Best Things to Do in Pokhara: A Complete Guide

Pokhara been nicknamed the tourism capital of Nepal and there are a lot of things to do in Pokhara that cater to every travel style. We’ve reached out to some fellow travel bloggers to put together a complete list of what to do in Pokhara and the best places to visit so read on for more!

pokhara from above
Pokhara from the hills above

Sitting on the edge of Phewa Lake, Pokhara is a charming lakeside city surrounded by lush green hills and the Himalaya Mountains.  Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adrenaline-pumping action Pokhara has a little bit for everyone.  With a warm and humid climate, it’s no wonder that Pokhara is so popular with travellers. In fact, many visitors come for a short trip and find themselves staying in Pokhara much longer than intended!

Getting to Pokhara

Pokhara is Nepal’s second largest city and is only 200km from Kathmandu.  A bus ride to Pokhara will take you about 7-9 hours and tourist buses depart daily from Kathmandu.  The journey is long, bumpy, and busy as it winds through many cliff-side switchbacks.  Alternatively, you can take a flight which will get you there in only 40 minutes.  For the best views of the Himalaya range sit on the right-hand side of the plane.

Things to do in Pokhara

Cafes and Restaurants

The touristy Lakeside district has cafes, restaurants, and markets to cater to every tourist’s desire.  There are countless restaurants and cafes in the Lakeside district and you could easily spend a day hopping from various restaurants and cafes and enjoying the scenic lakeside views.

Most restaurants have an outside seating area with lake views or a rooftop.  The quality of food is great, especially for what you pay as most are quite cheap.  Indeed, Phil spent two weeks as a regular at various restaurants and cafes in Pokhara while nursing his broken foot!  Some of his favourite stops were Lake Lovers Café, Umbrella Café, and Perky Beans Coffee.

Lakeside Pokhara View
Lakeside Views in Pokhara

With the touristy atmosphere in Lakeside all of these cafes and bars also seem to offer live music in the evening catered to the international crowd.  Most bands will be playing covers of popular western songs, although there’s no guarantee they’ll be sung in tune.

International Mountain Museum

The International Mountain Museum, which opened in 2004, chronicles the pursuits of mountaineers in the Himalaya and other mountain ranges around the world.  It’s well worth spending an afternoon here and being awed by the accomplishments of the greatest mountaineers in history and gaining a healthy respect for the Himalaya Mountains.

Shrine to lost mountaineers at International Mountain Museum
The Shrine to fallen Mountaineers

Gurkha Memorial Museum

Spend some time learning about the history and sacrifice of the Nepali Gurkha military unit throughout the world.   The story is told through photos over three floors and it will likely take about an hour to walk through.

Davis Falls

Renamed Davis Falls in 1961 after a tragic accident when a Swiss couple went swimming, this scenic waterfall is only a short taxi ride away from the Lakeside district.  The best time to visit is from June to September when monsoon season has begun as the water will be flowing more rapidly.

Caves

There are several caves that you can visit in Pokhara.  The three most popular are Mahendra, Gupteshwor Mahadev, and the bat cave.  None of the caves is extensive so they typically only take 15-20 minutes to explore.  Take a torch, be careful of your footing, and wear proper footwear, especially in the bat cave as the exit is very narrow and can be challenging to get out of.

Rent a Boat on Phewa Lake

Katie Diederichs from Two Wandering Soles recommends renting a boat to explore Phewa Lake.  Definitely, something we can get behind!

“Pokhara is a perfect place for weary trekkers to rest their feet and just relax for a while! Situated on Phewa Lake, getting out on the water is one of the best ways to enjoy a beautiful day while also giving your legs a rest. There are a few different options for exploring the lake — there are different companies on the lakeshore from which you can rent a stand-up paddleboard, a kayak, a wooden rowboat, or if you have a larger group, a paddle boat! 

