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Kathmandu is the chaotic capital of Nepal, the gateway to Everest and the Himalayas. It’s not as busy as many other capital cities, but I guess if you haven't been to India or Vietnam then you might disagree.
I spent a total of around 12 days in Kathmandu. Most of them working, but it did give me a lot of insight on the best places to visit in Kathmandu.
Word of warning, Kathmandu is very polluted, and you’ll feel it in the air when you’re walking.
You’ll also notice that you’ve got none of that beautiful scenery that you would imagine (or Kathmandu once had), because of the polluted air.
I will tell you, unless you’re hiking, you’re chance of seeing the Himalayas in any of Nepal is slim pickings.
But, don’t let that put you off! It’s still an amazing country and the city has lots of things to do and see.
So sit back and check out my Kathmandu travel guide featuring the 10 best places to visit in Kathmandu.
Kathmandu has good seasons for different events. For example, if you want to go trekking throughout the country, or even reach Everest base camp, then October and November is a good time.
June and August is monsoon season in Nepal and it will rain most days and it will be super warm.
If you want to reach Mount Everest, then the best time to try the climb is between April and May. (Good Luck!)
But overall, the best time to visit Kathmandu is winter. Bradley and I visited in November/December and the weather was perfect.
It’s cold in Kathmandu, so you’ll need a jacket and perhaps a hat and scarf in the evenings.
Realistically, if you’re only here to see all the tourist sights then move onto trekking or visiting Pokhara or even Chitwan, then you’ll need around 3 nights. I think 3 nights is a perfect amount.
Obviously we stayed a lot longer, but that was for working. Kathmandu has lots of cool and cheap cafes with fast WiFi for working purposes.
But 3 nights is suffice to get everything sorted.
Most people just use Kathmandu as a base to sort or treks or buses to other destinations, since the one and only international airport is located here. But you should definitely give a few days to exploring the area and the Kathmandu valley in general.
The most convenient way to get to Kathmandu is via plane. Flying from India is super cheap (around £40-60) for a one way flight. You can also get flights with big international airlines from the UK/USA such as with Oman air, but a connection will be necessary.
Fun fact: Nepali airlines is banned from flying in the EU skies.
We flew with Nepali airlines from India to Kathmandu and it was on a massive airbus for a 1 hour journey, which clearly shows they are struggling (no sane airline uses an airbus for a short flight).
But the plane was excellent. Great leg room, meals included and an entertainment system!
You can also reach Kathmandu by bus from India from either the Varanasi or Gorakhpur area to the Nepalese border at Sunauli. Then you can take a local bus to Kathmandu from here.
I have not got a clue about prices, or border control etc as I think it’s so cheap to fly, it’d be stupid not too (even on a backpacker budget).
So if you have information, then let me know!
Okay, now for the good stuff: the 10 best places to visit in Kathmandu. Some of these places I didn’t make it too (especially Everest Base Camp- I’ll be returning 2021), but they’re all highly recommend by others.
Dubar is the Nepalese word for “palace”, so you can imagine this square has some royalty heritage to it. It’s where the cities kings were once crowned and legitimised. It now remains as the traditional heart of the old town and highlights some of Kathmandu's best traditional architecture.
The entire square was made a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1979, but it was badly hurt by the 2015 earthquake that struck Nepal.
Many temples were harmed and reconstruction will now go on for years, but it’s still worth a visit, and it needs your tourism more than ever.
Things to note at the square:
The entrance is 1000 for foreigners.
Kathmandu can be hectic, and manic and generally crazy, so if you want somewhere that will escape all that, right within the middle of Thamel, then the garden of dreams is your answer.
It’s an oasis amongst the chaos, and it’s surprisingly well maintained (compared to other temples within the area).
It was built in the 20th century and it’s also known as the garden of six senses. It’s got flowers and fauna from different areas of the world, and it’s truly a beautiful area to just read a book.
There is even an on-site cafe to enjoy a cup of Himalayan coffee and a bite to eat.
The entrance is 200 for foreigners, or if you’re in Kathmandu for longer, then you can get an annual membership for 3000 rupees, perfect for escaping the daily chaos.
I love a good stupa! And this one is 36 meters high and quite pretty, especially when it’s lit up at night.
