Pokhara is one of Nepal’s most beautiful cities and has been referred to as Peaceful Paradise. This tourist destination is surrounded by the Himalayas has a lake located in the middle of the town, and some nearby waterfalls and gorges. Pokhara is not only the gateway to many of the most popular Nepalese trekking and hiking routes but is also on the equally popular Kathmandu to Pokhara tourist circuit.
In season time when the weather is lovely and clear, a one-day Kathmandu to Pokhara tour is a good idea. This is usually in March-April and later in the year in October-November. During this time, you can usually see the mountains in the morning but in the afternoon, they are covered by clouds. All is not lost because you use the time to see more of Pokhara city or go trekking and hiking.
Make sure you don’t miss the sun rises and the panoramic Himalayas view. In particular, watching the sunset on Stupa Hill or Phewa Lake is highly recommended. The semi-natural Lake Phewa (Fewa in Nepali) is famous for its stunning reflections of the peaks of nearby mountains on its surface.
Visit the temple located in the middle of the Lake for some great memories to take home. If you want to get the best from your Pokhara tour, we recommend you spare at least a night in this tourist paradise.
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How to Travel from Kathmandu to Pokhara
One the map, Pokhara may appear rather close to Kathmandu as the two cities are just about 204 kilometers (126 miles) apart. However, the terrain in Nepal and the quality of the road make for an extremely long drive. That's probably why many opt to fly. However, with this mode of travel, you are going to miss out on some of the finest attractions Nepal has to offer.
Some of what you are likely to miss when you fly include the historic town of Bandipur, one of Nepal's architectural gems. Others are a picture-postcard village that has been lovingly restored and now offers European ambience amidst gorgeous Nepalese vistas.
Kathmandu to Pokhara by Road
From Kathmandu to Pokhara is slightly over 200 km by road, but the travel time can be as long as 6 to 7 hours. Why is that? Because the road passes through very hilly and winding terrain. However, all is not lost because the view as you travel is simply breathtaking. Besides, you get to feel and experience the rural side of Nepal as you drive around the scenic villages, hills, and mountains.
Whatever form of road transport is taken, they all follow the same route to Pokhara from Kathmandu, and therefore, no option is necessarily faster than the other. What will really determine the duration is the specific mode of transport and the traffic you encounter around the Kathmandu Valley as well as the time of day.
For the adventurous tourist, the notorious Prithvi Highway in Nepal, which winds through 206km of the hilly countryside is more than a painful bus ride to be endured. This Highway is the only road that will take you from Kathmandu to Pokhara and is undeniably a very scenic journey. Because of the nature of the road and traffic conditions, this is typically a slow journey. For the first half, it follows the Trisuli River and as you get closer to your destination, the breathtaking Himalayas come into view.
Kathmandu to Pokhara by Public Bus
Public buses are your cheapest option when travelling to Pokhara from Kathmandu but the least comfortable. You can either board a full-size bus or the smaller microbus—but either way, the vehicle will be jam-packed. These leave throughout the day, generally every 30 minutes mostly from the Gongabu Bus Park.
They aren't necessarily any slower than the more luxurious tourist buses. They are, in fact, often slightly faster as they are likely to make fewer comfort stops and when they do, it’s just a brief stop by the roadside!
They can be quite uncomfortable as they often have old stiff seats, no air conditioning, and play loud music. Passengers and luggage tend to fill the aisles. Don't be surprised if you find yourself sharing the bus with domestic animals or birds. You might even make the journey standing!
Taking a public bus is only worth it if you're on a really tight budget, or if you have a problem with the early morning departure of the more comfortable tourist buses. A bus journey can, on a good day, take about six hours. Be ready, however, for trips that last as long as 8 or even 9 hours. In Pokhara, most of the buses arrive at the Prithvi Chowk bus park while others stop at different local bus parks.
Getting to Pokhara by Tourist Bus
In terms of the cost-to-comfort ratio, tourist buses offer the best bargain. Though more expensive than the public local buses, they are much safer and also air-conditioned. Most leave at 7 am from Kantipath Road (near Thamel) and arrive at the tourist bus park in Pokhara, not far from Lakeside.
It may not even be necessary to book a seat in advance but we advise you to pre-book your tickets during tourist peak times, or if you have a large travel group. However, booking is not difficult and upon arrival in Kathmandu, you will find many options for doing that.
Although several bus companies are offering the service, most are generally at the same level of comfort and standard of driving. The package includes onboard Wi-Fi, air conditioning, a free bottle of water, and they make reasonably frequent food and rest stops. Similar to everything, the prices differ between tourist buses.
Greenline Bus is more comfortable and luxurious and leaves at 7:30 am from Thamel. Their tickets are slightly more expensive at $25 as they include a buffet lunch, travel insurance, and their comfort stops are made at higher calibre places. They also have an indoor waiting room at their booking points.
Kathmandu to Pokhara Night Tourist Bus
Most of the Kathmandu-Pokhara tourist buses depart early in the morning as the journey is long and could last 8 hours. While the scenery during the daytime is really worth it, you could end up losing a whole day when you travel by the morning buses. You may want to save time and instead take the night bus, which could also save you some money.
