Pokhara is the outdoor capital of the world. Surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the world and tons of hiking trails, it shouldn’t come as a surprise: people visit this town for mountain adventures. And so did we! But we decided to stick around and get to know the city some more. So if you’re unsure what to do in Pokhara, check out these tips.
Pokhara is the place to be if you’re looking for trekking in the mighty impressive Annapurna mountain range. Whether you’re coming back from trekking or waiting to go, there’s plenty to do in Pokhara to keep you entertained for a few days. We should know, as we stayed for a month and a half (which I cannot recommend :P). It’s a relaxed city with a very western vibe. You’ll find pretty much all sorts of food in the streets of Lakeside, which can be just what you need if you’ve just had dal bhat for eight days straight during trekking. But there’s more to Pokhara than just food (don’t worry, you can read all about the food part in this blog), here’s what you can do in Pokhara to kill some time…
Stroll around the Phewa lake
When in Pokhara, you can’t miss the Phewa lake even if you try. And why should you? It’s a lovely place to stroll around. Especially early morning, when the sun’s just risen. There’re barely any people there, so you can just enjoy the lake, maybe buy a sweet pastry from the person walking around selling them and look at the gorgeous mountain backdrop.
If you fancy getting on the lake, you could rent a boat for a couple of hours or a day. Prices are a bit weird. You can rent a boat for 500 rupees an hour (about €4,-), but an entire day will cost you 1000 rupees. So we decided to just rent it for a day to save ourselves some trouble (it’s a big lake and rowing is tougher than it seems). But after two hours in the burning heat, we were kind of done with it. It’s nice to row towards the smaller villages along the shore and just drag your boat ashore, grab a book and enjoy bustling Pokhara from a safe distance.
Rent a scooter
There are taxi’s everywhere, but we found that the best (and cheapest) way to get out of Lakeside, is to rent a scooter. There are quite a lot of shops renting out scooters, so you can haggle a bit if you like. Somewhere between 800 and 1100 rupees is a reasonable price for a day. If you want to rent a motorbike, you’ll have to pay more (especially those cool looking Royal Enfield motorcycles). We rented our scooter from a guy on the side of the road (not a random guy, he’s there every day), right about here. He made a copy of our passports and he didn’t see our driving license, he only asked if we had one 😛 He did say we could get pulled over by the police and if this happened, we would have to pay around 500 rupees. Even though we did take pictures of all the damage on the scooter before we left, he didn’t even look at the scooter when we brought it back. I guess renting a scooter in Nepal isn’t such a big deal!
In Nepal, only the driver is obligated to wear a helmet. Which means, if you rent a scooter, you get only one helmet. Where Nepali people seem to be fine with this, I was more keen on staying safe in the hectic traffic. Luckily, it was no problem to get a second helmet for free 🙂
When you’ve got your scooter, make sure to get to the hills around Pokhara as fast as you can! There’re plenty of rural villages just a few minutes drive from Lakeside. Methlang is located close to the road that leads to Sarangkot and is surrounded by terraces and agricultural land. The contrast between this area and Lakeside Pokhara couldn’t be bigger. We loved to drive the (very bumpy!) road and stop whenever we saw something that we liked. Which was often 🙂
Explore Old Pokhara
We read about Old Pokhara (also known as Purana Bazaar) online and knew we wanted to visit it. It’s located about four kilometers north of Lakeside and you can get there by local bus, taxi or a nice walk (like we did). The area used to be the center of trade in Pokhara, but those times are long gone. Most shops moved away, leaving vacant buildings. Which is a shame because this part of town is filled with typical Newari style houses, similar to those you see in Kathmandu.
Besides the great looking houses, we loved the truly Nepalese atmosphere around here. It’s so different than you can experience around Lakeside.
Visit a Tibetan temple
Pokhara is different from Kathmandu. You can’t spend a day without seeing a big gorgeous temple or stupa in the capital, wherein Pokhara you’ll actually have to search to find one. In Lakeside there’s a temple on the Phewa lake and some small temples next to the road, but if you want to see the real deal, you’ll have to get out of Lakeside. When we had our scooter, we visited Matepani Gumba, a Tibetan temple overlooking Pokhara. It’s a twenty-minute drive from Lakeside, but it’s definitely worth a visit. When we visited, there weren’t any tourists, just a few young monks running around. It’s a bit damaged by the 2015 earthquake, but you’ll have to get up close to notice.
Don’t forget to visit the smaller temple with all its prayer wheels right below the Matepani Gumba and a bit hidden away by trees!
