A local’s complete travel guide to Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, is distinctive to anyplace you will visit on the planet for the country is crazy, welcoming, chaotic, vibrant, captivating and spiritual. In short, Kathmandu will win your heart with its natural sceneries, culture, temples, food, fascinating history, and landscapes.

Most tourist land here in Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu and take absolutely no time to fly off to Pokhara or the Himalayas for trekking. But as a local, I can assure you that Kathmandu is worth investing some more time.

I cannot do without mentioning that Kathmandu is so much more than just Thamel and there is an overpowering number of things you can do here as a tourist. That is the reason, I recommend spending at least 5 days in this delightful city before flying off to other parts of Nepal.

Interesting facts about Kathmandu, Nepal

-Kathmandu alone has 7 out of 10 UNESCO world heritage sites present in Nepal.

-Kathmandu or Nepal, in general, has never been conquered by outsiders.

-The most renowned street in Basantapur, Kathmandu is Freak Street, where all the hippies in Nepal once lived.

-Kathmandu is the home for unfathomable building manifestations and has the most number of sanctuaries and verifiable landmarks than anywhere else in Nepal.

1) Pashupatinath temple

Pashupatinath temple, Kathmandu

This Hindu temple built in the Nepalese pagoda style of architecture is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites of Nepal. As a result, it has pulled in a large number of guests from all over the world for being one of the holiest Hindu temples.

To begin with, Pashupatinath lies on the bank of the Bagmati River and the Hindu cremations take place in this river. The temple has 4 doorways, the western doorway is the main entrance whereas the other 3 doorways only open during festivals. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple courtyard for prayers with the entrance fee of NPR 1000 (10 USD) for foreigners and SAARC countries. On the contrary, Indian and Nepalese citizens need not pay any amount to enter.

On the contrary, if you have no intention of visiting the courtyard for prayers you can skip this part. I would suggest you to rather watch the temple from the adjacent side of the river for the breathtaking view. Generally, the best time to visit this place is promptly in the first part of the day and night.

I firmly recommend staying back to witness the popular evening ritual also known as, ‘Bagmati Ganga Arati’. This ritual starts from 5 pm up until 7 pm. In the meantime, be prepared to be accompanied by a large Nepalese crowd along with few monkeys. Similarly, the crowd is usually seen on Saturdays, Mondays, and on festivals. Don’t skip this because it is one of the best spiritual experiences you will get in Kathmandu.

2) Boudhanath stupa

Boudhnath stupa, Kathmandu

As someone who grew up here, I can strongly say that no other stupa in Kathmandu can beat Boudhanath in terms of purity and magnificence. The perfect example of mandala architecture, Boudhanath stupa is gracefully worked with an enormous white-washed dome on top of which sits a huge pinnacle. Likewise, the pinnacle is smoothly painted with Buddha’s wide-gazing eyes on all the sides which sets this complex aside.

The opening hours are 9 am to 5 pm with an entry price of NPR 400 i.e around 4 USD for a foreigner and NPR 100 for SAARC nationals. However, children under 10 years can enter for free. I would suggest staying a little longer in the evening to witness the stupa gleaming around evening time. Tibetan monks chant mantras and prayers which also has a charm of its own. You can likewise join the Tibetan monks for their koras/ circumambulations. Just keep in mind that koras have to be taken clockwise only.

This place also offers one-of-a-kind delights one can indulge into so, do not forget to try some Tibetan butter tea, Lafing, Dry thukpa, and Khapse once you are done with the prayers. Similarly, there are a lot of cafés and restaurants that offer a great view of the stupa along with scrumptious foods.

3) Swayambhunath stupa/ Monkey temple

Swayambhunath/ Monkey temple, Kathmandu

Swayambhunath is a holy Buddhist shrine that sits on top of a hill. In order to arrive at the summit, you will have to explore through 365 steps and a lot of mischievous monkeys, it is called monkey temple for a reason. In the meantime, avoid close contact with these monkeys as they can be dangerous.

Besides from its religious importance, this stupa additionally gives the best all-encompassing perspective on the Kathmandu valley. It is the ideal spot for dawn and dusk along these lines, the trip is certainly justified, despite all the trouble.

To experience the best atmosphere, visit early in the morning or evening. Spend a few hours here to fully absorb the spiritual vibe. Foreigners must pay NPR 200 i.e. around 2 USD to enter the stupa whereas, SAARC nationals must only pay NPR 50.

4) Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Earlier, Nepal was divided into 3 principle Kingdoms with 3 royal residences named as Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan durbar square. These are the fundamental spots to comprehend the Nepalese antiquated structures and history.

Kathmandu Durbar Square is one of the fundamental vacation destinations of Kathmandu for holding extraordinary significance to Hindus and Buddhists. Consequently, it is the best choice for a profound searcher. Similarly, this spot gives you a visit through Nepal’s history and culture. The spot despite everything assumes a significant role in the lives of individuals.

