It is a laid-back place to spend a couple of days relaxing after a trek, exploring the local temples and stretching your legs on gentle walks in the valley or preparing yourself for a trek in the mountains beyond.
Up until the 1970’s, it was a quiet farming community but today the bazaar is filled with everything you might need for several days trekking and the lakeside is lined with hotels and guesthouses however the lanes still remain relatively free of traffic.
Around the town, farmers continue to grow rice in the fertile valley which opens out to a landscape of subtropical flora, lakeside forests of oak and evergreens beyond. Situated lower than Kathmandu, it is generally warmer during the day and perfect for taking one of the brightly painted rowing boats across Phewa Tal. From here there are numerous trails into the valley.
Pokhara provides a great base from where one can go on short walks to explore the charming villages and the breathtaking country-side. The birding is superb – both in the woodlands and open country with the hills being patrolled by an astonishing number of raptors including such exciting species as Bearded Vulture and Cinerous Vulture, several species of Aquila eagles and much much more.
This is also an extraordinary area for butterflies with over 263 species listed just for the lodge grounds and the bird list for the Pokhara valley records 305 different species. A couple of excellent day walks with a packed lunch and a naturalist guide for company are available. Apart from the natural history element and the scenery, the walks also typically take you to Dalit, Gurung, Chhetri or Brahmin villages where you can have insights into the hard but often fulfilling lives of these sturdy mountain peoples.
It is also the perfect base to explore the Annapurna range that forms a part of the Greater Himalayas. There are a variety of awe-inspiring walks and treks in the region and for a different view of the area micro-light flights and paragliding are available for those with a head for heights.
Trekking with your private guide along ancient pathways that criss-cross the region you will come across different ethnic groups who still wear their own distinctive dress and speak their own language.
Nepal is without a doubt a walker’s paradise. Trekking wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but in the foothills of the Annapurna you can walk all day with breathtaking views of some of the highest peaks in the Himalayas knowing that there is a cosy bed to collapse into at the end of the day.
In the foothills of the Annapurna’s to the west of Pokhara there are four excellent lodges, around five hours walk apart. Located on the fringe of small hill villages each lodge is built in the traditional Nepali style, has 10 to 18 rooms, and is surrounded by pretty gardens.
Often called luxury lodges, they are actually relatively simple but with their high standards of maintenance and service and en-suite bathrooms with hot water, they are certainly luxurious in this remote part of the world and there is nothing else like them in the Annapurna. Three course set evening meals are served at the communal dining table after drinks and appetisers around the fire or on the terrace with a view of the mountains. Down jackets, wool gloves and hats are provided in each of the rooms.
The entire Nepal operation is based on the strict principles and traditions of the Ghurkhas and they are a central part of the team. Together with locally recruited Sherpa porters and lodge staff, guests are assured a level of service and care essential to a safe yet exciting adventure.
The landscape and scenery here is what many visualise when they imagine the Himalayas - brilliant green terraces of rice and barley, fields ploughed by buffalo, pretty hillside villages of thatched houses and dry stone walls, forests of oak and rhododendrons that burst into colour in spring, all against a backdrop of towering snow-capped mountains.
Along the way you will share your path with local hill peoples, passing by on trails trodden for centuries by traders and pilgrims between yak pastures and villages, temples and holy lakes. Sustained by hearty snacks provided by the lodge to keep you going, there’s no rush to reach the next one and plenty of time to visit villages, photograph the scenery and soak up the spirit of the mountains.
Pokhara is easily reached by a day’s drive or 30 minute shuttle flight with panoramic views of the Central Himalayas from Kathmandu. Soon, the extended Gautam Buddha airport in Bhairahawa will also serve this region with international arrivals, making walking in Nepal much more accessible.
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
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