Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal and the gateway to the Himalayan mountains, is nestled in the clouds so I feel right at home! This exciting and exotic destination is full of culture, colour, cuisine and some of the most hospitable residents on the earth. The cultural and industrial centre of Nepal with more than 1.5 Million residents, Kathmandu valley has many communities including; Lalitpur, Kirtipur, Madhyapur Thimi, Bhaktapur and, of course, Kathmandu itself.
The origins of the city are part of its mysterious past when legend says the valley was a lake filled with venomous snakes. According to legend, the Boddhisatva Manjushree drained the land and then enlisted the Lord Krishna to kill the demon Banasura to make the valley habitable. That is an exciting foundation story! More verifiably, the Newars were an indigenous people who created a vibrant civilization in the valley more than 2000 years ago.
When visiting, you’ll probably land at Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) which is located about 6km outside the city. Your hotel can arrange a transfer or you can hire an airport taxi for a small amount of cash. Around Kathmandu, I suggest you try the quirky autorickshaws which are fun and that you don’t have to dodge the ubiquitous traffic of the metropolis.
Here’s a Pro-tip: Nepal’s currency is the Nepalese Rupee (NPR). The official exchange rate is about 165 NPR to the GBP. I would advise that you don’t exchange your money at the airport, however. Instead, exchange it in town where you will find better rates. Always make sure you have smaller denomination bills to pay for your autorickshaw rides.
Kathmandu is an exciting city with much to do and see. I’m never bored there. Here’s where I recommend you visit:
- Pashupatinath – This sacred Hindu temple complex is the oldest in the city. There are an incredible number of shrines, inscriptions, and images to explore, including the ashrams. The temple serves as the seat of Lord Shiva and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Boudhanath – One of the largest stupas (place of meditation) in all of Nepal, the Boudhanath Stupa and its enormous mandala, is one of the most iconic sites in Kathmandu. This is a wonderful place to begin your understanding of the religion and culture of Nepal.
- Swayambhunath – is the important ‘Monkey Temple’ which is home to dozens of holy monkeys. With beautiful panoramic views, the climb to the top will be a worthwhile challenge, especially at sunrise! The temple complex includes shrines, a stupa, a Tibetan monastery, a museum, and a library to keep you busy for hours.
The sun shrines beautifully here!
- Durbar Square – This historical and cultural heart of the city is located in the Old Town. There are several places to visit around this plaza:
- The winding backstreets are full of houses with traditional Newar architecture and there are small temples, artisan’s workshops and colourful
- The historic shrines in Durbar Square include the beautiful Taleju Temple. While you cannot enter the shrine, it is a beautiful monument that is Instagram ready.
- Kopan Monastery – Try morning meditation at this iconic location. This Tibetan monastery is extremely popular for its courses on Buddhism and meditation classes for beginners and advanced acolytes.
- Shopping – You can buy beautiful souvenirs and home décor in Kathmandu at excellent prices.
- River rafting – Book an exhilarating river rafting experience. If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush then navigate the rapids on the Trishuli River which connects the city of Kathmandu to Pokhara.
- Himalayan Tours – Kathmandu is considered the gateway to the stunning Himalayas and Mt. Everest with many treks beginning in the city. There are multiple ways to experience the tallest mountain range in the world including:
- Trek to Sagarmatha National Park – A hike to Mt. Everest basecamp is not for the faint-hearted. It is, however, achievable for the average healthy hiker. It’s becoming very popular with young adventurers. The entire trek usually requires 15 days but there is an enormous amount to see and experience along the way!
- Fly to Sagarmatha through the Himalayas to Mt. Everest by helicopter or small aircraft. You can view this majestic mountain range from a bird’s eye view at just a few hundred metres from the rocks. Flights last around 45 minutes and are an exciting way to quickly experience awe-inspiring sites.
Here’s another Pro-tip: Spend a few hours taking a cooking class and learn how to cook traditional Nepalese cuisine. Cooking lessons are the best souvenir you can take home!
The smell of the spices and street food will certainly make you hungry during your sightseeing adventures. Kathmandu is a foodie haven, whether you want vegan, gluten-free, Asian, Middle Eastern or international recipes. All tastes are catered for in Kathmandu. Here are my favourite spots:
- Bhojan Griha – For dinner and a show, visit this traditional Nepalese restaurant and take a seat on their colourful floor cushions. Be served in traditional brassware and listen to folk music as you try local tastes.
- Yangling Tibetan restaurant – For the best Momos in the city, visit this small family run restaurant. Momos are Nepalese dumplings that are most commonly stuffed with cheese, meat or vegetables and flavoursome spices. These are a hearty treat after a long day of exploring.
- OR2K – Visit this lively and colourful restaurant in the Thamel district. The restaurant serves only vegetarian and vegan dishes, with a particular focus on Middle Eastern Its rooftop terrace is the perfect place to grab a cocktail and try some snacks.
The best nightlife in Kathmandu is situated around the Thamel neighbourhood. These are my favourite venues:
- Club Dejavu – A recent edition to local nightlife, this club lets you dance the night away until 5am. The venue has two floors, VIP rooms, and lounges providing an exciting and fun night out on the town.
- Purple Haze Rock Bar – This themed rock bar will have you jamming to classic rock tunes from DJs and local bands. Don’t miss an evening here if you’re into classic rock and excellent drinks.
- Sam’s Bar – If you’re after some socialising and a laid-back atmosphere then this is the bar for you. On Saturday evenings, Sam’s hosts an amazing reggae night that is always packed with both residents and tourists.
Kathmandu has a large number of accommodation options that are very affordable. There are highly rated hotels, guesthouses, and hostels for you to choose from. Here are my top picks:
- Royal Empire Boutique Hotel – This historic hotel has a wellness spa and plenty of activities available. Its rooms are beautifully decorated with regal interiors and the resident concierge can organise any tours for you.
- Maya Boutique Hotel – This little hotel is spartan but amazingly comfortable and very highly rated. Located in the Thamel area, you can enjoy its sun terrace and mountain views.
- Kumari Boutique Hotel – Featuring a lovely terrace with views of the city, this little hotel has comfortable and stylish rooms. The staff are helpful and accommodating, making this stay even more comfortable.
Kathmandu can make you high as a kite
Kathmandu is a mystical place, with awe-inspiring ancient temples, exotic traditions and outstanding natural beauty. Like the classic rocker, Bob Segar, “I’m going to Kathmandu!”