A travellers guide to Pokhara, Nepal's backpacker paradise
Looking for a place to chill out after an epic trekking adventure or the chaos of Kathmandu? Pokhara is the perfect antidote. Here are our favourite things to do in Pokhara, plus advice on where to stay, where to eat, and how to get there.
Two things tend to bring travellers to Pokhara: mountain adventures and a chance to unwind.
Stretched along the shores of Phewa lake dotted with colourful bobbing paddle boats, this little slice of tranquility is one of our favourite places in Nepal.
For those seeking a place to chill (and wash) after three weeks of trekking in the Himalayas, or simply an escape from the chaos of Kathmandu, Nepal’s tranquil lakeside town is the perfect antidote.
Each morning on our recent week-long stay, we’d head ‘lakeside’ to walk in the calm morning air, and admire the towering peaks rising amongst the clouds in the distance. These are the 8,000 metre-high snow-capped giants of the Annapurna range, awe-inspiring in their size and stature. On a clear day, they can be seen from everywhere in Pokhara like watchful guardians over the sleepy town.
This proximity to the Annapurna circuit has attracted travellers to Pokhara for many years, and while many arrive simply as a stop-off point after epic trekking experiences, they stay for the laidback vibes and burgeoning adventure activity scene. There are a number of epic things to do and see in Pokhara, especially for those chasing adrenalin, with white water rafting and some of the best paragliding on earth all available here.
Somehow, despite the buildings getting taller and the crowds slightly busier in recent years, it still manages to retain an oasis-like feel; carefree and relaxed but with all the familiar traveller essentials.
In this post, we’re sharing our favourite things to see and do in Pokhara, as well as our recommendations on where to find the best food and drinks. We’ve also included our tips on where to stay, where to shop, and most importantly where to relax your days away.
Pokhara Highlights | our favourite things to do in Pokhara
Hiking in and around Pokhara
Hiking in the imposing and impossibly beautiful mountains of the Annapurna Range is, without a doubt, the best thing to do in Pokhara and surrounds. We’ve done many multi-day hikes in Nepal, including the Annapurna Circuit, and we’ve listed two of our favourites from Pokhara below. These will depend on your available time, budget, and fitness levels:
SHORT HIKE (3 days) | POON HILL GHOREPANI TREK
If you’ve only got a short time in Nepal but want to both admire the famous Himalayan Range and experience Nepal mountain culture, we recommend the Poon Hill Ghorepani trek.
This three-day trek is essentially a microcosm of what a longer Nepalese mountain trek is like. It passes through quaint villages, up many, many stairs, between jungles and over rivers, and before ultimately ending up at altitude (3,200m), with your head amongst the tallest mountains in the world. It really is the perfect way to ease yourself into trekking in Nepal.
The views from Poon Hill are some of the best we’ve ever experienced - uninterrupted, panoramic views of some of the largest and most photogenic Himalayan mountains, including Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Machhapuchhare, Annapurna II and Lamjung. It also happens to be the spot where the two of us got engaged - so we can definitely vouch for how epic a place it is!
What’s more, it’s affordable - treks to Poon Hill Ghorepani start at around USD $150 pp (NPR 10,500).
What | Poon Hill, Nepal
Costs | Treks start at USD $150pp (NPR 10,500)
LONG HIKE | THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT
Trust us when we say this - the 16 or so days you'll spend hiking the Annapurna Circuit are some of the most inspiring and challenging you'll ever encounter.
Trekking between some of the world’s tallest mountains, through diverse climatic zones (from tropics to alpine peaks), passing quaint mountain villages while enjoying the incredible Nepali hospitality is a wonderful travel experience, and one you can only have in Nepal. Nowhere else on earth can you sip chai tea and bask in the sun while admiring 8,000m peaks in all directions.
From day seven onwards, it’s tough work - the days are long, the weather changeable, the altitude hard to manage, and the sleeping situation uncomfortable. But reaching the highest point, Thorong La pass, and celebrating with friends, family or strangers, is one of the best feelings in the world.
If you’re looking to trek the Annapurna circuit, we recommend booking in advance with a reputable tour company such as G Adventures (check out their 18-day trek here!). They take safety seriously, and also respect the environment and local cultures.
