Pokhara valley is roughly 200 km west of Kathmandu. Flying over the snow-capped Himalayas to the north and the green Mahabharat range to the south is thrilling. At the same time, the overland journey past sparse rural settlements nestled along the Trisuli River provides a view of life particular to Nepal's middle hills. There are daily flights and bus services between Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Pokhara is the center of adventure in Nepal as it is the starting point for many of Nepal's most popular trekking and rafting destinations. You can reflect the magical beauty of Pokhara by viewing the reflection of Machhapuchhre (6977m) on the serenity of the shimmering waters in Phewa Lake. At an elevation lower than Kathmandu, it has a much more tropical feel, a fact well appreciated by the beautiful diversity of flowers that prosper in its environs. Indeed, Pokhara's valley is home to thick forests, gushing rivers, emerald lakes, and of course, the world-famous views of the Himalayas.
Pokhara is part of a once energetic trade route extending between India and Tibet. To this day, mule trains are camped on the outskirts of the town, bringing goods to trade from remote regions of the Himalayas. Pokhara is the land of the Magars and Gurungs, hardworking farmers and valorous warriors who have earned worldwide fame as Gurkha soldiers. The Thakalis, another important ethnic group here, are known for their entrepreneurship.
Mountain Views from Pokhara Valley
The most stunning Pokhara sights are the spectacular panorama of the Annapurna range, which forms its backdrop. The Annapurna massif includes Annapurna I to IV and Annapurna South. Although the highest among them is Annapurna I (8,091 m), Machhapuchhre dominates all others in this neighborhood. The fish-tailed pinnacle is the archetypal snow-capped, needle-pointed mountain, boastfully levitating in the skyline. If you want to see the mountains up close, Everest Air offers a mountain flight from Pokhara that takes you on an aerial sightseeing tour of the western Himalayas.
Phewa Lake, the second-largest in Nepal, is the center of all attractions in Pokhara. It is the largest and most enchanting of the three lakes that add to the resplendence of Pokhara. Here, one can sail or row a hired boat or visit its island temple. The eastern shore, popularly known as lakeside or Baidam, is the favorite home base for travelers, where most of the hotels, restaurants, and handicraft shops in Pokhara exist.
The Barahi temple is the most important monument in Pokhara. This two-storied pagoda is built almost in the center of Phewa Lake for the dedication to the boar manifestation of Ajima, the protester's deity representing- the female force Shakti. Devotees can be seen, especially on Saturdays, carrying male animals and fowl across the lake sacrificed to the Goddess.
The Seti Gandaki river is another of Pokhara's natural wonders that unfailingly interests visitors. The river runs completely underground at places. Amazingly, at specific points, the river appears hardly two meters wide. But its depth is quite beyond imagination (over 20 meters).MahendraPul, a small bridge near the old Mission Hospital, provides a perfect view of the river's dreadful rush and the deep gorge made by its powerful flow.
They are locally known as the PataleChhango (Hell's Fall). Devi's Fall (also known as Devin's and David's) is a lovely waterfall lying about two kilometers southwest of the Pokhara airport on the Siddhartha Highway. Legend has it that a trekker (Devin, David) was washed away by the Pardi Khola and mysteriously disappeared down into an underground passage beneath the fall.
Another of nature's wonders in Pokhara is the MahendraGupha. This large limestone cave is locally known as the House of Bats, an apt name for it. A two-hour walk to the north of Pokhara, it is best to bring your torch to see the stalactites and stalagmites and its winged residents.
The Old Bazaar
Pokhara's traditional bazaar is colorful, and so are its ethnically diverse traders. In its temples and monuments, we can see similarities to the ancient architecture of the Kathmandu Valley. Located about four kilometers from Lakeside, the market's original charm is alive and well. This area, strewn with shops selling commodities ranging from edibles and cloth to cosmetics and gold, is a pleasant and shady spot.
The old bazaar is also home to one of Pokhara's most important shrines. Locally called the Bindhyabasini Mandir, this white dome-like structure dominates a spacious stone-paved courtyard built atop a shady hillock. This temple worships Goddess Bhagwati, another manifestation of Shakti. The park-like grounds offer a delicate picnic area, and on Saturdays and Tuesdays, when devotees flock there to offer sacrifices, it takes on a festive local flavor.
The Pokhara Museum, located between the bus stop and Mahendra Pul, reflects the ethnic mosaic of western Nepal. The lifestyles and history of ethnic groups such as Gurungs, Thakalis, and Tharus through models, photographs, and artifacts. One major attraction is a display highlighting the newly-discovered remains of an 8000-year-old settlement in Mustang. Open daily, except Tuesdays and holidays, from 10 am to 5 pm.
The Annapurna Regional Museum, also known as the Natural History Museum, is another exciting visit to Pokhara. Run by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), the museum has an exceptional collection of butterflies, insects, birds, and models of wildlife found in the area. Located at Prithvi Narayan Campus east of the old bazaar, it is open from 9 am to 5 pm except on Saturdays and holidays.
Pokhara is the starting and finishing point for some of the most popular treks, including the Annapurna Circuit and the Jomsom Trek. It also offers several short treks for those who cannot opt for long, challenging ones. The most popular destination is Sarangkot (1592 m), a former Kaski fort lying atop a hill to the west of Pokhara. The panoramic view of the Himalayas seen from this point is superb. Kahundanda, Naudanda, Ghandrung, Ghorepani, and Ghalchok are other favorite destinations around Pokhara.
World Peace Pagoda
This pagoda is on the top of a hill on the southern shore of Phewa Lake. It has four images of Buddha facing in our direction. The pagoda is an impressive sight, and its hilltop location commands a great view. It is a great vantage point, which offers spectacular views of the Annapurna range and Pokhara city. Peace pagoda is the best viewpoint of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountain range.
The Buddhist monastery situated on the eastern part of Pokhara on a hillock is well known for its excellent city views. Buddhists from Manang build it in the 1960s. Manang is a popular destination that lies along the Annapurna Circuit trek. Images of Buddha and Padmasambhava are its major attractions. In addition, the Tibetian refugee camp is a significant attraction for Buddhists.
Just opposite Devi's fall, on the other side of the road, lies the Gupteshwor Cave. This cave is famous for the different natural forms made from limestone deposits.
Bindhyabasini Temple is one of the oldest temples in Pokhara. Legend says that when Pokhara was a part of the Kaski Kingdom, the temple's main deity, Goddess Durga, was brought from India. Apart from the peace and tranquility that you can feel in this region, the temple's premises offers a good view of the Himalayas on a clear day. Moreover, the temple is near the old Bazaar. Hence, combining the old bazaar with a visit to the temple is possible.