Pokhara, sometimes called the tourist capital of Nepal, is located on scenic Phewa Lake and is surrounded by mountains. Depending on the season, you may be lucky enough to see the snow covered Annapurna Mountains, part of the Himalayan range, surrounding Pokhara. The best seasons for visibility and for trekking are in March – April and October – November. The months before and after “the seasons” are more variable, and sometimes you can be lucky and catch peaks of the Himalayan grandeur. However, don’t be surprised if you end up catching a lot of clouds. Pokhara is the jumping off point for many treks, and is thus a mecca for trekkers. There are treks of varying lengths and levels of difficulty ranging from one day to several weeks. The business traveller can take a two-three day detour and enjoy the laid back atmosphere and sights that Pokhara has to offer. Here are my top five:
1. Phewa Lake
Phewa Lake is right in the middle of Pokhara, and is surrounded by a large strip of hotels, restaurants, and shows catering to the lively tourist trade. It is the scenic icon of Pokhara, and serves as a focal point for the area. Boating is a favorite pastime, and boats, both covered and open, can be rented from several docks that ring the lake. You can choose to take a leisurely circuit of the lake by boat, visit the Hindu temple located on an island in the middle of the lake, or the Peace Pagoda, high up on the mountain adjacent to the lake. I opted for a relaxing hour long boat ride with a simple wooden boat paddled by a skilled oarsman. That adventure set me back 600 NPR, or approximately 6 USD.
2. Or2K: best veggie food in Nepal
After walking around the lake and taking a relaxing boat ride, a stop at the best veggie restaurant in all of Nepal is a must. Or2K, the sister of the original branch in Kathmandu, is located in the sparkling white Lakeside Building on the third floor, commanding the best view of Phewa Lake in all of Pokhara. Ample indoor and outdoor seating, both Nepali style on cushions on the floor and western table and chairs are available, and a slew of waiters are eager to take your orders. The food is fresh, interesting, and excellent. The young owner, Oded, is both charming and welcoming, making you feel right at home and ready to meet your every request. Sampling both Indian, Nepali, and Middle Eastern specialties, this restaurant does not disappoint. Prices are moderate and worth every cent. This is one place not to miss.
3. Peace Pagoda
High above Phewa Lake soars the Japanese built Peace Pagoda completed in 1999. You can choose to arrive at the Pagoda by boat or taxi. In either case, you will have some walking to do to ascend to the peak. If you choose to come by boat, it is about a 45–60 minute climb up. If you prefer the taxi route, you will still need to climb 418 steps to reach the top. It is well worth your while, as you will be rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of the green Pokhara Valley, with rolling rice paddies dotted with small houses. Stop at the top for a few moments to savor the silence and say a prayer for peace.
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4. Tibetan village and handicraft center
The Tibetan refugees fled Chinese domination in the early 1960s. Since that time, several thousands have found refuge in the Pokhara Valley, adjacent to the city. A visit to their handicraft center and visitor’s center allows one a glimpse into their story and a peek at their way of life. The small museum documents the history of the Tibetan refugees and their intent on preserving their heritage and return to their homeland. The small handicraft center showcases women working on looms, spinning yarn, and preserving the handicrafts of their culture. A nearby shop sells hand knotted and woven carpets of varying sizes and qualities. At the nearby Davis Falls, there are many shops with Tibetan jewelry with turquoise and coral, manned by Tibetan refugees. A stop at these shops to pick up a few gifts will enrich your visit with a conversation with some friendly Tibetans who are happy to talk about their lives and their community.
5. Lake Begnas
A visit to Pokhara would not be complete without a stop at the lovely Lake Begnas located about 12 kilometers (7.45 mi) east of Pokhara. While the lake is somewhat smaller than Lake Phewa, the quiet and the beauty of this lake are overwhelming. The lakeside area is dotted with simple guest houses, many with porches and hammocks, and it is easy to imagine whiling away a couple of days or weeks in total relaxation. The quiet, the pristine beauty, and the simplicity all add to the feeling that you are in a very special place. Just spending a couple of hours there to enjoy a swim, a cold drink, and a few hours of time out, are well worth it.
Pokhara: a treat for tourists
While Pokhara is often thought of as the trekkers mecca, it is worth a stop when you are in this corner of the world, even if you are not trekking. Pokhara has world class scenery if you are lucky enough to catch the views, and several sights and eateries that will make your visit memorable.
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