This is Part II of a two part series about my trip to Pokhara. If you haven’t read Part I yet, do check it out.
I hope I have sold Pokhara to you by now :p Now that we have the where-to-live and what-to-eat part sorted, the next question would be, what to do in Pokhara?
I mean, yes, nature, scenery, lake, hills — all is there. But one can’t just look at all of these sights everyday and not do anything at all, right? Don’t worry, I didn’t spend 9 good days in Pokhara for nothing! Read on and find out about all the interesting stuff that awaits you in Pokhara 🙂
The Famous Phewa Lakeside
The Phewa Lake, or Fewa Lake, or Phewa Tal, is where all the action in Pokhara happens. The whole Lakeside road is lined with several shops, restaurants, money changers, travel agents, etc, so it really feels like the centre of the city and a tourist hub. I am really not sure what other parts of Pokhara are like, because (insert guilty facial expression), we never left the lakeside except for the time we went to Sarangkot for our adventure activities, or for the time when we had to move to The Pavilions Himalaya resort.
Along the lake there are mainly several restaurants with outdoor sitting, a park, a track for you to walk or cycle and many street vendors selling off souvenirs, accessories and food.
Ideally, people stay in hotels that are closer to the lakeside as it is a bit more commercial. And there are so many hotels to choose from!
There are two sections of the lakeside. One is lined with all the restaurants that I mentioned earlier with a cosy look and feel, and the other one is a slightly barren area – I have no idea why it has not been developed properly. You’d find just a plain land there with a couple of benches and lots of litter! 😦 Funny story: On our first day when we decided to explore the lakeside, we mistakenly entered from the barren area and were downright disappointed. We sat on a nearby bench and both my husband and I had nothing to say to each other, when finally one of us broke the ice and said, “Katchra dekhna tha tou Karachi mein hi dekh lete, Nepal kyun aye?” (If we had to see garbage, we could have seen it in Karachi, why travel all the way to Nepal?) :p
I wish they work out through the garbage situation, otherwise the lakeside is a BEAUTY.
Activities and Excursions in Pokhara
Ok, I have no idea why I am getting so excited to write this part. There are quiet a few things that you can do in Pokhara, some of them listed below. I need to clarify first that despite staying for 9 days in Pokhara, I didn’t do all of these activities. I don’t feel sorry about that because that’s just how we planned our trip. You can just basically choose whatever stuff you’re comfortable doing, and then plan your trip accordingly. For us, some high-end-adrenaline-rush sort of activities combined with some sightseeing and chilling out sessions worked, so that’s how we worked it out. Not everything suits everyone, and not everyone has the same kind of interests, so you can read on and decide for yourself.
1. Boating in Phewa Lake
Experience Rating: ★★★★☆
This is the cutest experience you will ever have in Pokhara. I say this because the lake is so cute, and the boats, painted in vibrant colours, are cuter! You can request for a guy to row the boat for you, or you can choose to row the boat yourself, which in my opinion is more exciting. It costs around NPR 500 (round trip) for 1 hour long ride. You can choose to row for longer, but the cost will then go up. Also if you choose to have one of the boat guys row it for you, then again, the rate would be a little higher than that. But it is fun! It’s a great arm workout too!
Experience Rating: ★★★★★
One of the most A M A Z I N G experiences in Pokhara ever! I was a bit skeptic about this at first, but then thought that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I would be stupid to not do it. And honestly, the landscapes and views when you’re dangling high up in the air are so gorgeous that it is really worth jumping off a cliff for! The take-off site is located at Sarangkot and your Paragliding agents would arrange for your gear and transfers.
Experience Rating: ★★★★★
Nepal has the world’s 2nd steepest zipline with a vertical drop of 610 meters, total distance of 1.80 km, and maximum speed of 120 km/hr. Operated by a company called Highground Adventures, this is also an experience worth having. The zipline is located also in Sarangkot, and the guys at Highground Adventures arrange your transport to the site. Must-do for the massive adrenaline rush!
4. Bungee Jumping
*Experience Rating: ★★★☆☆
The same guys, Highground Adventures, also can arrange bungee jumping for you. I didn’t do it, ’cause the idea of hanging upside down from a rope makes me slightly nauseous (puke). But we saw a couple of videos of the experience, and it seemed very funny and exciting at the same time. If you have the guts, please do it :p
5. Ultralight Flight
*Experience Rating: ★★★★☆
Ultralight is basically a flight you can go for in a tiny light-weight aircraft that is usually open air sort of. Good for viewing aerial panoramas of the city. The take-off strip is somewhere closer to the airport, we saw it on our way there. The planes are super cute and you get to fly with a trained pilot, so I’m assuming it could be a really exciting experience.
6. Hike to the World Peace Pagoda
Experience Rating: ★★★★☆
When we visited Pokhara, the World Peace Pagoda or Shanti Stupa was on our must-visit list. There are two ways to reach the stupa. You can either go via taxi and then climb some hundreds of stairs to the top, or you can choose to go an even more exciting and physically challenging experience, that is, by a hike on foot from the lakeside. There is not much to do there, but the views from the top are certainly worth the climb! If you are lucky to have clear skies, then you can clearly view the Annapurna Mountain range including the Fish Tail mountain. Read about the whole experience here.
7. Sunrise at Sarangkot
**Experience Rating: ★★★★★
I have heard a LOT about this, and I feel so bad for not doing it. Whoever visits Pokhara, it is a must-go kind of place for them. To see the sunrise from so high up, it must be breathtaking. I wanted to go there and make a time-lapse of the sunrise, but unfortunately, we couldn’t accommodate this activity in our itinerary. We had already been to Sarangkot for Paragliding and Zipflying, and had experienced the bumpy and rough ride to the top twice already so we did not dare to do it again in the night.
8. Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave
*Experience Rating: ★★☆☆☆
If you’re into caves, this place could be worth exploring. However, since I am claustrophobic, this was definitely out of question for me. People on the internet suggest that if you’re a newbie, you might find this place interesting, however those who have explored caves around the world, they might not enjoy.
9. Cycle/Bike Tours
*Experience Rating: ★★★★☆
Okay, I really wanted to do this, but we forgot. Yes, that happens. We would pass by this shop everyday that had cycles for rent, and everyday I would think that we’ll do it tomorrow for sure, and then soon it was time to go back. Basically, what you can do is rent a cycle/bike for a day and explore deeper parts of Pokhara on your own. Or you can go for more elaborate tours where you get to cycle all the way to Begnas Lake and stop at different places in between to have meals and rest.
Experience Rating: ★★★☆☆
If you’re a woman, then you definitely have a separate budget for shopping :p Pokhara is magical when it comes to shopping. There are several shops at the lakeside road selling various goods ranging from souvenirs, clothing, shoes, handicrafts, trekking gear and what not. You can get beautiful pashminas, shawls, scarves, shoes, jewellery, bags and other accessories. Every piece is so gorgeous to look at. Handicrafts and other cottage industries are a big thing in Nepal. I personally loved the Nepali jewellery there. However, I found out after a couple of impulsive purchases later that neither do they let you bargain much nor they sell the items to tourists on local prices. Sob.
Suggested Budget for a 5-Nights Trip to Pokhara
Nepal can be done dirt cheap. I’m going to list down per item budget that you can allot. You first will need to decide how many days you want to get away, and then create a travel budget for yourself. I would recommend at least 4-5 days, or longer if you are my type and need to absorb a place into your senses completely. (Yes, I’m obsessive). It all depends on what kind of vacation you want to do: adventurous, relaxing, or a mix of both.
Below is a summarized budget for one person. It is not a definite cost, it’s an estimate. The prices can and will vary depending on when you visit, where you stay, which airline you fly with, what activities you indulge in, and what type of food you eat and how often you eat :p
|Tickets KHI-KTM-KHI (Round trip via Flydubai)||USD 600|
|Tickets KTM-POK-KTM (Round trip via Yeti Airlines)||USD 112|
|Visa||On-arrival, free on first entry (for SAARC countries only)
Rest of the world: USD 25
|Accommodation (average mid-priced hotels)||USD 30-50 per night|
|Accommodation (high-end hotels and resorts)||USD 120-150 per night|
|Activities||USD 70-90 (subject to chosen activity)|
|Food||USD 15-20 per day lunch + dinner for one person|
|Shopping||USD 50 (only if you don’t plan on getting gifts for your whole family)|
|Transportation||USD 20 (only if you don’t plan on taking a taxi every other day and would prefer commuting on foot)|
|TOTAL APPROX COST (5 nights)||USD 1200-1800 per person|
All prices in Nepal would have a 10% Service charge and a 13% VAT.
Yes, all of this can be done cheaper. For example, I think if we had taken a taxi to the World Peace Pagoda, it would have been costlier, so to save up and of course, for the experience of it, we chose to hike on foot. Also, in my opinion, I’m guessing that the Sarangkot sunrise tour and cycle tours could be cheaper if you do them on your own, rather than with a guide, because they would charge for their services too. So it’s better to research all options before you book a tour, like can you do it on your own? Is it safe to go to a certain place alone or going in a group is better? You will need to ask around a lot and exhaust all options if you are critical about spending each penny. For some people, safety and comfort is a priority over saving money. Some people would prefer to stay at a luxurious hotel because they believe in those kind of vacations. Others would be thrilled by being out and about exploring every nook and corner of the city while staying at a budget hotel. So something that worked for me, might not work for you – you get the idea.
Lastly, A Heads-Up!
- Pokhara is not a developed city like Dubai or even Karachi. In fact whole Nepal is rarely touched by any kind of western influence. So if you’re looking for high-rise buildings, sophisticated living conditions, or well-maintained roads and bridges, then you better head out to the Middle East or Americas.
- It is actually sad that you will find garbage at many places in Nepal. But I am pretty sure I have seen truck loads worse garbage in Karachi so can’t complain.
- Nepal is not a honeymoon destination, in my opinion. My idea of a honeymoon is to zone out and disconnect from the real world for a few days, and Nepal is just not that type. If you don’t go out and about in Nepal, then you are definitely wasting your time.
- Go to northern areas of Pakistan if you are looking for only scenery and no adventure. Your trip would be a waste if you don’t do at least one adventure activity.
- The best time to visit Pokhara is March-April or October-November. That’s also the peak season. If you’re looking for lower rates then maybe go in non-peak season like I did. But then I can’t promise that you’ll get to see the Himalayas. (We went in Feb and there was way too much haze, the views felt dusty and we kept praying for rain).
- Everyone speaks and understands Urdu/Hindi in Nepal, so language wouldn’t be a barrier there.
- Don’t judge Nepal for its short-comings. Yes, you might feel that Karachi is way ahead of Kathmandu, but I think we should learn to accept places for what they are worth. So what if the roads are narrow and the homes are tiny. At least the hearts are bigger and the life is happier 🙂
* P.S. I gave an experience rating to these activities purely based on my feelings for it, because I did not get a chance to do them, but regardless I find them interesting. If you like, you can check them out on your trip. I’m sure it’ll be loads of fun.
** All stars ’cause even though I didn’t do it, I know this IS awesome.
All pictures are my own work, unless otherwise credited. If using any of these photos for your own purpose, please give proper credits to my blog, otherwise fear the hell fire on the day of judgement. Thank you.