What | The Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Book | This 18-day Annapurna Circuit trek with G Adventures
Enjoy Pokhara from the stunning Phewa Lake
We’ve admired the picturesque shores of Phewa Lake many a time on our Nepal travels, but never actually made it onto the lake until our third visit to Pokhara. Honestly, Phewa Tal and its surrounds wouldn’t look out of place in Zurich, Switzerland, such is its natural beauty, and experiencing it from the water is now, in our opinion, one of the best things to see in Pokhara.
We approached one of the lakeside boat counters and organised a skipper, Ishor, who directed us to one of the iconic colourful paddle boats that line the shore. Orange life-jackets on (it’s compulsory!), we slowly made our way towards the lake’s centre, admiring the incredible views in the process; the snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna range on one side, densely forested slopes of Anadu Hill on the other. With incredible peaks as far as the eye can see, the views from Phewa Lake are out of this world.
On the lake, the only noise we could hear was the paddle lightly dipping into the water, and bird call in the distance. It was utterly peaceful.
We spent the next 30mins taking photos of the stunning surrounds, before slowly making our way back to shore, enjoying the last of the peace and quiet, before stepping to shore and continuing our day.
You can book an affordable one hour, two hour or whole day guided paddle boat from one of the many lakeside stalls, or hire a boat and paddle the lake yourself for any agreed time.
Where | Phewa Tal, Pokhara
Cost | NPR 560 for one hour guided, plus NPR 20 per compulsory life jacket
Opening hours | 7am - 5pm (may be extended depending on season)
Watch the sunrise from Sarangkot viewpoint
As the sun rises slowly in the distance and first light hits the 8,000m peaks of the Annapurna range in the distance, we can’t help but do a happy dance.
Sarangkot is, without a doubt, home to the best views of the Annapurna range without having to hike to Poon Hill or the Annapurna Circuit.
From the viewpoint, you’re afforded uninterrupted, panoramic views across a number of the most striking Himalayan peaks, including the imposing Dhaulagiri (8167m), the triangle peak of Machhapuchhare, Annapurna II and Lamjung. The light show here is incredible, as the peaks turn from bright pink, to orange, and finally white.
There are a number of chai stalls and tea houses just near the viewpoint which serve fresh tea or coffee, perfect for the post-euphoria come down (are warm up!).
To get to Sarangkot viewpoint, you can hire a taxi to take you to the lookout point (NPR 500+), or hire a scooter in Pokhara and follow the signs to Sarangkot.
Where | Sarangkot viewpoint
Cost | NPR 50 entry (includes cup of tea)
Experience adrenalin white water rafting near Pokhara
The ferocious white rapids are approaching swiftly. “Paddle, paddle, paddle!”, shouts our guide Nim, the urgency in his voice palpable.
We thump into the rapids, ice-cold glacial waters snapping us out of our adrenaline fuelled haze. This is pure adventure!
We’re on a half-day Upper Seti river white water rafting trip with Paddle Nepal, the leaders in Nepal’s burgeoning rafting scene. Just a short drive from Pokhara, the Upper Seti provides a short but sweet adrenaline-filled rafting experience.
Nim, our guide for the day, also happens to be a world champion rafter himself. In fact, he’s just returned from Australia coaching the Nepali national team to a top 10 finish in the world championships. Evidently, we’re in good hands.
For 1 1/2 hours we paddle our way down the class III+IV rapids, admiring the Annapurna mountain range in the distance and the peaceful, lush surrounds. Although the rapids are less ferocious than post-monsoon, they’re enough to really kick the heart rate into gear. There’s even time for an impromptu cliff jump, as if another adrenalin-fix is needed.
The rafting ends by passing under a suspension bridge covered in colourful prayer flags, before a quick lunch, celebratory Coke, and a 20 minute drive back to Pokhara.
It’s the perfect little adrenaline fix, and the half-day trip allows you enough time to experience the rest of Pokhara’s best things to do.
For those wanting to do longer rafting expeditions, there are plenty of full day and multi-day options from Pokhara - enquire with the guys from Paddle Nepal.
Where | Paddle Nepal, Pokhara
Cost | USD $51 pp, half day trip
Further information | Bring adequate footwear for the rafting - either reef shoes or any closed toe shoe you don’t mind getting wet
Best time to visit | October to November is the best time to raft, when the rivers are full and clear blue
Paraglide with outrageous views in Pokhara
If you’re going to paraglide anywhere in the world, make Pokhara your place.
