If you’ve always wanted to see Nepal but still aren’t comfortable around people, check out these fun things to do in Pokhara, Nepal where you can still keep your distance.
Pokhara’s one of the more popular destinations in Nepal, but mainly as a starting point for treks into the Himalayas nearby. There are lots of things to do in and around town, too, though. And while COVID-19 has put a dampener on tourism, you can still have a good time. Here are some fun things to do in Pokhara, Nepal while social-distancing.
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Grab an outdoor meal in your own private alcove at Krazy Gecko
Krazy Gecko is a restaurant and bar a little way out of town, on the road to the Pame area of the lakeside district. The place has little private open-air alcoves overlooking the lake that are pretty far removed from each other; the perfect way to enjoy a meal and a drink or two while admiring Phewa Lake. And all the while keeping your distance from everyone else.
If it’s cold, you’ll even get your own little wood-burning brazier to keep you warm. And if you’re lucky, their resident kitty will curl up on your lap and keep you company (though that might just be to get closer to the brazier). If you’re looking to experience some of Pokhara’s nightlife, a visit here would be a great way to do it.
How to get to Krazy Gecko
Follow the main lakeside road around the north side of the lake. Once you’re outside town and the road starts going uphill a little, you should see Krazy Gecko on your left.
Take in an outdoor evening movie at Movie Garden
If you’re the movie-going kind, or even if you just like pizza and drinks, you’ll enjoy an evening at Movie Garden. This is an outdoor movie theatre that’s set up in—you guessed it—a garden, and that plays two or three popular movies in the evenings. Their signboard on the main road will tell you which movies are playing.
The place is set up a little like a mini-amphitheatre, with a few rows of stone steps at one end with cushions, and the movie screen on the other. You can order your pizza and drinks at the bar before finding a place to sit, and they’ll bring them to you once they’re ready. They’ll even bring you blankets on request, if it’s a chilly night. Service is a little slow, but chances are you’ll be too busy watching the movie to notice.
How to get to Movie Garden
This place is a little off the main road and up the hill at the north end of the main lakeside road, at the end of a dark path that starts opposite the Bulldog Bar. It’s all very mysterious, with the path being marked (but not lit) by the occasional candle. Make sure you carry a torch because the path is pitch dark, candles notwithstanding. And it almost disappears in some places, too. Not recommended for anyone with mobility issues.
Watch paragliders practicing over the lake in the mornings in Pame
The Pame area is a great place to spend a morning just sitting on the shore of the lake and watching the paragliders float down from up in the hills. This also seems to be the place where aspiring paragliding guides and instructors practice their craft. If the wind is right, you’ll see quite a few of them just floating around, or doing more complicated manoeuvres like flips and loops. And if you’re lucky, you’ll even spot one deliberately crumpling up their parachute to practice an emergency landing in the lake!
So pack a picnic, find yourself a nice empty spot on the shore, and watch the action. Remember to take sunglasses and sunscreen, though, because there’s almost no shade to be had.
How to get to Pame
Pame is at the north shore of Phewa Lake, and about half an hour’s walk out of town. Just keep following the lakeside road around the northern shore until you see the paragliders!
Soar into the skies in an ultralight aircraft
If you’re feeling really adventurous—and you’re not too afraid of heights—you could head up into the sky in an ultralight. Those tiny airplanes are basically a tricycle hanging from nylon wings, with a fan attached to the back! If the sense of freedom of being on a motorcycle appeals to you, then you’ll probably love the idea going up in an ultralight, seeing the town spread out below you, and seeing the snowy Himalayas almost close enough to touch, too. Guaranteed to be one of your most thrilling adventures in Pokhara.
It’s also pretty good from a social distancing point of view, even though you sit right behind the pilot, because it’s open on all sides. Check with your hotel reception or any of the infinite number of travel agents about bookings. You could even head to the tiny domestic airport (that’s where the ultralights take off from) yourself, and book a ticket directly at the counter outside.