It was built sometime after AD 600, so it’s old! It’s a perfectly proportioned monument and you can get up close and personal with it.
I recommend heading around 6 o'clock to get that shot with the beautiful lights and see it lit up.
It will cost you 400 to enter.
There are two main places to get everything you need in Nepal, for both trekking and souvenirs, and that’s Pokhara lakeside and Thamel.
Thamel is filled with markets and streets filled with shops selling everything from the iconic singing bowl (in all sizes), and handmade clothing, bags, soaps, teas, coffee, everything you could possibly need.
If you’re trekking, they are selling lots of rucksacks, clothing, poles, shoes, everything again you could need. It’s probably cheaper to get all your trekking stuff here than it is to buy it all back home (at least in the UK and USA).
One note is that if you are buying singing bowls or cool artifact type things, make sure you have a receipt.
At the airport, security search your hand luggage and sometimes if you don’t have a receipt for a product, they won’t let you through with it. So, just be sure by bringing one with you.
You can get some super unique gifts in Nepal, like cards and paper made out of elephant dung. Yes, you read that right.
This is a beautiful Tibetan monastery located on the outskirts of Kathmandu. This means you’ll either need to get a taxi there, an organised tour, or you could walk.
If you want to meditate, then this is the place to do it. They offer a variety of meditation courses, and it’s in a perfect tranquil location.
You can visit in the morning and join in the morning meditation classes. Certainly a different experience.
You can visit here on the pleasant walk between Bodhnath and the Gokarna Mahadev Temple or even from Nagi Gompa in Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park. (more on that later)
A taxi here from Kathmandu should be around 600 rupees (about $5).
What’s really surprising for a country that is so poor and struggling, is how modern their cinemas are, and cheap. Movies are in English and it cost 300 rupees for a ticket.
Even the food and drink inside the cinema is stupidly cheap. (Think back to the UK where the charge you about £5 for a drink and about £10 for a ticket!!)
Anyway, the cinemas are super modern and a great place to spend an evening, to just escape the crowds. There is a really good cinema in the Thamel area called QFX Chhaya Center.
It’s in a massive building, which is on it’s way to becoming a really big and cool shopping mall. God knows how long it will take to finish at the rate the Nepalese get things done.
But if you go, across from the cinema on the 4th floor, there is a waffle bar, that does amazing waffles and churros. It’s also very cheap.
This is probably one of the best places to visit in Kathmandu for couples. It can be a very romantic date!
Bradleys friend told us about this temple before we got to Kathmandu. It’s a very famous temple located on the riverbanks, close to the airport. In the morning and sometimes early afternoon, they perform cremations.
So, you’ll see actual dead bodies, and most likely people mourning as it’s performed in the public sphere.
That’s definitely a unique experience. Not something I want to see myself personally. You don’t need up close and personal to the temple if you’re not Buddhist, but you can view from across the river.
It will cost you 1000 to view/enter.
It’s best to get a taxi here, and you can arrange a guide to give you more information if you desire. OR if you can’t afford a guide, then simply read up on it online too.
A guide would cost you around $5-10 depending on your haggling skills!
It’s open 4am to 9pm and a suggested viewing time is around one hour. Up to you!
If you want to get drunk and go clubbing, then Kathmandu is the place to do that. Particularly Thamel.
Whilst I didn’t go to t any of the nightclubs myself personally, I certainly heard the music until 4am from my hotel room, so it kind of felt like I was there….wow, I sound old.
If I didn't have a bad foot..I might have went dancing. (managed to make myself sound even older...I fell down a single step...I am not helping myself here...moving on...)
Anyway, to help you out on what’s hot and what isn’t, this is a great post to read. They have an irish bar somewhere, that I missed out on (disappointed in myself), but if you’ve been, tell me what it’s like!
This is the fourth national park in Nepal established in 1976. It’s the first Himalayan national park, and it’s the closest to Kathmandu.
So, if you want to see the Himalayas but can’t because of the air pollution then heading here is your best bet!
The best treks here are Langtang Valley, Helambu and Gosaikunda Lake. These cover much of the Langtang National park and the southern Helambu region.
You will need to be aware of the altitude and you may need to adjust to the altitude to avoid altitude sickness. Especially if you have type 1 diabetes like me. Altitude can wreak havoc on our blood sugars.
