Nepal is a historic and natural country, so you could imagine how a thrill I was when I visited this amazing destination and I did various fun things to do in Kathmandu!
Note: To clarify the difference between Kathmandu city and Kathmandu Valley, you need to first understand that the Kathmandu Valley is made up of three beautiful ancient cities, namely: Kathmandu (largest city and capital), Lalitpur (called as Patan), and Bhaktapur —.
These 3 places that make up the Kathmandu Valley have a mix of beautiful sights, smells, and sounds, as well as inspiring temples complexes and squares. As a fact, this 220sqm region has become a place that has the densest concentration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world!
That being said, for such a place like this, you would surely do the best things to do in Kathmandu city or the valley as a whole. But fret not, because, with the guide below, you will be making the most of your time here as you base yourself in the capital city of Kathmandu!
#1 – Visit the city landmarks
a dynamic city like Kathmandu, there are a lot of attractions and landmarks that are worth seeing, but to start, below are some of the destinations that you absolutely don’t want to miss!
• Pashupatinath: This is a sacred Hindu temple with serves as the seat of Nepal’s national deity, Lord Shiva (one of the principal deities of Hinduism). As the oldest Hindu temple in the city, you will find a number of temples, ashrams (spiritual monasteries), images, and inscriptions from the moment that you set foot in this place.
• TIP: For a unique experience, you can visit in the morning to see them do cremations or visit in the evening from 6 PM for aarti (worship with fire).
• Boudhanath: this is the skyline of Kathmandu, this is a well-known stupa (place of meditation) in which its massive mandala (spiritual symbol in Buddhism) makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. It noted as form centuries it has stood as a Buddhist belief and has been an important place of meditation and pilgrimage for a lot of local Nepalis and Tibetan Buddhist people.
• Swayambhunath: It an ancient religious architecture which contains Tibetan monastery, stupa, shrines, museum, temples, and library. It is also surrounded by monkeys so locals call it ‘Monkey Temple’. Although this temple considered Buddhist, it remains to be worshiped by both Buddhists and Hindus.
• TIP: For a great view of the stupa, enter in Tamang Gompa monastery, For a less crowded environment, the best time comes either early in the morning or early in the evening.
• Durbar Square: This is a generic name used to describe plazas which is opposite old royal palaces in Nepal, and this Durbar Square in Kathmandu city is surrounded by spectacular architecture that showcases the skills of Newar art(historical inhabitants of Kathmandu). Unfortunately, some of the buildings here have collapsed due to the earthquake that happened 2015 — however, the beauty of this square remains exist to its astounding palaces, courtyards and temples.
• Old City: Make sure that you explore this twist of narrow streets and temples that are found north and south of the central Durbar Square. You can get a closer look at the local’s culture and way of life around it.
• Other Durbar Squares: You can check out the other Square found in the Kathmandu Valley (at Patan and Bhaktapur).
• Garden of Dreams or Swapna Bagaicha: If you are looking for space that is away from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, the calm atmosphere of the beautifully-restored wapna Bagaicha will be your wanted silence. you can enjoy a vast garden that has three pavilions, an amphitheater, ponds, urns, and pergolas.
• Kopan Monastery: This Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery near Boudhanath is popular among foreigners for its courses on Tibetan Buddhism. In fact, visitors are welcome to join their morning meditation sessions as well as their introductory and advanced courses (held in English)
#2 – Go through Thamel and enjoy local lifestyle !
If you’re looking for the liveliest commercial place in Kathmandu, you only need to visit to Thamel which is famous for its narrow streets that are filled with various buildings and shops: clubs, hotels, hostels, pubs, restaurants, shops, tour operators, and more — you really will find almost everything here!
⁃ Below is a list of recommended things to do in Kathmandu’s Thamel:
• Go for shopping: buy some souvenirs and gifts by searching through the display of colorful shawls, jewelry, statues, paintings, etc. As for my #1 tip? Bargain hard if you want to get a fair and good price. Aim to ask for half or a 3rd of their original quoted price. (But if I you’re not like me wherein you wouldn’t mind giving some extra help to the locals — even if they’re not being exactly fair with the price — it’s fine to skip on the bargaining.)
• kill starve with local food: First and foremost, eat “momo” which is a steamed dumpling which is native to Nepal and Tibet. If you’re looking for a full meal option, get a “thali set” which holds several bowl selections like rice, curry, pickles, vegetables and “dal bhat” (a staple food in Nepal that is a thick lentil soup). Meanwhile, for dessert, look for “sel roti” which is sweet and crispy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside.
