This city might be a haven for trekkers, but there are plenty of other things to do in Pokhara for those of you who left your hiking gear at home. Nepal was my very first introduction to Asia, and I blame it entirely for my constant cravings to be in this part of the world. These are my five top picks for anyone headed here…
Fewa Lake (Phewa Tal)
While the spelling of this place seems to vary massively, the beauty of it is eternal. This lake was one of my favourite spots to escape the touristy buzz of Lakeside, the popular area right next to it. The water is a lovely deep turquoise colour and there are incredible views of the Annapurna range surrounding it.
We rented rowboats for a few hours and lazily paddled around the lake for a few hours. It’s calm and quiet, and exactly what you need after the hustle and bustle of the streets. If you enjoy nature but don’t fancy getting sweaty on a hike trail, add this to your list of things to do in Pokhara and thank me later.
I never thought I’d be the kind of person who enjoys jumping off a cliff with only a parachute (and rather attractive man) attached to me , but apparently I am. Paragliding is one of those things that I’ve watched other people do and, instead of wanting to try it myself, I’ve simply had strong maternal feelings to protect them at all costs.
If you’re like me, I would definitely suggest giving it a go. This is a definitely a huge adrenaline rush, but isn’t so terrifying that I’d reserve it for thrill-seekers only. There are plenty of companies offering paragliding sessions for roughly the same price. You’ll be taken up a huge hill in the back of slightly dodgy looking open-ended truck, but don’t worry, the safety precautions are taken a lot more seriously with the parachute.
From there, you get strapped in, pointed towards the cliff edge and told to run. That’s it. After that, you’re flying and it’s the most unbelievable feeling in the world. The views are pretty stunning, too. Seeing Fewa Lake from above and the Annapurna range around me was an incredible feeling. This is one of the things to do in Pokhara that I really can’t recommend highly enough.
I was lucky enough to go with a ‘paragliding gymnast’ (who knew that existed? It’s now on my career-goals list), so there were plenty of flips and spins involved that I luckily caught on camera. I’ve always wondered what my face would look like when it’s falling through the sky, upside down, very, very quickly. Not great. Really. A lot like a bulldog, actually.
This is the only time I’d suggest heading up a mountain in Nepal without any prior experience or planning! You can get a taxi most of the way up Sarangkot, and it’s not too challenging a climb. I’d suggest wearing shoes and not flip flops, though. Head here for sunrise and admire the views of the Annapurna range. It’s early, but it’s worth it…
You can walk this route in around an hour or so, but beware that it does get steep. You don’t need to be a pro, but I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who struggles with joint pain. Entry costs less than a dollar, but take some small change and be considerate. This is an overwhelming experience and a great opportunity to really slow down and embrace the laid back lifestyle of the locals here. This is one of the more cultural things to do in Pokhara, so take your time and take it all in.
Find Inner Peace
The Peace Temple in Pokhara is absolutely stunning and is a must-see for anyone open to exploring spirituality. Take a small trek up to the stupa and enjoy incredible views over Lake Fewa, as well as the breathtaking surroundings of the temple.
A taxi from the main touristy area of Lakeside will cost you around $15 and there is short walk from the drop-off area to the stupa itself. There are a few cafes dotted around, as well as tourists, obviously, but this is still a really nice place to escape it all. There may be dozens of other people around but you’ll all be in your own little worlds.
If you’re feeling braver and fancy a sweat-lodge experience on the move, hike up from Lakeside. Take plenty of water and a spare change of clothes!
Lakeside is, as I mentioned, the main touristy area in Pokhara, but don’t let that put you off. You still get a really lovely feel for Nepalese life and there is plenty to take in. There are, of course, plenty of people selling locally-made bowls, jewellery and various souvenirs. There are cute little boutiques dotted around as well if you fancy some retail therapy. The main street is the place to head if you want to book any tours or adventures.
This is also home to some amazing food spots. Tucked in between endless Happy Hours and bad karaoke spots are some lovely little local cafes that are worth checking out. If you’re tired of rice (the same thing three meals a day is pretty intense, I know!), there are also some great Western restaurants.
There are loads of spas here as well – they’re not exactly how we do spas back home (my masseuse’s naked toddler was running around opening all the curtain partitions between customers and my eyes are still scarred), but getting some me-time in was still one of my favourite things to do in Pokhara. And anywhere, really. Yoga is big here, too, and there’s a real spiritual feel to Lakeside, despite its popularity with tourists. Nepal is the birthplace of Buddha, after all.
Evenings in Pokhara still hold a special place in my heart – I met my first love while I was living here, so forgive any sentimentality! There are sweet, small bars if you fancy a quiet evening, as well as Western-style bars with huge screens showing sports and selling cheap lager. We’re loved Busy Bee Café, and often headed out in big groups to reggae bars, rooftop spots and, after a lot of local beer, karaoke dens. Basically, there’s something for everyone, so be prepared to wake up to mortifying videos of you murdering a classic.
There are plenty of other things to do in Pokhara, including the famous Poon Hill trek and, of course, the Annapurna Base Camp trek. If you’re anything like me, you’ll just make your trip up as you go and won’t necessarily have crampons and walking sticks to hand. If you want to head to a Nepal for the trekking alone, definitely do plenty of research and take all the kit you’ll need.
Sadly, certain treks are only suitable for those who have planned their trips around them, not for people who suddenly fancy spending an afternoon hiking! There are plenty of cool things to do if you do find yourself in Pokhara, so make the most of it and enjoy staying at sea level.