Pokhara, Phewa Tal, Lake Phewa, Nepal

Pokhara, Nepal – Phewa Tal (Lake Phewa), Machapuchare, Annapurna

Pokhara

Nestled in the heart of the Himalayas on the banks of Phewa Tal (Lake Phewa) is the relaxing city of Pokhara. Located 200km from Kathmandu, Pokhara is a laid-back destination with a population of around 300,000 people. Despite the sizeable population, the city feels more like a town and it’s a great place to rest your feet and muscles after a long trek.

I had been trekking the Annapurna Circuit for 15 days with my cousin Stephen. A few days prior we had crossed the Thorong La Pass at an elevation of 5416m (17,769 feet) and descended to Tatopani (1160m) when Stephen had no option but to throw in the towel with bloody, blistered, and swollen feet. Stephen had struggled with his feet from day one of the trek and so had done well to last the 15 days that he’d managed.
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Thorong La Pass, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

We stayed in Tatopani that night and in the morning I bid him farewell as he waved from the window of an over-crowded, top-heavy, Pokhara-bound bus with an anxious look on his face. These Nepali buses were rugged workhorses equipped with heavy-duty suspension for the rough, single-track, dirt roads that cut through the mountains. Stephen knew that a percentage of these buses ‘bit the dust’ every year as they toppled and rolled down the mountain tracks into – more often than not, raging torrents of glacial melt-water, and certain death – for sure, for many aboard.

pokhara bus, tatopani, nepal
Pokhara bus, Tatopani, Nepal

After watching the bus disappear from view as it trundled and bounced along the track, I continued on – ascending back up to an elevation of 3210m where Ghorepani, and the popular viewpoint of Poon Hill was located. I ascended over 2000+m that day and I was f#cked by the time I got there. I spent the night in a Ghorepani guesthouse run by a weird-looking ‘strange yin’ with googly eyes and a funny walk.

pokhara, ghorepani, nepal
Sign in Ghorepani Guesthouse toilet

After yet another restless sleep in the thin air, the next day I awoke early at 3.30am to head for Poon Hill in the dark to watch the sunrise over the Annapurna Massif and Machapuchare (Fishtail mountain). Poon Hill was heaving with people by the time the sun started to come up. I wondered where they had all come from? Ghorepani didn’t look big enough to cope with this amount of people – hundreds, but on reflection, my guesthouse had been packed and Ghorepani was made up mainly of guesthouses that must have been full too.

pokhara, view from poonhill, ghorepani
View from Poon hill, Ghorepani

The sunrise views of the majestic Annapurna mountain range from Poon Hill were stunning – I don’t think I’ve ever seen nature as being so beautiful as I saw it that morning. I stood open-mouthed and overawed and snapped a few pictures before heading back down to Ghorepani and my guesthouse to get loaded up for the descent down to Nayapul – a full day’s walk away, where I would catch a taxi to Pokhara.

pokhara, annapurna massif view from poon hill, ghorepani, nepal
Annapurna massif – view from Poon Hill, Ghorepani, Nepal

The tourist area of Pokhara is down by the lakeside where an abundance of value for money guesthouses and hotels are located. I headed for the guesthouse – the Mount Kailash Resort – that Stephen and I had stayed at before starting the trek and found him sunbathing by the pool well-rested and in good spirits. After dumping my bags in my room and freshening up a bit, we headed for a restaurant and a  well-deserved, hearty, European meal.

The main drag in the tourist area of Pokhara is made up of a variety of restaurants (food from around the globe), bars, mountain-gear shops, and internet cafes (with a few pharmacies, grocery stores, and tour companies thrown in). On a clear day the snow-capped mountains – Machapuchare in particular, pose majestically behind Pokhara like a painting.

pokhara, Machapuchare, fishtail mountain
pokhara, Machapuchare, fishtail mountain

With no guide or porters, I had completed the trek without trouble. No boot/feet or backpack problems had hindered my progress throughout the trek.  Stephen, on the other hand, had made the classic mistake of buying ill-fitting boots that hadn’t been ‘walked in’ properly and a poor-quality backpack that had begun to fall apart a few days into the trek.

‘Howz  your feet big yin?’ Stephen asked, in between forkfulls of tagliatelle.

‘Fine,’ I replied. I had trekked the Annapurna Circuit in a well-worn pair of Karrimor boots that had cost me £25 back in Scotland.

‘Fine!’ he repeated: ‘in those old clumpers?’

