Must See Places
Pokhara is one of my favorite places. There is so much to do and the prices are backpacker friendly, plus the whole area is just beautiful. I wish there was a word that mixed peacefulness, natural beauty, and sublime tranquility…. that would be pokhara. There is an immigration office in the city that will keep extending your visa for up to a year and it is all too easy to stay there for twice as long as you’d planned. Nearly everyone I met traveling there extended their visa to stay in Pokhara. You WILL get trapped there. I planned to stay there for 2 weeks. I was there almost 2 months..
I will warn you that the bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara is hellish. I took this bus ride 4 times and it ranges from 6 – 18 hours. There is only one main road and if there is a land slide, car accident, road flood, or any ungodly event… you will be stuck in stand-still traffic for HOURS. You will really be wishing you had a battery pack on this ride.
Where To Stay…
- Stay in the North Lakeside Pokhara. It’s less touristy, more backpacker vibes, and cheaper. You will find so many cheap local restaurants in this area as well (averaging $4 USD a meal)
- Kiwi Backpakers is probably the most popular hostel in Pokhara but with it’s poor location the the expensive part of the town, metal bunk beds, and excessive prices I was not a fan.
- Across the street from the Rest Point Cafe in North Lakeside there is a road that leads up a large hill. There you will find backpacker gems to stay in. They will be just as expensive or cheaper than a hostel but with a private room and bathroom, but same backpacker atmosphere.
- I first stayed at Full Moon Lodge and paid $4.5 usd per night to split a double bed and private bathroom with a friend (so we each paid $2.25 per night). They also had single rooms with private bathrooms for $3 per night. I won’t lie to you. It’s not luxurious but it’s much better than a dorm and bunk bed. I also met so many other backpackers staying there as the rooftop had a breath taking view over the lake and everyone would relax in the peaceful atmosphere.
- When I came back to Pokhara we decided to stay in the nicer hotel two doors down from Full Moon and paid $5 per night. The beds and bathrooms were nicer but the wifi was shittier. The atmosphere was less “backpacker-y” but the nicer bathrooms were much appreciated. *Sorry I forget the name of the hotel, but it started with a B. Not Bickey’s Homestay.*
- Keep in mind that this was all in June/July during the beginning of “off-season” so the prices were lower.
While You’re Here You Have To…
Kayak Lake Phewa
This was probably my favorite thing to do in Pokhara. The water was nice and cold on a hot day and the mountains surrounding the lake made the experience so peaceful. If you go earlier in the morning before the clouds come out you can see the snowy peaks on the mountains in the distance. There is a small floating temple on the lake as well. you can kayak around it, but if you want to go in make sure your shoulders and knees are covered. Off-season we paid around $5 usd for a single kayak and $8 for a double kayak. I wouldn’t recommend the double kayak though because we couldn’t find balance on the damn thing and kept paddling in circles (possible it was user error, but I’m convinced it was a shit kayak).
Paraglide Over Pohkara
I didn’t do this because it was $80 usd at the time and I was being a real penny pincher, but I really regret missing it. Even watching the paragliders come off the mountain every morning was a beautiful sight. I’ve been told it’s best to go earlier before the clouds come out.
Take a scooter to Begnas Lake
From Pokhara it’s about a 45min scooter ride to Begnas. The ride is pretty straight forward with only a few turns. Just be careful and use your horn a lot when going around curves on the mountain. We happened to stumbled upon a gem called Ambrosia Guest House and Restaurant. Good food with a great view and they give you directions to walk down and swim in the lake. Even if you don’t want to go there for the food, it’s a good spot to type into your Google Maps or Maps.me for directions.
Catch A Film At Movie Garden
This little gem of Pokhara is a beautiful outdoor movie theatre with snacks and full bar. Lounge on a chair, couch, hammock, or meditation pillow and watch the night’s movie selection with the pokhara mountains and lake in the background. Get there early to get a good seat. Movie starts around 7pm. Here is their facebook page for location and movies
White Water Rafting
This was a lot of fun and you’re going to hate me because I have little to no details for you on which river I was on or who to book with. I booked through a tourist agency in Pokhara after spending nearly 2 hours walking up and down North Lakeside talking to countless tourist agency people until finally I found a place willing to charge me $60 usd for 2 days of rafting (including meals, transportation to and from rafting camp, river bungalow with fan, and, of course, the rafting). Everyone else wanted to charge at least $80, some even wanted to charge $120 so be sure to shop around. We even got them to agree to drop us off in Kathmandu instead of back in Pokhara to save on the bus ticket back. The company we went with was Adventure River Trails, but I cannot find a contact or website for them.