It’s about a 3 or 4 day trek from Kathmandu. This is great if you’re not planning on heading towards Everest or the Anuradhapura range in Pokhara.
1000 entrance into park for foreigners.
There is a whole host of information here on the area. I didn’t go myself, but I assume it’s just as amazing as all the other hikes in Nepal.
Ah, Everest Base Camp. The stuff of dreams. I want to do Everest base camp. But not yet. I plan to return to Nepal in 2021 with the sole intention of doing Everest Base Camp. But, if you’re ready, then you can organise your base camp trek from Kathmandu.
I’ve done A LOT of research on Everest Base Camp, because I want to go myself, and one thing they do say is that your fitness level doesn’t need to be that of an athlete to do it.
So if you enjoy walking or hiking, then you’ll be able to do Everest base camp.
The Everest Base Camp hike takes 14 days round trip and it’s considered a moderate hike.
I don’t need to sell you on the views you get on this hike. It’s beyond amazing and something you should definitely do when you visit Nepal.
Your trek will start from Luka, in which you’ll need to fly to. (Apparently the world’s most dangerous flight...eek) Anyway, it’s about 30 minutes and make sure it’s included in the final price you pay.
This is what you’ll typically get:
Oh, by the way, you can trek Everest Base Camp with no guide if you wish! But sometimes it’s nice to have a group to bond with, and well, someone to help carry your stuff!
A full trip including flights, food, accommodation, porter, sleeping bags,accessories etc, can be from $900 to $2000.
Oh, and I know this isn’t technically in Kathmandu, but you have to start there regardless, because that’s where the international and domestic airport is.
Last but not least on my list of best places to visit in Kathmandu is the Champa Devi hiking trail.
This is a great day hike, for those who don’t have the time, money or the effort required to do long hikes.
Champa Devi is a magnificent hill that is located to the south of Kathmandu valley.
It’s situated at an elevation of 2,285m, and has a Buddhist and Hindu shrine on the top.
It will take a 3 hour incline walk and you’ll summit the top and be greeted with amazing views of Kathmandu valley and the western Himalayan range including Langtang, Gauri Shanker, Jugal, Dorge Lakpa and many others.
There are lots of cool places for groups of friends to hand out in Kathmandu. Whether you head to the cinema to watch a movie, or perhaps head to the brilliant Himalayan Java Coffee shop to chat and drink some delicious smoothies and coffee drinks, or you could go clubbing!
There is plenty to do with friends in Kathmandu.
If you’re looking for a central area close to everything then Thamel is the best area to stay. Yes, it’s busy, but that's convenient. Plus there are a lot of hotels to choose from and many of them are situated so you can’t hear the noise.
I stayed in both OYO Milarepa and Hotel Amalyris and they were both quiet, clean, modern and great value. They were pretty much right beside each other and they are just down a little side street just off the main road, so it’s a perfect location!
On my first night in Kathmandu we stayed just 1 km outside Thamel so we were close to the bus station as we were going to Pokhara, but honestly, everything is so close as Kathmandu isn’t really a big place, so wherever you decide to stay, you’ll be fine.
There is no fancy bus system or metro system in Kathmandu. There are two main ways to get around: taxi and walking. OR, if you are really brave, you can rent out a moped in Thamel.
People advertise it in shops, but considering I spent most of my time trying not to get run over by mopeds and being stuck in traffic, I don’t think it’s a great place to drive one. I don’t think it will get you anywhere quicker!
Taxis can always be negotiated. Once we asked for a taxi to Nagarkot, he started at 4500, and he went down to 2000. So, generally it’s usually half of what they say.
A taxi to the airport from Thamel should be at the very most 600! Less is better.
Kathmandu is always the starting point and end point of a trip to Nepal. So if you’re looking for some inspiration for you onward journey then I can recommend Pokhara.
It’s about an 8 hour bus ride away and Pokhara is amazing. Accomodation, bars, shops and everything you need is located around a beautiful river. There are lots of day hikes and of course it’s the base spot for hiking the Anuradhapura range.
It has something for everyone and I highly recommend it. Or, if you want to head into the heat and opt for a Nepal safari, then make your way to Chitwan!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on the best places to visit in Kathmandu. If you’ve got anymore suggestions you think I should add to the list then drop a comment below.
Happy travels :)