On my first trek in Nepal to Everest Base Camp in 2019, I wanted to add on a trip to Pokhara afterward but simply didn’t have the time. When Amanda and I began planning our 2020 trek on the Annapurna Circuit, we planned a few extra days to spend in Pokhara.
As our days on the trek became more and more challenging, we both looked forward to the time we would have in Pokhara to relax and unwind. As exhausted as we were after our two week trek, we felt like doing nothing when we arrived but luckily our guide, Nara, had planned a full day of exploring for us.
I feel like we struck a perfect balance of doing some of the typical “touristy” things to do in Pokhara and also just exploring on our own.
1.) SUNRISE AT SARANGKOT
Just outside of Pokhara city is the hill known as Sarangkot. It has one of the best views of the Annapurna mountain range, especially of Dhaulagiri (8167m), Machhapuchhare (6993m) and, Annapurna II (8,091m.) It also had a view of the entire city of Pokhara and Phewa Lake.
The best time to visit Sarangkot is either at sunrise or sunset because of the incredible hues of pink and orange displayed on the snowy peaks. We decided to go for sunrise and then had a full day of exploring Pokhara afterward.
The most popular way to reach Sarangkot, and the way we ended up doing so, is by booking a private taxi. I would recommend even booking one the night before because our guide struggled to find one for us the morning of.
Arrive early because there will be crowds. We arrived about 20 minutes before sunrise and as the sun began to rise, there was a large crowd of people behind us but we had a great view because we got there before them.
2.) WORLD PEACE PAGODA
The World Peace Pagoda, or Shanti Stupa, is a must-visit while you’re in Pokhara. It’s a Buddhist monument with an incredible view of the Annapurna range, Phewa Lake and the city. It is one of eighty peace pagodas in the world (of which Nepal has two!)
It was built by a Buddhist monk as a symbol of peace (Shanti is a Sanskrit word meaning peace.) It sits at 1100m on Anadu Hill and was constructed in 1973.
There are several ways to reach the World Peace Pagoda. We decided to take a taxi there but then to hike back down the hill and take a row boat across Phewa Lake on the way back. It would have been more cost-effective to rent a boat and hike both ways, but we were tired from two weeks of trekking and glad to hire transportation on the way there so we only had to hike back down the hill, rather than up.
3.) PHEWA LAKE
One of my favorite memories in Pokhara was just taking the time to walk around Phewa Lake. It’s Nepal’s most visited lake and you could easily spend an entire day just exploring around the lake. There are some really great restaurants right on the lake where you can grab a drink or food and just watch the hustle and bustle of Lakeside Pokhara. There were lots of stands set up against the water selling everything from souvenirs to local cuisine.
Rent a boat on your own or hire one of many available row boats and enjoy a trip around the lake and even to the Tal Barahi Temple on an island in the middle of the lake.
4.) DEVIS FALLS
Fed by Phewa Lake Dam, this waterfall locally known as Patale Chhango (which means underground falls,) is a waterfall that is located close to Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave on the other side of the World Peace Stupa.
The waterfall flows year round but is best viewed in the Summer when the rains are heavy. The interesting thing about this waterfall is that it actually flows into an underground tunnel which leads to Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave.
The view of Devis Falls isn’t particularly impressive from above but seeing it from inside the tunnel in the cave is definitely worth doing while you’re in Pokhara.
5.) GUPTESHWOR MAHADEV CAVE
Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave is the most famous cave in Nepal. At 2950M/9678FT, it’s also the longest cave in Nepal. Although the entrance wasn’t built until 1991, it’s said to have been discovered in the 16th century.
The cave is filled with many shrines, the largest of which is dedicated to Shiva. In the back of the cave, you’ll be able to see the bottom portion of Devis Falls.
This cave is filled with tourists and locals alike so if you’re used to visiting caves that have more of a natural feel to them - this may disappoint you. But we enjoyed our visit to Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave and it was yet another time that having a our Buddhist guide, Nara, with us, was to our advantage. He was able to describe more about the shrines to us.
It is pretty slippery inside so make sure to wear proper shoes and combine it with your trip to the World Peace Stupa and Devis Falls because it’s in the same area.