- Don’t swallow the water while rafting, you will get sick
- Shoes really aren’t necessary while rafting
- Don’t bring sunglasses unless you’re willing to loose them
- I really recommend doing at least 2 days of rafting to get the full experience (the first day was ok but the second day was great with the rapids)
- You absolutely do not have to do this in Pokhara. Kathmadu has plenty of options like this as well
- Rest Point Cafe – I ate here every morning for breakfast, cheap and delicious with a great view $
- Margarita Pizzaria – One of the best pizza places in town and actually the cheapest pizza place I found $
I usually don’t like big cities and try to get out as soon as possible when I fly into a new country, but I just so happened to get sick and stayed in Kathmandu for a week. I have to say.. it’s actually a nice city. There’s plenty to do and the people are VERY nice for that part of Asia (if you’ve been to India or Sri Lanka then you know what I’m talking about) they actually smile at you.
- Get your shopping done while you’re here (prices better than Pokhara) and explore the Thamel area.
- SCAM: be careful with the taxi drivers. Like most places, they try to charge you more. A good rule of thumb is 100 Nepali Rupees per 1 kilometer. Don’t fall for the “nighttime rate” some of them try to sell you on. They should have a meter and you should just pay by the meter, but I found when they know you’re a tourist the meter happens to be “broken” a LOT in this country.
Where To Stay…
- If you really want to find a cheap place to stay then walk around the Fireflies Hostel area, you can find a nice local hotel room around that area for as much as you’d pay for a hostel room on Hostel World. I stayed a night at Wander Thirst Hostel and was not impressed. There is free yoga and a great view.. I will give them that. For the sake of not ranting.. I will leave it at that.
- I stayed at Shangri-la Boutique Hotel for the first few days before I found the cheaper area and it was definitely worth the price when I was sick and laid up in bed for 3 days. Plus they give you a free breakfast which was really nice with fresh fruit, coffee, eggs, and such. Even though it’s a hotel they also have dorms so it’s still got a backpacker atmosphere.
- Secret Garden Guest House was recommended to us by friends, but unfortunately they were booked out when we arrived.
While You’re Here You Have To..
Visit The Garden Of Dreams
This is a chill spot to just lay in the sun and enjoy the day. Entry is around 3$ usd but well worth it just to take a picture or two and relax in the crazy city.
Walk To The Top Of Monkey Temple
Swayambhunath Stupa (also known as Monkey Temple) is the perfect place to take pictures and immerse yourself in the culture. It is a bit of a climb to the top, but you can stop for a bit and shop around the bottom. When you get to the very top (entrance fee $2 usd), try to find a local college student (they give free tours so they can practice their English) just ask around. They will tell you the history of the temple, the meaning of all of the different symbols, and they can show you a view point that over looks nearly all of Kathmandu. On the walk up to the top there are fun monkeys all over the place. I wouldn’t worry so much about them taking wallets and purses, but don’t go around them with food (and for some reason sunglasses). They will come at you with a furry if they like your lunch or your shades.
Walk Around Durbar Square
Split a cab with new friends or take a local bus to Durbar Square to see the old capital city. Cab takes about (45 min – hour traffic is really unpredictable). The city was pretty shaken by the 2015 earthquake (sorry, I can be pretty punny) which they are still rebuilding from. This place is huge. You can spent half a day just walking around the entire area, which is good because the entry fee was an astounding $30 usd. I wouldn’t say it’s completely worth the price to visit, but if you are a history buff it’s pretty much a must for a glimpse back in time.
They do have shops here, but I found that the shops and bargaining were better in Thamel. Be careful when buying cashmere. A lot of what they say is 100% cashmere is actually a blend. A great way to test if it’s real is to pull a couple threads off the fabric and burn it with a lighter. If it burns like hair then you’re good. If it burns like plastic with an awful smell and lots of smoke then it’s not real. I actually bought a fake from this area and was super bummed. In Thamel I got a 100% cashmere shoulder cover for cheaper.
- OR2K – funky, chill place with great desserts. I love going at night to see how the funky black lights light up the menus and decorations $$
- Fire and Ice Pizza – great pizza and ice cream when you’re craving western food $$