Pokhara is the best possible combination of East meets West; it’s Nepal’s version of a resort city (at least, the lakeside area), but without being isolated in some resort where you forget you’re in Nepal. Pokhara is a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively- it’s way less polluted, and also offers a much more chill and relaxed vibe, than Kathmandu. It’s also much more affordable than Kathmandu, and strikingly international, as tourists from all over the world find themselves here for a few days before/after trekking (and some just decide to hang out for a week or month). And because the Lakeside area is quite small, you’re way more likely to meet these people than in Kathmandu. Plus, the city is situated on Phewa (also spelled Fewa) Lake, which makes for stunning views and adds to the ambiance. As I told my friend and Nepal travel partner, John: Pokhara is basically the California of Nepal. An added bonus: it’s totally walkable so you don’t have to worry about any sort of transportation or transit-related costs while in Pokhara.
I fell in love with Pokhara when I was first in Nepal 5 years ago; it offered a much needed respite from the chaos of Kathmandu. I’m still in love with the city, but not because I felt like I needed to escape Kathmandu. The streets around Fewa Lake are full of shops (with cheaper prices and much less pressure from salespeople than in Kathmandu), restaurants, cafes, salons and massage parlors, yoga studios, and for those interested in adult beverages or nightlife- bars and dance clubs. There’s also wifi available absolutely everywhere around the lake, and I mean everwhere- even the small grocery stores and laundry shops offer wifi. Some of my favorite places to go were Metro Cafe (yummy crepes and great wifi!) and Bubble Bar (for bubble tea- also has great wifi). I also paid a visit to the highly rated (on TripAdvisor) Umbrella Cafe; photo below with John and CP. It has great ambiance, but wifi went out (so way less reliable than other places in Pokhara), and food was mediocre. I can say with confidence this is one place to skip.
I also treated myself to some yoga and meditation while in Pokhara. I had such a great time during my first drop in class at Tribikram Yoga that I went back for a 4 day “retreat” at the same place. As it turns out, that wasn’t the best decision. The yoga studio is run by a Nepali guy, PK, and classes include yoga, followed by meditation, followed by breakfast or dinner prepared by his beautiful, wonderful wife, Sri Jana. And for one class, it’s a beautiful way to spend 3 or so hours (yoga, meditation, and food for $10). But for a multiday retreat… look elsewhere (and there are SO many yoga studios, it’s not hard to find another place). The location is on a very busy road, so all day and night there are cars passing, horns honking, dogs barking, and people talking or yelling; makes it hard to fully focus on yoga, meditation, and especially sleep at night. Also, the studio is quite small and there were no other guests there while I was visiting, so one-on-one lessons for 4 days felt overwhelming. I missed having other yogis to interact with. Finally, living in such close quarters with someone who clearly views his (younger, and much more beautiful- inside and out) wife as his personal assistant/servant made me exceedingly uncomfortable. There are an incredible number of choices for yoga in Pokhara, so while I’d recommend a single drop-in class at Tribikram yoga, I’d also advise you to look elsewhere if you want more than that.
Finally, after spending almost 3 weeks in the mountains without even a cold shower option, when I returned to Pokhara I gave myself permission to fully indulge in TreatYoSelf pampering. I had my brows, upper lip, and chin threaded at Koko Nail Salon (total cost was about $4!), and had a mani/pedi ($14) and 1 hour hot stone massage ($24) at Jive Cafe. Absolutely loved Jive Cafe- it’s location faces the lake but is set back enough it’s quiet and really peaceful. They also have great smoothies! Highly recommend visiting both places if in Pokhara and you want to indulge a bit.
Final day in Nepal was also spent taking a boat ride out to the center of the lake with John and CP; mostly because CP wanted to visit the Temple on the island. A few final notes about the seemingly random assortment of photos below: while not at the yoga center, I stayed at the Pokhara Choice Inn hotel. Rooms run from around $35-$40/night, beds are comfortable, it’s quiet at night, reliable electricity and A/C, and decent wifi. I would definitely recommend it for a place to stay if you have the extra room in your budget! (There are rooms at places in Pokhara for as little as $4-$5/night if you’re on a tight budget.) Final photo is a perfect illustration of what can (and often does) happen in Nepal. John and I got through security and boarded our flight from Pokhara back to Kathmandu… using the other person’s boarding pass. I noticed this AFTER we were seated in the plane for our flight. So, um, yeah, not exactly the most observant or effective security in Nepal’s domestic airports.
Pokhara is an incredibly affordable destination with Western comforts and amenities, but that has not lost its character or charm. It really is a city where you can fully enjoy Nepal, nature, and the people (Nepali and other travelers), and indulge without going over budget. And for all you trekkers, it’s a perfect place to relax after completing your circuit.
Stay tuned to learn all about how I spent almost 3 weeks living in an incredibly remote, poor village in the mountains in central Nepal and working as a volunteer English teacher!