Expat Juliette Cunliffe gets up at sunrise to enjoy the view from her bedroom.
With a home perched high on a ridge above Lake Phewa Tal, she can gaze out at the snow-capped Annapurna mountains, look down at the town of Pokhara along the lakeshore, and plan her day in the lush foothills of the Nepalese Himalayas.
Sixty-one-year-old Juliette was a successful author in England before packing up her belongings and opening a guesthouse and restaurant in Nepal. “I had been visiting on an annual basis for about 20 years before moving here in 2009. As I got off the plane in Kathmandu, I found myself saying out loud, ‘You’re home.’ Somehow I felt destined to move here, and meeting my Nepali partner, Dibya, in 2005, meant everything fell into place.”
The couple settled in Pokhara, the country’s tourism hub and a tranquil city with a population of roughly 250,000. Juliette’s property sits in one of Pokhara’s prime locations—on top of a hill high above the beautiful Lake Phewa Tal.
Pokhara has a small-town vibe and the locals are friendly. Most people get up daily at around 6 a.m., drink their morning chai (tea), do a little meditation, and chat with neighbors while their children play. Some vendors sell baked goods from large baskets, while others supply the shops with vegetables and milk. Mopeds whiz past and the occasional cow and her calf will wander up to make your acquaintance.
The old town, which can be found on the northern side of the city, features narrow streets, old bazaars, Newari housing of traditional decorative brickwork and intricate carved wooden windows.
Then there’s the lakeside district on the shore of Phewa Tal—where Nepal’s adventure hub meets stunning scenery. Tour operators and hiking outfitters have taken over this section of town, and this is where most westerners and expats make their home.
You can enjoy paragliding, boat trips, trekking, white-water rafting, kayaking, and moped trips around the lake and foothills. There are nearby swim holes and waterfalls that make for excellent day trips. A visit would not be complete without a walk up to the World Peace Pagoda next to Juliette’s guesthouse. Here, you can sit in on a ceremony and listen to the chants and drums of the Buddhist monks.
Juliette’s guesthouse, the Peace Dragon Lodge & Restaurant, is built in traditional Nepalese style, with ornate furnishings and bright local fabrics. It costs between $25 and $45 per night to stay—good value given the location. And since the grand opening one-and-a-half years ago, business has picked up steadily.
“We get a wide range of clients from across the globe, many of them professional people taking a well-earned break. We are finding that the more mature traveler is discovering the joys of the region. Oftentimes, people have traveled to Nepal as part of a small group; the more energetic ones go off to climb to Everest Base Camp, whilst others come to spend a more restful time here at the lodge, doing short day and half-day treks from here,” explains Juliette.
The expat community in Pokhara is relatively small compared with other retirement destinations. Some foreigners come part-time, for three to five months, and there are a few married to Nepalis, running businesses like Juliette.
Nepal is for the adventurous, says Juliette. “It’s magnificent, though it really is like stepping back 50 years—and sometimes centuries.”
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