokhara just after sunrise to avoid the thousands that come here each day.
Once on the island, there isn’t anything to do apart from pay respects to Vishnu within the temple. By midday and late afternoon, moving around the lakefront can be a challenge as hundreds if not thousands of Hindu pilgrims from Kathmandu even India come to visit this little island and it’s an amazing thing to see in Nepal.
3. Davi’s Fall
The water from Lake Phewa has to go somewhere and Davi’s Fall is the place! Only 10 minutes’ drive from Lakeside, Davi’s Fall is a bit like the Seti River Gorge but instead this waterfall is underground and is a perfect hangout spot during Pokhara’s humid days.
For a little side adventure, put Davi’s Fall and the World Peace Pagoda on the same list as the pagoda can be accessed without having to do the hour long trek, plus it’s only 20 rupees to enter.
4. World Peace Pagoda
The World Peace Pagoda might be the best thing to in Pokhara, but getting there is a classic Nepali challenge. The challenge usually only involves a trek, but it’s well worth it.
At Lake Phewa, were the doonga or wooden boats are docked, you’ll need to hire a boat with a rower and row on over to the other side of the lake to the start of a steep trail. To hire a boat costs 500 rupees one way but feel free to haggle for a price, 350 rupees is ideal for a one-way trip.
Sitting at a nice 967 meters above the city of Pokhara is the World Peace Pagoda. To take the hard, but more beautiful way up you’ll need to be fit. It’s this trail that will take you past mountainside villages where views of Pokhara are dotted the whole way up. It takes about one hour at a slow pace to reach the top.
As the name suggest, The World Peace Pagoda was constructed to promote peace on earth and there is a feeling of calm, beauty and quiet as you walk around this pagoda in a clockwise direction. 360-degree views give the opportunity to see Machapuchare, known as the fishtail, or the Annapurna Himal while the city of Pokhara seems endless to the eye. Sunrise is especially beautiful from the pagoda and will offer the best chance of seeing the mountains before clouds begin to form.
After visiting the World Peace Pagoda, there are a few awesome cafes towards the trailhead and the best dining views in Pokhara so don’t feel the rush to head back down, take as much of the peace in as possible.
5. Old Pokhara
Pokhara’s Old Town is about a 20 to 30 minute drive from lakeside and if you are looking to avoiding insane traffic lines, head out there early.
With a hint of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square and a mix of Ghandruk, Pokhara’s Old Town is very much different than the tourist shops along the lakeside part of Pokhara.
The Hindu religion has many gods and there’s one for pretty much everything, even business & trade comes in the form of Bhima or Bhimsen, a god with extraordinary strength. In Old Pokhara, Bhima is worshipped by a 200 year old shrine in which tourists cannot enter but it’s still worth checking out.
Old towns are also great for celebrating traditional foods so if you are only planning to visit Pokhara, this is your opportunity to taste Nepali cuisines such as Daal Bhat translating to lentils and rice or momo’s which are more of a treat for the Nepali people especially buff momo made from water buffalo meat.
6. Paraglide Among the Mountains
If you are out walking along the lakes edge after sunrise, you’ll notice that there are hundreds of circling parachutes descending from a nearby mountain top.
What makes Pokhara one of the best places in the world to paraglide is the backdrop of the Himalaya, Lake Phewa, and the World Peace Pagoda in the distance. If you have the opportunity, a sunrise glide would be amazing.
The chances of seeing the mountains are better in the morning as clouds are all but gone (depending on the time of year) and the peaks of the mountains are pink and orange.
Paragliding in Nepal might seem a bit on the crazy adventure side of things but there are a few operators who are trusted as there are a multitude of tour operators, but not all have a 100% safety record. Blue Sky Paragliding is idyllic with sessions running from 20 minutes to multiple glides.
If you want to book a tour around Pokhara or are planning on trekking the Annapurna, Mustang guides and porters are available in the main street of Pokhara on Ratnapuri.
7. Trekking in the Himalaya
Pokhara is one of the closest cities to the Himalaya meaning within a few hours drive you’ll be at the foothills of the mighty mountains.
North of Pokhara is the Annapurna Panorama Trek, a 5 to 7 day trek through glorious mountainside villages, jungles, and with views of mountains that are some of the tallest in the world (including that of Annapurna and Machapuchare).
If you need gear for trekking, you will be able to find almost everything in Pokhara from jackets, tents, hiking poles to camera equipment. If you’re planning on coming prepared you can great hiking gear here.
Getting to the start of the trek is fairly easy and takes around 4 to 5 hours by jeep or bus to a place called Ulleri. The trip will cost around $100 USD.