This is rated as one of the top 5 commercial tandem paragliding locations in the world, with the perfect combination of stable thermal currents, a safe take-off location and landing zone, and epic views.
The 30-minute flight provides an initial adrenaline rush before a surprisingly calm glide back to earth. Floating above Phewa Lake and the surrounding mountains (with views to the Annapurna Range in the distance!) is wonderfully picturesque.
Paragliding flights launch from Sarangkot, about 30 minutes drive from Pokhara. There are three flight times a day, depending on season and weather - 10:30am, 12pm and 2pm. The best flying time is around midday, when the thermals have become active and the flight the most enjoyable.
Where | Sarangkot, Pokhara
Who | Check out Sunrise Paragliding
Cost | Standard flight (30mins): NPR 7,500
Cross country flight (40-60mins): NPR 11,000
GoPro footage: NPR 1,700
Additional Information | For safety reasons, you can’t take your own camera/GoPro on your flight so if you want footage, you’ll need to purchase it
Reviews | See what other travellers thought of paragliding in Pokhara here
Brunch or lunch at Pokhara’s best cafe, The Juicery
A fellow traveller mentioned The Juicery to us in passing, and boy, are we glad they passed that little nugget of knowledge on.
What. A. Place.
Located in the relaxed northern parts of Lakeside Pokhara, The Juicery is a cafe/bar/yoga studio catering to those who love good food in a very chilled atmosphere.
Surrounded by greenery, flowers and fellow travellers bonding over a coffee, we sat down to brunch. Mark ordered Shakshuka (NPR 350) - eggs poached on a slow-cooked tomato stew, while Mim ordered the wild mushroom breakfast (NPR 400) - wild mushrooms and spinach cooked in a herb-lemon dressing and served with poached eggs. Both were served with homemade sourdough.
The breakfast tasted as if it was lifted from Melbourne’s premiere cafes, such was the taste and quality of the ingredients. We topped our meals off with an iced coffee (easily the best in Nepal), and watermelon frappe.
Our only gripe is that we didn’t venture to The Juicery earlier; in fact we only visited on our final morning! Don’t make the same mistake as us, visit more than once (read: everyday!) on your own visit to Pokhara - it’s definitely one of the best places to eat in Pokhara.
Where | The Juicery, Pokhara
Cost | NPR 200 - 400 for brunch,
NPR 180 - 260 for a smoothie,
NPR 100 - 200 for coffee
Opening hours | 7.30am - 7pm, Mon - Sun
Reviews | Check Tripadvisor reviews of The Juicery here
Zen out with a yoga session in Pokhara
We don’t get to practice yoga anywhere near as much as we’d like to these days, so any opportunity we get to practice on the road, we take.
To heal our aching muscles post Poon Hill hike, we joined a drop-in class at Lotus Corner, northern lakeside. The hatha class was just what we ordered, a relaxing practice filled with stretching, light poses, and a touch of meditation to finish.
Lotus Corner also offers Vinyasa flow classes, and with three different sessions scheduled throughout the day you can seriously get your yoga fix!
Although we loved Lotus Corner, Pokhara is filled with many yoga studios offering everything from vinyasa to meditation at affordable rates, so look around for the best options around where you’re staying.
Where | Lotus Corner, Lakeside
Cost | NPR 300 per class
Class times | 8:30 - 10am, 10:30 - 12pm, 4 - 5:30pm daily
Reviews | Read Tripadvisor reviews of Lotus Corner here
Essential Nepal | Our top things to see and do in Nepal
Hike up to the World Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa)
One of the most popular activities in Pokhara is visiting the World Peace Pagoda on top of Anadu Hill.
While we don’t necessarily agree with its popularity (we’d definitely prefer a long, lazy brunch at The Juicery, or morning walk by Phewa!), it’s definitely a place worth visiting for the views alone.
Built in 1973 by Japanese monks as a gift to Nepal and a symbol of peace, the Peace Pagoda is an interesting cultural site to visit, and provides some of the best views of the Annapurna Range, Pokhara and Phewa Lake. Although extremely popular with local and foreign tourists, tranquility is important here, so please dress appropriately, respect the rules and enjoy the surrounds quietly.
