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Three out of the ten highest mountains in the world - Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, and Manaslu - are located within 50 kilometres of Pokhara, the second largest city in Nepal. Situated on an old trade route between China and India, the city claims some modest history as a commercial centre. Today, nestled in the Pokhara valley 200km west of Kathmandu, the city, home to just over a quarter of a million inhabitants, is renowned for its challenging mountain slopes, subterranean caves, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, a burgeoning hub of outdoor adventures.
Furnished with paved road connections as late as the 1960s, there are just 40,000 people living in the valley around Pokhara, making an encounter with wildlife reasonably inevitable. From majestic snow leopards to blue sheep to countless species of native birds, the animals rule this sparsely populated region.
Hiking, climbing, biking, and bird-watching are all popular in and around Pokhara, but it is impossible to visit the city without admiring the serene waters of Phewa Lake, the second largest body of water in Nepal. For striking views of the jagged Annapurna Mountains rising high above the Pokhara sky-line, rent a rowboat and paddle out to the western or southern banks. Pokhara is situated at the base of Macchapuchere, the Fishtail Mountain, and when gazing up at it from Phewa Lake, it resembles a perfect pyramid.
Pokhara isn’t especially famed for its architectural history, but there are several significant temples in and around the city. The newest addition, ‘Peace Pagoda’, was completed in 2000 as a joint venture with Japan. Situated on a ridge overlooking Phew Lake, it boasts expansive views over the region, best enjoyed early in the morning or during the red-orange light of sunset. Trekking to the pagoda is a half-day excursion that leads through teeming forests and past the crashing waters of Devil’s Fall. The setting on top of the ridge is phenomenal, well worth the effort and a favourite location among Hindu and Nepali film-makers.