Namaste From Magical Kathmandu

Apart from Nepalese rich culture and mountaineers paradise, Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is also world-famous for its historical sites; in fact, seven of them are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Sites such as Durbar Square, Swayambhunath Stupa (Monkey Temple), Boudhanath Stupa, Pashupatinath Temple, Thamel, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar, Nagarkot to name a few. This is my second trip to Kathmandu; however, this place is so magical. No wonder why I am already planning my next trip before even finishing this one.

15 Best Things To Do In Kathmandu

Among all the amazing sightseeing activities I did during my recent trip to Kathmandu here are a few of the most striking ones. It can be used as a guideline to plan yours based on your interest and time available to spare.

1. Everest Mountain Flight

My Nepal trip would be incomplete without taking the mountain flight. The experience was outstanding, while the sun was rising in the horizon, and the magnificent view of the snow-covered glittering mountain peak through the plane window absolutely took my breath away.

The flight usually lasted about an hour. During the flight, I was able to witness the fantastic 20 of the highest peaks, including Mt. Everest and Chamlang peak from just about 20 miles away. All 16 passengers onboard got a window seat, and interestingly enough, the pilot called us one by one to the cockpit to have a view from a different perspective. I’d definitely recommend this scenic mountain flight.

Buddha air mountain flight, Kathmandu
The co-pilot helped me capturing some stunning videos with my iPhone.

2. Visit Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square resides at the heart of the capital city, one of the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are located in Kathmandu valley. Durbar square is a Royal Square where royal palaces are surrounded by a majestic collection of temples, fountains, ancient architecture and statues. The palace is also well known as Hanuman Dhoka Durbar, once used as the residence of the Nepali royal family and administrators. This one of the most visited sites in Kathmandu and extremely popular among tourists.

Kathmandu Durbar Square, Nepal
Kathmandu Durbar Square

3. Swayambha Temple (Monkey Temple)

Swayambha, also known as Monkey Temple, is an ancient religious masterpiece atop a hill in the west of Kathmandu valley. it is one of the most sacred Buddhist stupas in Nepal. Worth a visit.

Getting up to the shrine at the summit is quite challenging, hundreds of steep stone steps to climb. However, there is a motorway leading up almost to the top from there, only a short walk. Once at the top, visitors are rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of the city from the temple. Early morning and evening is the best time to visit.

Monkey Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal
Swayambha Temple (Monkey Temple) in Kathmandu

4. Sunrise From Nagarkot View Tower

For a great once in a lifetime sunrise experience, we definitely needed to get up really early as the sunrise happens around 6:45 am in Kathmandu (when I was visiting). However, to view the unbelievable view and the golden light on the towing Anapuran mountain range, we needed to be there way before. Even Nagarkot hilltop viewing tower is only about 19 miles (30 km), but still it usually takes an hour to get there through the narrow winding road up to an elevation of 7200 ft (2100 m). Then another 10 – 15 minutes hike up to the tower from where you park your car.

When you finally got to the top, it will still be dark and cold, but soon you will be witnessing best ever sunrise view on the east over the rolling mountains. And on the northwest, the snow-covered mountain range will be glowing golden like never seen before. A trip to Kathmandu would be incomplete without a visit to Nagarkot.

Nagarkot View Tower
Sunrise viewing from Nagarkot, Bhaktapur District, Nepal

5. Dhulikhel, Nepal

It should be between 8:00 to 8:30 when usually visitors start getting down from Nagarkot. I would recommend a stop at Dhulikhel in the valley for breakfast. The picturesque views of the high Himalayas and the range of peaks on the horizon are also best seen from there. Also, it is one of the popular destinations among tourists to experience the authentic culture and heritage of the indigenous people of Nepal.

A view of Himalayas from Dhulikhel, Nagarkot

6. Bhaktapur Durbar Square Dhoka

Bhaktapur is one of the three major cities in Kathmandu valley that will remind you of how this city once looked like during ancient times. The Durbar Square got a few beautiful architectures, no wonder why it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bhaktapur Durbar
Bhaktapur Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

7. Taumadhi Square in Bhaktapur

A short walk from Durbar Square through the historical Bhaktapur town will bring you to another UNESCO World Heritage Site called Taumadhi Square that houses the Nyatapola Temple. It is another must-see masterpiece in Bhaktapur

Taumadhi Square
Taumadhi Square in Bhaktapur

8. Dattatreya Square Bhaktapur

Dattatreya square in Bhaktapur got a few of the great Hindu monasteries, temples, and museums. Here are a few worth paying attention Bhimsen Temple, Laxmi Narayan Temple, Dattatreya Temple, Pujar Math (Woodcarving Museum), Peacock

dattatreya square
Dattatreya Square Bhaktapur in Bhaktapur

9. Kopan Monastery

Hire a taxi and visit Kopan Monastery, one of the most famous monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery is located on top of a hill, not that far from Boudhanath Stupa, which can be seen from a far distance. From here, visitors can witness picturesque view of Kathmandu valley, and surrounding mountains from it’s higher ground.