In our opinion, the best way to visit the World Peace Pagoda is by taking a small local boat from ‘lakeside’ across to the small town on the opposite side of the lake. From here, the trail to the summit follows through the beautiful forest and takes around a 45min - 1 hour hike. Alternatively, take a 45min taxi from Pokhara to the summit.
As there isn’t much shade to be found on the trail, we’d recommend visiting in the morning to avoid the heat. This is also when the skies are at their clearest and the best views over the Annapurna Range can be seen.
Safety note | solo travellers (female, particularly), do be careful if you decide to walk up by yourselves as cases of sexual harassment have been reported in the last few years.
Where | World Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa), Pokhara
Cost | Entry to Stupa is free
NPR 810 - 1210 return boat trip
Sunrise walk on the shores of Phewa Lake
Pokhara’s iconic lake, Phewa, wouldn’t look out of place in Switzerland such is its natural beauty. And an early morning lakeside walk is one of our favourite things to do in Pokhara.
Starting in the south, slowly walk towards the northern shores, enjoying the epic mountainscapes of the Annapurna range as the early morning light illuminates their peaks.
At this time of day, there’s a calmness around Pokhara that you won’t find anywhere else in Nepal, so embrace the chill.
We recommend stopping at the various lookout points overlooking the colourful paddle boats and forested slopes and watching as the locals fish, hoping to reel in one of the resident catfish.
Finish your walk in the north, where arguably the best breakfast and iced coffee in Pokhara (and all of Nepal!) awaits you at The Juicery.
If you’re not a morning person, not all is lost! The lake is still a great walk at any time of day. Stop by one of the lakeside juice makers for a healthy pickmeup, or pop into a lakeside bar for a beer or two. There are also a number of Tibetan crafts vendors selling their wares by the lake if you’re keen to grab a bargain.
Where | Phewa Lake, Pokhara
Relax, and do good with a massage from Seeing Hands
After long days of trekking in the Himalaya, there’s nothing quite as enjoyable as a relaxing massage on your return to Pokhara.
While there are a number of massage parlours offering all types of treatments, we highly recommend booking yourself in to Seeing Hands. These guys are a social enterprise providing training and employment in massage therapy for visually impaired people.
Mark visited the Seeing Hands guys right after our Annapurna Circuit hike a few years back to relieve all the aches and pains in his lower back and legs. After a quick consultation, he was on the massage bed enjoying a soothing massage. It was as good as he’s ever had, and a nice way to support a local community at the same time.
The clinics are open seven days a week, but we recommend booking ahead during the peak season.
Where | Seeing Hands, Pokhara
Cost | Massages start from NPR 500
Opening hours | 10am - 5pm
Reviews | See what other travellers thought of Seeing Hands on Tripadvisor
shop ‘till you drop in Pokhara
If there’s one thing we love doing in Nepal, it’s shopping. There’s just something about the colourful textiles and abundant jewellery that makes it way to easy to spend our hard-earned dollars without regret.
Pokhara, especially, has some of the best shopping in Nepal. Take a wander along Lakeside road and you’ll find yourself fawning over an abundance of Tibetan goods, soft textiles and linens, silver jewellery, hiking gear, and fascinating new reads.
Some of our favourite shops include;
Popular book shop | has all the latest best sellers at a quarter of the usual retail price, as well as travel guides, maps, and notebooks. We’ve bought
Zaroo the Great | We want to buy pretty much every single woolen jumper in here. Has a great selection of Cashmere and Pashmina products and decent prices
Dressmart | Looking for a bargain, or some of those typical backpacker threads (but actually nice!)? Then shop here
Store of Hemp | Selling a variety of hemp based clothes, including modern shirts for the guys, and overalls and dresses for the ladies
Tibetan Mini Market | The best place to find Tibetan handicrafts and jewellery, run by the people's cooperative society of Tashi Palkhel (the Tibetan refugee camp just outside of Pokhara)
Although the prices may be a little more expensive than those in Thamel/Kathmandu, we actually found the quality and variety much better in Pokhara.
Explore the caves systems around Pokhara
In the hills surrounding Pokhara are a number of cave systems — some of which are 100’s of years old — that are worth a visit if you have some extra time.
