In some of our destinations, we run programmes in more than one city. In the same way that every destination has its own distinct look and feel, each city differs. You might have ideas about which country you’d like to travel to, but to choose which city to stay in is a different challenge.
This post is the first in a series exploring the differences between the cities in countries where we have more than one programme. First up, Nepal.
The lay of the land
Pokhara, and Kathmandu are the two cities in which we run our Nepal programmes. Both offer the opportunity for adventure, diverse local culture, and rich history. It’s no wonder people find it hard to decide which to visit.
Kathmandu is Nepal’s capital city. It’s a bustling centre with unfamiliar sights, rhythmic sounds, and intoxicating aromas. Tuk-tuks and rickshaws speed down cobbled alleyways, monks in saffron robes walk mindfully from temple to temple, and food vendors turn up the heat in teeming marketplaces. The best jazz bars, Hindi cinemas, and Nepali restaurants are concentrated at the heart of the city. You can escape into the ‘Garden of Dreams’ — a walled oasis complete with flora, fauna and fountains — for a bit of peace and quiet.
Pokhara is nestled between lush green hills, overlooked by snowy Himalayan peaks. The city’s pace is slower than that of Kathmandu, giving the place a more laid-back feel. Phewa Lake — an enormous body of water from which the city extends — is Pokhara’s central feature. Coffee shops, lively bars, used bookshops, and international eateries line the lake’s banks, attracting backpackers, travellers and locals alike. Hire one of the blue wooden boats bobbing near the water’s edge, and row across the lake’s breadth. Once you've reached the far side, climb the hill to the Peace Pagoda for a breathtaking panorama of Pokhara Valley.
Beyond the City
There’s more to the region than the city itself. It’s not obvious when you’re on the ground, but Kathmandu is in a valley, surrounded by the Himalayas. Venture further afield and you’ll discover all manner of adventures — hiking, bungee jumping, white water rafting, and mountain trekking included. Chitwan, a World Heritage nature reserve, comprises forests, marshland and expansive grasslands. The reserve is home to rhino, deer, leopards, monkeys, wild elephants, sloth bears and Royal Bengal tigers.
Surrounded by mountains and rolling rice paddies, Pokhara is another great jumping-off point for adventure. You can trek through the Himalayas, paraglide, and go whitewater rafting. Hiking to natural waterfalls and Buddhist temples hidden in forests that cover the himalayan foothills also comes highly recommended. You mustn’t leave Pokhara without a night trek to the top of Poon Hill to greet the sunrise. Watching the morning light striking the tips of distant Machapuchare, or the ‘fish tail’ mountain, is something you won’t forget.
If you love food you’ll love Nepal. Whichever city you pick, it’ll be clear that eating is a national pastime. The fact that the country borders both India and China, two countries famed for delicious food, should give you some indication of how good Nepalese grub can be. You’ll try momo dumplings, thukpa noodle soup, and sel roti — Nepal’s very own take on the donut. But what are the differences between Kathmandu and Pokhara?
Whether you’re craving food from India, China, Italy, Mexico, Tibet or Nepal itself, you’ll find it in Kathmandu. Look out for Yangling, a homely restaurant serving traditional Tibetan dishes using yak milk and meat, which go well with a local craft beer. Grab a slice of pizza in Black Water Restro, or fried chicken for that matter — you’d be mad not to try their locally made chilli sauces and satay dips. If you go anywhere, go to Northfield Cafe, a Mexican and Asian fusion, in central Thamel.
Despite Pokhara’s slower pace of life, there’s equal variety when it comes to food. Along the banks of Phewa Lake you'll find everything from Japanese restaurants to Mediterranean cafes — there's even an Indian takeaway. The city also has a thriving coffee culture, Himalayan Java being a favourite local hangout. For an evening of food and fun, there’s a great reggae bar that serves some of the finest jerk chicken you’ll eat outside of Jamaica. The cocktails aren't bad either.
Whether you’re in Pokhara or Kathmandu, you have to eat dal bhat. This national dish is served on a round metal platter, upon which there are smaller dishes containing steamed rice, curried vegetables, spiced lentils, herb-infused salads, and sharp chutneys. Expect satisfied taste buds and a full stomach.
So, to see the beating heart of Nepal, a fast-paced feast for the senses, visit Kathmandu. To experience a laid-back, lakeside paradise, Pokhara is the city for you.
Whichever city you choose, visiting the other is easy. There's only a 30-minute flight between them, which is worth taking even if it’s just for the breathtaking views of the Himalayas and the novelty of flying in a tiny propeller plane If you're still unsure, you can speak to a member of our team about splitting your placement across both cities.
Regardless of which destination you choose there are clinical opportunities in abundance. We have close, long-standing relationships with local hospitals and clinics, which means we can offer you a highly tailored placement that suits your individual needs and objectives.
Whether you need more help making the right choice or you're ready to get the ball rolling, fill out the short enquiry form.