I glanced down at my old Karrimors – they looked a bit bruised and broken but they had done the job a damn sight better than Stephen’s new £150 boots; I looked back up at him: ‘ comfortable clumpers ma man. Twenty-five bangers and not a blister in sight…’

Note: a pair of well-worn, ‘walked in’ boots are a must when trekking – don’t make the same mistake as Stephen and opt for expensive new boots over a pair of old clumpers



After our meal we went for an evening stroll along the lakeside shore. Lake Phewa is a freshwater lake and the second largest lake in Nepal. Traditional Nepali rowing boats bobbed on the surface of the water like colourful decorations. Further out in the middle of the lake was Tal Barahi Temple, accessible only by boat, and on a lush, green hilltop on the opposite side of the lake sat the ‘Shanti Stupa’ or ‘World Peace Pagoda’, lingering threads of light reached across the sky above it from the sun that had just slipped behind the mountain.

We kicked back in Pokhara for a few days, partly to recharge our batteries, and partly to delay returning to the pollution and chaos of Kathmandu too early, from where we would be catching our return flight home.

pokhara, phewa tal (lake phewa), nepal
Rowing a boat on Phewa Tal (Lake Phewa), Nepal

 

Pokhara is a great place to head for if you plan on trekking the ‘Annapurna Circuit‘, the ‘Annapurna Base Camp trek’, or the ‘Poon Hill/Ghorepani trek’.

  • On average the Annapurna Circuit takes between 15 to 20 days to complete if you start from Besi Sahar and end at Nayapul.
  • The Annapurna Base Camp trek (ABC) can usually be completed in around 8 to 10 days.
  • And the Poon Hill/Ghorepani trek in 4 to 5 days.

Other popular activities that are on offer in and around Pokhara are:

  • Paragliding
  • Bungy Jumping
  • White-water rafting
  • Buddhist Meditation Classes
  • Yoga

for Pokhara Hotels see here

for Annapurna Circuit Post click here

Pokhara - budget traveling in Nepal - Annapurna Circuit
Pokhara – budget traveling in Nepal – Annapurna Circuit

‘In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.’

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Copyright © 2017 Raymond Carroll

48 thoughts on “Pokhara, Nepal – Phewa Tal (Lake Phewa), Machapuchare, Annapurna”

  1. Wow the trek sounds difficult! That must have been a really great experience, though! Trekking in Nepal has been on my list of things to do for years! The views from the hills you have look absolutely incredible!

  2. I visited Nepal and Pokhara a few years ago, I took one of those horrible buses down from Kathmandu, thankfully I survived! As I passed I saw in the river there was the white water rafting you mentioned. That’s an interesting sign in the bathroom, it looks like the Birdman in the sketch! My dad and his friends do a lot of walking and would agree with you that a cheap pair of shoes are better than an expensive pair. If you have problems with the cheap Sports Direct pair, you throw them away and get another pair. If you have problems with the expensive pair, you feel a little bad about it!

    1. The bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara is a bit daunting for first-timers to Nepal, James – I agree. The bus that my cousin took from Tatopani is a different ball game altogether – I was glad my feet held up and could continue on as I don’t think I’d have got on that bus – some of the tracks (not roads) that those buses have to negotiate are hair-raising, to say the least. You’re right also about the boots too – I’m going back again to Nepal this year to trek to the Everest Base Camp armed with an old pair of clumpers. Thanks for commenting. Safe Travels!

  3. Woahhhhh – this looks so, so beautiful!! I haven’t been to Nepal yet, but it’s been on my list, but now the Annapurna Circuit takes first stop on that trip!!

  4. Ahh sounds difficult but so worth it – especially those pictures you got. We are desperate to complete the Annapurna Circuit, heard so many incredible thinks about it. Great guide for when we get round to it – thanks for all the helpful information.

  5. Your poor cousin, there’s nothing worse than walking on sore blistered feet! Great story writing 🙂

  6. The sunrise at the Poon Hill is stunning! Congrats for completing trekking the Annapurna Circuit! I don’t know if I would ever able to do that. But I’m definitely in for the white-water rafting at Pokhara!

  7. Interesting travelogue. This hike is on my bucket list. I had no idea the buses were so prone to accidents. Also, it was funny that the activity list included Bungy Jumping and Buddhist Meditation Classes. Something for everyone I guess.

    1. Glad you liked it, Sutee. I like Bungy Jumping and Buddhist Meditation. As long as you have a sense of adventure and a head for heights Nepal is a ‘must see’ destination. Thanks for commenting!

  8. What an adventure! The trek down in the buses sounds a little terrifying, but I am sure more terrifying on the first go. Beautiful picture of the sun rise over the Annapurna mountain range. And, yes, I have learned through experience it is always important to break in your shoes/boots before any major hike or trip that requires lots of walking. Poor Stephen.

