The Top Three Things to do in Pokhara, Nepal

After our seven day Everest View Trek in Nepal, we took a private car and spent four happy and relaxing days in Pokhara.

Pokhara is billed as a resort town, and it’s built on a lake with lots of little shops, restaurants, and hiking trails to spend your days exploring. Like Lukla is the starting point for Everest treks, Pokhara is the base point for treks into the Annapurna mountain range, so the mornings boasted exceptional views of the rocky Annapurna peaks, before the smog and haze inevitably rolled in to obscure them for the day.

We spent our days rowing on the lake, hiking up to stupas and viewpoints in the surrounding hills, day drinking in beer gardens and enjoying the warm sun. Some popular choices of things to do in Pokhara include…

 

 

Top 3 Things to do in Pokhara

 

1. Paragliding. This is one of the most a popular activities in Pokhara, and if you do it on a clear day it offers stunning views of the lake, city, and Annapurna mountain range. It costs around $80 pp, unless of course you choose to upgrade to parahawking (you know, paragliding with a hawk on your arm, normal stuff.)

2. Visiting the World Peace Pagoda. This was great because we rented a boat to row across the lake for a couple dollars, then once we reached the other side, there was a dock and a trail to hike up to the World Peace Pagoda. It offered beautiful views of the city, lake, and surrounding mountains.

3. Eat, drink, and relax! Chances are you’re visiting the resort town after a grueling trek in the Everest or Anapurna ranges. When it comes to things to do in Pokhara, my favorite was to just chill. There are paths along the lake to walk in the sun, beer gardens, and plenty of restaurants and shops to explore. I personally recommend spending a day just drinking a few beers and doing… nothing 🙂

 

 

There are plenty of things to do in Pokhara, and we had a great four day stay in the city. Go paragliding, hike up to the World Peace Pagoda, and most importantly, spend a couple days just relaxing in the warm sun!

PS If you’re planning a trip to Nepal, read more about our Everest View Trek, what to do in Kathmandu, and my Nepal FAQ here!

All my love,

Di

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Nepal FAQ aka Everything I Wish I Knew Before I Booked My Trip!

Are you thinking of taking a trip to Nepal? Check out my Nepal FAQ with a Q and A covering the Everest Trek, prices, porter info, and everything I wish I had known before we went!

 

1. When is the best time of year to visit Nepal?

Our guide told us he’s taken groups on treks and they never got to see Everest due to weather. I would have been devastated. For the best weather, book in the fall September through November, or in the Spring in April and May.

 

2. What is the difference between an Everest Base Camp Trek and Everest View Trek?

The Everest View trek is only seven days long, and does not go all the way to Base Camp. Instead it stops and turns around at the town of Tengboche, but still gave awesome views of Mount Everest for many days along the hike. We chose this option because we were short on time. The Everest Base Camp trek is longer and more expensive, and takes fifteen days instead of seven.

 

3. How Much Does an Everest View Trek Cost

I did the Everest view trek in 2015, and the cost for all food and accommodation, guide, porter, two night stay in Kathmandu, flights to Lukla and back, and a private car to Pokhara was $840 per person.

 

4. Do I really need a company and guide to package my trek for me?

You could do the trek on your own without a guide as common itineraries are easy to find online,  but in that case you would be responsible for finding and choosing your own tea house and negotiate the price of your stay at every stop. You’d also have to negotiate terms with a porter when you land in Lukla, rent or buy your own parka and sleeping bag for the trip, and buy your flights to and from Lukla (if you do this, make sure you get them as early as possible in the morning, because the weather is notoriously fickle)

 

5. Will I have internet connection on my trek?

Internet is expensive up there, but accessible. You’ll pay extra to charge your phone or access the internet at any hotel or tea house you stay in during your trek, usually somewhere between two and ten usd.

 

6. Will I get altitude sickness on the trek?

Thats a good question and one I cannot answer. Altitude sickness can occur in anyone without warning. As long as you take the proper acclimatization days and keep listening to your body you have little to worry about. Signs of altitude sickness include headache, nausea, and shortness of breath, but they can easily be reversed simply by returning down to a lower altitude. When you buy your travel insurance package, make sure you get one that covers high altitude evacuation… just in case.

