The Best Things to Do in Pokhara
You are probably heading to Pokhara for one of 2 reasons. Mountain adventures or relaxing and unwinding, two opposites. It’s by far my favourite place in Nepal, with the city nestled along the side of Phewa Lake which is dotted with colourful boats & a mountain view backdrop of a nice day. It’s kind of perfect really.
If you are travelling to Pokhara from Kathmandu, you will be pleasantly surprised. Compared to the dusty and chaotic Kathmandu, Pokhara is a chilled-out backpacker’s paradise. Featuring stunning lakes and mountain views, you will find cute cafes and lodges, fancy coffee shops and some of the best shopping that Nepal has to offer.
The perfect spot for both the chilled-out traveller, offering retreats, day spas and yoga, to the adventurous traveller with its hiking and abundance of adrenaline activities.
This blog features some of the best things to do during a trip to Pokhara, Nepal, as well as some of my favourite eating & drinking spots, recommendations for places to stay and a bunch of need to know information for travelling in Nepal. Let’s get in to it!
Best Adventurous Things to Do in Pokhara
Pokhara is the gateway to some of Nepal’s best trekking – think Annapurna Base Camp, the Annapurna Circuit and Poon Hill (to name a few!). The Annapurna Base Camp treks takes you through the heart of the Himalayas to the Base Camp of one of the most dangerous mountains in the world (at an altitude of 4130m), and includes the Poon Hill trek.
You can read my ultimate guide to the Annapurna Base Camp trek here. The Annapurna Circuit trek takes you to an altitude of 5416m and is generally considered a more difficult trek. Poon Hill is an achievable 4-day hike for those wanting something a little less difficult with just as much reward.
Not up for hiking but still want to experience the Himalayas up close? Why not book a helicopter ride around Annapurna Base Camp, where you will get incredible views!
Admire the views at Phewa Lake
Phewa Lake is magnificent any day of the week, but even better at sunrise or sunset on a clear day. Think towering mountain views, glistening waters and colourful boats. It’s surreal, but you need to hope for good weather. You can sit and admire the views from one of the lakeside coffee shops, bars or restaurants, or you can opt to go for a paddle for an even better experience.
Simply approach one of the lakeside boat counters to organise a boat and skipper. Enjoy the view while paddling on the lake and take in the serenity. Don’t forget to take your camera – the photo opportunities are unreal.
Cost: Free if you simply wander along the lake to enjoy the views. If you wish to paddle along the lake, prices start at around 500NPR but vary largely depending on the length of trip!
Named one of the best spots for paragliding, Pokhara offers incredible views for paragliding, as well as safe take off and landing zones, and optimal thermal currents. Paragliding flights launch from Sarangkot, which is a 30minute drive from Pokhara depending on the traffic.
There are several companies which offer paragliding, but most will offer pick up and drop off from your hotel.
Cost: A 30minute flight will cost you between 7500 and 10000 NPR. If you wish to purchase go pro footage and photos, you can expect to pay an extra 1000 to 2000 NPR. Most companies will not allow you to take your own GoPro or camera due to safety reasons, so you will need to buy the footage if you want any media!
Shop till you drop
The shopping in Pokhara is great, with half of the craziness of shopping in Kathmandu. Wander along lakeside road and find yourself caught up in the colourful shops – think Tibetan goods, cashmere and linens, hiking gear, books and jewellery. It’s easy to spend your money here – the people are friendly and the quality and prices too good.
My favourite shop was Popular Book Shop, located on lakeside road, and featured a huge range of bestsellers, as well as mountaineering books, maps and travel guides at brilliant prices (I’ll admit that I spent way too long in this shop, my luggage was a whole lot heavier on the way home with the added books!).
Wandering the lakeside area and lakeside road is a great way to spend a morning, afternoon or even a day. Stop for coffee or lunch at one of the numerous boutique coffee shops or restaurants or stop for beer at one of the bars. If you need a break from the shopping, you can pop in to one of the numerous massage parlours for a massage or treatment, because you definitely deserve it after all of the shopping!
Visit the World Peace Pagoda
A half or full day excursion from Pokhara, the World Peace Pagoda a Buddhist style monument which overlooks Phewa lake is situated atop Anadu Hill. There are a couple of ways you can get to the World Peace Pagoda. You can opt for a taxi ride from Pokhara, which will take between 45minutes and 1 hour, depending on the traffic.
For a more adventurous option, you can opt to take a boat from lakeside to the opposite side of the lake. From here, it’s a 1 hour hike to the top where the World Peace Pagoda sits. The views from the top are stunning. Make sure to respect the cultural site by not wearing revealing clothing and keeping noise to a minimum.
Cost: Entry to the World Peace Pagoda is free! For a return boat trip, expect to pay upwards of 1000NPR, and about the same for a taxi.
The best places to eat & drink in Pokhara.