kopan monastery
Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu

10. Boudha Stupa

It is situated 7.5 km away to the east of Kathmandu Durbar Square. Boudha Stupa is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most impressive landmarks in Kathmandu. Apart from its spiritual value, the 36-meter high stupa is also believed the biggest stupa in the world. There are four famous remaining monasteries around the Boudhanath Stupa; they are Guru Lhakhanbg Monastery, Samteling Monastery, Jhamchen Lhakhang, Kilyak Yevam worth visiting.

Buddha Stupa, Kathmandu
Buddha Stupa in Kathmandu

11. Budhanilkantha Temple (Hindu Temple)

Visit the holy Budhanilkantha, the shrine of the sleeping Vishnu, one of the most popular temples of Lord Vishnu. Located at the base of the Shivapuri hills in the northern-most part of Kathmandu Valley, Budhanilkantha is about 8 km from the city center. The exceptionally detailed artwork that went into sculpting this brilliant 5th century stone image of the sleeping Vishnu is worth a close look.

Budhanilkantha Hindu Temple in Kathmandu

12. Patan Durbar Square

Patan Dubar Square is one of the three squares in the Kathmandu valley that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The other two are in Bhaktapur and Kathmandu at the Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex. Durbar Square means Royal Square and the plazas and structures around the Royal Palaces. Patan maintains its historical tradition and ancient charm despite its proximity to the capital. We spent quite a while exploring at the square visiting old royal palace, museum, temples, and much more.

Patan durbar square, Kathmandu
Historic Temples at the Patan Durbar Square, Nepal

13. Golden Temple

The Golden Temple existed in Kathmandu since 1409 and is located just off the Patan Durbar Square, hence hidden away from the crowded streets of the historical city of Lalitpur (Patan). The main temple in the yard is a three-tiered square pagoda building dominating the entire complex. This temple is UNESCO listed as part of Patan Durbar Square complexes.

golden-temple, Kathmandu
Golden Temple, Patan

14. The Pashupatinath Temple

The Pashupatinath Temple lies about 5 km from Kathmandu. This Hindu holy site is one of the seven UNESCO Cultural Heritage Sites in Kathmandu valley. The temple is holy that only Hindus can go in, therefore as a foreigner or visitors need to watch it from the other side of the Bagmati river.

Pashupatinath temple, Kathmandu
Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu

15. For Great Night Life Visit Thamel

The bustle, tourist-friendly Thamel is the city’s main nightlife zone. Full of bars with live music, hotels, shops, spas, and restaurants that serve traditional Nepalese and International dishes make it the best place to stay in Kathmandu.

Dinner at Namaste Restaurant in Thamel

Namaste is a pure Nepales restaurant just a couple of blocks from our hotel in Thame. The food was delicious, and the traditional Nepali music and dance were incredible. 
We loved the thali and a few of the dishes ordered separately. We enjoyed our fantastic dinner, along with the traditional Nepali wine.

Traditional Nepalese Food in Namaste Restaurant

Live Music at Mughal Restaurant, Thamel

Live Music and Delicious food in Mughal Restaurant

Moghul restaurant is located just a few blocks from our hotel in Thamel. We had a great time there, having local Gorkha Beer and enjoying live music then later delicious local food. A perfect way to spend an evening in Kathmandu.

Nepalese food and drinks worth trying

Nepalese food is typically a bend of Indian, Tibetan, and Chinese ingredients. Dal Bhat is a popular item throughout Nepal, available for vegetarians and non-vegetarian. This dish will keep you full for a while a combination of lentil soup, rice, vegetables.

Nepalese momo (Tibetan style dumplings) is one of the most popular foods in Nepal. It is usually fried or steamed dumplings filled with steamed vegetables or meat, served with local dippings sometimes spicy.

I also loved Newari food, tried a variety of Newari indigenous dishes and found them delicious. Donut like crunchy sweet-flavored puffy Sel Roti is made of rice flower usually popular for breakfast or snack. There are a few local beers I liked, including GorkhaEverest, and Namaste.

dal Bhat
Dal Bhat – can’t miss it
Momo – Got to Try it
Newari Food for lunch in Pokhara
Sel Roti for Breakfast

Where Did I Stay In Kathmandu

Hotel Jampa, Bhagwati Marg, Thamel, Kathmandu

There are plenty of hotels to choose from in Thamel, however among all, I have decided to stay here. This hotel is conveniently located close to many attractions and surrounded by various restaurants and shopping.

