Pokhara is a popular tourist destination in Nepal known for its amazing views of the Annapurna mountain range – home to three of the ten highest mountains in the world. The city is a perfect destination away from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu. You may also hike different nature trails nearby, visit waterfalls and view the Annapurna mountain range up close at Sarangkot. The city is also the jump-off for hikers going to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC).
HOW TO GET THERE
- For flights and entry requirements to Nepal, please read: Nepal Budget Travel Guide: Backpacking Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara
- From Kathmandu take a bus bound to Pokhara. You may book tickets at different hostels/hotels in Thamel. Travel time is 6-8 hours. Alight at Pokhara bus terminal.
- From Pokhara bus terminal, take a taxi going to Lakeside, Pokhara where most hotels and guesthouses are located. Travel time: 5-10 minutes. Walking to Lakeside is also an option.
via Tourist Bus: Getting a tourist bus is our recommended transportation option to Pokhara. You may book tickets at your hostel or guesthouse in Kathmandu. Price ranges from 700 Rs to as high as 2000 Rs. Price range depend on the bus’ amenities. The cheapest one is the 700 Rs air-conditioned bus which offer WiFi on Board (never worked though). The 1500 Rs air-conditioned bus offers WiFi on Board, with restroom and free one bottled water. The most expensive buses offer WiFi, restroom, snacks, lunch and La-Z boy type seating.
From Thamel, just walk to the bus pick up point. Ask your hotel for directions. Walking time is only 20-30 minutes. Tourist buses usually depart at 7:00am. You are recommended to be there 30 minutes – 1 hour before departure time. Bring your bus ticket with you. Seating is reserved so take note of your seat numbers.
The 700 Rs bus without toilet will stop four times in total – 2 for toilet breaks and 2 for breakfast and lunch. Buses with toilet will only stop twice for food breaks.
via Plane: The more expensive option is taking a domestic flight to Pokhara. Travel time is only around 30 minutes. One way fare is USD 90+. We do not recommend this option for budget travelers. You may book tickets through different travel agents or directly purchase from airlines’ ticket counters at the airport.
Local buses are also available but this is not recommended because of the bus’ condition. Travel time would also take longer than tourist buses because of the multiple stops.
Bus from Pokhara to Kathmandu: Buses from Pokhara to Kathmandu will depart Pokhara Bus Terminal at 7:00am. You may book your tickets through your hotel or guesthouse. You are also advised to be there 30 minutes before departure time.
WHERE TO STAY
Most hotels and guesthouses in Pokhara are located at Lakeside. There’s a range of accommodation options here; from affordable guesthouses to expensive hotels. It is also home to different lakeside (Phewa Lake) restaurants and cafes where tourists usually hang out. Multiple souvenir shops are also located here.
When getting rooms, request for a mountain view room to get amazing views of the Annapurna mountain range. The snow-capped mountains can be seen from Lakeside early in the morning and during sunset. Get a top floor room for unobstructed views. Lakeside is walkable from Pokhara bus terminal – around 15 – 20 minutes. You may also take a taxi for 200 Rs. Here’s a list of hotels in Pokhara. You may also try other booking sites like Booking.com – list of hotels in Pokhara.
ITINERARY AND THINGS TO DO
The city of Pokhara, compared to Kathmandu, is very laid-back. Due to its proximity to Annapurna mountain range, most hikers would stay here before heading out. Some tour operators and hike organizers can also be found in the city. For non-hikers, Pokhara is also a great place to enjoy amazing activities. Most attractions are just a taxi ride away.
If you’re not hiking, two to three days can be allotted in this beautiful laid-back city. You may start off by visiting Phewa Lake where some lakeside cafes and restaurants are. Order some coffee and lounge away. You may also hire a boat and spend time on the lake. On a clear day, you may be able to see the snow-capped mountains reflect on its waters. You may also visit Tal Barahi – a small temple located on an island in the middle of the lake.
Just across Phewa Lake is World Peace Stupa nestled on top of a hill. You may either go here through a boat ride across the lake (then hiking up) or through a taxi ride which will go around the hill (less hiking). Going back, you may hike down and hire a boat across the lake back to Lakeside. It offers an amazing view of Pokhara, Phewa Lake, as well as the Annapurna mountain range from afar. For best views, you may visit in the morning.
The following morning you may visit Sarangkot view point. Sarangkot is a hill-top town located in Pokhara where you can view the Annapurna mountain range up close. Do not forget to arrange your taxi ride a day before since departure from the city is usually at 5:00am. You may arrange a round-trip ride through your hotel or guesthouses. The trip will take around 20-30 minutes. A 50 Rs entrance fee will be collected before you enter the town. Make sure to ask the driver to bring you to the highest view point with the cell-tower. From our experience, most taxis drop passengers at the base (you can still view the mountains from there) which requires a 30-minute hike up to the highest view point.
Visiting Sarangkot in Pokhara was probably the highlight of our trip. Views of Pokhara and Phewa Lake at sunrise and the breath taking Annapurna mountain range will surely wake you up. You will be able to see Machapuchare (6997 MASL) with its fishtail peak, Annapurna South (7219 MASL) and Annapurna II (7937 MASL).
After Sarangkot, you may explore Lakeside. There are a lot of interesting finds at different souvenir shops in Pokhara. Food option is also not a problem because there are a lot of restaurants serving various cuisines. You may also visit Devi’s Falls nearby where the waterfall drops into an unexplored underground tunnel.
If you have more time, you can also do different nature hikes. You may inquire at your hotel for some activities. Easy hikes would normally take 3-5 hours.
- Transportation: 1400 Rs Kathmandu – Pokhara – Kathmandu tourist bus, 200 Rs Pokhara Bus Terminal – Lakeside, 2000 Rs Roundtrip Taxi to Sarangkot (arranged through hotel, you may look for cheaper options by talking with diff. taxi drivers around town)
- Accommodation: US$ 15/night top floor mountain view room with buffet breakfast, heater and hot water. Accommodation price ranges from US$ 13 – 25/night. High-end hotels have rooms for US$ 100/night
- Meals: 400 – 700 Rs/ meal
- Entrance Fees: 50 Rs Sarangkot view point entrance fee
- Do not forget to ask for a mountain view room for a perfect morning view.
- Exchange rates in Pokhara, at least during the visit, were bad. It’s better to exchange some currency at Kathmandu before heading out.
- When in Sarangkot, hike until you reach the cell-tower, where you can see 360-views of the town, the lake and Annapurna.
NEPAL BLOGS SUMMARY
- Nepal Budget Travel Guide: Backpacking Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara under P30,000 All-In
- Kathmandu Nepal Travel Guide: Exploring the Capital and the Country’s Largest City
- Patan Nepal Travel Guide: The City of Fine Arts
- Bhaktapur and Nagarkot Budget Travel Guide: Of Temples and Snow-Capped Mountains