Top Things to Do in Pokhara, Nepal

The mountainous landscape of Pokhara offers plenty of wild adventures
The mountainous landscape of Pokhara offers plenty of wild adventures | © Nick Fox / Alamy
Photo of Joel Rabinowitz
25 November 2021

Pokhara, the second-largest city in Nepal, offers a refreshing contrast to the frenetic streets of the capital, Kathmandu. Its setting on the shore of Phewa Lake, with the snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna mountains on the horizon, could hardly be more idyllic. Whether you’re looking to spend a relaxing few days soaking up the laid-back atmosphere, or planning an adrenaline-pumping adventure, it makes an ideal inclusion to your Nepal itinerary. To help you plan your visit, we’ve picked out the best things to do in Pokhara.

Keen to visit Pokhara? It’s just one of several fantastic destinations, along with Kathmandu and Chitwan National Park, featured as part of Culture Trip’s exclusive 11-day Nepal trip.

Row across Phewa Lake

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature
A line of colourful rowboats on the shore of Lake Phewa
© Marina Pissarova / Alamy
One of the best ways to appreciate the serene surroundings of Pokhara is to glide across Phewa Lake on a colourful paddleboat. Head down to the shore and you’ll find plenty of lakeside stalls, where you can either rent a boat to take out yourself for a specified amount of time, or with a dedicated driver who’ll show you the best parts. Expect to pay around 500 Nepali rupees (£3/$4) per hour. Alternatively, join a guided tour which includes a visit to Tal Barahi Temple – a two-storey pagoda temple on an island in the lake.

Watch the sunrise from Sarangkot

Architectural Landmark
The sun rises at the village of Sarangkot, with light hitting a nearby section of the Himalayas
The tiny, hilltop village of Sarangkot, just north of Pokhara, offers a spectacular vantage point for panoramas of the Annapurna range. As such, it’s one of the best spots to watch the sunrise in Nepal, as the mountains are bathed in a golden glow. It takes around three hours to hike there from Pokhara, but given sunrise occurs between 5am and 7am (depending on the time of year) a more convenient option is to take a taxi to the top and hike back down – or continue to the Gurung village of Naudanda, traversing farmland and rice terraces en route.

With Culture Trip, you can stay overnight at a mountain lodge in Sarangkot, and enjoy a sunrise yoga session, as part of our specially curated 11-day Nepal adventure – led by our Local Insider.

Paraglide in the Himalayan foothills

Sports Center
A team of paragliders drift over Phewa Lake
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As well as unforgettable sunrises, Sarangkot also has a reputation as one of the most incredible places in the world to go paragliding, thanks to reliable thermal currents, safe take-off and landing spots nearby, and stunning views of the Himalaya as you soar through the sky. There are plenty of companies dotted along the lakeside road; Team 5 and Sunrise Paragliding are two of the best. Expect to pay around 10,000 NPR (£61/$83) for a standard, 30-minute tandem flight with an experienced pilot. These often include photographs and GoPro footage of your flight.

Go white-water rafting on the Upper Seti River

Sports Center
Whitewater rafters battle waves on a river in Nepal
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Keen for a thrilling adventure but not quite sure if paragliding is for you? Pokhara’s proximity to the Upper Seti River makes it an excellent white-water rafting destination. Bounce along exhilarating class III-IV rapids, and glide through gentler sections, taking in the dreamy mountain scenery as you go. Most tours depart from the lake shore in Pokhara and include transport to and from the rafting entry point, around 30 minutes outside the city. Expect to pay around 6,000 NPR (£37/$50) for a half-day excursion, such as the one offered by Paddle Nepal.

Tuck into delicious food

Cafe, Coffee, $$$
A man operating a street-food cart in Pokhara
© Ashley Whitworth / Alamy
There are few better places to experience authentic Nepali and Tibetan cuisine than in Pokhara, which has an extensive selection of superb cafes and restaurants, many of which line the lakeside road. Byanjan, Pokhara Thakali Kitchen and Potala Tibetan Restaurant are among the standout options where you can try momo dumplings and dal bhat – a hearty lentil stew served with rice that’s the national dish of Nepal. In the mood for pizza? Caffe Concerto is the place to go. If vegan-friendly juices, smoothie bowls and salads are calling, opt for The Juicery Cafe, a great lunch spot by the lake.

Hike to the World Peace Pagoda

Architectural Landmark
The all-white World Peace Pagoda - or Shanti Stupa - on top of Ananda Hill
© Thomas Dutour / Alamy
The gleaming white, 35m (115ft) tall World Peace Pagoda, also known as Shanti Stupa, is arguably the most impressive religious building in Pokhara. Sitting at an altitude of 1,100m (3,600ft) atop Ananda Hill, the pagoda, constructed during the 1970s by Japanese monks, has a platform with magnificent views of Pokhara, Phewa Lake and the Annapurna mountains. Getting there is a rewarding experience itself; either take a boat for around 800 NPR (£5/$6.70) and walk 45 minutes to the top, or take a taxi from the city centre – around 1,500 NPR (£9.45/$12.60) for a return trip.

Visit the International Mountain Museum

The International Mountain Museum, looking onto the Himalaya and Machhapuchhre (the Fish Tail Mountain)
© Andrew Bain / Alamy
Given that Nepal has eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world, with summits exceeding 8,000m (26,250ft) high, it’s a fitting home to the International Mountain Museum. Here, you can learn all about the history of mountaineering worldwide, with a particular focus on the geology of the Nepali Himalaya, and the techniques and equipment used in ascending them. There are also sections dedicated to the cultural heritage of Nepal’s indigenous mountain people, and the flora and fauna of the Himalaya. It’s open daily from 9.30am-4pm, and entry costs 500 NPR (£3.15/$4.20) for adults.

Explore the nearby cave systems

Natural Feature
Nepal, Gandaki zone, Pokhara, Gupteshwor Mahadev cave
© Hemis / Alamy
The hills around Pokhara contain a myriad of cave networks, which are well worth venturing out of town to explore. Mahendra Cave, with hundreds of stalagmites and stalactites, and the Bat Cave (Chameri Gufa), home to thousands of horseshoe bats, are both popular attractions. If you only visit one cave, though, make it Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave, on the road to the World Peace Pagoda. Accessed via a twisting staircase, it contains a small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, and the underground section of the Devi’s Falls waterfall. Entry costs 100 NPR (£0.60/$0.85).

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