Top Things to Do in Kathmandu, Nepal
I like to dedicate one day to sightseeing all the famous landmarks, so that I can spend the rest of my trip wandering and creating unique experiences. Here are some reasons and things to do in Kathmandu.
1. Nepalese Festivals
There are two more things to know about Nepali people: they LOVE to shop and have a love for celebrating festivals! Thamel with its winding maze of streets is like a one-stop shop for both, tourists and locals.
It is said that festival time is a time of great traffic and people flood the markets as sales signs come out advertising “festival discount”. Currently, in Nepal everyone’s getting ready for Dushain festival.
Festival sales in Thamel
2. Shopping in Thamel
Thamel is a shopper’s paradise. Wanna buy some cheap NorthFace hiking gear? Or need a Lonely Planet guide? Kathmandu is home of some of the best knock-offs and counterfeits. Stroll through the market areas and spend your money on Indian pajama pants, hippie dresses or funky-boheme knitwear, which has a style that you might only find in trendy boutiques in the U.S. selling for $40-60.
3. Thamel’s Durbar Square
Thamel’s Durbar Square is a UNESCO World Heritage site and used to be the plaza of the royal palaces. Today, it’s a hub of activity as a working marketplace for venders selling produce, spices and youth looking to hang out with friends on the steps of a pagoda. The ancient architecture is reminiscent of days past and there’s a government entry fee of 300 Rs (Note: 2017 prices at 1000Rs; 150 Rs for SAARC countries ) to get in.. There are ticket booths at both entrances of the square.
There are three Durbar Squares and all are UNESCO sites~ Thamel, Bhaktapur (1500 Rs; woodwork temples and architecture), Patan (500 Rs admission: the most amount of temples)
Tip: Dine or take your afternoon chai at one of the Durbar Square rooftop restaurants. The best view comes at the cost of chai or a Nepali meal. It’s opportune to visit during festivals and events; although it will be crowded.
Visiting Durbar Square in Kathmandu
Visiting Durbar Square Marketplace in Kathmandu
durbar square at night
4. Boudhanath Stupa
Getting to Boudhanath Stupa requires a car/driver to get to but it’s worthwhile. Located in Boudha, a little outside of Thamel, the massive stupa stands impressive. It’s more of a stupa complex surrounded by a strong Buddhist community. The stupa is circled by devotees at all times of the day. Monks and devotees circle the stupa, doing occasional prostrations on their stroll. Walking the perimeter is like walking a race track. Heaviest times of activity are around 4-6 pm. You’ll find souvenir shops and restaurants in the perimeter area for exploration. Meanwhile, explore the side streets to find more restaurants, monks dwellings and parks.
5. The Monkey Temple or Swayambuth Stupa
The temple is a five to ten minute drive outside of Thamel. This is the one temple I HAD to go to. They don’t lovingly nickname Swayambunath Stupa, the Monkey Temple for nothing. Monkeys are hanging from trees, sitting upon statues and monuments, crossing your footpath. Climb to the top of the 395 stairs, you’ll find a giant golden stupa decorated with prayer wheels and a prize view of Kathmandu.
6. Kathmandu Valley
Staying in Thamel, I only saw one glimpse of Nepal and it was nowhere near as lovely as Kathmandu Valley. Escape the dust, busy streets and pollution of Kathmandu and spend some time in the valley. Located approximately 20 minutes outside the city, the lush surroundings of the countryside is what many associate with Nepal in country villages, rivers, hillside beauty and fresh air. I stayed in Chobhar Village (at time of writing there was a guesthouse resort which no longer exists) and it was the best experience of exploring neighboring villages and Kritipur on foot.
Thamel has a lot of trekking agencies offering sightseeing tours of Kathmandu, helicopter rides over Everest and of course, popular trekking tours such as Poon Hill, Anapurna Circuit, Everest, Lantang, Mustang, etc…. Travelers trek to see the mountain view, the simple lifestyle of villagers and to experience the untouched purity of remote mountain regions, which you can only reach on foot. You can book challenging or simple treks. I booked a two day/ one night trekking tour of Bhaktapur-Changhu Narayan-Nagarkot. It was my first trekking tour and I got my own personal trekking guide; it was a memorable experience I’d recommend to everyone!
Avoid booking a trekking tour during monsoon season (June- August) as the trekking will be muddy and dangerous. Also check the weather so as not to travel on a hazy day. Hazy weather will impair your view of the Himalayas.
Note: Interested in hiring a trekking guide or booking your Nepal trip with a good agency, email me and I’ll send you recommendations.
What to eat in Kathmandu
8. Nepalese Momos
Momos are Nepalese dumplings commonly sold on the streets for cheap and in large quantities. Don’t worry, as a hungry traveler, you’ll be able to down them all. But if not, I’m sure you’ll have a hungry stranger next to you to share them with. They have meat, cheese and veggie momos. I’ve never tasted dumplings so delicious.
9. Daal Bhaat
Daal bhat is the national dish of Nepal. It’s a yellow lentil soup that Nepalese often eat with rice. It is simple to make, inexpensive and is said to keep the body strong and for Nepalese families which cannot afford much, it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Getting around Kathmandu
Thamel is easy to get around on foot and there’s a lot to do in restaurants, cafes, temples and Durbar Square. Otherwise, many of Kathmandu’s larger attractions are based outside of Thamel in different neighborhoods. You’ll need to look at a map and plan your route wisely.
You can hire a taxi to get around for single point destinations or hire a car and driver for the day. I hired a driver through LeChobar resort, where I was ending at for my stay in the countryside of Chobhar. Hiring a taxi for the day can cost around $2,000 ruppess. It depends upon the routes and destinations. A set menu for a day’s worth of sightseeing starting fromThamel was Swayambhunath Stupa, Boudhanath Stupa (in Boudha), and the Kathmandu Valley. This is a common route for day trips.
You can take a bus to get around. Many buses operate from Ratna Park on the edge of Thamel.
What are your top things to do in Kathmandu?
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