• Do classes or workshops: There are a number of shops in Thamel that can, for instance, teach you to cook Nepali cuisine, do Buddhist thangka paintings, make woodcarvings, and more. You could even enroll in yoga class or retreat! choices of activities are absolutely endless.
TIP: If you’re rather looking for authentic bazaar-esque places, head on over to either Asan, Indrachok or Mangal bazaars.
#3 – sky tour to Himalayas and Mt. Everest
Also Read: Top places you must visit in pokhara
The fact is, a lot of us are NOT prepared to trek the summit of the world’s highest peak; so thankfully, as part of things to do in Kathmandu, there are providers in Nepal that give chance to get a bit close to the Himalayas and see the beauty that is Mt. Everest.
Of course, nothing beats the experience of trekking up to the summit or to the Everest Base Camp — BUT, if you can’t do that, then the best option is to fly there, right? Besides, you’ll be among the lucky one who can witness this beauty of mountain range from up high in just a few hundred meters away!
Yet… as you would expect, this is NOT entirely cheap; but for sure, it will certainly be worth it!
Lasting for an hour, cost of flights start around $150 and there are 2 options to choose from: doing it by helicopter or by plane. There are a lot of tour operators who offer helicopter rides, but when it comes to aerial rides, there are 3 airlines who are well-known for doing it: Buddha Air, Guna Air and Yeti Air.
TIP: Book a flight during the earliest part of the day for less chance of getting cloudy or bad weather
You can book your Everest mountain flight and schedule availability, this flight tour will be made through Buddha Air, Yeti Air or Simrik Air.
NOTE: If you don’t have the budget to fly nor to hike/trek, the another option for you to see Mt. Everest “up close”. Aside from the obvious fact that you just go to places or towns that have a clear view of the Himalayas.
#4 – Explore natural landscape through outdoor activities
As a part of your things to do in Kathmandu, you should grab the chance of enjoying the city’s surrounding natural terrain by doing the following outdoor activities…
• Hiking/Trekking: There are a many amazing hikes that you can do around the valley like Chisapani, Champadevi, Nagarkot, and Nagarjun. You could also go to high peaks of Shivapuri National Park, or if you are their for a longer hike, there is a 6-day trek from Kathmandu to Langtang National Park (the 1st Himalayan national park in Nepal). I can assure you that the sights will be amazing more when you get to see the surrounding terrain during sunrise or sunset.
• River rafting: If you seek this kind of water activity, you can opt to go for a river rafting tour that goes through Trishuli River which connects the city of Kathmandu to Pokhara.
• Mountain-biking: You will notice that when you go through Thamel, there will be a lot of shops who offer guided mountain-biking trips or who simply offer bikes for rent. If you’re up for this, I say do it because the adventure will be worth your while!
• Rock climbing: If you’re looking for some experience of climbing, not Mt. Everest, there are number of options for you in Kathmandu. In case you are not ready yet to go for natural cliffs, there is an Astrek Climbing Wall in Thamel. Otherwise, good natural climbing cliffs can be found at Hattiban (Pharping) and Nagarjn.
#5 – Explore nearby cities and towns
Wish to escape the traffic and urban setting ? There are number of towns and cities that you could explore.
• Bhaktapur: it is the ancient cities that make up Kathmandu Valley, you will enjoy how this place has the many temples per square kilometer in Nepal! it has the best-preserved palace courtyards and old city center in the country.
• TRANSPORTATION: (approx 1 hour away). bus ride to Bagbazar or Ratna Park that costs about 50 NPR (less than $1), or get a taxi that will cost you around 1,000 NPR one way ($9~).
• Lalitpur or Patan: If Bhaktapur is the most Hindu of the cities in the Kathmandu Valley, Patan would be the most Buddhist (and Kathmandu is somewhere in the middle). Much like Bhaktapur, Patan has an display of similar architecture; however, the positive side of going here is that it is much closer to Kathmandu city itself so it makes for a great side trip. (If you can come early in the morning, you should go to the Golden Temple to hear the beautiful chanting music made by the choir).
• TRANSPORTATION: (30 minutes away). Bus ride to Ratna Park or a blue/green bus at Ring Road which will cost about 15 NPR (less than $1). Taxis, will cost you about 200 NPR ($2~).
• Bungamati and Khokana villages: A lot of the key structures in these villages have been destroyed due to the 2015 earthquake — but it is a good reason why you should come visit to help raise tourism and help them in quickly restoring temples. After all, in its prime, these 2 villages have been revered as two of the prettiest villages in the valley.
• TRANSPORTATION: (approx 1 hour away). It’s preferable to get a day tour that covers both of these villages.
