Nepali Times
Life Times
Pokhara in the monsoon



Ten years ago, you would be hard pressed to find a meal on Pokhara's lakeside in the monsoon. Most restaurants would be shut for the off-season.

With the Annapurnas obscured by clouds, even tourist guidebooks used to advise tourists not to come to Pokhara in the rainy season. But if the past few months is any indication, the monsoon seems to be the time to go to Pokhara. The rains actually seem to attract tourists, the lake front is bustling, restaurants are open, and adventure tourists are rafting in the Seti and even jumping off Sarangkot on paragliders.

"We used to have six months off-season period," says Biplab Paudel,
chairman of the Pokhara Hotel Association, "now it is just July and August when the numbers dip a bit."

The reason is that the traditional European and Japanese tourists have been replaced in the monsoon by Chinese, Indian and domestic tourists from Nepal itself. Ten years ago, only five per cent of hotel guests in Pokhara used to be Nepali, today that has jumped to 40 per cent due in part to the 'Jaun Hai Pokhara' promotion campaign.

Indian tourists are up 25 per cent, and many of them are pilgrims who drive up overland to go to Muktinath. Chinese tourists have increased by 15 per cent. Of the total number of foreign visitors to Nepal, Pokhara used to get only 15 per cent, now a third of all tourists to Nepal come to Pokhara.

Even if the mountains are not visible, there is plenty to see and do in Pokhara in the monsoon. With the highest rainfall in Nepal, Pokhara's waterfalls and rivers are dramatic, the midhills and valleys are all soothing shades of green.

We are even promoting the rainfall," quips Poudel, "the rain is romantic and is an attraction."

Visitors seem to agree. French tourist Alexandra Hungston has come here to recharge herself after a long backpack travel. She says: "What can be more relaxing than reading a book while having a cup of tea besides this glittering lake?"

Kathmandu's middle class also sees Pokhara as a perfect getaway from the chaos and pollution in the capital. Chandra Acharya is an engineer living in Kathmandu and prefers Pokhara to Pattaya. "After a quick downpour, everything is so fresh and clean. The weather is cool as well, so I bring my family here," he says.

The attractions include Devis Fall, which is at its maximum volume because of the rain. Operators are also popularizing the 'Rice Planting Expedition' in paddy fields on the outskirts, and Pokhara is soon to be Nepal's latest sky diving destination.

Pokhara has survived the conflict years, strikes and highway closures and is now looking forward to a busy autumn season. The chairman of the Pokhara Restaurant Association, Balram Pahari, says Pokhara has boomed despite the lack of government support. "I don't think the increase in visitor numbers is due to Nepal Tourism Year 2011, it was because of our own promotion and packages."

One tourist visiting Pokhara provides jobs for at least 16 local people, and tourism is now a vital part of Pokhara's economy. Says Poudel: "There used to be a time when restaurants would ignore Nepalis, now they have realised that a tourist is a tourist no matter what the nationality."

Baikuntha Acharya of Nepal Tourism Board speaks of his own constraints, but he says NTB aims to increase the choice of activities in Pokhara. "Pokhara sells itself," he says, "but with promotion and more attractions it can attract even more visitors."


The optimism of Pokhara's tourism entrepreneurs is evident in the expansion of 400 hotels and addition of the new ones. One such is the Temple Tree Resort and Spa which is one of the newest in the business. Its distinctive western Himalayan architecture by Siddharth Gopalan with slate roofs, stucco walls and hand-made furniture is an example of clever fusion between Nepali tradition and modern comfort. The hotel aims to attract the market for conventional tourists, health and wellness enthusiasts as well as serve as a stopover for trekkers. Basanta Gautam and Chandan Kayastha of Temple Trees (pictured) say they have invested in raising the standard of hospitality in Pokhara. "We have tried to integrate a Nepaliness to the architecture and raise the quality of tourism to international levels," says Gautam.

Win some, Jomsom

The two things tourists have to be prepared for while visiting Pokhara in the monsoon are leeches and flight delays. Leech repellents are advised for short treks around Pokhara, but the inconvenience is more than compensated by the great views of lakes, forests and paddy terraces. There is less one can do about flights. Just like Lukla and Phaplu have not operated for a week, Pokhara-Jomsom flights have also been cancelled for six days in a row, stranding thousands of Indian pilgrims in Jomsom and Pokhara. The newly-built road is also blocked in five place due to landslides between Beni and Dana, making vehicle transport nearly impossible.

1. David
Pokhara Lakeside is one of the most beautiful places in the world it just a matter of time until people find out about it. A little rain is nice because it keeps the air clean and you can be sure tourist appreciate clean air and water.

2. Dan
Pokhara must be turned into Honey Mooner's paradise so that newly married couples can enjoy their honey moon in the city. However, there security must be enhanced. As a matter of fact, all the administrative work and facilities must be run by women including the security, operation of hotels, trekking. The military and the police forces must be only women, and also the hotels should be staffed by women. Only then Pokhara will be safe for tourists.

3. Sabin & Meena

Pokhara is indeed a perfect holiday getaway.As it is centrally located and easily accessible.Moreover,Pokhara visitors are growing  these days.but,the initiation made by the private sector is quiet appreciable lacking government assistance & policy.but,much more efforts has to be made to lure more international & domestic tourist.Hope,50% target of domestic tourist will achieve in coming days.


4. B2B
If you travel by flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara you begin to see the whole range of mountains, including the Mt. Everest, not very far away from you. After a while when you land at the airport you just come out of avion and look toward those gigantic white Machhapuchare just in front of you. It simply appears that you can embrace the whole set of white thing like your new mate.

When it is pristine clear over the Phewa Tal the reflection of Machhapuchare on the scintillating  surface of the lake, you feel like being in a paradise of natural beauty that you can seldom see, most probably on the Jhelam lake in Shrinagar while boating at twilight.

Those who have once seen Pokhara can never forget it, you bet!?!

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)