Pokhara Lake, Fishtail and Annapurna ©Solange Hando
A short but spectacular flight from Kathmandu, Pokhara is for me the perfect escape, the place where I can chill out and relax in the fold of the snow-capped Annapurna. Just look at the view above, taken from the Peace Pagoda: the placid waters of the Phewa Lake and just the central section of the mountains which stretch either side as far as you can see. I can almost touch the snow and smell the flowers.
Meanwhile, far below, pilgrims make their way to the holy island, trekkers relax in al fresco restaurants, holy men exchange blessings for a few rupees and Tibetans sell prayer wheels and turquoise jewellery. But whatever time of day, the iconic Machapuchre, or 'Fishtail, draws your gaze, one of Nepal's most sacred mountains where no one has ever set foot on the summit.
Machapuchre Sacred Peak ©Solange Hando
The wooded hill at the base is Sarangkot, a favourite spot for paragliders who enjoy unrivalled views of the Himalaya, the Pokhara valley and Phewa lake below. Those who are not brave enough (and I am one of them) spend the night in a hilltop lodge and experience the most awesome sunset and sunrise with no effort at all.
I always join in, but it can get a little crowded at times, so on my last morning, long before dawn, I head for the lake where my self-appointed guide is ready to push out the boat. We wait in silence and watch as the sun peeps above the trees and water and sky turn all shades of red and gold. There isn't a soul around but now and then, a fish pops out of the water and soon myriad birds twitter along the shore to welcome the new day.
Sunrise on Phewa Lake, Pokhara ©Solange Hando