 

7. Are there luggage restrictions on the flight to Lukla? What should I do with my extra stuff?

Everyone is limited to 15kg per person checked bags, and another small carry on. Most hotels have storage rooms where you can leave your excess luggage in Kathmandu and bring only what you need for the trek. If you absolutely need more weight (remember, your porter will be carrying everything you bring) extra kg can be bought for around 1 to 5 usd per kg from the airlines.

 

8. How can I make the most of the iconic flight to Lukla?

On your flight to Lukla, choose a seat on the left side of the plane on the way out and on the right side on the way back to get the best views of the Himalayas that the flight path runs parallel to.

 

9. How many porters does my group need?

We had one porter for 3 people. If you are booking your own you will negotiate your own price with them when you land in Lukla.

 

10. How much should I tip my porter and guide?

Make sure you bring cash, rupees or USD, on the trek to tip your porter and guide. Common consensus agrees that the tip should be around 10% of the cost of your trip, split 60/40 between the guide and porter. However, if your package includes extra days in Kathmandu without them or a drive like ours did, adjust as necessary.

 

11. Should I visit Chitwan or Pokhara after my trek?

How much time do you have? Chitwan gets rave reviews, but it is much further away from Kathmandu than Pokhara. Pokhara is a 5 hour drive and Chitwan is around 12. If you want to pay for flights or have a lot of time in the country, then Chitwan is a good choice. If you’re on a budget then I recommend Pokhara.

 

12. Should I rent my own car to get from city to city, take a bus, or hire a private car?

Don’t try to drive on your own. The roads wind around steep hills and are laden with dangerous drivers. I’d trust a Nepalese local and hire a car instead. On our trip from Kathmandu to Pokhara we were stopped at police roadblocks twice, and at one our driver was definitely forced to pay a fee (or was it a bribe?) No thanks. You can also take buses from Kathmandu to Pokhara and back, they are a cheaper option but definitely more crowded and uncomfortable.

 

13. Is Nepal politically stable?

Yes and no. There are over 600 political parties in Nepal right now, and most Nepalese are not happy with the way the country is run. However, it remains a safe country to visit as a tourist.

 

These were some of the biggest questions I had when I was planning our Everest view trek and two week trip in Nepal. If you have any more, you can find more information in my Everest View Trek Itinerary, Experience, and Budget Breakdown post to learn about the details of the trip. Or, read more about what to do in Pokhora and Kathmandu here. If you have any more questions, comment below and I’ll get back to you!

All my love,

Di

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Two Days in Kathmandu

Daniel and I booked our trip to Nepal so that we would have two days in Kathmandu at the start of the trip, and another day at the end of the trip. These “buffer” days before our Everest view trek were there so we had time to resolve any issues in case anything went wrong on the way to Nepal. And wow. They definitely did.

The Perfect Storm of Travel Troubles

Our two days in Kathmandu were like a perfect storm of every travel problem you could have all coming together at once. First, we were denied boarding on our flight from Abu Dhabi to Kathmandu.

When I bought the flights, they included two stops in India. What I didn’t know was that the first stop in India required changing to a domestic terminal, and therefore required an Indian Visa. Indian visas cannot be bought on arrival. That was a fun discovery at the gate during departure! We were denied boarding along with 10 other people who made the same mistake. After quite a bit of arguing we realized it was a lost cause and we were forced to buy new round trip tickets on the spot for $600 each. It hurt.  Learn from my mistake and always check ALL visa requirements for your trip, even for layovers

The second issue we had was my mother-in-laws flight had a 24 hour delay because there was some fog in Philadelphia. Seriously? We got the news, but what we didn’t know was that she had turned her phone onto airplane mode, so we had no way to contact her and had no idea when we new flight was coming in a day late. We were out buying last minute gear in Thamel while she was picked up at the airport by our trek company’s driver. Imagine entering a new country for the first time alone. Now, imagine it was your first time outside of the United States. Finally, imagine that it’s the most dirty, crowded, polluted, run-down airport you’ve ever seen… that’s the experience she was subjected too. Pretty traumatizing, but luckily the driver was able to reach us on the phone and we reassured her she wasn’t being abducted and we would see her soon at the hotel.

