Thursday, July 31, 2014

TRAVEL GUIDE: POKHARA – The Place of Magnificent Heights


Pokhara is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Nepal. It is the starting point for most of the treks in the Annapurna Circuit through ACAP region of the Annapurna ranges in the Himalayas. Three out of the ten highest mountains in the world knows as Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu are within 30 miles of the Pokhara City. No wonder, this city has become a favorite rendezvous for mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

HOW TO GET TO POKHARA FROM KATHMANDU

Option 1: BUS

Take the tourist buses from the terminal in Thamel. Fare rate as of this writing is NPR 700. It is a 200km journey west of the country’s capital which takes around 6-7 hours. The road to Pokhara has a lot of switchbacks and can be very dusty during summer season but it offers nice views of hills, rivers, and rural Nepalese lifestyle. During the rainy season commuter’s bus can encounter a lot of road problems and thus flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara is suggested as better option.

Option 2: PLANE

There are various reputable airlines that operate regular flights from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Although this option can be very expensive, it is deemed to be more comfortable as it can shorten the travel time to just 40 minutes to 1 hour.  Also, the flights offer passengers a magnificent bird's eye view of the countryside as well as the splendid sights of mountains themselves.

WHAT TO DO / WHERE TO GO IN POKHARA

1.       Feast on the superb views of lakes (Phewa/Fewa Lake, Begnas Lake, Rupa Lake, Dipang Lake) and Devil’s Waterfalls.
The World Peace Pagoda
2.       Visit the World Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa) - The first Peace Pagoda to be constructed in Nepal in 1999. This temple located on a top of a hill, offers a great view of the Annapurna Mountains. The easiest way to get here from the city is by taking a taxi (NPR 1000 two way) to the base of the World Peace Pagoda and then take a 5-10 minute walk. You may also opt to go on foot but this can be a little challenging (but exciting) as you must first walk around or row across Phewa/Fewa Lake then trek through the forest where leeches abound during the monsoon.
3.       Climb up Sarangkot and inhale the spectacular sunset.
4.       Go spelunking. Mahendra Cave is the most famous cave located in Batulechaur. Chamare Gufa - Bat cave is known because of the innumerable bats hanging by the cave's walls. Gupteswar Mahadev Cave is another cave famous cave because of its religious importance.
That marked stone 
5.       Visit museums and learn something new! There are two museums in Pokhara: the International Mountain Museum and Gurkha Memorial Museum. We visited the International Mountain Museum, a museum about mountaineering and its history where a detailed description with photos of people living in the Himalayas can be found. This can be a haven for mountaineers like us as this museum provides information about 14 highest peaks together with their most famous expeditions. Entrance Fee: NPR 300. If International Mountain Museum is dedicated to mountaineers, the Gurkha Memorial Museum is said to be dedicated to the famous soldiers of Nepal.
View from Raniban Retreat House 
6.       Stay a day or two at Raniban Retreat House! This retreat house is perched on a secluded on a mound rising 420 meters of Raniban hill forest. It has the best view of Himalayan panorama, the great Fewa Lake, and Pokhara Valley. The World Peace Pagoda is also just a stone away from this hotel. Aside from the tranquil location perfect for relaxation and heart stopping views, Raniban Retreat House also offers good food and excellent services.  Indeed, a one stop best deal shop. It takes a little effort to get to Raniban, from the city centreor airport. You have to hire a taxi and ascend the 500 stone steps in order to get to main gate but believe me, the place, the people, the views, are all worth it!

SEE OTHER PHOTOS OF POKHARA

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This entry is part of our Nepal Backpacking Trip which happened last June 23 – July 01, 2014 (JUST CLICK ON THE LINK FOR DETAILS OF EACH ARTICLE)
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TRAVEL GUIDE: NAGARKOT AND THE AMAZING VISTAS THAT WE FAILED TO SEE

Nagarkot is a village situated 25 - 32 km east of Kathmandu, Nepal. It has an elevation of 2,195 meters above sea level, and is considered one of the most picturesque spots in Bhaktapur District. Nagarkot is best known for its sunrise and sunset view of the Himalayan vistas including Mount Everest and other snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan range (8 out of 13 Himalayan ranges of Nepal can be seen from here) – ALL OF THESE AMAZING VIEWS, WE FAILED TO SEE.

Nagarkot is a popular international hill station (Nagarkot View Tower) which also offers a panoramic view of the Kathmandu Valley rolling hills, and lush pine forests in a charming rustic atmosphere. No wonder it became one of the tourists favourite spots.
The Promised View
(Photo by Tennyson Lee from his blog www.tennysonlee.com)
My Actual View from Nagarkot Tower
HOW TO GET TO NAGARKOT from KATHMANDU

OPTION 1: BUS

1.       Take the bus bound to Bhaktapur from Kathmandu. The rate is 30 NPR for one way. Travel time is roughly an hour if without traffic.
2.       From Bhaktapur, take another bus bound for Nagarkot. Fare costs 25 NPR. It takes another hour to get there.
3.       The way up to Nagarkot is very scenic. The bus passes through the beautiful fields and almost-symmetrical rows of pine forest. The view gives out an idyllic scene, only that the road lies just beside steep cliffs!
4.       From the bus stop, you can hike up to Nagarkot Tower or simply rent a cab to take you up. The driver charged us NPR 800 for bringing us up to the base of Nagarkot Tower and back to the bus station.
5.       Last bus from Nagarkot back to Bhaktapur leaves at 7PM. Be informed that as of this writing, there are no buses that directly brings people from Nagarkot to Kathmandu so you have to consider the travel time.

I am not sure if there are buses that go directly to Nagarkot from Kathmandu but taking a side trip to Bhaktapur Durbar Square is actually a very good option.

OPTION 2: TAXI

Taxi from Kathmandu to Nagarkot costs around NPR 2,000 for one way and it can be pretty expensive if you will rent a cab way and back. Good thing about taking a cab though is that you do not have to squeeze in yourself to crowded buses and you can shorten the travel time. It is less of a hassle but not really comfortable as taxis in Nepal do not have aircon, so you will still inhale dust and smoke along the way.

** Since the best view from Nagarkot View Tower happened during sunrise and sunset, it is best to stay in this place overnight. There are a lot of accommodation options from which you can choose from. (Try checking hotels/inns in Nagarkot online)

If only we knew beforehand that we could’ve gotten a better chance of seeing the Himalayan vistas and snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan range, we could have brought our stuff with us and stayed here instead of staying in Kathmandu. We arrived in Nagarkot a quarter before 2PM and left before sunrise. Not the best time. I did not do my research before going to this place, eh? :P


******************************************************************
This entry is part of our Nepal Backpacking Trip which happened last June 23 – July 01, 2014 (JUST CLICK ON THE LINK FOR DETAILS OF EACH ARTICLE)
******************************************************************
For more virtual and interactive live updates, be part of our FACEBOOK COMMUNITY or connect with us onTWITTER and INSTAGRAM.