The second most popular tourist city after Kathmandu, Pokhara is in western Nepal an is the jump off point for all treks in the Annapurna range. Situated on the banks of a lake and surrounded by rolling foothills, it is a very scenic city. Here is how I spent 48 hours in Pokhara.
I took a bus for Kathmandu to Pokhara which is about a 7 hour ride. After my previous experience riding long-distance buses in Nepal, my expectations were low. However, I was super surprised to find my bus comfortable with major reclining seats, wifi equipped and nearly empty! Plus, I rode during the day and got to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. The route rides along a major river, which is popular for rafting. It creates a beautiful canyon that you drive along, with picturesque villages to stop at and enjoy a hot cup of chai.
Pokhara feels like a compact version of Thamel in Kathmandu. Everything intended for tourists is situated just on the banks of the lake, in a neighborhood conveniently called Lakeside. It is packed with foreigners and is a little too touristy for my taste.
Nothing really feels authentic, which is a shame because for many tourists, this will be there only impression of Nepal. I guess it hasn’t always been this way but with the explosion of international trekking, the city has changed a lot in recent years. It’s hard to find local restaurants, as many just serve international fare.
But they’re there is you look. I had my favorite momos on this trip in Pokhara! And the shops, are all catered toward the tourist market. Even though they’re selling handcrafts products, there are no locals shopping in lakeside.
With that said, Pokhara has a very laid back, almost beach town, vibe. You’ll see a lot of hippies and people with dreadlocks. And the pace of life is a little calmer, with people spending their afternoons wandering the lake front or sipping on a chai while reading a book.
I wandered down to the lake to watch the sunset. The sunset drops behind the mountain so you don’t get a clear view but it lights up the surrounding area in a beautiful glow.
There aren’t a ton of tourist attractions, but there are some lovely temples along the lake that I stumbled upon while exploring. It’s easy to wander around, the city is exceptional clean by asian standards. This is largely a jump off point for adventure sports, and a spot to recover after returning from a trek. But spend an afternoon along the lakefront and you’ll be pleasantly relaxed.
I did make my way up to the World Peace Pagoda. Situated high up on a hill, the stupa is visible from lakeside and is a gleaming white beacon in the skyline. Taking the form of a regular stupa, you’ll notice the rounded bottom and spired top. It’s a pain to get to, since it’s about 30 minute dire out of e city. Or you can opt for a 2 hour uphill walk… but I changed hotels for my last few days in Pokhara, an am staying in a small village lodge just a couple hundred feet from the stupa. So I took advantage of he close proximity and explored it then!
One of the things I knew I wanted to do before arriving in Nepal was paragliding. I had done it once before in chile when I was traveling with Sam. And I really enjoyed it! So why not do it again with a Himalaya backdrop.
Thankfully during the high season, there are three flight times daily, and there are over 80 operators in Pokhara. I decided to go with one of the most established companies, Blue Sky Paragliding. They came and picked me up right at my lakeside hotel to go to the office. Surprisingly, didn’t fill out any paperwork or risk forms. I guess they don’t have the infrastructure here for that…
But we drove up about 1700 meters to the drop point in a nearby down. At any given time, there might be 40 or 50 gliders in the air, so you can watch them as you drive up. And then into he harness you go. It’s a tandem flight and as the passenger, your only responsibility is to enjoy. And not get motion sickness.
For paragliding, you run off a cliff or large hill and catch a wind gust to carry you up in altitude. And then you’re just floating. A lot of gliders watch the birds and seeing where the wind is. They even over para hawking where you fly with a trained hawk to get the best flights.
The views of Pokhara and Fewa Lake were excellent. Since I’m not prone to motion sickness, my pilot flew us up all the way to the clouds, higher than many of the other people. We still didn’t get much of a view of the mountains unfortunately. The region had been getting hit with lots of unseasonal rain, making a near constant layer of clouds a daily occurrence. Nonetheless, I had such a fun 30 minutes flight, enjoying the fresh air and lake top views!