The best cave to visit in Pokhara is Gupteshwar Mahadev, located on the road up to the Japanese Peace Pagoda (above).
The entrance to the cave begins with a descent down a wooden staircase decorated with artistic murals of Shiva-Pavarti. Passing a gate, the path descends further via the slippery, wet stairs into the wide cave, where you'll arrive at the famous Lord Shiva temple, which is said to be over 600 years old.
From here, you can also witness the lower part of Davi’s Falls, as it flows through the cave system and into the underground river below.
It’s worth noting that health and safety measures don’t really exist here, so enter at your own discretion. We’ve read about some tourists breaking their ankles here, so it pays to wear good shoes and take the path carefully.
Other caves within Pokhara include:
Bat cave - full of bats, especially in October. Exit is through a VERY narrow gap
Mahendra cave - small limestone cave with stalactites & stalagmites, also contains a Lord Shiva statue
Where | Gupteshwar Mahadev cave, Pokhara
Cost | NPR 100 for foreign tourists
A map of the best things to see and do in Pokhara
Here’s our map of Pokhara’s best attractions and best things to do. You can download this and add it to your phone.
Where to eat and drink in Pokhara
If you’ve been in the mountains for a while and have grown weary of the very delicious, but somewhat repetitive traditional Nepalese trekking food, you’ll be wrapt to know that Pokhara is home to a plethora of incredible food options. From wood-fired pizza to steaming bowls of ramen, you won’t ever go hungry here.
Having tried at least 20 seperate restaurants in Pokhara, we’ve listed our favourite eateries below:
Owned by Zac, an American from Colorado, Linger cafe serves delicious, homemade food which Zac sources locally and cooks from scratch. We recommend the veggie ramen, and the assortment of tapas (high season only), as well as a selection of desserts, which are by far the best we’ve eaten in Nepal (think homemade ice cream cakes.. drool!).
Also serves some great Nepali craft beers.
Cost | Mains start from NPR 450
Reviews | See what other travellers thought of Linger Cafe on Tripadvisor
The oldest Italian restaurant in Pokhara and by far the best pizza in all of Pokhara; the base was brilliant, and the toppings tasty and fresh. The pasta is great too, but expect to pay for the name and history - mains start from around NPR 400.
Where | Caffe Concerto, Pokhara
Cost | Mains start from NPR 400
Reviews | See what other travellers thought of Caffe Concerto on Tripadvisor here
This Uber-hip eatery serves delicious, authentic bibimbap, as well as other Korean food (but who can go past bibimbap!). The service isn’t great and it’s on the pricey end of the scale, with a meal costing around NPR 700 per person, but it’s definitely worth it.
Cost | Mains start from NPR 700
Reviews | See reviews of Natsuul Korean on Tripadvisor here
POTALA TIBETAN KITCHEN
This Tibetan eatery feels like you’re visiting a local family for dinner (in fact, we’re pretty sure their restaurant is actually their living room!), but the homely feel extends to the food - the thukpa (Tibetan soup) is great, as is the fruits and curd for dessert. Expect to pay around NPR 300 - 400 per meal.
Cost | Mains start from NPR 300
Reviews | See Tripadvisor reviews of Potala Tibetan Kitchen here
Woodfired pizzas and decent enough pasta from this Kathmandu based institution. Located lakeside, It’s super cool interior could be from New York or London, and the pizza is certainly delicious. A little on the pricey end, but you get what you pay for.
Cost | Pizza’s start from NPR 400
AM/PM ORGANIC CAFE
Seriously popular with backpackers, AM/PM serves mostly organic, vegetarian fare. If we’re honest, it’s not the best and The Juicery (mentioned above) is far better, however for a decent breakfast and coffee in the south of town, it’s okay. It’s also quite expensive, with breakfast starting from NPR 400, and coffee around NPR 150.
Cost | Breakfast from NPR 400, Coffee from NPR 150
Reviews | See what other travellers thought of AM/PM Organic cafe on Tripadvisor
Pokhara travel essentials | How to plan your stay in Pokhara
Where to stay in Pokhara
Pokhara has an abundance of accommodation options, from budget the high end (Check out our guide to accommodation in Nepal here).
We’ve primarily stayed in the budget options during our visits to Pokhara, and listed our favourite below.