8. Seti River Gorge
Waterfalls are gorges are a seriously underrated natural feature in Nepal with hundreds of thousands dotted throughout this hilly country. Despite Pokhara being quite far from the mountains of the Himalaya, during monsoon season Pokhara receives over 3,500mm of rain annually. This is a serious amount and all that water has to go somewhere!
The Seti River Gandaki originates close to the base of Machapuchare to the north and winds its way to Pokhara and beyond. For only 25 rupees, the gushing river and chasm can be viewed passing underneath a strange looking bridge which if game enough you can stand on.
Located near Old Pokhara, head to a small park in a northerly direction and follow the river.
9. Lakeside Dining
Honestly I would travel to Pokhara just to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner by Lake Phewa for three reasons:
- Sitting lakeside and watching the world go by as boats row back and forth to Phewa Tal Temple makes for an interesting breakfast.
- Nothing beats crunching on a meal of chips and chapatti with a dash of ketchup while watching clouds roll past Machapuchare as paragliders descend from Sarangkot. Exciting lunch for sure!
- Dining lakeside is always vibrant and full of life with nightly cultural performances entailing dancing, music and many laughs.
There is an almost endless list of restaurant to choose from as you could eat at a different place every night of the year and still not taste everything. Most places along the front of Lake Phewa offer good views and the same prices; it’s just a matter of picking a place and ordering.
10. River Rafting
Rafting in Nepal is considered one of the best spots in Asia to undertake this extreme activity. Thousands of people each year travel to Pokhara with their own kayak to tame the thunderous rapids or just want to jump on board with an experienced guide to see what it is all about.
Most tours are run on the Seti River which winds its way through Pokhara and beyond. Like most outdoor tours and activities in Pokhara, bookings and information on river rafting can be seen on the main street in Pokhara.
Sarangkot is the mountain getaway from the mountain getaway. Views are often exceptional from Pokhara, but Sarangkot is the place to go see a sunrise over the Himalaya. It’s a top spot to go if you aren’t hiking and won’t have an opportunity to get up close and personal with these giants of nature.
Sarangkot is a busy place day in day out as locals and tourists looking to catch a sunrise or sunset over the Himalaya, but it’s also a great place to stay and escape from the bustling streets of Pokhara. Accommodation is plentiful with rates starting at 1,500 rupees.
Sarangkot is also the place where the paragliders take off from and begin there twirling descent to lakeside Pokhara.
If you have booked to do a sunrise paraglide, a good option would be to stay in Sarangkot the night before to save the windy mission up the mountain in the early hours of the morning.
12. Mahendra Cave
Pokhara is know for having an epic underground system of caves to which some can be easily explored with or without a local guide.
Mahendra Cave being limestone means there are stalactites and stalagmites and if you can tell me which is what you’d be a winner!
Getting to Mahendra Cave can take one hour each way from Lakeside Pokhara so make sure to leave early before the traffic slows things down!
13. Begnas Lake
Still wondering what to do in Pokhara? Lake Phewa might not be the cleanest lake to swim amongst in Pokhara. Luckily there are other options to cool down during Pokhara’s warm summer days.
Begnas Lake is Nepal’s third largest lake and a very much idyllic place to hire a boat or kayak or simply relax along one its shorelines.
Surrounding Lake Begnas are mountains lush in rainforests while farming happens close by due to the fantastic availability of water. Homestays and guesthouses are also available in the area!
How to Get to Pokhara from Kathmandu?
Kathmandu and Pokhara are separated by 206 kilometers of extremely under-maintained roads. They are dusty and often run into a traffic jam before even leaving Kathmandu. However if you decide to take a jeep or bus to Pokhara, it is quite an epic experience and one you may never get to try again.
The journey depending on the time of day, weather, and mode of transport can take anywhere from six hours to 10 hours. There are many awesome views and opportunities to see the countryside of Nepal during this trip, just make sure pack snacks and treats as it could be a long day on the road!
Flying to Pokhara from Kathmandu is my favorite way of getting to Pokhara as this flight is one of the most scenic flights in the world. It’s generally a rush to get a seat on the right-hand side of the plane a no matter what your ticket says, everyone wants to see the Himalaya on this flight!
Kathmandu to Pokhara takes about 25 to 30 minutes and is best done early in the morning to avoid chaos at Tribhuvan Domestic Airport. Airlines include Simrik, Tara Air, Yeti Airlines and Buddha Air all have a great safety record. Flights cost around 13,000 rupees for a one-way ticket.