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Pokhara

Surrounded by the snow-capped Himalayas, Pokhara is known for its magnificent mountain views, as well as its lovely lakes which have their source in the nearby glacial Annapurna Range. A place of remarkable natural beauty, Pokhara also offers splendid views of the fishtailed summit of Mt. Machhapuchhre - a sacred mountain, so off limits to all climbers. It's also the starting point for many spectacular treks and day walks in the area and as it is only at a height of 884 metres, these are perfect for those for whom the higher altitudes does not appeal! With many of the Annapurna circuit treks just a 2-hour drive away, Pokhara is a perfect place to begin and end a longer trek. The picturesque circuit can take from 3-17 days, and the trails wind through forest paths and venture into Gurung villages, where walkers can experience truly authentic Nepali life. 

The ever-growing population of Pokhara largely resides near ‘Lakeside’, often referred to as Costa Del Lakeside, owing to the number of bars, restaurants and shops. This means it inevitably has a small, but noticeable backpacker scene. In spite of this, the shopping in Pokhara rivals that of Thamel district in Kathmandu and is much more relaxed and often more affordable. Cashmere is Pokhara’s raison d’etre with numerous cashmere shops lining the streets. From natural colours to royal blues and emerald greens, there is a cashmere scarf waiting for everyone. Intricately embroidered pashminas hark to Nepal’s trade routes with Central Asia while heavy woven jumpers are perfect for a winter warmer. Suitcases should return home laden with luxurious cashmere and you may well wish you had bought more.

However, Pokhara also has a wonderfully relaxed side as its location on Phewa Lake with the epic backdrop of the Himalayas is enough to calm even the most energetic of people. Stays here involve hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas, renting a boat and paddling around Phewa, or for the more adventurous; micro-lighting, paragliding, white-water rafting and mountain biking are on offer. Accommodation in Pokhara is varied, but Ampersand’s favourites are Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge and Pavilions Himalayas: The Farm. Both properties are in the rural areas on the outskirts of Pokhara town and have beautiful surroundings. Tiger Mountain, on a clear day, has uninterrupted views of Fishtail (Mt. Machhapuchhre) and guests can eat all three meals in the presence of this scared and thus, unclimbed mountain. Pavilions Himalayas has its own organic farm and guests are welcome to walk through the rice padis and numerous vegetable patches, and try the organic Himalayan bananas fresh from the trees - they are, reportedly, the best in the world.

For those that want a relaxed stay in between the busyness of Kathmandu and safari, the rural surrounds are quaint and slow-paced, but for more energetic travellers, perhaps paragliding and mountain biking will fill the days. Pokhara is a natural stop in a Nepal itinerary. With numerous daily flights from Kathmandu taking 25-minutes it is easy to reach and allows for some fantastic hiking, adrenaline pumping activities and a spot of retail therapy.

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The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.
G. K. Chesterton

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