A Backpacker’s Guide to Pokhara, Nepal

Getting to Pokhara by bus

It takes 7-8 hours to get to Pokhara from Kathmandu, and 5-6 from Chitwan. The bus from Kathmandu costs 600-800 rupees per person (£4-5.50) and from Chitwan it’s around 500-700 rupees (£3-5) Do shop around different travel agencies as the prices vary from shop to shop. You can try haggling if there’s a group of you and agree a deal, but the price is usually fixed for 1 or 2 people.

Upon arrival to Pokhara, you’ll be dropped off at the Tourist Bus Station. There are a few cafes here and there are ample taxis waiting to take you to Lakeside, Pokhara (where you’ll want to stay.) Agree a price beforehand – around 300-350 rupees (£2) for the short journey into Pokhara. It’s a good 30-40 minute walk, so for the sake of £2 I wouldn’t bother walking with your heavy backpacks.

Accommodation

You should definitely stay in Lakeside as this is the main tourist area and everything you need is within walking distance here.

We’d used hotels.com to book Lake Boutique Hotel but there was an error with the booking and when we arrived there weren’t any rooms available. This hotel was actually run by an English man and seemed really nice, with air conditioning and a daily maid service!

We ended up staying across the road at Shiva Lodge which was reasonably priced at 900 rupees  (£6) a night. It was relatively clean and had a delicious cafe at the front, which sold fresh juices, smoothie bowls and other nutritious light bites.

Ask for the upstairs back room which overlooks the lake. This room is bright and airy as there are three windows and a fan. An in-house laundry service is also available at 150 rupees (£1) per kilo (the same as all the other shops offering to do your laundry). The accomodation was nice but there was no atmosphere/social activities so I probably wouldn’t stay here as a solo traveller.

A lone traveller we met stayed in a dorm at Zostel Pokhara (Zostel is a hostel chain in India/Nepal) and said it was fantastic – she told me there was lots of common areas and a rooftop area with hammocks. Their website suggests dorm beds are available from 449 rupees (£3) per night and private rooms from 1119 rupees (£7.50) per night.

Food

Pokhara is a vegan/foodie/hippie/yogi heaven! There are countless healthy cafes, vegan restaurants, juice/smoothie bowls which is refreshing after being in Kathmandu or Chitwan. There are also your typical Nepali eateries and places selling burgers/wraps/kebabs.

I highly recommend the Umbrella Cafe in North Lakeside for delicious vegan/vegetarian food, a cosy atmosphere and the strongest Wi-Fi I found in Pokhara. They even make vegan pizza with vegan cheese, which I didn’t come across anywhere else in Nepal! The tofu chilly was particularly tasty. It’s a little pricier than some other eateries, but well worth it.

Yoga & Healing Therapies

You can really immerse yourself in yoga & healing therapies in Pokhara.

The cheapest place for yoga (with the fullest timetable – something’s happening all day every day) was Umbrella Cafe. They have a small yoga studio at the back of the cafe, but don’t expect the studio to be of the same standard as the UK. It’s quite basic but perfectly adequate – bring your own mat if you can as they aren’t particularly clean. Classes were only 400 rupees (£2.30ish) for a 90 minute session. There are several teachers offering a variety of yoga styles, so you’re sure to find the right one for you. They also run healing sessions, Thai massage, reiki training and other activities/events almost daily.

Holy Garden offers free singing bowl meditation sessions twice a day at 9am & 3pm, which are wonderfully rejuvenating. They also offer daily drop-in yoga classes at 07.30-09.00, 10-11.30 and 16.00-17:30, at 650 rupees (£4.30ish). I cannot comment personally on the quality of these classes, but I spoke to someone who’d done a few and really enjoyed them. They also run yoga retreats, Ayurvedic massage, reflexology, yoga trekking trips and the controversial fish pedicures (which I do not personally support/wish to promote)

What to wear

You can wear (almost!) whatever you like in Lakeside. It is full of tourists, hippies and yogis wearing shorts, skirts, sleeveless tops and even bare feet! If you’re going away from Lakeside you should dress conservatively like in the rest of Nepal, with covered shoulders, chests and knees.