A group we had met on the trek to Everest Base Camp met up in Pokhara to celebrate the fact that we had just completed an epic hike! We packed snacks, drinks, sunscreen, and swimsuits and headed out onto the lake for an afternoon in the sun. Just be sure to bring a bag for garbage so it doesn’t end up in the lake. 

kayaking on phewa lake
Kayaking on Phewa Lake

Also, you can paddle to the famous Tal Barahi Temple, which is a Hindu shrine just a 10-minute paddle from shore. Just be sure you have clothing along that is respectful for visiting a holy site.”

Shanti Stupa World Peace Pagoda

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Pokhara is the World Peace Pagoda.  Roobens Fils of Been Around the Globe elaborates:

“Pokhara is the city everybody goes to in Nepal, because that’s where the treks start, Annapurna being the most famous one. But it’s also possible to spend a few days in Pokhara and do things there.

For instance, if you want to warm up before going trekking, you can go see Shanti Stupa, in the heights of Pokhara. Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist monument located on top of Anadu hill, at an altitude of 1100 meters (3600 ft.). Going there is a good way to stay in shape while travelling.

Apart from being more or less fit, there’s nothing special you have to prepare beforehand. From the city center all the way up to Shanti Stupa, it’s a two to three hours hike, including at least one hour just hiking up! Be prepared, the slopes can be steep sometimes! Once you get on top, you’ll finally see Shanti Stupa, the first world peace pagoda in Nepal. But most importantly, from there, you have a stunning view of Pokhara, but also the Fewa lake and Annapurna! Don’t miss it!”

shanti stupa world peace pagoda
The Shanti Stupa World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara

Paragliding

Nafisa Habib of My Own Way to Travel recommends Paragliding as one of the best things to do in Pokhara.  Indeed, Pokhara is considered one of the best places in the world to Paraglide so why not!

“Beautiful tourist destination Pokhara is a must-visit during your trip to Nepal. There are many top things to do in Pokhara. How about paragliding? Sarangkot in Pokhara is the perfect spot for enjoying paragliding. You’ll find many paragliding companies offer different packages; you can choose any package and range varies on duration.

No worries, if you’re trying for the first time, before flying the instructor will provide you with all instructions, and there are no safety issues. September to November is the perfect time for many adventure activities in Pokhara. So you’ll get the clear blue sky while paragliding.

It can be a lifetime experience to fly above the fascinating Phewa Tal or Fewa Lake with the backdrop of Annapurna Mountain. You can have this fun for 15 to 30 minutes or more. Annapurna Mountain and Phewa Tal are the top attractions of Pokhara in Nepal. It’s just a great way to see and enjoy the topmost beauty of Pokhara at the time of paragliding from Sarangkot to Fewa Lake.”

paragliding in pokhara
Paragliding in Pokhara

Yoga Retreats

Pokhara is Nepal’s Yoga capital.  There are many places where you can join a drop in class or a full yoga retreat.  We spent a week with Happy Healthy Yoga, located in the non-touristy side of Pokhara where we got a taste of real Nepali life.  The owners, Radha and Albert were very kind and hospitable, and Thea got her but kicked with some tough Hatha and Vinyasa yoga classes.   As an added bonus, Radha’s traditional Nepali cooking was simply phenomenal.

Seti River
Each day started with a walk to the Seti River

If you’re not up for a full yoga retreat it’s easy to find a drop in class almost anywhere in Lakeside as well.  Costs seemed to range around 500 to 1,000 NPR.

Get a Massage

Given the number of fantastic treks around Pokhara, it’s no wonder that a number of massage parlours have popped up in Lakeside, Pokhara.  Some have a poor reputation so it’s important to go somewhere reputable and Jean of Travelling Honeybird recommends Jiva Cafe.

“On the last day of our Poonhill Trek, I remember the burning in my legs. Each step, seemingly harder than before. The jolting pain of sore butt muscles as we drove down from the mountains to Pokhara. A pain like I’d never felt before. I knew that I would need some extra assistance in my post trek recovery. Now seemingly there are as many massage parlours as there are hotels in Pokhara and it can be darn hard to pick a legitimate, clean and safe place get a rub down. Prior to departing for our trek we had spoken to a few other travellers and gotten some odd stories about some rather dubious establishments until we were given a hot tip about Jiva Café.

