If you're wondering what are the best things to do in Pokhara you've come to the right place. Pokhara is sometimes referred to as Nepal’s “second city,” but is No. 1 in the heart and soul of many visitors to the country. Pokhara is perhaps the most scenic city in Nepal, otherwise known as the “roof of the world,” as it lies on the shores of striking Phewa Lake as well as at the base of some of the Earth’s tallest peaks, and is definitely one of the most popular places to visit in the country. But you might be wondering what to do in Pokhara. If so, fear not, as the city and its surroundings provide ample indoor and outdoor activity to suit every visitor.
For example, Pokhara is a gateway to the Himalayas and the Annapurna Circuit, one of the world’s most popular treks that encircle the Annapurna Massif, which includes a peak over 26,000 feet, 13 peaks over 23,000 feet and 16 peaks over 20,000 feet. Because of this, trekkers and mountain climbers have been flocking to Pokhara for years. Trekkers, mountain climbers and history buffs will not want to miss the International Mountain Museum, one of the most educational things to do in Pokhara, which might inspire you to go climb a mountain.
Pokhara, the adventure capital of Nepal, is also a well-known extreme sports Mecca. Here you can test your courage via whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, ziplining or paragliding. There is also plenty of opportunity for boating and water sports, as the Pokhara area is blessed with a number of lakes.
If peace and serenity are more your speed, check out one of Pokhara’s plethora of sacred Hindu and Buddhist temples, including tranquil Tal Barahi Temple, a two-story Hindu pagoda located on an island in Phewa Lake. One of the healthiest things to do in Pokhara is taking a yoga retreat or a class by the lake. And no trip to Pokhara is complete without a visit to the World Peace Pagoda, a 3,600-foot-high Buddhist monument with commanding views of the city at the Pokhara Valley.
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World Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa)
Pokhara’s World Peace Pagoda, otherwise known as Shanti Stupa, is located high atop Anadu Hill at over 3,500 feet, overlooking the Pokhara Valley and Phewa Lake. The World Peace Pagoda also has majestic views of the towering Annapurna peaks. The 115-foot-tall, the two-tiered pagoda was built as a symbol of peace by Japanese Buddhist monks. According to TripAdvisor, Shanti Stupa is one of the top attractions in Pokhara. It reflects the four most important stages of the Buddha’s life in four directions: his birthplace in Lumbini, Nepal; the place of his enlightenment, Bodh Gaya, India; the place where the Buddha first taught the Dharma, Sarnath, India; and where he reached nirvana at Kushinagar in India.
Tal Barahi Temple
When solving the thought of what to do in Pokhara that is spiritual, many turn to Tal Barahi Temple. Located on an island on Phewa Lake, it is one of the most serene places here and one of the most peaceful things to do in Pokhara. From its island vantage point in the lake, visitors can take in the panoramic views of the awe-inspiring surroundings, including the lofty Himalayan peaks, and relax to the sound of the gently lapping waves of the lake. Tal Barahi, or Lake Temple, is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Barahi, the protector of the gods. The temple is popular with both Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims, as well as tourists. To reach Tal Barahi, you must take a short boat ride.
Shree Bindhyabasini Temple
Another landmark Hindu temple in Pokhara is the Shree Bindhyabasini Temple, which also has mind-blowing Himalayan views. The temple, which sits atop a small hill in Old Pokhara, is dedicated to the Goddess Bhagwati, the guardian deity of Pokhara. It is one of the oldest temples in the Pokhara Valley. Here you will also find a garden, cafe and souvenir shop, where you can buy offerings to be made inside the temple. A visit to the temple is one of the most sacred things to do in Pokhara.
Located north of bustling Mahendra Pul, Old Pokhara gives you a glimpse of how this ancient village used to look before mass development and tourism. Old Pokhara is best explored on foot, and once you find your feet you will happen upon what looks like an old-world market selling locally produced items, craft shops, traditional Newari houses, the aforementioned Bindhyabasini Temple, Bhimsen Temple, a shrine to the Newari god of trade and commerce that is covered with ornate erotic carvings and meticulous woodcarvings, and a labyrinth of alleys chock-full of possibilities.
Gurkha Memorial Museum
Another must-see site in the Old Pokhara area is a museum dedicated to the world-famous Gurkha soldiers, who are of Nepalese nationality or ethnic Nepalis of Indian nationality recruited to serve in the British Army, Nepalese Army, Indian Army, UN peacekeeping force and others. The Gurkha Memorial Museum covers the history of the elite Gurkha soldiers from the 19th-century Indian uprising and two world wars to recent and current conflicts and peace-keeping missions around the globe. The museum showcases a number of interactive multimedia exhibits and artefacts, such as photos, original uniforms and medals, honouring Nepal’s most storied soldiers.
International Mountain Museum
If you are still wondering what to do in Pokhara and your passion in life is mountains and/or mountain climbing, a visit to the International Mountain Museum is a must. Mountaineering and nature exhibit at the museum traces the history of the Himalayas. The International Mountain Museum also features a Living Museum that showcases the “real setting of the culture of indigenous people of different tribes and clans of Nepal.” Other exhibits include an on-site climbing wall, Mount Everest climbers’ gear, legend of the Yeti, a wing dedicated to Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first people to summit Mount Everest, and much more.
Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave
This natural wonder not only features a cave system but an underground waterfall. At over 9,600 feet, Gupteshwor Mahadev is one of the longest caves in Nepal, and the country’s most famous. The sacred cave, located near the World Peace Pagoda, houses a number of shrines, the largest of which is dedicated to Shiva. Other Hindu deities are also honoured here, including the cave’s namesake, Mahadev. The waterfall is found in a cavern as you emerge. There are also a plethora of souvenir stalls at the entrance of Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave, or “Cave Beneath the Ground.”
Devi’s Falls is located across the road from Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave. In fact, the cave’s waterfall is part of Devi’s Falls. After reaching the bottom of Devi’s Falls, the water forms a 500-foot tunnel that runs 100 feet below ground level, hence the Nepali name for the falls, Patale Chango, or “Underworld Waterfall.” After leaving the tunnel, the water passes through Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave. Visiting Devi’s Falls is one of the most well-known things to do in Pokhara, for both tourists and locals alike.
Can’t get enough of those amazing Pokhara Valley views? Take a day trip to nearby Sarangkot, which is situated at over 5,000 feet. From here you can take in the snow-capped Annapurna peaks, rolling hills, valley lakes and the sunrise and sunset, as Sarangkot is the most popular spot in Pokhara Valley for sunrise and sunset watching. Sarangkot is in fact the highest viewpoint that is easily accessible from Pokhara. It is also a popular place for paragliding and hiking. A short trek from Sarangkot will lead you to the ruins of Kaskikot Fort, which also has commanding views of the Pokhara Valley.
If the relatively easy trek from Sarangkot to Kaskikot seems like amateur hour to you, it might be time to tackle the Annapurna Circuit. Be aware, though, that this is no leisurely stroll through the park and takes a considerable amount of time, typically two to three weeks, depending on the individual. The Annapurna Circuit is anywhere from 100 to 145 miles. It crosses two river valleys and encircles the Annapurna Massif, as well as climbs over 17,760 feet at Thorong La Pass. Most of the trekkers who attempt the Annapurna Circuit do it counterclockwise because the daily altitude gain is slower. In addition to rolling hills and mountain passes, the Annapurna Circuit goes through subtropical forests, by a deluge of waterfalls and along with a number of Nepali villages. There are also plenty of tea houses and lodges along the way so trekkers can eat and stay the night indoors. The Annapurna Circuit has frequently voted the best long-distance trek on Earth. Keep in mind, however, that parts of the trail can be rather rough and the weather can be unpredictable, particularly while crossing high-altitude Thorong La Pass, so always come prepared and take altitude sickness into consideration. October and November or April and May are widely considered to be the best times of the year for taking on the Annapurna Circuit.
What to do in Pokhara after an intrepid trek to keep your adrenaline flowing? Bungee jumping. In Pokhara, you can take the plunge solo or in tandem. This gives you the same thrill of flight as paragliding, but at a much more rapid pace. One of the best, and safest, Pokhara bungee-jumping agencies is HighGround Adventures. They have an awesome bungee-jumping location and award-winning staff. Furthermore, if you want to double your thrill-seeking, HighGround Adventures also boasts its ZipFlyer ride, which is one of the World’s longest ziplines.
Pokhara is a paragliding paradise. Paragliding, for some, is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Can you picture yourself soaring in the skies of Nepal alongside the sky-high Himalayan peaks with a string of lakes below you? Then this is the place for you, as paragliding is one of the most popular things to do in Pokhara. It is also considered one of the top 5 commercial tandem paragliding locations in the world, due to stable thermals, convenient takeoff and landing zones and the safety of a large lake, according to Trekking Partners. You will have no problem finding an outfit to help you fulfil your paragliding needs, as Pokhara is home to a plethora of paragliding companies that offer commercial tandem flights.
One of the most daring things to do in Pokhara is whitewater rafting. The Upper Seti River will be the setting for your whitewater adventure. While hurtling down the rapids, you will be treated to grand scenery such as a gorgeous gorge replete with flapping prayer flags and the uplifting mountains from which these waters flow. Rafts are captained by certified professional raft guides and accompanied by safety kayakers. You can also find whitewater rafting excursions on the Marshyangdi River, Kaligandaki River and many other rivers, as Nepal is one of the world’s best whitewater destinations due to the tons of water the Himalayas produce. Some whitewater rafting adventures are overnight, and allow you to camp on a sandy beach and sleep under the stars.
After all that trekking, bungee jumping, paragliding and whitewater rafting, wind down with some yoga, one of the most mind-opening and health-conscious things to do in Pokhara. Fortunately, Pokhara is overflowing with yoga studios, many of which can be found lakeside. For a full-on yoga retreat, head for aptly named Purna Yoga Retreat, which offers meditation and themed yoga retreats, such as yoga detox and yoga weight loss. Purna Yoga Retreat, located lakeside, also has sound healing, mandala making and massage. Whether a class or a day-long retreat, yoga is the perfect way to end your trip to Pokhara.