Things to keep in mind
- Not surprisingly, these flights aren’t cheap, and you can expect to pay around USD 200 (INR 14,000) for a 30-minute flight. You might get a discount if you’re an Indian citizen, though.
- Flying so high in a tiny, open aircraft can be very scary. Even without the pilot performing daredevil manoeuvres to give you a thrill.
- It gets very cold up there. They’ll give you some heavy-duty winterwear to pull on over your clothes, but it’s still a good idea to wear all the warm clothes you can find. And pay attention to your feet.
- You can only take cameras or phones that you can securely strap to yourself. If it doesn’t have a strap, it’s not going up with you. Not surprising, considering how dangerous one of those could be if you dropped it from up in the air.
How to get to the airport
You probably won’t need to find your way to the airport on your own, but just in case you want to, here’s the location.
Hike the picturesque Kaskikot-Deurali trail
Not surprisingly, hiking is one of the most popular things to do around Pokhara. But most hikers visiting Pokhara are the hardcore kind, who want to do the multi-day Annapurna base camp or Annapurna circuit treks. If you feel like doing a leisurely, hour-long hike instead, the trail between Kaskikot and Deurali is perfect. The well-defined trail leads from the Kalika temple in Kaskikot around the side of the hill to the rice fields of Deurali, and a stunning view of the Annapurna range. The best part? You probably won’t meet anyone else on your hike.
The Kalika temple is essentially at a ‘T’ junction in the trail, so if you’re coming up the hill from Kaskikot, turn left for Deurali. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could also turn right and follow the trail from Kaskikot all the way back towards Sarangkot. A word to the wise, though: the trail to Sarangkot looked in pretty bad shape when we were there. Locals warned us that it was easy to get lost on that trail, and that there were leopards and bears in the hills. In fact, no one in Sarangkot could even tell us where the trail was!
How to get to Kaskikot and Deurali
Your best bet would be to take a taxi or bus to Kaskikot or Deurali, but if you’re thinking of getting there yourself on a bike or a self-drive car, here are the locations.
Park your vehicle at the open playground, and take the path across the road. Walk through the village and up the hill until you hit the ‘T’ junction in the trail. If you’re not sure which path to take up the hill, ask for the way to the Kalika temple.
The trail at Deurali is just off the main road; look for the signboard that points the way up the hill to the right.
Admire the stunning view over a hot rum at the Club ES Resort in Deurali
Even if you don’t hike the trail from Kaskikot, it’s worth heading to Deurali just for the view of the mountains. And few places have a better view than the Club ES Resort. Built on a hill right at the edge of a steep valley, the cosy little resort has spectacular views of the Annapurna range of the Himalayas. And their open-air dining area is the best place to enjoy it. It can get a little windy, though, so dress warm. You could even consider warding off the cold in the traditional Nepali way: with a stiff drink of rum and hot water, taken at pretty much any time of day.
Getting to the resort isn’t all that easy, though. You’ll need to park your vehicle in the parking area just off the main road, and then take a short walk along the path up to the resort. The entire thing isn’t very disabled-friendly, so if you or anyone in your party has mobility issues, this might not be such a good idea.
How to get to the Club ES Resort
The parking lot for the resort is right next to the beginning of the trail to Kaskikot. There’s a pretty prominent signboard pointing the way to the path and the resort.
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Stroll through the hills in Rupakot
Another nice place to get in some exercise is the Rupakot ridge. Again, the views are incredible, and there are picturesque hillside villages to walk through. Try and avoid walking on the main roads, though; they can get really dusty.
You might want to ask around and see if you can find a tiny hamlet called Shanti Maidan (it’s not marked on Google Maps). The hill overlooking the hamlet, and the village on the hillside, is particularly picturesque and makes for an interesting walk. There’s no clear path to get from one side of the hill to the other, though, so you’ll have make your way as best as you can. Which is also part of the experience, I suppose.
How to get to Rupakot
Rupakot is a short drive from Pokhara, and is essentially a long ridge with the small Rupa Lake at one end – one of the more popular places to visit around Pokhara.