Gauri Shankar Hostel | Comfy beds (probably the best we’ve encountered in Nepal), chilled environment, and affordable. They also have book for use, and an area to swap/donate unwanted hiking gear (perfect if you need a hiking pole or two). Book Gauri Shankar Hostel here.
A relative newcomer to the Nepal accommodation scene, Airbnb is now available in Pokhara.
How to get to Pokhara from Kathmandu
BUS FROM KATHMANDU TO POKHARA (AND POKHARA TO KATHMANDU)
In our opinion, catching the ‘tourist’ bus is the easiest and most cost effective way to get from Kathmandu to Pokhara. That being said, the journey along the Prithvi Highway one of the more arduous bus trips we’ve ever taken, taking around 8 hours to travel 200kms.
The best, yet most expensive option is Greenline, which for $25 USD one way, or $42.50 return, offer modern buses with air-conditioning and charging capabilities, professional (and safe) drivers, as well as lunch on their Kathmandu to Pokhara (and return) route. Tickets can be purchased from any tour agent in Kathmandu, or directly at the Greenline offices.
Buses depart at 7am in front of the Greenline offices (NorthFace Showroom, Tridevi Sadak) just outside of Thamel, and drop you off at Shorakhutte bus station, just outside of Thamel on the return.
For those on a budget, there are cheaper ‘tourist’ buses that service the route. Blue Sky (USD $6) and World Touch (USD $8) are two good options, which provide seat numbers, water and meal stops on the route. Tickets can be purchased from any tour agent in Kathmandu.
FLYING FROM KATHMANDU TO POKHARA
For those who are time-poor or aren’t on a strict budget, the quickest way to get from Kathmandu to Pokhara is via plane. There are around 20 flights per day, lasting around 25 minutes, and generally cost around $100 depending on availability. Off season, flights can be as little as $50-60 is booked at the last minute.
We do advise that Nepali air safety is poor, so be sure to do your research before booking flights.
How to get around Pokhara
Pokhara is a seriously walkable town, with wide footpaths, quiet back streets, and a picturesque lakeside walk, making it easy to get around by foot. In fact, we’d walk everywhere, rain, hail or shine, because it just isn’t worth hiring a taxi for such short distances.
HIRE A SCOOTER
It’s possible to hire scooters from lakeside operators, which vary between NPR 800 - 1200 per day.
If you do plan to hire a scooter, we recommend that you’ve ridden one before, are aware of the dangers of riding on roads in Nepal, always wear a helmet, and have adequate travel insurance that covers you for scooter rides. Book World Nomads insurance here, or read our comprehensive guide to travel insurance here.
HIRE A TAXI
Be warned - taxis are bloody expensive in Pokhara! It seems that a taxi mafia of some sort has been on the rise in recent years, leading to skyrocketing prices and some pushy drivers around.
If you’re staying Lakeside, there’s no real need to hire a taxi as everything is within walking distance. If you’d like to visit one of Pokhara’s main attractions, such as Sarangkot or the World Peace Pagoda, simply grab a cab from the main taxi ranks dotted on Lakeside road. Just remember to negotiate before entering the vehicle (or ask for the meter to be switched on), and don’t take the initial price as standard - haggle until you’re comfortable.
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PLANNING TO visit nepal?
We have a heap of essential reading before visiting Nepal!
ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TIPS | Our top Annapurna Circuit trekking tips
ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT PACKING LIST | Everything you need to pack for the Annapurna Circuit
KATHMANDU GUIDE | Our essential guide to the best of Kathmandu
THE BEST OF NEPAL | The top things to see and do in Nepal
NEPAL TRAVEL TIPS | Everything you need to know before visiting Nepal
TRAVEL INSURANCE | Don’t leave home without travel insurance (seriously, don’t!). Click here to get the best deals with World Nomads, our trusted travel insurance provider
PHOTOGRAPHY | Love our photography? Wondering what gear we use to get all of our photos around the world? Click here to view our detailed photography gear guide, as well as our top travel photography tips!
ECO FRIENDLY PACKING ESSENTIALS | Don’t leave home without our favourite eco-friendly travel essentials
Have you been to Pokhara yourself? Help your fellow travellers our by sharing your favourite things to do in Pokhara in the comments below!
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