Are you thinking about making Nepal your next holiday destination? If you have started your research, you’ll know that there are many things to do in Kathmandu. However, there is only so much time and it can be difficult to narrow it down to the highlights.
We have summarised our favourite spots and experiences in Nepal’s capital. Keep on reading for our top 10 things to do in Kathmandu.
Thamel is the main tourist area in Kathmandu and many hotels are located here. It may sound like a tourist trap but you’ll find authentic Nepali food places, local shops and picturesque spots here. This makes it one of the top things to do in Kathmandu. In addition, you can do your souvenir shopping here! It’s definitely worth putting on a pair of comfortable walking shoes and wandering through the chaotic and colourful streets of Thamel – you won’t be disappointed.
2. Daydream in the Garden of Dreams
One of the top things to do in Kathmandu is visiting the Garden of Dreams. The Garden is located near Thamel and ideal for a midday break or an end-of-day stop. You can relax in the tranquil gardens, escape the chaotic streets of Kathmandu and take some time to reflect on what you’ve experienced and discovered that day. You’ll find your mind wandering when exploring this calming oasis and will likely catch yourself daydreaming.
3. Take a day trip to Nagarkot
If you have a few days in Kathmandu and would like to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city life, then organise a trip to Nagarkot. The town is just over an hour’s drive from the capital and makes a perfect destination for a day trip. It’s not without reason that many travellers head to Nagarkot for the magnificent sunrise. You’ll find picturesque hiking trails and breathtaking views of the Himalayas and Kathmandu Valley here.
4. Patan (Lalitpur)
Roughly half an hour south from the center of the main tourist district Thamel there is a city called Patan, or Lalitpur. Although Patan is hardly a long way away, you will find that things seem to be slightly different here. The reason for this is because Patan used to be an independent state. Make sure you tick off one of the three Durbar Squares on your exploration trip of Patan (the other two squares can be found in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur). The Durbar Squares is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered one of the main attractions in Patan. Make sure to avoid peak-traffic times or you may end up spending over an hour travelling here.
Similar to Patan, Bhaktapur is about half an hour outside of Kathmandu and another one of the three UNESCO Durbar Squares are located here. Bhaktapur is situated close to the eastern border of the capital and is perfect for travellers who like to get away from the crowds for an afternoon without having to travel far. This area is often referred to as “the cultural gem of Nepal” – alongside the Durbar Square, you are free to explore traditional architecture, a wealth of temples and culture. Plan your travel to and from Bhaktapur around off-peak traffic times to avoid getting stuck on the busy roads of Kathmandu.
6. Indulge in Momos
You can’t visit Kathmandu without having tried Momos. Momos are a type of dumpling that can be served steamed or fried and originate from Tibet. Luckily Momos have made it across the shared border to Nepal and are now one of the favourite things to eat for visitors and locals alike. If you’re a vegetarian you’re probably thinking of meat-filled dumplings, while some Momos have a meat filling, eateries will usually have vegetarian options. Momo places are spread across Kathmandu and you won’t struggle to find any eateries selling this dish.
7. Discover Swayambhunath
Swayambhunath, also known as the “Monkey Temple”, can be found on the western outskirts of Kathmandu and should definitely be on your list of things to do when you visit Kathmandu. Although Swayambhunath is officially a Buddhist site, Hindus are also using this impressive religious site. One of the highlights here is the view over Kathmandu, but it doesn’t come easily. Prepare to get your heart rate up and climb the 365 stone steps for dazzling views of Kathmandu. Swayambhunath is only a 10-15 minute drive away from major landmarks in the center of Kathmandu, such as the Durbar Square and Thamel. Tip: Don’t leave your belongings lying around, the “holy monkeys” which are inhabiting the site like to shop for souvenirs.
8. Explore the Durbar Square in Kathamndu and the Old City
Alongside the Durbar Squares in Bhaktapur and Patan, you’ll find the third UNESCO Durbar Square in the center of Kathmandu itself. Take some time to soak up all the experiences and impressions the square has to offer; from people passing the square to stunning architecture to local artists, there is a lot to be seen. Make sure to explore the area surrounding the square, known as the Old City. The maze-like streets of the Old City won’t fail to take you back in time.
9. Book yourself on an unforgettable Everest flight
It’s needless to say that the majority of visitors come to Nepal for the breathtaking Himalayas and to catch a glimpse of the highest mountain on earth – Mount Everest. Many people attempt to hike to the Everest Base Camp, and while it’s definitely an adventure, it’s a tough and long hike that’s not for the faint of heart. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate Everest. If you book on one of our Nepal tours, our tour leader will be able to arrange a scenic Mount Everest flight for you. Prices vary every season, but at the time of writing you’d have to budget about 200 USD for the flight. Contact our sales team for more information.
10. Go for a hike in Shivapuri National Park
Shivapuri National Park should be on the list of things to do when in Kathmandu for any traveller who likes to be active and has a keen interest in hiking. The National Park is roughly an hour outside of Kathmandu and probably one of the lesser known destinations in the Kathmandu area for travellers. Take the day, hike one of the trails in the National Park and brace yourself for stunning views.
Anna is on the marketing team at Tucan Travel. From a young age Anna has travelled solo and on group tours through Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia. You can find her on LinkedIn here.