The Great Himalayas is the largest magnet for me and many. It attracts me with such an enormous force, that as soon as the knots of routine pandemonium get lax, I find myself travelling towards the magestic and mighty Himalayas. In October last year, I got such an opportunity. It was a long holiday on the occasion of Hindu festival ‘Dushahara’. So, I planned to visit the beautiful Lake City of Nepal ‘Pokhara’. Pokhara is much quieter than Kathmandu so an obvious choice.
This second largest city of Nepal is famous for it’s pristine natural beauty and many lakes. It is evident from the name of the city itself, ‘Pokhara’, which means lake or pond in Hindi language.
We started our journey from Kanpur and crossed the Indo-Nepal border from Barhni in Siddharth Nagar District in U.P.. This time I was accompanied by my younger sister, her husband, her son and my better half. On crossing the border, the first thing we did was acquring the Custom clearance (called ‘Bhansar’ in Nepal) to take our private vehicle to Nepal. You also need to collect a travel permit for travelling by your car in Nepal, that we collected later in Butwal. It is strongly advised to take permit and Bhansar for one or two extra days to take care of any unforeseen conditions. Driving through lush green and dense Chitwan National Park on Mahendra Highway, we reached a river valley. The views were so captivating that we couldn’t resist ourselves from getting out of car and reach to the riverbed, although we were getting late and still had far to go.
We reached Pokhara at around 8 P.M. The road was well maintained and smooth, so driving was a pleasure. We checked in our hotel which was near to Fewa Lake. It was my second visit to Pokhara, so I knew in advance as where to visit, best place to reside etc.
We started our next day by visiting the Devi’s Fall, first. It is a fall which is not open as any other waterfall, rather it falls in a pit. There is a story behind it’s name. In July 1961, a Swiss couple went swimming there but the woman swept into an underground passage under the falls. Her body was recovered 3 days later in river Phusre with great difficulties. Her father wished to name it ‘David’s falls’ after her but changed to Devi’s Fall. Its Nepali name is ‘Patal Chango’, which means ‘underworld waterfall’ Now, the access to the waterfall has been restricted.
Opposite to the Devi’s Fall, there is ‘Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave’, which is a deep cave, belived to be 5000 years old and around 10000 ft. long. There is a naturally formed Lord Shiv’s idol inside the cave. Once you have passed through the tunnel, you’ll find yourself in a huge open space which is really a cavern inside and full of enormous rocks. After few yards of scrambling thought the darkness, you’ll find yourself on the edge of crystal clean pond and from there you can see the aweinspiring Devi’s Fall, falling right to the top. A pond inside the cave and watching a waterfall from so deep in the earth, was a never before experiance. There is an entry fee of 100/- NPR (Nepali Rupee).
There is a small market out side the premises, selling items like small stones, ornamental bags, hats, bangles etc.
There is also a Tibetan refugee camp, adjacent to the cave premises, where you can purchase different Masks and other handicraft items.
From Tibetan refugee camp, we headed to World Peace Pagoda, built in 1973, which is atop a nearby hill at a height of 1113m, and one of the most popular tourist attraction of Pokhara. It offers panoramic views of the Annapurna ranges, the mighty Lake Fewa and the city of Pokhara but you have to be physically fit to reach Peace Pagoda, as there are so many stairs. The view of Pokhara city from there is really breathtaking and comes as a sweet reward of climbing that high. You will be astonished to see, how such a large pagoda was structured on the top of a hill. Some adventurous people also cross the Lake Fewa in a boat, and hike all the way up to the World Peace Pagoda.
By then, we were all tired and hungry. Although there were some cafes and restaurants down the hill but we didn’t find them good. So, we returned to Gupteshwor Mahadev cave and had lunch there.
Our next destination was International Mountain Museum, which is also a famous tourists attraction. The museum records, documents and exhibits the past and present developments of mountains and mountaineering around the world. The museum contains three main exhibition halls: Hall of Great Himalayas, Hall of Fame and Hall of World Mountains. Inside the museum, there are exhibits on famous peaks, descriptions of famous mountaineering equipment, the culture and lifestyle of mountain people, flora and fauna including geology of the mountains. There is also en entry fee of NPR 250/- for the citizens of SAARC countries.
Nepal observes May 29 as National Everest Day, celebrating the day Tenzing Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary summited Everest in 1953.
We spent few good hours there in museum. Later in the evening, we returned to our hotel. Pokhara is also famous for it’s nightlife. We were staying in a hotel at the lake side, which is also the center of all the nightlife and fun activities. There are plenty of restaurants, clubs, massage centers, book shops, bars, shopping arcades where one can enjoy the evening with music, food and relax for hours. So, after taking rest for some time, we again returned to market.
Our next day started with a super awesome morning walk on the shore of lake Fewa, a freshwater lake. It was the best experiance of this lake city. Least crowded bank of the lake, much needed silence, twittering of birds, clouds, cold morning breeze.. as all my wishes came true altogether. Although, we had plans for witnessing the sunrise from Sarangkot, which is a nearby place, famous for it’s mesmerising sunrise/sunset, but dropped the idea of going there because of dense cover of clouds. Man proposes, God disposes.. 😦
Boating in the majestic Lake Fewa, surrounded by the mighty Himalayas, is one of the most popular and recommended activity to do while in Pokhara. Don’t forget to visit island temple of Tal Barahi.