The third issue was totally my fault (actually, all of them kind of are, oops.) I forgot I changed my debit pin and tried the wrong one three times, resulting in getting locked out of my bank account. Yeah, that bank account that me, Daniel, and his mom all pooled our money into because it was the only one without international fees. We had zero access to any of our money. Thank god USAA is the best bank on earth, and I was able to live chat with someone over wifi and get it sorted immediately. Still was a pretty stressful 30 minutes!

There was also a drivers strike on our last days in Nepal. The day before we left Pokhora we sought to arrange a driver to return us to Kathmandu, but instead found the country was on a three day strike. That meant no one would agree to drive us to Kathmandu and the busses weren’t running either. We caved and bought $100 tickets to fly back (the car trip would have been about $100 total) but of course the next morning when we awoke the strike was magically resolved and it was all for naught. Ah well.

Oh, and did I mention that a major earthquake hit Nepal 12 days after we left? It caused a horrible amount of damage and deaths, an avalanche at Everest base camp, and grounded flights from Kathmandu’s airport for a month.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that Kathmandu and Nepal aren’t places of organized chaos, they are just chaotic through and through. You cannot count on anything, and that’s why it is so important to plan your trip with buffer days in Kathmandu before your Everest trek and again before your international flights home, because honestly, ANYTHING can happen here.

Ok, all these issues aside, let’s dive into the city itself and my experience spending two days in Kathmandu.

 

 

What to do for Two Days in Kathmandu

When I think of our two days in Kathmandu, I think: Dirty. Polluted. Crowded. Two very vivid memories I have from our days there are first, a group of men jackhammering the sidewalk in shorts and flip flops, ad second, a little girl using the street as her restroom in the middle of a crowd.

Kathmandu is so polluted that I got stomach aches after walking around the city and breathing in the dirty air after only a couple hours. For the first time, I seriously considered buying the face masks vendors were selling on the side of the road.

Basically, I don’t love it. By far, the best part of Kathmandu is the Thamel neighborhood.

Thamel is the main tourist area of Kathmandu. I recommend getting a hotel here. If you need anything for your trek this is where you’ll get it – knock offs and name brands alike. We stocked up on hiking socks, a long sleeved tech shirts, waterproof hiking pants and a few other necessities we needed for the trek. Come with what you can, but it’s a good place to buy cheaper hiking gear and accessories in addition to your haul. We also walked around and enjoyed the widest selection of western food we would find in Nepal and the markets, stupas, and nightlife.

 

Kathmandu Tourist Attractions

Beside shopping for our hiking gear, we visited four main tourist attractions in Kathmandu. They were the Garden of Dreams park, the Tribhuvan, Mahendra, and Birendra Museum area, the Boudhanath stupa, and the Pashupatinath temple.

I know the Tribhuvan, Mahendra, and Birendra Museum area was hit hard by the earthquakes, and I’m not sure if it has recovered yet, but when we went it was a maze of old buildings, some looking almost Chinese, and cobbled streets. We didn’t enter the museums themselves, but the area outside is pretty cool and we spent some time walking around it. We could even climb up high on some of the buildings to get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area, it was like no where else I’ve ever been before.

We visited the Garden of Dreams park on our last day in Kathmandu, before our flights back to Abu Dhabi. It was highly walled to keep out sound and pollution, and actually really beautiful. It has a lake, mats we could rent to lay in the sun and read, a stream, beautiful gardens, and even a cafe. It’s a great place to chill after the exhausting Everest view trek and to escape from the crowds of the city.

The Boudhanath stupa and the Pashupatinath temple were both easy to walk to from the Thamel area, and free to enter. We spent 20 or 30 minutes at each one, and both are worth the effort to visit and learn a bit about the Nepalese culture if you have the time.