The rate is relatively affordable compared to other hotels, therefore fits my budget. The facility was nice and clean, with comfortable beds, and most of all, we loved the food in their restaurants. Hotels staffs were friendly and helpful. They went out of their way to cook a few of our favorite dishes for us; even those items were not on their menu. We stayed at this hotel on two separate occasions and definitely recommended this hotel.

Jampa Hotel, Kathmandu
Hotel Jampa in Thamel Area of Kathmandu

Helpful Information

It will always be an excellent time to visit Nepal, even in winter, depending on your interest. When norther part of the country coated with snow and the landscape becomes unbelievably beautiful. Despite the fact that temperature may drop to freezing and high altitude mountainous areas may experience heavy snowfall still winter is a great season to visit Nepal.

In my opinion, Spring (March to May) and Autumn (October to Mid December) is the best time to visit Nepal. Weather remains pleasant for hikers, and rain disappears, makes it a great time for outdoor activities. This season is also perfect for photographers, as Nepal exposes it’s total beauty to the world during this season. Summer (June to August) may get very hot, and your travel itinerary may get impacted by monsoon rain. 

Getting to Nepal

Since Spring (March to May) and Autumn (October to Mid December) is peak tourist season, so expect pricy accommodation and fully booked flights to Kathmandu, the only international airport in Nepal. Airfares vary depending on the time of the year from several major regional hubs such as Kolkata, Dhaka, Bangkok, Delhi, China and more. There are no direct flight to Kathmandu (KTM, Tribhuvan International Airport) from Europe, America, Africa, and Australia.

By Air

The majority of visitors travel to Nepal by air from international destinations, and I saw direct flights from Oman, Kuwait, Turkey, Dubai, China, Thailand, Bangladesh, and India, to name a few. 

By Road

Apart from taking a direct flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and other times from Bangkok to Kathmandu, I have also taken a road trip once from Shiliguri, India to Kathmandu. The road trip was time-consuming but very exciting; on my way, I was able to see things that I would haven’t seen otherwise. There are other adventurous road trips from China via Tibet which is very popular among tourists. For a guided tour from Tibet to Kathmandu by road, check this link

I found that Nepal is one of the most affordable countries in the world to travel. Getting around in the capital city Kathmandu and the 2nd largest city Pokhara is not expensive. Taxis are cheap; all you need to do is negotiate the price before the trip as no one uses the meter.

To and From The Airport in Kathmandu

At the airport, you will find a taxi counter, pre-booked taxi from KTM airport to your hotel in Thamel (a famous tourist district) would cost you around 800 NRS (US$ 7). If you flag down a taxi from Thamel to the airport, it would cost you less about 600 NRS just to give an idea.

Lot of people ask me this question how many days is good for Nepal. Actually, it depends, I usually think the other way around, like how many days do I have to spend, and based on that, I do tailor my itinerary. Even though Nepal is geographically small, but the mountainous region and bumpy spiral roads make it feel like a much larger country, and moving from one place to another may take longer than usual.

During this trip, I had only seven days to spend, so I did plan accordingly without any serious trekking in the Himalayan picturesque terrain, which requires an additional 8 to 10 days minimum.

To cover Kathmandu valley and surrounding attractions, you need at least 3 to 4 days. An additional 3 to 4 days is enough if you want to visit Pokhara. Here I have put together a detailed seven days activities in this post.

Visa on arrival

Many nationals are eligible for visa on arrival. I applied online eVisa that made the entire visa process much quicker and allowed me to avoid the long queue at the airport. All I had to do is pay US$ 25 (for US Citizens) at one of the cashier counters. 

For US citizens visa fee is US$ 25 for 15-days, US$ 40 for 30-days, and US$ 100 for 90-days.

If you did not apply online eVisa before your arrival, then there is nothing to worry about because as soon as you land, you will find many visa machines, fill out the required informations, print out a copy   and then head to the cashier. 

Local Currency

The Nepalese currency is called “Rupees” at the time of this writing; the value was 1 US$ = 114 Rupees. There are ATMs available all over. I used one of the ATM at the airport with a minimum charge, which helped me pay the taxi fare and also buy the SIM card for my cell phone.

SIM Card for Cell Phone

Buying a SIM card at Kathmandu Airport is easy. I bought a Ncell SIM, the most popular one in Kathmandu. All you need is a photo, your passport, and fill out a form. I paid 300 rupees for the SIM and 250 rupees for 7 days 4GB data plan. A 3-days with 2GB data plan will cost you 150 rupees, and a 30-days with 16GB is 1050 rupees.

My Opinion and Last Word

Have you been to Kathmandu? Any cool tips to share?

I loved being in Kathmandu and want to go back again. I hope my story has motivated you to plan your visit. 

Please leave a comment below! I would love to hear from you to improve my knowledge. 

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Hasan Mahmud

Traveler, Blogger, and Travel Photographer!

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