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Pokhara

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Lakeside, Pokhara

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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.

History

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 settlements.

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.

Structure

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 Pokhara valley.

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.

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