One company, Jagadamba Travel runs a one-night bus that departs from Balaju every 8 pm. This is about 2 km away from Thamel, the city center. While this cannot be compared to the super-deluxe bus we discuss below, it’s still a relatively comfortable bus. It’s equipped with Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, washroom inside, and they serve snacks and drinks on the way.
You will be glad to know that the Jagadamba bus also provides you with a blanket to ensure you have a peaceful rest in case you want to sleep during the night journey. Tip: Getting to Balaju, the Night Tourist Bus departure point may not be easy to find and we recommend you take a cab instead.
Super Deluxe Bus Travel
Recently, Jagadamba Travel introduced a new super deluxe luxury bus on the Kathmandu-Pokhara route. This was the first of its class to provide the highest level of comfort to passengers. You may want to try it for the ultimate in comfort.
Another company, Travel Nepal Bus has also now launched its operations with similar deluxe tourist buses. These buses come with limited seating, washroom, and reclining seats. One bus has seats while the other has 16. The Travel Nepal Bus even features a minibar if you want to enjoy a few sips during the ride. If you are a smoker, this super deluxe bus also comes with a separate room for smoking.
Travelling by Private Car with Driver
Hiring a private car and driver is perhaps the most convenient and comfortable option. In Nepal, self-drive car hire for foreigners is not allowed. In any case, you wouldn’t want to drive on the treacherous mountainous roads in this country. Your travel agency or hotel can organize private vehicles for you.
The cost will be determined by the model and capacity of the car you want. If you are in a group and possibly want to be back in Kathmandu after a day or two, we recommend you rent a car. A drop off from Kathmandu to Pokhara typically costs between US$ 90 and US$120.
Tip: because travel companies will generally charge you a two-way fare as the vehicle will have to drive back to Kathmandu anyway, it may be wise to retain the car at a small charge for the overnight stay.
While hiring a car and driver is certainly the most expensive option, it comes with several advantages. This is a very comfortable way of travelling from Kathmandu to Pokhara. You can, for example, have a comfort stop anytime, you can stop to take photos, and you can leave for Pokhara at any time of day. Most public buses leave Katmandu early in the morning.
As you move along Prithvi Highway following the mighty Trisuli River, you will also have time to stop at the many riverside resorts, enjoy the sandy beaches, and admire the laid-back charm of local villages. A private car may also be faster as smaller vehicles can weave through the traffic more easily compared to larger buses.
Flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara
Flying is the fastest way of reaching Pokhara from Kathmandu. Each day, numerous flights leave from Tribhuvan Airport, the domestic airport, next to the international terminal. There are, on average, 13 flights taking off every day, between 8 am and 3 pm. The flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara is convenient and short, lasting about 27-30 minutes. You will love the majestic view of rolling hills and on a clear day, you can see the snow-capped Himalayan Mountains.
If you are short on time, this is the best form of transportation. It allows you to spare time for touring Pokhara and return to the capital on the same day if you wish. Besides the higher cost, the other major downside of flying in Nepal is that flights are often delayed or cancelled due to poor weather.
What are your options? There are several airlines serving the route with Buddha Air, Yeti Airlines, and Simrik Airlines being the most popular. All of them operate small propeller aircraft with a capacity of 20 passengers. However, Buddha Air does run larger capacity and bigger jets which they operate during the busy tourist periods.
What about the cost? Different from other countries, in Nepal the flight fare is fixed, it doesn’t vary from day-to-day. An exception would be when there instabilities in fuel costs in the market. They do, however, allow for some increases due to inflationary pressure year to year. Generally, you will find the price of your air ticket to be the same on any day of the year. The ticket prices may vary if you are buying from an agency as they have their individual commissions.
Tip: Book onto the day’s earliest flight because, in case of delays, the re-bookings are often done in the order of how the original flight bookings were made. This means that if you had booked for an afternoon flight and delays occur for several hours, you might not even secure another flight that same day.
Kathmandu and Pokhara Air Travel Tips
The airfare between the two cities is generally constant throughout except for unforeseen circumstances like a fuel crisis. Although it may, however, differ slightly from airline to airline on average, it will cost you on average between USD125-145 for a one-way Kathmandu-Pokhara.
The best way of booking your flight is through a local travel agent as you can secure some discounts depending on the occasion and season. The chances of getting discounts are higher during off-season periods such as January-February, May-August, and December. Tip: Those seasons don’t usually offer you the best view as it may be very cloudy.
How about Water Rafting to Pokhara?
While travelling between Kathmandu and Pokhara is generally by road or air, you may want to add a little bit more adventure into the journey by taking a white water rafting trip. At least some part of the journey anyway because you can’t raft all the way anyway.
You need to organize this unique type of transport through a rafting company. They will organize bus transport to the put-in point and then from the take-out point to the City of Pokhara. You can either opt for a one-day rafting trip or a two-day trip that comes with overnight camping on the bank of the River Trisuli.