Inside the inner complex of the durbar square lies old Royal Palace termed as Human Dhoka where the kings from Shah dynasty and Malla dynasty rested. Besides history, you will also discover the best examples of architecture and design along with plenty of pigeons and vendors on the streets. It sits in the middle of busy Kathmandu city but it is a world on its own.

Generally, the durbar square opens every day from 7 am to 7 pm and the entry fees for foreigners and SAARC nationals are NPR 1000 (10 USD) and NPR 150 respectively.

5) Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

One of the UNESCO world heritage sites of Nepal, Bhaktapur Durbar Square comprises four squares namely, Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square, Dattatreya Square, and Pottery Square. This place is particularly known for its pagoda and shikhara-style architectures.

Furthermore, here are a ton of attractions that you must visit, some of which are, 55 windowed palaces, Nyatapola ( the biggest and highest pagoda ever built in Nepal), the magnificent statue of Bhupatindra Malla, Vatsala temple, Bhairavanath temple, and Lion’s gate.

Bhaktapur area is also known for famous curd ‘juju dhau’, Thanka paintings, ceramics pottery, and artisan crafts including copper and silver so, get yourself some of these.

Entry fee and opening hours:

The opening hours are from 7 am to 7 pm.

Foreign nationals: NPR 1500 (15 USD)

SAARC nationals and Chinese: NPR 500

6) Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square

One of the highlights of the ancient arts of Nepal, Patan Durbar Square is an exceptional touristic area. It has particularly attracted tourists for having religious shrines, large temples, and ancient royal values. Also, this oldest architecture of Nepal is considered extraordinary for its remarkable carvings as well.

Despite being the smallest of all three Durbar Squares, the complex is humongous for it has 55 impressive temples, 136 courtyards, residential structures, and that is just the beginning. From the layout of buildings, you can make sense of that city was exceptionally well off during its time. This area can be overpowering to explore so set aside appropriate time and effort to explore it.

Entry fee and opening hours:

The opening hours are from 9 am to 5 pm.

Foreign nationals: NPR 1000 (10 USD)

SAARC nationals : NPR 250

You would additionally want to visit these Durbar Squares with a tour guide to get detailed information on what precisely you are seeing.

7) Thamel, Kathmandu

Thamel, Kathmandu

In the first place, the main tourist hub of Kathmandu, Thamel is where the majority of foreign travelers reside. This spot is known for a ton of engaging things, for example, getting a charge out of the city life of Kathmandu, eating in a tasteful café, shopping travel gears in retail shops, relaxing massage, and so on.

From buzzing dance clubs to laidback bars, hotels, guesthouses, top quality pastry shops, grocery stores and, book shops, here you will discover pretty much anything you are searching for. Similarly, this place is the most ideal option if you are hoping to appreciate the nightlife of Kathmandu. Practically, all eateries let you experience the well known ‘Nepali thali’ dish so unquestionably have some.

Likewise, the narrow streets of Thamel are full of souvenirs, trekking gears, hotels, restaurants, and, more. Additionally, it also offers unique items that you can take back home. Similarly, Nepalese handicrafts, pottery, singing bowls, Nepalese tea, cheap trekking gears and, pashmina scarfs are what I recommend as a local who has been living here for over 2 decades. Lastly, you will be able to cut the price up to 50% from the original price if you haggle.

8) Narayanhiti Palace/ Royal Palace

Narayanhiti/ Royal Palace of Nepal, Kathmandu

To begin with, Narayanhiti Palace is the former Royal Palace of Nepal which carries the history of the disheartening royal massacre. Earlier on 1st June 2001, the royal massacre took place at this residence where 9 royal members including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya died. Since this shocking incident, it has transformed into a museum.

If you are a history buff, this place will also give you the details of where King and his visitors stayed. You will also get to observe the site of the royal massacre since the preservation of the museum is brilliant. By the way, phones and cameras are not permitted inside so, be prepared for that.

Entry fee, opening hours, and days:

The visiting days: Every day except for Tuesdays

The opening hours are from 11 am to 4 pm.

Foreign nationals: NPR 500 (5 USD)

SAARC nationals and Chinese : NPR 250

9) Garden of Dreams/ Swapna Bagaicha

Garden of Dreams, Thamel, Kathmandu

Above all, Garden of Dreams is where you proceed and relax after a tiring day to escape the chaos of Kathmandu. This place is located just outside of Thamel so, go and chill out on one of the pillows provided to you. In short, the serene atmosphere of the vast garden with ponds, urns, walkways, gardens, and verandas are worth a visit.

This lovely green oasis also has a restaurant that does fine foods. It also has an old library with a collection of over 45 thousands unique and oldest books. This is certainly a famous tourist center for some relaxation time and recreational activities.

Entry fee and opening hours:

The opening hours are: Everyday from11 am to 4 pm.