6.) MOVIE GARDEN
This open-air movie theater in Lakeside Pokhara was one of my favorite things about Pokhara. Amanda had visited it on her previous trip to Pokhara and I was so glad that she took me because I enjoyed it just as much as she had and can’t wait to return again.
If you’ve been trekking for a while, there’s truly no better way to relax then with a visit to Movie Garden. I loved the way the pathway was winding around home’s and businesses, guided by small signs and lights. It felt magical before we even arrived and found our seats in the small hidden-away theater.
They had really great pizza and a fully-stocked bar. Try to arrive early because there aren’t many seats and they fill up quickly.
7.) THE BUSY BEE
The Busy Bee is a hotel and cafe in Lakeside Pokhara and it is THE place to go for nightlife. We wouldn’t have visited this place if it weren’t for meeting a local who invited us and we were surprised with how busy it was when we arrived.
There are multiple bars, a DJ and it was full of people dancing and having a great time. We had a little too good of a time and stayed almost until closing. We met lots of people who were preparing to start their treks but I would definitely recommend doing this on the tail end of your trip because those Nepalese beers are HUGE!
8.) SHOPPING AND EATING
Pokhara reminded me of Kathmandu in the fact that there were so many options for stores and restaurants. The streets are lined with places offering everything from clothing to spiritual items. We enjoyed some shopping but more than anything - we ate as much as we could.
We were so tired of the typical “trekking meals” that we were really excited to eat some of the foods we had been thinking about while out on the trail.
I can highly recommend Byanjan Restaurant for not only it’s incredible Paneer Makhani, but also it’s refreshing cocktails and beautiful view of Phewa Lake.
We went by FunKey delights for rolled ice cream and they had everything from your more traditional flavors to some off-the-wall options (who would think to put Cheez-Whiz in ice cream?!)
OR2K Pokhara was my favorite meal though. We enjoyed the relaxing vibes of the gorgeous Mediterranean restaurant in Lakeside Pokhara. The drinks were unique and delicious, and the falafel and hummus were some of the best I’ve ever had.
9.) INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN MUSEUM
I can’t imagine a trip to Pokhara without a visit to this incredible museum. Opened in 2004, the museum has a focus on Nepali mountains and the Himalayas, with a wing dedicated to Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. There is so much to learn in this huge museum. We really enjoyed learning more about the indigenous people of Nepal, but there was also an amazing presentation on the World’s highest peaks and even an exhibition of Everest’s climbers gear. There’s even a section devoted entirely to climate change, and yes, even info on the Yeti!
I think there’s something for everyone in this beautiful museum, and if you’re passionate about mountains or just about Nepal, you will be amazed by all that you will learn on a visit to the International Mountain Museum.
10.) POON HILL TREK
It’s hard for me to imagine visiting Nepal without immersing yourself in the Himalaya’s with a trek.. but the fact is that many people don’t have the time (or desire) for a typical trekking experience in Nepal.
The Poon Hill trek can be completed in 3-4 days and is a perfect taste of a traditional trek in the Himalaya’s. It’s well-marked and not very difficult, thus making it a very popular trek. We added this trek on to the end of our trek along the Annapurna Circuit and saw more people than we had in our entire two weeks.
The Poon Hill trek begins in Nayapul (about a 2 hour bus ride from Pokhara) and ends in Ghandruk. It’s 40 km/25 mi so many people use it as an acclimatization trek before beginning a more difficult trek in the Annapurna region. The highest point on the trek is Poon Hill peak (3131M/10272FT) where most people choose to go for sunrise or sunset.
Whichever you pick, get there early because it gets VERY crowded. There is a stand at the top selling tea, and also a tower that you can climb for a better view.
Whatever amount of time you have to spend in Pokhara, you will find plenty to do. If you have the ability and time to add a few days in Lakeside Pokhara onto the end of your trek, I can't recommend it enough. It's such a special city and now that I've experienced it, I can't imagine a trip to Nepal without ending it in Pokhara.
All photos of me were taken by Amanda Lawrence - please visit her blog to discover more of her adventures!