Hidden in plain sight on the foreshore of the lake is this hidden paradise. If you’re coming in from the street side you’ll weave your wave past BusyBee café, down a few laneways and a friendly dog. The surrounding area has a beautiful garden, complete with hanging chairs, lounge chairs and areas for you to chillax. The perfect place to relax and enjoy a freshly pressed juice post-massage. 

Now the massages here are divine. I paid 3,000 NPR for a one-hour traditional massage. There’s a rather large menu on different styles on offer. After you’ve chosen a massage, you’ll be taken upstairs and introduced to your therapist. After a quick foot bath and some ground rules – how hard you’d like to be massaged and so forth, you’ll be taken into a private room and then the fun starts. This is a legitimate business, no under the table happy endings on offer. 

Post massage you relax in bliss in the garden with fresh mint tea. Or if you’re like me you’ll add an extra side of chocolate cake to your order.”

You can read more about Jean’s travels in Nepal here.

jiva cafe pokhara
Jiva Cafe Smoothies

Explore Disneyland

Bradley Williams of Dream Big, Travel Far spent three weeks in Nepal and some time in Pokhara.  If you’re not sure what to do in Pokhara he recommends checking out “Disneyland”:

One of the more random things we discovered to do in Pokhara was the small amusement park they have by the lake. It appears to be called “Disneyland”, though I’m sure the real Mickey Mouse doesn’t fully endorse this attraction. They don’t have any giant roller coasters or parades of Disney characters, but they do have some cool arcades and smaller rides.

Which makes it a great spot to visit if you have kids with you, or just want to unleash a bit of your inner child. We spent a bit of time in the arcade where you pay a small amount for a number of tokens that can then be used in the machines. Which is great fun, unless the power suddenly cuts out, which it did for us!

But no worries, the power soon gets back up and running and you’ll be back to having fun in no time! All in all, it’s worth a visit as you stroll back along the lake one night. Whether you’re into shooting hoops or real, old-school racing games, there’s sure to be something there you’ll enjoy.

Shop for Crafts

Noel Morata of Travel Photo Discovery considers shopping for crafts to be one of the things you should do in Pokhara.

“One of the fun things to do in the old section of Pokhara in Nepal is to spend some time shopping for the fantastic handicrafts made in the region. The town covers a very long street that is lined with a variety of art galleries, souvenir and handicraft stores selling a variety of local textiles and fashion items, wood and metal souvenirs and also the typical cheap t-shirts and in cheap souvenirs.

Even though prices are cheap you can even bargain especially if you are buying more than one item in each store. There are also daily markets around the city that cater to locals and tourists with colourful and inexpensive goods that are a great value. Can’t find what you want in your colour or size? Keep walking down the long street and eventually, you’ll find something that fits your taste or to take home for gifts.

Don’t worry about rushing back to town after a long day trekking somewhere, the shops tend to open late to cater to all the tourists that are gone from town late morning to afternoon time frame. If you find something you want and really want to bargain ask your guide to help you bargain a better price, I’m sure they would be happy to help out.”

handy crafts in nepal

Begnas Lake

A short half hour taxi or one-hour bus ride from Pokhara, Begnas Lake is a great place to for a day trip or to spend a couple of days away from Pokhara.  Begnas Lake is much quieter and more tranquil, which is a nice change from the busy streets of Pokhara.  You can spend the day hiking in the hills, fishing, swimming, or paddling around the lake.

begnas lake
Peaceful Begnas Lake, a popular day trip from Pokhara

Treks from Pokhara

Pokhara is the base for many treks in the Himalaya as it is the closest major city to the Annapurna Conservation Zone.  On clear days you can see the Annapurna mountain range from town, but those that love the outdoors will certainly be itching to get out and hike and trek in this impressive mountain range.