 

Spending two days in Kathmandu was necessary time as a buffer between our trip and our international flights. Basically in this country, everything that could go wrong did, and I’m very happy and thankful we made it onto our Everest trek, and out of the country before the earthquake hit. When you inevitably find yourself for a few days in Kathmandu, try not to breath in to much of the air (somehow) and check out these tourist attractions while you wait to leave again!

PS if you want to know more about Nepal, check out my Everest View Trek Itinerary, Experience, and Budget Breakdown, my post about the top three things to do in Pokhora, and of course the Nepal FAQ to help you plan your trip. As always if you have any questions shoot me a message in the comments below!

All my love,

Di

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Everest View Trek Itinerary, Experience & Budget Breakdown

Finding the right Everest view trek itinerary for your budget and experience is not easy. Me, my husband, and his mom went in the spring of 2015, and luckily left the country 12 days before the major earthquake struck. This information is based on our experience.

I spent weeks scouring the internet, reading reviews, and chatting on forums before I finally booked our trip. It turns out, that research was worth it because we had an amazing time with an amazing company. If you are planning an Everest view trek, look no further. I have all the information you need about the itinerary, experience, and budget.

 

Mosaic Adventure Everest View Trek Package: $840 per person

This company provides an awesome service for an awesome price (I promise they’re not paying me to say this). We had zero problems with Mosaic Adventures and paid way below market price. After exhausting research I found this to be the cheapest trek with the most included into the price.

For $840pp, we received

  1. Pick up at the airport in a private vehicle
  2. Two nights in the Thamel Eco Resort Hotel in Kathmandu before departure
  3. All meals during the 7 day trek
  4. Six nights accommodation on the trek (I traveled with my husband and his mom. We accepted the cheapest quote which meant staying in three person rooms. However, only one tea house actually gave us a three person room, and the other six nights we were given a single and a double instead anyway. So, definitely worth saving the extra money!)
  5. English speaking guide and a porter for the trek
  6. Round trip flight from Kathmandu to Lukla (the starting point for all Everest treks)
  7. Sagarmatha National Park fees, our TIMS card (required for entrance into the park) and entrance and monument fees for various sightseeing (this was listed in our itinerary, but I’m not quite sure what it is referring too)
  8. Sleeping bag and down jacket for the trek (totally necessary and you don’t want to waste money purchasing your own, like other companies require!)
  9. All travel arrangements, government taxes and fees.
  10. Personal driver from Kathmandu to Pokhara (the package originally included a final night in Kathmandu after our return, but I swapped that hotel stay for a driver between the two cities on the day we returned from our trek instead.)

 

 

Everest View Trek Experience

Our Everest view trek was six nights, as we did not have the time for the 15 day Base Camp trek. My honest opinion? I’m glad we cut it short, and I’ll tell you why. First, you can’t see Everest from base camp. You have to climb another grueling summit, Kala Pattar, to see an unobstructed view.

Another reason I was happy we didn’t extend the trip was food. Seven days of the same flavors and food options doesn’t sound like much, but it was awhile before I could smell dal bhaat again and feel hungry. There are no cars in the Himalayas so everything has to be carried up to the towns manually, whether that’s done by person or animal. Food waste is EXTREMELY frowned upon (for good reason) so everyone in a tea house orders at the same time and everything is cooked at once. If altitude makes you lose your appetite (like it did for me) be careful, because you will bear the brunt of some serious side eye if you can’t finish your pasta or pizza. The flavors were good, but monotonous after awhile, and the quality and variety only decreases the higher you go.

The third and final reason I was happy we didn’t choose the extended trek is because (please don’t kill me) it’s boring. HEAR ME OUT. The days spent hiking were some of the most beautiful, serene, magical days of my life. It’s a completely amazing and surreal experience. The problem arises when the hike is finished. On an average day we would hike from around 8am to 2pm. Once you reach your next village, you’ll find a gift shop or two, maybe a monastery, a couple tea houses and travelers, and that’s… about… it. The views are spectacular, but there’s only so many nights I can spend playing gin rummy and chatting with strangers before I’m ready to head back to civilization.

