Nepal, with its diverse culture and breathtaking mountain sites, is a dream come true for many adventure travelers and it’s a top pick among the hiking enthusiasts. According to The Himalayan Times, almost 800,000 people visited Nepal in 2016; considering that the country thrives on tourism, it’s safe to say that number will likely grow as years go by.
If you’re heading over to the Annapurna trek just because there are far too many great reasons not to, then you’ll be more than happy to discover Pokhara, the second largest city in the country. You could easily combine a trip full of mountain adventures that will finish off with a visit to Pokhara or if mountains are really your thing, maybe move on to another trek to Poon Hill – the opportunities are really endless!
Located in the central part of Nepal at an altitude of 827m above sea level, Pokhara is conveniently known both as the tourist capital of Nepal and as the main gate to the Annapurna region. So it goes without saying that your trip just wouldn’t feel complete without spending at least a few days exploring the city and its surroundings. Save yourself some valuable time when planning and read some well written books of the places that are an absolute must-see.
Many of your sightseeing activities in Pokhara will revolve around the Phewa Lake, as this is the main tourist attraction for the city, and one of the best places to visit around Annapurna. Many might be surprised to hear that even though it’s quite obviously a natural lake, it’s actually classified as a semi-natural one. This is solely due to the fact that there’s a dam regulating the water reserve and the waters of the lake are used to produce hydro-electricity.
The boats on the Phewa lake in Pokhara, Nepal form beautiful, visually striking images Photo by Antonio
The lake is beautiful and a worthwhile place to visit when you are in the Annapurna region. Though there are a variety of water-sports available, this lake is better known for its eastern shore, Lakeside, which is where most of the tourists coming to Pokhara are located. The shore has been conveniently transformed into an area full of cafés, bars, hotels, and restaurants – things every tourist is very likely to appreciate, especially after a mountain retreat. So even if you don’t want to do much in Pokhara, you’ll still have plenty of options for hanging out and meeting other like-minded people in Lakeside.
Another reason why this place attracts so many visitors is the magnificent reflection of the Annapurna range on its surface – the mountains are less than 30km away from the lake, as the crow flies. It is highly recommended that you should try and watch at least one sunset on Phewa Lake, as you’re very likely to witness the most colorful vistas you’ve seen. Grab a beer and watch as your evening slowly transforms into a magical one.
Other freshwater lakes around Pokhara include the Begnas Lake and the Rupa Lake, both of which are especially attractive for water sports enthusiasts.
The Shanti Stupa, also known as the World Peace Pagoda, is a white Buddhist temple located on the Ananda hill, which you can visit during your Annapurna trek. It is the perfect destination both for hikers and people who want to experience Nepali culture more closely. The Shanti Stupa was built by the Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji organization after the World War II ended as a symbol of peace. Actually, by the year 2000, more than 80 pagodas like that were built all around the world by the same organization.
Sunset over the World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara, Nepal. The Pokhara Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist pagoda-style monument on a hilltop in Ananda hill. Nepal has two of the eighty peace pagodas in the world. Photo by Chris
The hill is close to the Lakeside district and you can easily reach the pagoda in several cheap and convenient ways. Given that most of the travelers in Nepal are mountain lovers, the best experience would be to just cross the lake with a boat and then do the 45-60 minute hike all the way to the top. From up there, you’d be able to enjoy the pristine white pagoda while looking at how the Phewa Lake spreads out in front of you with the mesmerizing reflections of the Annapurna range on it. It’s safe to say, not many things could beat that sight.
If you don’t feel like going on a hike you could grab a cab instead – it’s cheap and you’ll only have to walk for another ten minutes or so. Some solo travelers might be tempted to go up there and watch the sunset; however, bear in mind that the trails leading to the pagoda are not lit during the night and thus, not the safest place to be by yourself. Visiting the pagoda with friends is highly recommended as it makes for some really great photographs.
If spectacular views are your thing, then Sarangkot is the place to be – and as is the case with mountains, the earlier - the better! You can visit Sarangkot during your time in Pokhara, whether you are here for the Annapurna or your Everest trek. This hill is located a bit further away from the city, about a 30-45 minute car ride, so going there via a cab is probably the best option. In case you have some extra time to spare while in Pokhara, you could also do a whole day trip. The hike takes around 3-5 hours to the top. Don’t forget to bring food and drinks if you opt for this option.
Sunrise in Sarangkot, near Pokhra in Nepal. Photo by Dhilung
Most people come here either at dusk or at dawn. That’s the time when the sun works its magic and the mountains in front of you start blazing with a pink or orange glow, something that will probably impress even the biggest skeptics.
You will want to recharge the camera batteries for this one but skip any tripods. This is because the place is a popular local attraction, and you might encounter actual crowds gathering up there! Ask at your hotel desk for some nice spots nearby where you could click some photographs in peace.
Compared to the rest of the sites in the area, these two might not be the most breathtaking of places. However, if you’re not running short on time, then the Gupteshwor Cave and the Davis Falls are definitely worth the visit. They’re on the other side of the World Peace Pagoda and due to their proximity to one another, you could easily combine those two into a single trip.
The Gupteshwar Mahadev Cave and Davis Falls can be combined in a single trip. Photo by HJ
The Gupteshwar Cave is the most popular cave in Nepal and it’s pretty long: 2950 meters. The cave and its surroundings are still developing so don’t expect too much and try to focus on the good things. Inside the cave, there are several shrines visitors might be interested in seeing, and after a short walk, you’ll be able to see the waterfall. However be aware that the lightning is not at its finest, so bringing a head torch will definitely improve your experience.
Another reason to do a combined visit to these two is that the waterfall that runs through the Gupteshwar Cave is in fact, the Davis Falls. It’s your choice which one you want to see first, though most people first go in the cave, then move on to Davis Falls. The waterfall runs through some interesting rock formations for about 500 meters before disappearing, so you’ll have the opportunity able to take a few really nice shots.
Be aware that you’re very likely to be offered some overpriced tours by local guides; skip those and arrange your own visit there because most of the tours do not offer a good value for the price.
All of those addicted to trekking, Poon Hill is the thing for you! Rated as a light-to-moderate trek for most of the experienced hikers, you could easily add it to any leg of your Nepal itinerary as it doesn’t require much additional preparation. It is extremely popular amongst those visiting nepal for the Annapurna trek.
The gorgeous views if the sunrise on Poon Hill in Nepal. Photo by Neil
Since you won’t be climbing further than 3210m/10531 ft, you won’t need a lot of time to get accustomed to the altitude. This basically means that altitude sickness won’t be an issue on this trek! One of the best parts on trekking to Poon Hill is that you’ll get to pass through the Ghorepani village and meet locals. That’s the village where most people stay a night before moving on to watch the sunrise from the top and locals would be more than happy to explain to you about their way of life.
The time spent in the Ghorepani village, as well as the impressive sunrises from the top, are what makes this trip absolutely splendid. You can also read more in detail about a trekking trip to Poon Hill .
As a final recommendation, check the weather conditions before traveling to nepal and then before going to most of the places listed above. Many of them feature wonderful vistas you probably won’t fully enjoy if the weather is bad, or may be completely off limits during the monsoon season, especially some parts of the Gupteshwar Mahadev Cave.
To wrap it all up, the Annapurna is a wonderful region that will make you fill your social media feed with tons of awesome pictures – don’t forget to smile even if you’re exhausted!