The sun ascended up in the sky, so that us on the streets of Pokhara. Our first destination for today was Seti River Gorge. The roaring Seti River passes right through Pokhara, but you will not be able to see it unless you go looking down. The river with strong force of it’s milky white water, has carved a spectacular deep, very narrow gorge through the middle of town. It’s water is assumed to have medicinal properties. The best place to catch a glimpse of the Seti River is the park near the Gurkha Museum. The entry fee to the park is 50/- NPR.
Located only a stone’s throw away, is ‘Gurkha Memorial Museum’. Gurkhas are cosidered as one of the bravest warriors. They have a tradition of coming up with flying colours in the wars. Britain still recruits Gurkhas for the British Army. There are 7 Gurkha Regiments in Indian Army. ‘Jai Maha Kali, Ayo Gorkhali’ (Hail Goddess Kali, The Gorkhas are here) is their war cry. A sum of 100/- NPR is charged as the entry fee for the Gurkha Memorial Museum. For still and video cameras 20/- and 50/- NPR are additionally charged. It was a wonderful exxperiance being there.
Leaving Gurkha Memorial Museum, we went for two nearby caves, namely, Mahendra Cave and the Bat Cave. Mahendra cave is a large limestone cave. It was discovered in the late 1950s by young shepherds of Pokhara. It is one of the most visited places in Pokhara. The cave corridors are completely dark with continuously dripping water overhead. The cave consists of about 100 m of easily accessible passages and a further 100 m of low unstable corridors. The exit point shouldn’t pose much problem for most people although a bit difficult.
The next was the Bat Cave. The cave got it’s name because of thousands of bats thriving in the dark, gloomy and moist chambers of the cave. Here you can find thousands of Horseshoe Bats, clinging upside down on the ceilings of the cool and dingy caves. The cave is completely dark from inside, so the visitors are provide with torch. The entry ticket for the SAARC nationals costs 80/- NPR.
One word of caution.. If you are claustrophobic, do not enter into the cave. Do not carry your DSLR etc inside the cave. Wear shoes having very good grip. Wearing a 3/4th is most recommended. Tight jeans should be avoided. The exit is pretty difficult, so if you couldn’t gather enough courage, please take a U turn.
Our next stoppage was Begnas Lake. It is a beautiful big lake with surreal surroundings. It would be almost like a crime to come to Pokhara and not taking a boat ride on the lake. We enjoyed boating there, which is very cheap. Lake Fewa is another option.
Later in the, evening we again went to lake side market, spent some time in a club, had dinner and late in the night, returned to our hotel.
Mt. Fishtail of Annapurna Range, is the highest peak near Pokhara. At a height of whopping 6,993 m, it is still unconquered. Nepalis considered it’s peak as sacred, so permission to ascent is never granted.
How to Reach
Pokhara (PKR) can be reached by air from Bhairahawa (BWA), Bharatpur (BHR), Kathmandu (KTM), Biratnagar (BIR) and Jomsom (JMO), all in Nepal. Buddha Airlines, Summit Air, Tara Air and Yeti Airlines, are the airlines operating between these cities and Pokhara.
Pokhara is well connected with all major cities of Nepal by all weather good roads network. Being a hilly terrain, unexpected conditions cannot be ruled out completely. The distance from Gorakhpur via Siddhartha Rajmarg (Siddhartha Highway) is 280 km., from Barhni in U.P. via Butwal, it is 242 km., from Nanpara in U.P. via Butwal, it is 434 km. From Raxaul in Bihar via Prithvi Highway, the distance is 260 km.
Nepal does not have any railway network.
When to Go
Weather in Pokhara is always pleasant but Monsoon season can be avoided i.e. the months from June to September. The warmest month is June with the average temperature remains near 30 °C, while the month with the lowest average temperature is January with 19 °C.
Dushahara being the biggest festival in Nepal, almost all the establishments remain either closed or operate with very limited workforce for five days. We were unaware of this earlier and hence faced some related troubles like many restaurants, petrol pumps and medical stores were closed.
Where to Stay
If you want to enjoy the pristine beauty of Pokhara along with the nightlife, areas close to Fewa Lake are the best. This is a scenic area, having plenty of restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, tour operators, and everything you could possibly need for your stay. Plenty of hotel are situated in this area, although a very few of them have star facilities. Being the second largest city of Nepal and a major tourists spot, Pokhara has hotels to suit everyone’s pocket. Hotel Pokhara Grande, Shangrila Village Resort, Tuki Resort, The Pavilions Himalayas, Sarangkot Mountain Lodge, Fishtail Lodge, Silver Oak Inn are some good luxury hotels.
What to Shop
Ranging from souvenirs to trekking and adventure gear, from handmade jewellery to T-shirts with embroidered motifs, from Thanka paintings to Pashmina shawls to all kind of clothing and also bags and hats made with Yak leather – the streets of Pokhara, are a shopper’s delight. Indian rupees are accepted in Nepal so no need to get them converted (1 INR=1.60 NPR).
What to Do
You should definitely be checking out activities like, Paragliding, Bungee Jumping, getting around by cycle, Ultralight flights, Zip lining or White-Water Rafting in and around Pokhara. Pokhara serves as a base for trekking and hiking on Annapurna Circuit. Other hiking trails includes Poon Hill Trek, Upper Mustang Trek, Jomsom Muktinatht Trek, Mardi himal Trek etc. The zipline in Pokhara is the world’s steepest, tallest and the fastest of its type. It starts from the 1625 meters in Sarangkot and ends at 960 meters in Hemja plain with the total distance of 1.80 km. A vertical drop of 610 m (2000 ft.) and the greatest speed of 120 km/hr. Several yoga and meditation courses are also available around Pokhara, suitable from novice levels, right up to intense expert levels.
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