Planning Your Perfect Day
Pokhara is Nepal's second city—and it couldn't be much more different from its first, Kathmandu. Many travelers breathe a sigh of relief when they arrive in Pokhara, as the lakeside city is smaller and more scenic than the capital. It's the gateway to the Annapurna Himalaya, and many travelers pass through the city on their way to and from treks like Annapurna Circuit and Poon Hill, or before flying to Jomsom. While you'll likely spend part of your time in Pokhara preparing for a trek or recovering from one, the city has plenty of fun things to keep visitors busy for at least a day.
For the following itinerary, you'll get around by taxi, by boat, and on foot. Taxis are easy to catch between the center and Lakeside, the popular neighborhood on the shore of Phewa Lake: just be sure that the taxi driver takes you where you want to go (and not to a hotel or shop that the driver is being paid to promote to tourists). Taking local buses is another option, but on such a condensed itinerary, it's probably not worth spending the extra time in transit.
6 am - See the sunrise over the Himalayas
At the start of this one-day itinerary, the goal in is to get up high for spectacular views across the Annapurna Himalaya. The range is close to the city, but only properly visible from a high vantage point. Wake up early and get a taxi up to Sarangkot — the hill that rises to the north of Phewa Lake — in time for the sunrise. It's a popular spot at dawn, so you won't have the place all to yourself, but the sun coming up over 20,000-feet mountains is a sight you won't soon forget. Note that the exact time of sunrise varies throughout the year: check the local forecast before finalizing your wake-up time.
9 am - Have breakfast with a view in Lakeside
Return to town and enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your hotel or at one of the many cafés in the Lakeside area, such as Macchapuchhre Organic Coffee, Himalayan Java, or am/pm organic café. You'll find Western-style coffee shops as well as more traditional Nepali establishments serving milk tea, roti (fried, unleavened bread), pastries, and fruit salad. Find out more about the best places to get coffee in Pokhara here.
11 am - Paraglide over Sarangkot
After breakfast, head back up to Sarangkot for some paragliding. The views of the mountains, farmland, and Phewa Lake, plus the stable and relatively predictable thermals (warm air currents) at Sarangkot make this one of the best places in the whole world to try the adventure sport. Beginners can do tandem rides with an experienced guide — while running off the side of the cliff may seem a bit daunting, once you're airborne the experience is peaceful and calming. You'll float over beautiful terraced farmland on the hillside, with the Annapurna Himalaya in the background, and slowly make your way down to the landing area beside the lake. The length of flights depends on the day's conditions, but most last between 20 minutes and half an hour. Guides usually take GoPro photos and video you can keep as a memento.
This article has more on the best adventure sports to try in Nepal.
1 pm - Have a traditional Tibetan lunch at Hyangja
After you've worked up an appetite paragliding, take another taxi to the Tashi Palkhel Tibetan refugee settlement at Hyangja, a couple of miles from central Pokhara. Here you'll find authentic Tibetan food such as thukpa (noodle soup) and momo (Tibetan-style dumplings) from simple eateries. The large monastery in the settlement holds afternoon prayer sessions in the mid-afternoon, and listening to the chanting and horn-blowing of the monks is an intriguing spiritual experience. Tashi Palkhel is also a good place to buy Tibetan handicrafts, as your money helps marginalized residents of Nepal.
Read this article for five unique Nepal itineraries.
3 pm - Paddle around Phewa Lake
Heading back to Lakeside, spend an hour or so paddling around Phewa Lake. There are a couple of ways to do this: join a group sightseeing trip on a boat with a covered canopy, or hire a small private wooden boat and oarsman. Either way, you can stop to check out pretty Tal Barahi Temple on a little island in the lake. If the weather is hot, it may be tempting to swim, but ask your guide for recommendations of the best places — some places are cleaner and safer than others.
Considering a trek in Nepal with kids in tow? Find out more about family-friendly trekking trips here.
6 pm - Enjoy happy hour by the lake
After spending some time near the lake, you'll be aware of the many early evening happy hour deals at bars and restaurants along the shore. Though these shack-like buildings might not look like much from outside, they offer wonderful views of the lake and the mountains beyond, comfortable seating, chilled-out music, and some good deals on drinks (and sometimes food).
Take a look at this overview of Nepal's main regions to help you decide where to go.
8 pm - Have a night out on the main road
Head out to the main road for dinner. You'll find all kinds of cuisine in Pokhara, from Nepali to Korean to Israeli, Italian, and Northeast Indian. Follow your nose and appetite, or read up here on some recommendations on the best places to eat and drink in town.: Best Places to Eat & Drink in Pokhara.
Finish up the day with a drink, a film, or some live music with a local crowd. Like Kathmandu, Pokhara isn't much of a late-night city, but there are many options for a fun evening out: watch an indie film or documentary at Movie Garden or catch some music at lively bars like Busy Bee Café, The Old Blues Bar, and The Office. Read more about Pokhara's nightlife here.
Have more than 24 hours in Pokhara? Lucky you. There are plenty more things to see and do, including hikes, mountain biking, museums, waterfalls, caves, yoga, and adventure sports. Read more about your options here.