Enjoy sunrise at the World Peace Pagoda
When we just arrived in Pokhara we noticed that lot’s of tourists visit Sarangkot for a sunrise view of the mountains. Which means it can be very crowded there. Another great place to watch the sunrise is the Shanti Stupa (also known as the World Peace Pagoda). From Lakeside, you can clearly see this pagoda standing on top of Ananda Hill on your left (when facing the lake). If you don’t feel like waking up too early, you could also visit this viewpoint before sunset to get that awesome golden hour glow.
The best way to get to the World Peace Pagoda is by scooter. It takes about 25 minutes (30-35 when it’s still dark), and the road is nice to drive. The last part up is a bit steep, but we managed on our little scooter. You’ll have to park your vehicle at the entrance and walk some stairs for about ten minutes before reaching the stupa at last. If you visit during the day, it’s possible to hike up to the stupa. Just get a boat from Lakeside to drop you off below the Stupa and walk up in about an hour. Of course, getting here by taxi is also an option. It will cost you about 800 rupees for one way or 1500 for a return trip.
Please, be as silent and respectful as possible when you’re up there. Some people play music and talk loud despite all the signs telling them not to…
Go shopping in a bazaar
While the supermarkets or ladies on the streets are fine for getting your daily groceries, buying stuff there isn’t really an experience. What is, is going to one of the many local bazaars in Pokhara. You’ll have to walk for a bit (or go by taxi or scooter), but it’s well worth the walk. We went to a bazaar called Sasto bazar, but there are plenty in the center of Pokhara. A bazaar is like an indoor market where you can get pretty much everything. From fruits en vegetables to shoes, clothes, toys and countless types of spices.
When we visited this bazaar, we were the only tourists and it was one of the first times we really were in a local place. Because the people who have a stall are in the bazaar all day, every day, a lot of them bring their families. Which meant there were a lot of kids running around and playing. And of course, being white, you kinda stand out and the kids are curiously hanging around you. At one point, Juul was even covered by two kids who climbed on top of him.
Learn about the mountains in the International Mountain Museum
If you’re eager to learn about Nepal’s’ Mountains and local ethnic groups, go check out the International Mountain Museum. It’s located a few kilometers outside Lakeside. You could walk there, and in fact, I would recommend doing so as it’s a nice short hike through a more local part of Pokhara. The museum itself is quite big! You can easily spend a few hours here. There’s plenty of information about the highest mountains in the country, the climbers that climbed them (and the gear they used) and the effect that climate change has on the mountains. You can also learn about the different ethnic groups living in mountainous areas in Nepal. It’s great to see what kind of tools they use in their day to day life and how every group has their own customs and rituals.
Hike up Sarangkot
Despite our initial hesitation to visit Sarangkot, we decided we needed to see what all the fuss was about. But we didn’t know if we wanted to see sunset or sunrise… So we decided to hike up to the viewpoint in the afternoon, see the sunset and spent the night in one of the guesthouses near the viewpoint and see the sunrise the next morning. By doing this, you’re not only doubling your chances of a great view but also save some money. We slept in the Superview Guesthouse, which was about 15 euro. Which is cheaper than actually getting a taxi up to Sarangkot, can you believe it? There are way more guesthouses up there, so I guess you can find a cheaper option.
The hike to Sarangkot takes about 2 – 3 hours depending on your fitness and the weight of your backpack. There are multiple routes leading towards the 1592m high hilltop. One leading you through Methlang, the small village I talked about before. I will do a more in-depth blog about this short trekking soon!
Note: you’ll have to pay 50 rupees to enter the viewpoint area, but you can use this ticket again the following morning.
Bonus: experience Holi in Pokhara!
If you’re flexible in your travel dates, make sure to spend Holi in Pokhara! It’s such a fun festival to be a part of. We especially liked it in the morning, when there were mostly kids on the streets. They’ll cover your face in colorful powder or throw water balloons on you, but they’ll do it with the biggest smile!
Looking for hotels in Pokhara? There are plenty!
How about some adventure?
You can’t write an article about ‘what to do in Pokhara‘ without even mentioning the adventure stuff, right? Because if you’re looking for adventure besides trekking, there’s plenty to do in Pokhara too! We didn’t do any of these things, but you could go paragliding, zip-lining, rafting, mountain biking, bungee jumping or fly in an ultralight plane… OK, did I just made us sound boring by saying we didn’t do any of this stuff? 😛
Another thing we didn’t do because, believe it or not, we didn’t have enough time, is visiting Begnas or Rupa Lake. These are two supposedly gorgeous lakes outside of busy Pokhara. Begnas Lake is only a 40-minute scooter drive away and reaching Rupa takes you about 50 minutes by scooter (or take a local bus for the real Nepali experience). You can easily combine the two and spend a relaxing day by a lake that isn’t filled with tourists.
Save this blog
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means that we receive a small fee if you purchase something through these links. No worries, you pay no extra money for this!