Pokhara is the second-largest city in Nepal, but whenever we talk about Pokhara we always talk about the Lakeside district, next to the Phewa-Tal (lake), where tourism is concentrated and where you will find many hotels, guest-houses, restaurants of all kinds and conditions, cafes, bars and live music, shops, bookstores and “german bakery” distributed along the main avenue and adjacent streets, making it very difficult to get lost.
It is a quiet town, just the opposite of Kathmandu. You can relax on any of its terraces, stroll around the lake, take a gentle bike ride, sail to the Barahi Mandir temple on a small island or, for a more thrilling experience, go tandem-paragliding from Sarangkot in what is one of Pokhara’s signature activities.
Around the lakeside promenade, there is a proliferation of chill-out terraces for eating, tea, drinks and so on. Sometimes there is impromptu music playing, or there may be a performance. Like all Nepal, Chinese tourism and Chinese-owned shops are rising. Some parts of Lakeside still retain their “hippy” feeling or alternative or whatever you want to call it. We could say that the northern part is more “smoky” and the southern part is more “uplevel”, but this is not strict.
Pokhara is a quiet and beautiful place to take a leisurely stroll, relax, watch the tourists and the locals who work for the tourists. A good, quiet option is to take a bike (bear in mind that there are some unpaved sections) and follow the track along the lake to the north. You can also leave Lakeside and head into Pokhara town, Pokhara Bazar, not too far from Lakeside, where you won’t see too many tourists but plenty of local life. Despite being a city, it has more of a big-village feeling. Pokhara is also the centre of many trekking routes, especially in the Annapurna area, and has a rural setting with many options, although you do need a vehicle to get there.
The “official” sights of Pokhara are outside Lakeside but can be visited by taxi, local bus or bicycle.
The white Peace Pagoda, which I’m sure you’ve seen towering over the mountain on the other side of the lake, was donated by Japan, and has great views over the lake, valley and mountains. There are some restaurants and cafes nearby. There is a small road leading up to it, but you can walk up from the main road and there is also a path along the side of the lake to a small jetty.
Davi’s Fall is a large hole in the rock floor that literally engulfs the entire Pardi Khola (river) coming from the lake. Tradition says that a Swiss girl named Davi lost her life back in the 1960s. 150 metres further on, on the other side of the road, the river resurfaces in the Gupteshwor Mahadev cave, with its colourfully veined rocks and many bats.
Near Davi’s fall is the Tashi Ling Tibetan Refugee Camp, actually, a small village that survives by selling Tibetan handicrafts and jewellery. Refugee villages are a reality in Nepal, being the country with the largest community for obvious reasons. However, their conditions are becoming difficult due to the pressure the Chinese government is putting on the Nepalese government, which, on the other hand, needs chinese investment .
In the lake you can take a ride on the typical wooden boats. You will see different jetties where you can rent a boat and boatman. Situated on a small island in the middle of the lake is the small Hindu temple of Barahi Mandir, where there are always a few devotees and tourists.
Pokhara’s star activity for tourists is tandem-paragliding from Sarangkot to the lake. Different companies are offering this activity. At the begining most pilots where foreigners, but every season there are more and more local pilots, which is good news. The prices are fixed between all the companies and you are picked up and dropped off at your accommodation. Of course we can arrange this for you at no extra cost.
A place of interest, especially for mountaineers, might be the International Mountain Museum where there are exhibits of different mountain habitats from all over the world, but above all a review of the conquest of the Himalayan peaks, highlighting its summits of over 8000 metres, with photographs and material from the time… and a yeti.
For those of you travelling with children or who like butterflies, a visit to the small Annapurna Museum is worthwhile. Among other things, it has some amusing figures representing animals of the area, and above all, a large collection of butterflies and other insects that are quite spectacular. The Annapurna Museum is located to the north, almost out of Pokhara Bazar and inside the campus of the Prithvi Narayan University of Pokhara on Nadipur Road.
If we continue further north, we will find the small Gurkha Museum (also Gorkha). Maybe the museum is not particularly interesting, but it brings us closer to Gurkha reality. The Gurkha regiments of the British and Indian army are made up of young Nepalese. Thousands of them try every year to pass the tests to be admitted. Becoming a Gurkha is a great opportunity for many young people in a country where the future is not easy. Being a Gurkha in the British or Indian army is a social status in Nepal, although the reality is of course not so nice: Gurkha are the front line in the UK’s military conflicts.
Just outside Pokhara, heading north on the Baglung road is the large Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Pema Ts’al Sakya. This monastery offers free education to hundreds of children from Tibetan refugee camps and disadvantaged families in mountainous areas. Right next to the monastery is the Tibetan refugee camp of Tashi Palkhel which, like Tashi Ling, is like a small village where refugees survive by doing odd jobs and selling handicrafts. Around 4pm (this can vary), as in most Buddhist monasteries, the “puja”, the sutra prayer, takes place in the monastery temple or in the Jangchub Choeling Gompa (temple) in the refugee camp.
Not forgetting that in the surroundings there are interesting visits: See the sunrise in Sarangkot and, extending the day, walking to Naudanda. Approaching the Bengas Tal (lake) where there are interesting routes. If you are MTB lovers, many routes wait for you including World Cup descents. Bearing in mind that Pokhara is the centre of all the treks in the south of Annapurna, such as Ghandruk and Poon Hill, Lwang and Jhinu, Australian Camp, Panchase, Mardi Himal, Khopra Ridge and all the possible combinations of all of them.