The Mystic Pokhara at the Heart of Nepal -Fahmida Mehreen
Living and breathing in a bustling city and running tiring everyday errands, people often seek a respite named ‘vacation’ to catch their breath. Whenever there is the slightest chance, people wish to rejuvenate their charms by escaping the smog of the city and going closer to nature. When it comes to choosing a good, relaxing, adventurous holiday destination, people are more likely to choose the seaside and beaches or hills and mountains. There are many popular destinations in Cox’s Bazar and the hill tracts of Bangladesh. During peak seasons, most commonly in winter between October and February, these destinations are hosts to many tourists.
As far as going abroad for a peaceful holiday is concerned, one of the finest and most affordable destinations can be Pokhara – a mesmerizing city by Phewa Lake in Nepal. It is more popularly known for Annapurna Circuit which is a very attractive trail in the Himalayas. The place is full of breathtaking attractions and adventure sports. More or less, tourists visit the city all round the year. However, the best time to visit Pokhara is between September to November. This time is considered to be the peak for the tourists. Nonetheless, if you want to enjoy the wintry weather of Nepal, you may also choose to visit from December to February. These are supposedly the coldest months of the year, where the temperature can be between 10-12 degrees Celsius to negative. So, be prepared with ample woolens if you plan to seize the winter. Winter continues till March, as Pokhara is in proximity to the Himalayas. These are the peak months when tourists indulge in trekking and hiking.
Adventure sports such as bungee jumping, zip flying, and paragliding are more enjoyable and favorable during the winter and spring months, which are from April to May. This is the time when the city is warmer and looks enthralling. Such activities are open during winter or colder days too, but due to the adversity of the weather, there is always a likelihood for the programme to be canceled. Hence, it is better to try the adventure sports when the weather is more convenient. By the end of May, the city experiences a dip in tourism as summer starts to set in. It is rainy and humid during summer which is not attractive to most tourists willing to visit the mountainous region. From May to September, the weather starts to be more welcoming as autumn approaches; this is one of the best times for budget travelers to pay a visit to the enthralling city of Pokhara.
Besides adventure sports, there are many places of attraction in this city. Sarangkot is one of the most visited sites in Pokhara for witnessing the Fishtail of Annapurna, particularly during sunrise. Tourists are witnessed to have set forth towards Sarangkot before the crack of dawn in the hope of catching the perfect view of the golden sun shining over the snowcapped Annapurna. Even in freezing cold temperatures, tourists do not refrain from taking their chances. Regardless of the effort, there is never a promise that one may get to see the Fishtail or the sunrise as it is crucially subject to weather conditions. In winter, it is more likely to be foggy, obstructing the view. Even in spring and autumn, it can be hazy, and the view may not be pleasing. Yet, from my personal experience, I would recommend a visit to Sarangkot very early in the morning because whether you see the magnificent view of Fishtail or not, you can enjoy the coolness and tranquility of the mountains and enjoy a hot cup. If you have time, you may wish to stay till midday or spend a night at Sarangkot to have greater chances of viewing the mountaintop. Otherwise, the overall vibe of the place is quite fullfilling on its own.
After this comes the spectacular Phewa Lake. Boating in the lake is a must. One cannot simply miss it when in Pokhara. The Tal Barahi Temple, a 2-storied pagoda, sits on an island in the middle of the lake. You can choose to spend some time for serenity. People often stop the boats – paddled or row boats, to take pictures at the temple and perform rituals. If you are not into temples, spend about an hour to reach a restaurant located at the far end of the lake. The view of the lake is spellbound, and the food and drinks are simply exotic. It will not be very hefty on your wallet but will certainly give you a fabulous experience. Phewa lake is the second largest lake in Nepal, and numerous water activities such as canoeing, boating, swimming, sailing, fishing, kayaking, and bird watching are conducted here.
Next comes Devi’s Waterfall. The splendid waterfall, located about 2 kilometers from the Pokhara airport, gets its water primarily from Phewa Lake. The name of the fall derived from the unfortunate drowning of a lady named ‘Davi’ in this place. The mystery of this fall fascinates many visitors as the water does not flow to a river or lagoon but disappears in the caves into a pitch-dark hole. On the opposite side of Devi’s Fall, Gupteshwar Mahadev Cave is located. This cave has a spiral staircase that leads to the entrance. The cave and the naturally formed structure resemble the Shiva Lingam, which are believed to be old houses of people. Locals discovered the cave in the 16th century and have had great religious and tourism interest since.
The Pokhara Shanti Stupa is situated on top of the Phewa Tal. It is high up in the hills and takes a lot of physical energy to climb up. It is known as the World Peace Pagoda. This glistening white dome was built as a symbol of peace by monks. The stupa has two tiers, which are for tourists and religious people. The stupa can be reached by hiking, boating, and trekking through the jungles. Be ready with lots of stamina and patience if you wish to tour this lovely architecture. One of the other major attractions in Pokhara is the International Mountain Museum, which is popular for its aesthetic beauty and if you are curious to know more about the mountains and the history connected to them. To enrich your knowledge, there are some very insightful documentaries available that you may wish to watch if you have time. There are other religious and historical sites to visit, like Old Bazaar and Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery. You can get help from local trip organizers to make the best use of your time according to your interests.
To spend stress-free evenings, take walks down the Lakeside. Lively cafes with food, entertainment, and recreation are available for you. It is an excellent place to grab souvenirs and woolens for friends and family back home. Fine antiques are also available for you to buy if you have a knack for collecting them. Thus, spending at least one evening at the Lakeside is highly suggested.
I had the privilege of visiting Pokhara in January 2023. Even though we could not get a proper sight of the Annapurna due to adverse weather, we had an ecstatic time at Phewa Lake. The boat rides to the restaurant named Lake House were enthralling. The décor of the place was warm and welcoming in the middle of the shiny blue water in the cold breeze. The ambiance was totally worth it.
What you may or may not experience in an extensive place like Pokhara is a matter of luck. You may plan one thing and end up into something else. Keep your mind open. Be ready to experience anything that may come your way, and you never know what you’ll end up enjoying the most. On your next holiday, if you are willing to visit Pokhara, happy journey! The mountains and lakes are awaiting.