  9. What a challenging undertaking! Poor Stephen and his blistered feet throughout the journey and being forced to “Throw in the towel” as you say. I never go on hikes or treks with new footwear as you are bound to get blisters and other foot pains. After doing such a challenging trek, the meditations would be so welcomed by my mind.

    1. The meditation was a lovely way to end the trip – the guy who took the class was such a nice, centred soul . He explained to us that meditation was all about quietening the mind. He also told us that ‘human beings’ should really be called ‘human doings’ as we are always ‘doing’ something (even if it’s just thinking) and are never really in a state of just ‘being’. Stephen loved the trek too, despite his problems, and we are going back this year to trek to the Everest Base Camp (EBC). Thanks for commenting, Janine. Good luck on your travels!

  10. I’ve always wanted to do the Annapurna Circuit and your pictures make me want to even more! That sunrise looks beautiful. Definitely need to get myself to Nepal asap. However, it definitely sounds like it is challenging hike and could be a bit of a struggle if you aren’t properly prepared.

    1. I actually found it quite easy, Kassie – as you say though, if you’re not properly prepared – mentally, physically, and with the proper gear – it can be a struggle as Stephen found out. Thanks for commenting!

  11. Your trek sounds fantastic. Glad you completed it without any guide or any problem! Too bad your friend had a tough time! Thanks for the tips about having to wear walked-in boots!

  12. I don’t know much about hiking nor trekking but I’m pretty sure your shoes makes a great dent on whether or not you’ll enjoy it. I hope Stephen’s feet are ok now, no more blisters and blood. Maybe on the next trek, his shoes will be ok as it’s already been walked in on this one. :p

    1. Goes without saying really but it’s a mistake many people make. Stephen’s feet are fine now and he’s been breaking in a pair of boots in preparation for our next Nepali trek to the Everest Base Camp. Thanks for commenting!

  13. That must have been quite an amazing experience – but challenging and exhausting! I’ve always wanted to visit Nepal. Hope Steven’s feet are OK!

  14. Not sure I would even get on the bus never mind attempt the trek! This is not a part of the world I am at all familiar with so it is great to read about it and see the photographs. I hope Stephen’s feet have recovered!

    1. I’m glad I didn’t have to get on the bus, Tracy – scary sh#t! I’m glad you liked the post, and yes Stephen’s feet are fine. Going back to Nepal this year to trek to the Everest Base Camp (EBC). Thanks for commenting! Good luck and safe travels!

    1. Thanks, Lydia – Nepal is a ‘must-see-destination’ for travelers – there are shorter treks, like the one to Ghorepani and Poon Hill that only take 4 or 5 days and are well worth the effort. Thanks for commenting! Good luck and safe travels!

  15. I have heard a lot about Pokhara – a few friends of mine have spent time living and volunteering in the region as well as going on treks. I would love to explore the area and a nice tough multi-day trek would be something I would love to do one day while my fitness is still at a high level. You have definitely made the most of your time. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks for commenting. My sister lived in Nepal for a few years (4 years, maybe), but she lived in Kathmandu not Pokhara and she didn’t do any trekking while she was there – an almost criminal act in a country as stunning as Nepal. Good luck, and safe travels! Btw, because of the high altitude in Nepal it’s recommended that you don’t ascend too quickly so you don’t need to be an athlete to complete the Annapurna Circuit, but you do need a reasonable level of fitness…

  16. Wow – this sounds like a great experience. I have this on my bucket list but I am not sure if I will ever cross it off. The shoes are the most important part while you trek and then the backpack. Stunning photos, would love to see it for myself once.

  17. Raymond, this is a fab post. It’s really made me want to go there. My brother did one of those Annapurna treks a few years ago and didn’t shut up about it 😉 The photos were amazing though and like you, he made sure he saw the sunrise. The tip re the boots is a good one. I’m seriously thinking I might do this now. Awesome! Thanks!

  18. Epic stuff – looks like you had a great time. I totally agree with the boots statement and I wear mine until the soles fall off. On a side note, I hear some people complaining Karrimors quality has gone downhill. But I still own some gear by them and it does the job.

  19. Wow! This is quite an adventure. Good for you and glad is was well worth it. The landscape looks stunning. I think I might be tempted one day. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Nepal is breathtakingly beautiful and what a trekking adventure you had! I remember the buses being completed loaded up when I was there. I did a 100 mile trek for charity through villages that hadn’t seen westerners before and found the people to be so warm and friendly, since then, I have been fascinated with the country and mountains. Beautiful story of your trip and stunning photos! #feetdotravel

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