• Panauti: – it is one of the oldest towns in Nepal and its nostalgic feeling remains up to today, making it a great day trip for things to do in Kathmandu. I thoroughly enjoyed going through its attractive streets during my visit. I even had the opportunity to do a homestay with a local family and it was one of the most enriching experiences that I’ve had!
• TRANSPORTATION: (approx 2 hours away). Take a bus from Ratna for around 60 NPR (less than $1~). Taking a taxi will be more expensive at about 2,500 NPR ($24~).
• Nagarkot: – nagrota is Just about 32 KM away from Kathmandu city by car, this has since been known for the top spot for enjoying Himalayan views, sunrises, and sunsets. The lush forests make it a great spot for relaxation and outdoor activities.
• TRANSPORTATION: (Approx 2 hours away). Take a bus at Bakhtapur Bus Terminal at Ratna Park, and from Bhaktapur, you can get to Nagarkot (total of about 70 NPR or less than $1~). Since this ride can be quite a hassle, it’s rather best to get a private car for hire or a taxi which can be around 3,000 NPR ($30~).
• Kirtipur: it is located right next to Patan, Kirtipur is one of the most famous and religious places to visit in the valley of Kathmandu. You will love the clean air as well as the beauty Himalayas that portray the background of this ancient city.
• TRANSPORTATION: (approx 30 minutes). Take a bus at Ratna Park for less than 50 NPR (less than $1~) or get a taxi for approximately 500 NPR ($5~).
BEFORE TRAVEL GUIDE
Best time to visit Nepal?
Below are the important 4 seasons in Nepal…
• Spring: March to May with pleasant temperature from 16ºC to 23ºC. This is the 2nd most popular season with its warmer days and flower blooms like the rhododendrons which is the national flower of Nepal. The only consequence for visiting during this time is that there’s a higher chance of haze that will hide the view of mountains from the lower area.
• Summer: June to August, hot and wet, averaging from 23ºC to 30ºC. High humidity and rain almost every day so it’s not an ideal time to visit especially if you want to explore nature. (But city visits is fine since there will be lesser crowds).
• Autumn: September to November with cool temperatures, averaging 15ºC to 25ºC is the best tourist season. Autumn is the weather which is more pleasant, bringing in clearer views of the mountains. Also, big Hindu festivals like Dashain and Tihar happen during these months so it can get quite lively.
• Winter: December to February with cool weather 9ºC to 12ºC. In this season the skies are clear, but if you are planning for trekking you must be prepared well since the temperature drops at night time.
Where to get the best flight promos to Kathmandu?
My recommendation for getting the best flight deals is Skyscanner. It scans all possible airlines that fly to and from your destination. I can even set up alerts so that it notifies me when the prices suddenly drop or rise.
Nepal’s main International Airport is Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) which is located about 6km from Kathmandu. In order to get to the center (such as that of Thamel), you can arrange a hotel transfer, a prepaid taxi (approx. 700~ NPR), a regular taxi (approx. 400~ NPR), or a bus (approx. NPR 10~).
How to change into Nepal currency?
Nepal’s currency is called the Nepalese Rupee (NPR). I advise that you don’t exchange your money at the airport since the rates there are totally not good. Either exchange your money at a bank or at a money exchanger in your home country or in Kathmandu’s thamel; or better yet, just withdraw from an ATM with your debit/credit card. Remember to keep the exchange receipt because you will need it when you need to change back your NPR to your original currency.
Rate exchange: USD $1 = NPR 103~ = Php 50~
Where to best stay (for accommodations)?
Kathmandu is full of all kinds of hotels for all travelers no matter you want luxury stay of budget stays. Hotels, resort, guesthouse, homestay hostels are easily available you can check on booking.com or Hostelworld.com for the best deals.
How can You visit around Kathmandu?
Some places can be visited by foot, but since it can get quite confusing due to the lack of street names, the best option is to either get a rickshaw especially if you don’t have Google Maps to navigate as you execute the above list of things to do in Kathmandu.
Rickshaws can easily found everywhere and prices start at 15 NPR — but it’s highly likely that the driver will set a higher price, so feel free to bargain. On the other hand, taxis and green or blue buses are more ideal to go too far places inside or outside of the Kathmandu Valley. Taxis are also not that hard to find especially in the day (it gets harder at night) and the cost is approx at 300 NPR if you want to get to Patan. for buses, you can find them around the city or on the ‘Ring Road’ and the cost can start from 20 NPR. Note: buses are old and it’s not comfortable.
Should I get a visa to visit Nepal?
Yes, ALL foreigners (except Indians) are required to have a visa to visit Nepal. Rest assured, the process is fairly easy and fast.
Also Read: Top places you must visit in pokhara