SO. Think about what trek is right for you. We were able to see Everest for three of the seven days of our trip, and it would have been four if the weather had cooperated. Setting foot in Everest base camp is a major bucket list goal for some, but for me, just laying eyes on the peak was a dream come true.

 

 

Everest View Trek Itinerary

This is the typical itinerary breakdown for a seven day Everest view trek, leaving and returning to Kathmandu, Nepal.

 

Day One: Fly to Lukla and trek to Phakding.

Hiking time: 4 hours
Max Altitude: 8,700 ft

Be warned, this flight is not for the faint of heart. I’m a seasoned vet when it comes to flying, but the turbulence on this tiny flight freaked me out so much I had residual anxiety about flying for the next two years. Not trying to scare you or anything. We flew Buddha air, and it was extremely convenient to have Mosaic Adventure take care of it all. Make sure you are on the earliest flights out because they have the best chance of leaving on time. The weather is notoriously fickle and the Lukla runway so short and dangerous that flights are often cancelled for days at a time.

In our case, we had a very close call. My husband was on the 6am flight alone. He departed without problem, and his mom, me, and our tour guide waited for the 6:45 departure. The airport moved slow, clouds began to roll in, but at 7:30 we finally boarded our tiny 12 person plane and took off for Lukla. What I didn’t learn until later was that we were on the last flight out for THREE DAYS. So my advice is two fold. Plan your trek with plenty of buffer time before your international flight out of Kathmandu at the end, in the not-so-unlikely case that your trek does end up getting delayed. Also, don’t split your group onto multiple flights. My husband would have been stuck in Lukla alone for three days.

Anyways. The views of the Himalayas surrounding you in Lukla were a breathtaking start to the trip. Lukla is the largest and most touristy town as the starting point for all treks. Our trek to Phakding went off without a hitch. We entered Sagarmatha (the local name for Everest) National Park and for the most part the day’s trek was flat and green, winding across suspension bridges and past many carved prayer stones, houses, farms, and store fronts. Phakding is a small town with a few shops, souvenirs, restaurants and tea houses to choose from, but again our trek company had pre chosen and booked each one for us. We enjoyed a local Everest beer, dinner, and walk around town before heading off to bed.

 

 

Day Two: Trek Phakding to Namche Bazaar


Hiking time: 
6 hours
Max Altitude: 11.280 ft

More uphill than the day before. We should have gotten our first view of Everest, but instead we had clouds and rain that turned into snow as the climb got higher and colder. Our guide assured us it was good luck and would almost certainly lead to perfect clear weather the next day. We entered Namche Bazaar in a frozen white haze and I payed for my first and only hot shower of the trip.

 

 

Day Three: Namche Bazaar Acclimatization Day

Day hike: 4 to 5 hours with many stops
Max Altitude: 13,000 ft

Waking up in Namche Bazaar is my favorite memory of our entire trip. When we entered the town, we couldn’t see anything due to the snow storm, but it was definitely worth the wait. In the morning, we woke up to the most breathtaking mountain views outside our window. The jagged sheer gray rock faces rising up around us was one of the most intimidating and memorable sights I have ever seen.

We stayed in Namche Bazaar for two nights to acclimate to the altitude, so we did a day hike on day three. The hike up to the Sherpa museum had absolutely stunning views of the Himalayas on all sides, not to mention the colorful town of Namche spread out below us as we climbed. The clouds remained persistent as we hiked up to the Everest view point, but by 9am they finally cleared and we got our long anticipated first view of the giant. It was a distant peak, but Everest nonetheless.

We continued our climb up to the Hotel Everest View and grabbed a drink at the restaurant, but by then the clouds had rolled in and Everest eluded us once again. However, being surrounded by the ancient circle of Himalayan peaks in that spot to this day remains one of the most humbling and important experiences of my life. You’ll be short of breath, tired, sweaty and cold all at the same time, but awed beyond compare.

Namche Bazaar is the last stronghold of civilization on the trek, and we enjoyed it to the fullest. We returned to Namche by 1pm and spent the rest of the day drinking in the many bars, wandering the shops, buying souvenirs, and enjoying the mountain views.

