Pokhara is known more for its beautiful lakeside setting and panoramic mountain
views of distant Himalayan peaks than for historical sights and culture. The
lake is the second largest in the Kingdom, and the sight of brightly painted
wooden boats and sails rippling across the reflections of icy summits, presents
a picture of perfect serenity. It has become a popular base for some of Nepal’s
finest trekking expeditions as well as the main centre for white water rafting
and kayaking trips. The city provides a peaceful place to relax before or after
tackling the mountains or the rivers, and there are a multitude of excellent
shops supplying the necessary equipment for trekking expeditions.
Pokhara is divided into two parts – the lakeside and the bazaar area.
The actual town or bazaar of Pokhara is set back from the lake, while the lakeside
has become the main tourist-orientated zone brimming with bakeries, international
restaurants, shops, souvenirs and woven handicrafts, bookshops, hotels and guesthouses.
The city is a favourite for visitors to Nepal as a relaxing break from the
temples, noise and bustle of the Kathmandu Valley. There are ample opportunities
for swimming, boating and fishing on the lake, or lazing on the sunny lakeshore
before the magnificent backdrop of some of the highest mountains on earth.
Pokhara lies on an important old trading route between Tibet and India. In
the 17. century it was part of the influential Kingdom of Kaski which again
was one of the Chaubise Rajaya (24 Kingdoms of Nepal) ruled by a branch of the
Shah Dynasty. Many of the mountains around Pokhara still have medieval ruins
from this time. In 1752 the King of Kaski invited Newars from Bhaktapur to Pokhara
to promote trade. Their heritage can still be seen in the architecture along
the streets in Bagar (Old Pokhara). Hindus, again, brought their culture and
customs from Kathmandu and settled in the whole Pokhara valley. In 1786 Prithvi
Narayan Shah added Pokhara into his kingdom. It had by then become an important
trading place on the routes from Kathmandu to Jumla and from India to Tibet.
From 1959 to 1962 some 300,000 refugees came to Nepal from neighbouring Tibet,
which had been annexed by China. Four refugee camps were established in the
Pokhara valley: Tashipalkhel, Tashiling, Paljorling and Jambling. These camps
have evolved into settlements. Because of their different architecture, prayer
flags, gompas and chorten, these can easily be distinguished from the other
Until the end of the 1960s the town could only be reached by foot and it was
considered even more a mystical place than Kathmandu. The first road was finished
in 1968 after which tourism set in and the city grew rapidly. The area long
the Phewa Lake developed into one of the major tourism hubs of Nepal.
Pokhara spans 8 km from north to south and 6 km from east to west but, unlike
Kathmandu, it is quite loosely built up and still has much green space. The
Seti Gandaki flowing through the city from north to south divides the city roughly
in two halves with the down-town area of Chipledunga in the middle, the old
town centre of Bagar in the north and the tourist district of Lakeside (Baidam)
in the south all lying on the western side of the river. The gorge through which
the river flows is crossed at five points, the major ones are (from north to
south): K.I. Singh Pul, Mahendra Pul and Prithvi Highway Pul. The eastern side
of town is mainly residential.
About half of all tourists visiting Pokhara are there for the start or end
of a trek to the Annapurna Base Camp and Mustang. For Nepalese, Pokhara has
become the most favorite place to live in the country.
Phewa Lake was slightly enlarged by damming. It is in danger of silting up
because of the inflow during the monsoon. The outflowing water is partially
used for hydro power. The dam collapsed in the late 1970s and it was rebuilt
by the Chinese. The power plant is located about 100 m below at the bottom of
the Phusre Khola gorge. Water is also diverted for irrigation into the southern
The eastern Pokhara Valley receives irrigation water through a canal running
from a reservoir by the Seti in the north of the city. Phewa Lake is also used
for commercial fishing. The tourist area is along the north shore of the lake
(Lake Side and Dam Side). It is mainly made up of little shops, little hotels,
restaurants and bars. The larger hotels can be found on the southern and south-eastern
fringes of the city, from where the view of the mountains, mainly Mt. Fishtail
is seen best. To the east of the valley are few smaller and few bigger lakes,
the largest being Begnas Tal and Rupakot Tal. Begnas Tal is also known for its
fishery projects. There are no beaches in the valley, but one can rent boats
Phewa and Begnas Tal.