The Himalayas form the highest, sheerest rise from subtropical base to icy peaks of any mountain range on earth, and nowhere is the contrast more marked than at POKHARA (Pok-hur-ra). Spreading down a lush valley to the lakeshore, on clear days it boasts a nearly unobstructed view of the 8000m-plus Annapurna and Manaslu ranges, just 25km to the north. Dominating the skyline, in beauty if not in height, is the double-finned 6997m summit of Machhapuchhre ("Fish-Tailed") -- so named for its twin-peaked summit, though only one is visible from Pokhara.
Nepal's main resort area lolls beside Phewa Tal (Phewa Lake), well outside the actual town of Pokhara. This is Nepal's little budget paradise: carefree and culturally undemanding, though extremely touristy, with a steaks-and-cakes scene rivalling Kathmandu's. New businesses pop up like mushrooms after each monsoon, and disappear just as quickly; cheap places go upmarket, great views get blocked, and what's hot today may be dead tomorrow. No guidebook can keep up with all the changes, so take all recommendations with a pinch of salt.
As the main destination served by tourist buses and internal flights, Pokhara is usually the first place travellers venture to outside the Kathmandu Valley. For trekkers, it's the gateway to Nepal's most popular trails; for rafters and kayakers, it's Nepal's river-running headquarters; for paragliders and mountain bikers it's one of the best spots on earth; and for everyone else, it's the most relaxing place in Nepal that you don't have to trek to get to. Day-trips around the Pokhara Valley beckon, and if Pokhara town is short on temples and twisting alleys, you might find that a relief after Kathmandu's profusion. At 800m above sea level it's both cooler than the plains in summer and warmer than Kathmandu in winter; it's also less protected from the prevailing rains and receives about twice as much as the capital.