Specialising in pizza and Italian dishes, Roadhouse Cafe is an authentic and cosy restaurant that is a favourite among locals and tourists alike. They also offer great daily happy hour specials, so it’s worth popping in late afternoon for a drink before dinner!
Moondance Restaurant and Bar
One of the most popular spots on lakeside, Moondance is fuelled by fresh ingredients from its own small farm just outside of Pokhara. The owners are passionate about supporting local famers and respecting the food they eat. Make sure to try the lemon meringue pie!
Situated lakeside with great views of the lake, Caffe Concerto is the spot to go for a decent wood fired pizza, plus they have a happy hour daily making drinks even cheaper! Expect to pay a little more for food here, being the oldest Italian restaurant in Pokhara, it has earned a name for itself.
Definitely one of the ‘cool’ places to be in Pokhara, The Juicery is located in the Northern part of lakeside and is a combined café, bar and yoga studio. It’s surrounded by greenery and the vibe is very chilled out. Sit down for brunch or a coffee, or pop in later for a drink. The prices are very reasonable, and the food is fantastic.
AM/PM Organic Café
Featuring healthy dishes and good coffee, AM/PM is a perfect breakfast spot to stop at after watching the sunrise at Phewa Lake. Expect to pay a little more here, but the quality of the dishes and ingredients is worth it.
Where to stay in Pokhara
- Zostel Pokhara – A social hostel located very close to lakeside, this hostel features a rooftop terrace and bar.
- Kiwi Backpackers Hostel – Swing in the rooftop hammocks with incredible views at this social hostel located at the South end of lakeside. Enjoy the included breakfast or opt to take a cooking class at the hostel.
- Hotel River Park – Just a 5 minute walk from central lakeside, Hotel River Park has spectacular views from its rooftop. I stayed here both before and after my Annapurna Sanctuary trek and loved it.
- Hotel Adam – Featuring stunning lakeside views, a rooftop terrace and included breakfast, this is the perfect budget stay in central Pokhara Lakeside.
- Hotel Middle Path & Spa – a boutique hotel located just a 5minute walk from lakeside, the hotel has lake and mountain views from its rooftop, a swimming pool and you can opt for an included breakfast.
- Hotel Barahi – Located lakeside, Hotel Barahi offers deluxe rooms, a swimming pool, fine dining, bar and a spa.
- Himalayan Front Hotel – Not as centrally located to lakeside, the Himalayan Front Hotel is a luxury stay located along the Sarangkot Hill and features absolutely stunning views. A pool, gym and lovely rooms make this a truly luxurious stay.
- Hotel Pokhara Grande – With a brilliant, included breakfast, pool and stunning mountain views, you can enjoy incredible views without being too far from lakeside itself. It’s the best of both worlds!
How to spend a day in Pokhara?
The local currency is Nepal is the Nepalese Rupee (NPR). 1000 NPR is around $9 US at the time of writing.
All foreigners require a visa to enter Nepal, and you can obtain one on arrival, for 15, 30 or 90 days. It is easiest to pay in US Dollars on arrival, with current costs at the time of writing currently at $25/$40/$100 for 15, 30 and 90 days respectively.
Getting to Pokhara
You have a couple of options of getting to Pokhara, depending on where you are coming from.
From Kathmandu, you can opt to fly or take a bus. Flights depart regularly between the 2 cities, and is the quickest way, with flights only taking around 30minutes. Flights start at around $100.
Your other option is to get the bus, the most popular being Greenline Tours which offer air-conditioned travel between the 2 cities, costing around $25. Departing at 7:30am daily from Thamel, the trip can take anywhere between 6.5 and 9 hours, depending on traffic. However, you are rewarded with some magnificent views along the way. I personally took a mini-bus with a tour company I was travelling with, and it was honestly not as bad as I was expecting.
At the moment, the airport in Pokhara is domestic, however plans are in place to open an international terminal. So, if you want to fly internationally to Pokhara, you can expect a short stop in Kathmandu. Skyscanner offers the best deals on flights, scanning the internet for the best prices.
The coldest months in Pokhara are December to February, however you will encounter less crowds at this time (and it still makes for great hiking!). September to November is generally considered to be the best time to visit, and hence is the peak tourist season. April through May is also high season, with hikers flocking to Pokhara for trekking.
Never travel without travel insurance. It’s even more important to be covered when you trek in remote locations and do adventurous activities like me! I’ve used Cover More Travel insurance on numerous adventures around the globe and have actually had to make claims which has always been a pleasant and easy experience. I can’t recommend them enough.
Pokhara really is a dream, and well worth the long drive or flight from the bustling Kathmandu. Whether you are in to hiking and adventure or not, I really recommend a trip to Nepal. Not only are the views and landscapes magnificent, but the culture is rich and the people are lovely.
Why not push yourself to do a trek in Nepal, even if it’s just the 4 day Poon Hill trek? Trust me, you won’t regret it! If not, create some time in your travel plans to visit Pokhara. You will fall in love with the relaxed, laid back way of life and the incredible scenery.