Where to go and what to do

Phewa Lake

Lakeside sits on Phewa, the largest lake in Pokhara. You can walk around the promenade and there are many nice cafes, bars and restaurants overlooking the water. You can also hire rowing boats by the hour.

World Peace Pagoda

The World Peace Pagoda sits high on a hill overlooking Phewa Lake.

To reach the stupa, you’ll need to first rent a boat to cross the lake. You can rent the boat by the hour and either pay extra for a ‘driver’ or paddle yourself across. You’ll be asked to leave a deposit of 1500 rupees (£10) and then you’ll get this back minus the appropriate hourly rate. Ensure your price includes lifejackets and a spare set of oars (the quality of equipment is fairly poor and one of our oars snapped. I’d highly recommend asking for at least one spare paddle).

Cross the lake by boat and then park it between the two cafes. You can leave your oars and lifejackets with the cafe on the right. Take the clearly sign-posted trail up to the stupa, which takes around 45 minutes to 1 hour. Be warned that it is a steep ascent and do take plenty of water. Some of the climb has make-shift steps whereas some requires walking on steep ground which becomes extremely slippery when wet. Try to avoid this hike on a rainy day if possible – read my blogpost on our experience of the pagoda to see why!

As you get near the top of the hill, you’ll hear the sound of drums and chanting from the Japanese Buddhist Temple just in front of the stupa. Behind this building, you are presented with pretty gardens, colourful prayer flags and thought-provoking messages tied to the fence. You are asked to remain silent and you’ll need to remove your shoes before going near the pagoda.

You should note there is no cafe at the top here, but there is a small family-run place about half way up the hill.

Davis Falls

We walked to Davis Falls from North Lakeside, which took around 75 minutes. We took a scenic route down through a local rural village, crossing a rope bridge over the river which allowed us to see a different, non-touristy side of Pokhara. There are also ladies selling really tasty samosas for 20 rupees (15pish) each!

It costs 30 rupees (about 20p) for non-Nepalis to enter the falls and is well worth the small price. There are a few souvenir shops just outside, and inside the attraction there is also a small, well-manicured garden. There is a free water fountain and some (squatter) toilets.

The waterfall is probably different to any other you’ve seen before. It’s more of a huge gush than fall and you can almost feel the pressure from the water as you stand to watch. There are gates surrounding the water so you can’t get too close.

The falls are so named because a Swiss lady named Mrs Davis passed away in 1961 whilst bathing here, after being sucked in by the dangerous currents. Due to Nepali pronunciation, the falls are also known as Devi or Devis Falls. They are open daily from 5am-7pm.

Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave

The Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave is across the road from Davis Falls and is worth seeing whilst you’re so nearby. The entrance to the cave is truly stunning, with brightly coloured wall carvings gracing the staircase which leads underground.

Within the cave are two Hindu shrines. The Davis Waterfull runs through the cave and when we visited there was a large pool of water in the second chamber – I believe the amount of water is dependant on rain and we visited towards the end of monsoon season.

As this is Nepal, you are not given hard hats to enter the cave and it’s easy to bang your head and hurt yourself inside. If you are even slightly claustrophobic or afraid of the dark, I’d definitely avoid going inside the actual cave. In my opinion, the most beautiful part is the painted staircase which you can observe without even paying the entrance fee. I don’t think you’re really missing too much by not going underground.

Leaving Pokhara

From Pokhara, we caught the tourist bus to Chitwan which is scheduled to take 5-6 hours. Landslides are common during monsoon and we were unfortunate to get stuck behind one. The roads are narrow, windy and slow-moving.

The bus should cost between 500-700 rupees (£3.50-£5). We used Mountain Overland which we were dissatisfied with, so I’d suggest using a different bus company if you can. Read my Chitwan blog for the juicy details!

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Happy travelling!

With best wishes,

Sarah

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