Unwinding Hikes around Pokhara

Pokhara’s bewitching beauty has been the subject of many travel writers. Its pristine air, spectacular backdrop of snowy peaks, serene lakes and surrounding greenery make it ‘the jewel in the Himalaya’, a place of remarkable natural beauty. With the magnificent Annapurna range forming the backdrop and the serenity of three major lakes – Phewa, Rupa and Begnas – Pokhara is the ultimate destination for relaxation. It is the second largest city in Nepal and sits high on the list of ‘must visit’ places in Nepal.

Pokhara Valley is not only the end of the famous Annapurna Circuit and the gateway to some of the most famous long-distance treks in Nepal, but it also has plenty of rewarding short walks and day trips that are suitable even for children and weary trekkers.

Along with several trails used by local residents leading to different villages, fields and viewpoints, below are a few popular hiking trails around Pokhara. These day hikes are ideal for those wanting to take some time away from the happening city life and immerse in the serene natural beauty that surrounds the Pokhara valley.

1. Hike to Begnas Lake
Hike Duration: 4 to 5 hours approx.
Drive Time from Phewa Lake: 45 minutes approx.
Transfer to Begnas Lake, the second largest lake of the valley after the Phewa Lake. A popular tourist destination, the area is filled with numerous resorts and eateries. There are different points from where you can begin walking.

Hike along the ridges as the trail slowly leads higher through forests of Horse-Chestnut and Saal trees. The view of the surrounding hill sides and of the twin lakes of Rupa and Begnas is simply breathtaking. Walk steadily north gaining a slight altitude through Begnas village, a spread out spectacle of clean mud houses and terraced fields. Higher up is Begnas Maidan, an open meadow perched on a hilltop from where one can have the most spectacular mountain views sweeping from east to west in a vast snowy expanse; Manaslu (8156m) the entire Annapurna massif with such prominent peaks as Annapurna II (7937m), Annapurna III & IV as well as Mt. Macchapuchhre (6993m) and weather permitting, the distant Dhaulagiri (8167m) in the far west.

After lunch at one of the many local restaurants around Begnas, you have an option of hiring a boat for a short ride in the tranquil surroundings, before meeting your vehicle for the 40 minutes’ drive back to your hotel.

2. Hike to Shanti Stupa or World Peace Pagoda
Hike Duration: 3 hours approx.
Drive to the dam at the end of Phewa Tal, the second largest lake in Nepal. The lake is stream fed but the dam regulates the water reserve, therefore being classified as semi-natural freshwater lake from where the water goes to a small hydro-power plant at the southern edge of the valley. Walk up the forested hill called Raniban to the Shanti Stupa, or World Peace Pagoda, a Buddhist stupa built by the Buddhist monks of the Japanese Nipponzan Fujii organization at a narrow ridge above the Phewa Taal. Walk around the stupa that offers good views of the Phewa Tal and the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Himal.

The path then descends to the lake shore where you can take a boat across to the other side while paying your respects at the Barahi Temple located at the heart of the lake.

3. Hike Naudanda to Sarangkot
Drive Time: 45 minutes approx.
Hike Duration: 5 hours approx.
Drive from Pokhara to Naudanda, a small hill offering pleasant views of the greenery and mountain ranges of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu. Start hiking from Naudanda (1600 meters) from a trail that leads you through the traditional Brahmin and Chhetri villages. After a four hours’ hike you will reach the vantage point of Sarangkot.

Sarangkot is a beautiful village located on a mountainside ridge at an altitude of 1600m with panoramic Himalayan views, from Dhaulagiri in the far west and Pokhara city in the south with the Phewa Lake on the north-western outskirts of the city. It is also famous for sunrise views and paragliding. Take a rest here while admiring the far-reaching views of the Himalayas and watch the acrobatics of the many adventurous paragliders that launch from here.

Our descent back down to Pokhara is steep in places. After approx. an hour and a half, it brings us back to Pokhara.

In addition to visiting various sites in Pokhara, the above day hikes can be included and customized as per your inclination to make for an exhilarating experience. These hikes can also be initiated as a warm-up to prepare for lengthier treks in the Annapurna region.

Nuwakot and The Famous Farm

A good three hours of bumpy ride, about 75 km north from Kathmandu, driving over a hill after another through the meandering Trishuli River brought us to the hills of Nuwakot. Embellished with rich history and traditional royal architecture, Nuwakot was once the capital of the valley. It is here that King Prithivi Narayan Shah, the unifier and the first king of Nepal formulated his strategy to conquer Kathmandu.

For the four of us, this was our first time to Nuwakot. Stories of the first king of Nepal and his beautiful palace, the famous Saat Tale Durbar, a seven-storey fortress built in 1762 were little details we had grown up hearing about. When we finally made it there last weekend, we were saddened to see the catastrophe caused by the April 2015 earthquake. While the seven-storey fortress still remained put, entering it was prohibited because the structure looked fragile. Little village houses and temples around the area were in ruins; and though slowly, there were signs of restoration. Big pictures of pre, and post-earthquake that now adorned the area gave us an idea of what life would have been here before.

With a heavy heart, we drove to our overnight destination, The Famous Farm which was a stone’s throw away from the durbar. At first glance, The Famous Farm was simply an oasis of tranquility. Built in a 100-year-old mud house, this place is an amalgam of old and modern. The Famous Farm beautifully combines village life with modern facilities like a clean bathroom, comfortable bed, hot shower and a scrumptious cuisine. We spent the night warm and cozy in the open courtyard by the fire as we sipped wine and sang along to old country songs. Later we walked to our rooms through small wooden stairs and doors and hopped into our bed waiting for dawn.

We watched the sun rise over the hills as we sipped coffee from our wooden balcony. The ambiance was spectacular as we breathed clean fresh air that is difficult to find in Kathmandu. Quickly we realized that day light accentuated the beauty of The Famous Farm as blooming bright pink bougainvillea adorned the building. Breakfast in the garden was a delight, one could spend hours simply basking in the sun or enjoying a drink but we wanted to make the most of our short trip so we decided to go for a quick hike around the village.

We walked through patchy settlements and terraced farms as little children waved at us while others went about their daily chores. We passed old men and women basking in the sun, looking up to smile at us before getting back into conversations that eluded us. The view from our highest trek point was exceptional as we overlooked hills of dense forests and the meandering Trishuli River flowing smoothly below.

As we returned from the hike, we had a chilled jar of lemonade waiting for us at the hotel. A surprise treat after the hike! Quenching our thirst and thanking the staff for their wonderful service, it was time to say goodbye. As much as we wanted to stay, we left The Famous Farm with tons of stories to tell and a promise to visit again.

Later we stopped at the bazaar for a hearty Nepali meal and left Nuwakot with bellies full and lots of memories to share.

That was a weekend well spent!