Travelling to Pokhara
The quickest way to get to Pokhara is to fly to its tiny airport. Though there aren’t any international flights to Pokhara at the moment, flights from New Delhi and other cities in India might start again after the current pandemic eases. They’re even building a dedicated international airport that was supposed to open in 2021, but which has probably been delayed.
Domestic flights to Pokhara from Kathmandu and other places in Nepal still seem to be operating, so you might be able to to fly into Kathmandu, and then catch a domestic flight to Pokhara. Keep in mind, though, that domestic flights to Pokhara are often delayed or even cancelled because of bad weather. When we were there, flights cost around INR 3,000 for Indian nationals and around USD 100 for other foreign nationals. These were pre-COVID rates, though, so please check current rates before making plans.
Driving from Kathmandu to Pokhara is more reliable and cheaper (if you’re in a group). Depending on the kind of car you hire, you can expect to pay upwards of INR 6,000 (about USD 80) for the whole vehicle. It’s a lot cheaper to travel by bus, but I’ve heard locals say it’s not very safe. Driving obviously does take a lot longer than flying, though. Travelling from Kathmandu to Pokhara by road, whether you’re doing it by car or by bus, should take you about six hours. But if you’re unlucky enough to get stuck in traffic along the way (which happens), it could even take up to nine hours.
Hotels in and around Pokhara
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Pokhara and it’s surrounding area, take a look at this list of hotels on TripAdvisor.
IQ’s top tips for these things to do in Pokhara, Nepal
- You can pay for most things by international credit card. If you want to pay by cash, most places accept both Nepalese Rupees (NPR) and Indian Rupees (INR).
- Officially, the new high-denomination (500 and above) INR notes aren’t being accepted in Nepal yet, but most places don’t really mind.
- If you want to change INR into NPR, find an exchange agent in town instead of at the airport (where they won’t accept the larger INR notes).
- The exchange rates are approximately 1.5 NPR to 1 INR, and 120 NPR to 1 USD.
- When going to Krazy Gecko, dress warm. The wind coming off the lake can be chilly, despite the little brazier at your table.
- If you’re going to Movie Garden, make sure you take a torch along (or at least take a phone with a torch). The path up the hill is very dark.
- Don’t expect major luxury when you get there, but they do the basics well.
- Take sunglasses and sunscreen along if you’re going to Pame in the morning. The sun can get very bright, and there’s almost no shade.
- If you’re planning on an ultralight flight, it’ll cost you around USD 200 (INR 14,000) for a 30-minute flight. Indian nationals will probably get a discount.
- It gets very cold up there, despite the coveralls they give you. Dress warm.
- You have a choice of an open or closed aircraft (the closed one is like a regular single-propeller plane – not great for social distancing). The price for both is the same.
- Take a camera with a strap along, unless you want to leave it behind and pay extra for the videos they take of you themselves.
- If you want to hike the trail from Kaskikot to Deurali, take your taxi, bus or bike up to the Kaskikot playground, and take the path into the village on the other side of the road.
- At the ‘T’ junction at the end of the path, turn left to Deurali.
- Turn right at the ‘T’ junction, back in the direction of Sarangkot, at your own risk. The trail is bad, and you might run into leopards and/or bears.
- If you’re planning to visit Club ES Resort at Deurali, take a warm jacket. It can get cold and windy, even at midday.
- You might also want to wear walking shoes; the path up to the resort can get a bit rough.
- Try and avoid walking on the main roads in Rupakot. They can get very dusty.
- Many of the village locals in Rupakot don’t speak anything except Nepali. You might have to use gestures to make yourself understood.
- Try the spicy aloo tareko (stir-fried potato) at Krazy Gecko, or anywhere else. Goes great with a hot rum punch.
- Though Nepalese cuisine is very meaty, you can always ask for daal bhat, which is a traditional vegetarian meal of rice (bhat) and lentils (daal), usually with a side of cauliflower and potato curry, and stir-fried spinach.
- The daal bhat at Club ES Resort is particularly good.