Annapurna Circuit

No doubt the most well-known attraction from Pokhara is completing the Annapurna Circuit and visiting Annapurna Basecamp (Also known as the ABC trek).  In recent years road construction has changed the route and made it less remote, but it’s still a popular and stunning trek that should be on any hiker’s’ bucket list.

Nepal Mountains and Prayer Flags
Nepal’s Himalayan mountains belong on any serious hiker’s bucket list

Depending on the amount that you hike or drive, The Annapurna Circuit can be completed in as few as 11 days or up to 20 days for a full circuit. Thea did a 15 day “Annapurna Highlights” trek where she skipped some of the green sections and added very worthwhile side trips to Tilicho Lake and Ice Lake.  The challenging but endlessly picturesque hike is easily one of the world’s finest and is not to be missed when visiting Nepal.

To avoid hiking alone, Thea hired a porter-guide from Saras Trekking and Travel agency and began her trekking journey in Jagat. For 15 days she trekked from tea house to tea house taking her through pine forests, along dusty mountain roads, through quaint mountain villages, passed brightly coloured monasteries, and passed stunning Himalayan vistas. On day 11 she reached the high point of the trail, Thorang-La pass at 5416m after beginning her hike at 4:00 am. From there, she descended to Muktinath and took a long, bumpy, and very uncomfortable bus ride to Tatopani where she would begin her trip up to Poon Hill for sunrise and a spectacular way to end a trek in the Annapurna Region.

Throng La Pass
Thorang La Pass, the highest mountain pass in the world

Poon Hill Hike

Claudia of My Adventures Across the World recommends the 3-5 day Poon Hill Trek:

One of the best things to do in Pokhara is heading out for a hike. Among the best that usually depart from there, I recommend the Poon Hill Circuit. It takes between 3 and 5 days to complete the entire hike, depending on how fast you walk and on where you decide to stop along the way. The starting point is Nayapul, a small village where you have to register yourself for the hike and get a permit. 

You won’t go on very high elevation during this hike (the highest point is a respectable 3200 meters above sea level), but there will be days when you’ll gain 1500 meters, which means you’ll be walking steadily uphill. 

Depending on when you walk the trail, you’ll find very cold weather or a lot of rain. May is a good compromise, but there will be high chances of rain every day. 

The highlight of the hike is seeing the sunrise over the Himalayas from Poon Hill – though keep in mind it is often overcast and some groups never get to enjoy this. 

You can do the hike independently, and spend around $200 USD between transportation to the starting point, accommodation and food along the way. A guided trek costs $500 but you’ll get a guide, porters carrying your stuff, and won’t have to worry about getting accommodation. 

views on the poon hill trek
Poon Hill Trek’s Himalayan Views

Ghandruk Trek

Lora of Explore with Lora recommends the Ghandruk Trek if you’re a bit tight on time:

“There are many treks near Pokhara of varying lengths and difficulty. If you’re looking for a shorter one that’s not too hard, consider the Ghandruk Trek. This hike only takes three days yet leaves you feeling immersed in nature.

The trek begins with a short drive out of Pokhara to the trailhead. You hike for 5-6 hours for the first two days and 3 hours on the last. At night, you sleep in cozy tea houses along the trail.

The first night is spent in the beautiful village of Ghandruk, which is inhabited by the Gurung community. From there, you get incredible panoramic views of the Himalayas. The hike doesn’t go past 2000m of elevation, so you don’t have to worry about altitude sickness on the trail.

I was short on time in Nepal so the Ghandruk trek was a perfect chance to hike in the Himalayas without a big commitment. The trail can be easily booked from most tour agencies, which you can find along Pokhara Lakeside.”

ghandruk trek from pokhara
Lora on the Ghandruk Trek

So that’s it, some of the best things to do in Pokhara!  Did we miss something?  Do you have a favourite?  Let us know in the comments!

 

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One Reply to “Best Things to Do in Pokhara: A Complete Guide”

  1. Thanks so much for this special guide around our home town. We enjoyed your time with us at our yoga retreat, Happy Healthy Yoga Retreat. We appreciate that you mentioned us in your report. Namaste, Radha and Albert

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