Pokhara, starting point for trekking in Nepal
Pokhara is the city where everybody goes in Nepal, because this is where treks start in Nepal. I was hesitating over writing an article about Pokhara, since I didn’t trek for various reasons… But I had the opportunity to visit the city where everything starts, Pokhara, and I met a lot of travelers who were about to start a trek, or coming back after spending two weeks trekking the Annapurna (actually I mostly met people coming back from their trek).
Since Pokhara is the city where people go before trekking, you’ll see everywhere in the city shops selling all the equipment you need for trekking. There were already many trekking shops in Kathmandu, but there’s even more in Pokhara! I checked two or three shops and honestly it’s very cheap, and the quality is not that bad.
Of course, like Kathmandu, there are counterfeit clothes, but a bit less. Those who need to get equiment, I suggest you to buy in Pokhara, rather than Kathmandu. You can also rent your equipement if you don’t want to keep it after the trek. Two brands dominate the trekking market in the country : North Face and Sherpa. I think you know North Face. That’s the locals favorite brand, they all wear North Face jackets (mostly counterfeit ones!). Sherpa is a Nepalese brand also selling all the trekking equipment you need, and this brand is very present in the city.
Otherwise Pokhara is a quiet place. Just like in the movies, there’s a paperboy, a guy delivering the newspaper from his bicycle. He throws the newspaper on various courtyards from his bicycle without stopping, or he just hands them to the locals, still riding the bicycle. By the way, Nepalese people are friendly. It’s cultural I guess but to me, their biggest flaw is how they keep spitting on the floor. Everybody : men, women, children. And it’s not a discreet spit. No no, they clear their throats doing this unbearable noise to hear, before spitting enormous gob of spit on the floor.
Actually, Pokhara lives mostly at the pace of all the tourists coming and leaving the city. Everyday, several buses full of tourists arrive in the city. You’ll notice something, the locals and the tourists are in separated buses, and on the tourist buses, you can see “TOURISTS” written in big letters on the windshield.
With my backpacker mentality, when I was booking bus tickets, I always asked to get in a local bus, not the tourist ones (it’s cheaper, and more authentic!). But it wasn’t possible, all the ticket sellers told me “No sorry, you have to use the tourist buses“. I found out later why it wasn’t possible to get in a local bus. Sometimes, there are protests in the country (especially during elections). When it occurs, people decide to rebel, and in order to be heard, they damage everything on their way : shops, buildings, cars… and also buses!
Despite themselves, in the past, some tourists in buses ended up being stuck in the middle of big gatherings with smoke bombs, etc… To remedy the problem, the governement created tourist buses. Therefore “TOURISTS” is written in big letters on the windshield, there are only tourists in thoses buses, and if a protest happens, those buses stay untouched by the locals. Those buses are more expensive, faster, and above all safer!
If you want to stay in shape before of after your trek, it’s possible in Pokhara! You can hike up to see Shanti Stupa, in the heights of the city. It’s a buddhist monument located on Ananda Hill, at an altitude of 1100 meters. From my hostel in the city all the way to Shanti Stupa, I had to walk for two hours and a half, including at least one hour just hiking up. Once you’re on top of Ananda Hill, next to Shanti Stupa, you can admire Pokhara, the Annapurna and the Fewa lake.
There’s also Sarangkot, a village at an altitude of 1593 meters exactly. The main reason to go there is the nice view once you’re up on top : Pokhara, the Annapurna… From my hostel, once again it took me two hours and a half to go all the way up (this time I wasn’t alone, which means I could have been faster). To get in the village, you’ll have to pay 50 rupees (0.40€) for the tourists, 20 (0.15€) for the locals.
And also Davis Falls, a little waterfall in the city. The entrance fee is 30 rupees (0.25€), and many teenagers are there, in the small garden surrounding the waterfall. Just in front of Davis Falls, Gupteswar Gupha. It’s a cave where there’s not much to see… I don’t know why many locals and tourists go there, but those caves are pretty humid. It’s 100 rupees (0.85€) to get in.
I guess you got it, Pokhara is a place where you don’t spend much time. Travelers usually stay there for one night before starting a trek, and two or three nights to rest after a trek. You’ll have to go there if you wanna trek the Annapurna.
Info to visit Pokhara
- Wanna go to Nepal? Check the visa policy here. Citizens from all Western countries can get a visa on arrival, if you arrive by plane at the Kathmandu airport (most likely). For a 15-days visa, you’ll have to pay 25 US dollars. For a 30-days visa, the cost is 40 US dollars and for a 90-days visa, the price is 100 US dollars. If you wanna get in the country overland, go in an embassy beforehand or you can apply for your visa here.
- Do not go to Nepal without a travel insurance, especially if you’re gonna trek in the mountains!
- There are many hotels and hostels in Pokhara. Check Agoda or HotelsCombined.
- I paid 1000 rupees (8.30€) my bus ticket from Kathmandu to Pokhara.
- I was supposed to trek the Annapurna, but for some reason I didn’t… So that means I gathered a lot of information about trekking in Nepal. The locals will try to sell you a trek with a guide “because it’s indispensable, otherwise you’ll get lost, etc…” Bullshit! All the people I met in Pokhara, who were coming back from their trek, told me it was easily doable alone, and with all the indications, it’s impossible to get lost.
- I met several girls who did the trek on their own, with no guide, and who told me they had absolutely no problem. Ladies, you don’t need to be accompanied! Anyway, from what I understood, you’ll walk part of the way with other people since you’ll meet travelers during the trek.
- For a reason that escapes me (I didn’t trek!), many guesthouses will give you free accommodation during the trek, only if you have dinner at their place.
- I didn’t write about it, but I’ve also been to the Chitwan National Park, very famous in Nepal. I was with two girls. We started our day on a canoe, then we walked around in the park, in the middle of hair grass. We had two guides with us, one was walking in front of the group, the other one behind us. Because there are tigers in the park (we saw tiger footprints several times on the floor). We saw rhinos a few times, but no tigers. The day in the park was 4700 rupees (almost 40 euros), expensive for what it was, and we spent a night in a hostel not too far. From Pokhara, a bus goes there every morning. I paid 650 rupees (5.40€) for the six-hour ride in the bus. And from the park, you can go back to Kathmandu by bus for 600 rupees (5 euros).
- If needed, get a Nepal travel guide.
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