Want to really relax in Nepal? We found the official “Hotel California” and we admit it, we got stuck. Backpackers young and old seem to be drawn to Pokhara like moths to a flame, and the views alone are enough to turn a 3 day trip into 3 weeks. Nestled in central Nepal beside the Annapura Himalayas, Pokhara attracts travelers with the solitude of the pristine lake Phewa Tal, the allure of the Lakeside district and the proximity to popular treks that wind through the Himalayas. After the more challenging legs of a Nepal itinerary, the chilled-out vibe and the lack of pressure to do anything at all are contagious and welcomed. Pokhara is truly a haven for the Mega Chiller.
So, what is there to do in the small lakeside town besides sipping organic Nepali coffee and reading an enormous book like Shantaram? We’ll give you an idea of how we spent our days in this tranquil town.
1.) Exploring Lakeside: Like Kathmandu’s Thamel, this district of Pokhara is an east-meets-west traveler’s heaven. You can feast on traditional Indian curries with the locals at Almonds or spring for a glass of shiraz and flatbread pesto pizza at Concerto. The main street is lined with hundreds of guest houses, shops, jazz bars and organic cafes – just keep in mind that you’ll be sharing the sidewalks with the local buffalo population. You can find (almost) anything you need or didn’t know you needed, from best selling books and prayer flags, to the vast array of identical new and used trekking accessories for those who are heading for the Himalayan wilderness. A “North Face” jacket won’t cost more than 20 dollars, but don’t forget to bargain! if you can’t get the price you want at the first shop, walk next door. For many people, Pokhara is the last opportunity to stock up on necessities for treks – and even if you’re not trekking, it’s hard to resist the plethora of chocolate brands take seem to take up about a third of the local grocery stores. People flood the shops for Cadbury, Ritter Sport, Lindt and Toblerone for surviving the physical challenges of the trekking that awaits. We learned to love the “om mani padme hum” Tibetan mantra, which must be some sort of official Pokhara soundtrack – it blasts out of most Lakeside shops. Stay long enough and this song will echo in your dreams.
2.) Boating on Phew Tal: There’s more to do than simply look at the lake! You can spend hours on the water in a paddle boat, row boat, kayak or sail boat, either with a guide or without. Canoe rides across the lake cost about rs300 ($5.00) and leave passengers at the foot of the trail leading up to the World Peace Stupa; double if you want the boat to wait for you while you hike up and descend. The Tal Barahi island shrine is a few hundred yards from the shore and also attracts many visitors, both Nepalis and foreigners, who come to worship or simply admire.
3.) Adventure Sports: We didn’t exactly channel our inner extreme, but Pokhara is a mecca for those who crave an adrenaline rush on the road. You can paraglide from the Sarangkot mountain peak, fly around the Annapurna mountain range on the mountain flight, or do the various biking excursions and rafting trips. Pokhara is considered to be Nepal’s “river-running headquarters!” Looking to really rough it? Leave Pokhara and embark on the 8 day Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek…bring your winter parka! We opted for an “easy” 5 days of hiking…we’ll be the judge of how “easy” it really is.