 

 

Day Four: Trek Namche Bazaar to Tengboche

Hiking time: 7 hours
Max Altitude: 12,694 ft

This was the most physically difficult day of the trek, with hours of hiking uphill. We could see Everest for most of the trip though, which meant multiple rest breaks disguised as photo ops in front of the giant. We crossed rivers, tackled steep mountainsides, and enjoyed views no human deserves to see.

We arrived to Tengboche around 3pm after about 7 hours of hiking, just in time for the clouds to obscure Everest once again. Tengboche is a flat valley surrounded by peaks, and a much welcomed respite after the agonizing uphill battle of the day. It’s situated at 12,694 feet and boasts the highest permanently inhabited monastery in the world. It’s sparsely populated with about six buildings to feed and house the trekkers passing through.

We toured the monastery, ate dinner, and enjoyed the views, waiting until morning to finally see Everest between the peaks. At this point in the trek, the tea houses were so small and the weather so cold, I couldn’t bear the thought of stripping down and getting wet in a shower. Our group mutually decided to become a judgement free zone and put off the issue of showering until we returned to Kathmandu.

 

 

Day Five: Trek Tengboche back to Manjo

Hiking time: 6 hours
Max Altitude: 12,694 ft

Tengboche was our last stop, and the highest altitude we reached. The morning offered clear and beautiful views of Everest and the surrounding mountains, which our guide eventually had to drag us away from photographing to begin our descent back to down the trails.

On day five we retraced our steps and not surprisingly, moved downhill at a much quicker pace. We opted to pass through Namche Bazaar and stay in the smaller town of Manjo, mostly just for a change of scenery. If we had chosen to continue to base camp, we would have still had 5 more days of trekking and over 5,000 more feet in altitude to climb before we reached it.

In Manjo, we made the mistake of agreeing to try the “Homemade Wine” that we saw on every tea house menu. It’s not wine, btw. It’s moonshine. Remember the side eye I mentioned when it comes to food waste? To get around it my husband and I eventually had to sneakily pour our “wine” out the window in desperation. Avoid at all costs (unless you like to party much harder than we do).

 

Day Six: Trek Manjo to Lukla

Hiking time: 6 hours
Max Altitude: 9,300 ft

Our short and flat trek took us back into Lukla in about 6 hours and was our final goodbye to Everest National Park and the Himalayas we had called home for the past week. Feeling accomplished, we enjoyed the company of a rowdy group of EBC trekkers celebrating the completion of their trip. We accompanied them to the few bars around Lukla and then turned in for our early flight home.

 

 

Day Seven: Flight from Lukla to Kathmandu

We were up early and once again Mosaic Adventures pulled through and had us all together on the first 6am flight back to Kathmandu. Most porters live in Lukla, so make sure you tip yours before your leave. On the way home, we again flew Buddha Air, but if you’re booking on your own, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the different airlines. It’s much more important to choose your flights based on time rather than airline.

Our flight home had some amazing views of the Himalayas, but I was distracted by my own paralyzing fear from the heavy winds and turbulence buffeting our plane feet at a time. I kept a steady eye on our tour guide who didn’t seem to worried or bothered at all and reminded myself the flight hadn’t crashed since ‘97, but still. I said my prayers just in case. The 45 minute flight felt like a lifetime, but we eventually landed back in Kathmandu. We returned to the hotel where we had stored our extra weight, and hopped in our private car for the winding 5 hour trip to Pokhara.

 

So, this was my experience on the Everest view trek in Nepal. It was stunning, amazing, breathtaking, and every other adjective I could ever use to describe it. In fact, writing about it now and going through photos is making me want to book another trip, this time to EBC or maybe in the Annapurna range. It’s such a unique experience, and if you get the chance, don’t hesitate to cross this Himalayan trek off your bucket list!

PS if you want to read more, check out these articles about what to do in in Pokhora, Our time in Kathmandu, and my Nepal FAQ!

All my love,

Di

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