Foreign nationals: NPR 400 (4 USD)

10) Nagarkot

Nagarkot, Kathmandu

With 8 Himalayan ranges being visible from the top, Nagarkot is the place to escape the urban setting of Kathmandu. It is just around 32 kilometers away from the city and sits more than 7000 feet above the sea level.

In particular, this place is popular for its spectacular Himalaya views, sunrises, and sunsets. The lavish backwoods additionally make it an incredible spot for unwinding and outdoor activities. Particularly, get a hotel with a balcony that overlooks the Himalayas to get the best out of this place.

To get here, you can simply recruit a taxi and that should cost you anything between NPR 2500-3000 (25-30 USD). If this seems a lot to you, you can take a local bus from Bhaktapur for less than a dollar. However, I suggest you to hire a taxi to escape the hassle.

11) Everest view flight from Kathmandu

Everest view flight, Kathmandu

Not an experienced hiker but still want to get close to the Himalayas? The Everest view flight is then your best option. With this, you will be able to get close to 20 majestic Himalayas, lakes, glaciers and, the highest peak of the world, Mount Everest. Likewise, the mountain flight works through Kathmandu. To summarize, the early morning trip will allow you to enjoy the panoramic view of the tallest peaks in the world only 20 miles away from you.

To add, the trip is 50 minutes to an hour long and 3 airlines offer this support. The value begins from 150 USD, I realize it isn’t excessively modest however, the thrill is unquestionably justified. In case you are not into trekking and mountaineering, this ought to be in your bucket list. Without this once in a lifetime experience, your trip to Kathmandu is incomplete.

12) Asan market

Asan market, Kathmandu

The most enthusiastic, vibrant, and buzzing market of Kathmandu is the Asan market where you will be able to find everything at the cheapest price. In brief, it offers you an abundance of local stalls, street vendors, along with cafés and restaurants. Also, this place could be a great shopping hub to escape the higher prices of Thamel and Durbarmarg.

It can be a little overwhelming to wander around since it is a narrow street and too many bikes and cars cross the road from all the corners nevertheless, you will get to experience the real-life of Nepali people. Similarly, this place will let you experience the legitimate and modest local shopping, simply haggle above 40% of the original price.

Also, do not miss the celebrated yogurt-based drink ‘Indra Chowk ko lassi’ topped with raisins and cashews. I guarantee that it is certainly worth the hype.

Most Frequently Asked Questions about Kathmandu, Nepal

How to reach Kathmandu?

Nepal’s only international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport is located about 7 kilometers from the Kathmandu City. You can get a prepaid taxi, a normal taxi, or a bus to get to your hotel. Prepaid taxis are the most costly whereas, a bus is the cheapest transportation.

When is the best time to visit Kathmandu, Nepal?

I would suggest people to visit Kathmandu, Nepal anytime between September to November after the monsoon rain have cleared the road. These months offer the cooler temperature and clearer views of Himalaya on a good day. Besides, the biggest Hindu festival like Dashain and Tihar occurs in these months which will permit you to see the city at its finest.

If you miss this time of the year, another alternative could be from February to May. The temperature is cool in these months as well.

What is the most convenient transportation in Kathmandu?

You will have the option to choose from the taxi, bus or micros. Taxis are much quicker and comfortable than the other ones. The fare is as follows:
Taxi: NPR 45-50 per kilometer
Bus and micros: NPR 10-50 depending upon the distance

How awful is the traffic?

The traffic during the office hours is horrendous so try avoiding this time of the day. I would recommend you to commute in the early morning and evening to get away from the traffic.

Going across a bustling street in Kathmandu is an undertaking in itself so go across the street with local people. The vehicles coming towards you while you are crossing the streets are probably not going to stop and let you pass so, remember this to keep away from mishaps.

How many days should I spend in Kathmandu?

Anything between 4 to 6 days would suffice to visit the above-listed areas.

What Nepali foods should I not miss?

Nepali thali set, Newari foods, momos, and thakali set should not be missed.

What is Nepal’s currency and preferable mode of payment?

The official currency of Nepal is Nepali rupee, you will have the option to manage notes from 1-1000. A lot of spots in Thamel, Kathmandu trade currencies. Currencies from practically all the nations can be exchanged yet Euros, US dollars and Pounds are preferred.

You can likewise find ATMs just about anywhere in Kathmandu. Sadly, the withdrawal offered is between 10,000 to 40,000 a day. Consider withdrawing as much as you can each time you withdraw from these machines to dodge huge bank fees every single time.

How expensive is Kathmandu?

To be completely honest, Kathmandu is more costly than other parts of Nepal. Thamel, in particular, being a tourist area is a bit more expensive in terms of food and accommodation. Other than that, Kathmandu is an affordable destination.

It’s a wrap!

So that is it! I hope you enjoyed this local’s complete guide to Kathmandu. What do you think of the list? Also, do let me know in the comments below if you have a favorite place in Kathmandu that you think should make it to this list.