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Top Things To Do & See In Kathmandu

Visit the monkey temple (Swoyambhunath)

Swoyambhunath, situated on top of a hill within walking distance of Thamel, was founded by King Vrsadeva, the great grandfather of King Mandev, around the beginning of the 5th century BC. The complex consists of a stupa, shrines and temples, some dating back hundreds of years. The stupa with its Buddha’s eyes is perhaps the iconic picture of Nepal. Reached by 365 steps, you can get good views of the city from up here. Shops and restaurants are available. The best times to come are sunrise and sunset – both for the views and to people watch locals at prayer. This is a Buddhist and Hindu site where both Hindus and Buddhists come together in a way which is unique today in Nepal. Shops and restaurants are available in this area but please do not feed the monkeys. Take care when monkeys are around, particularly if you are carrying food.

Visit the durbar squares of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur

Durbar Squares are the centre of the ancient kingdoms of Patan, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur and all are home to important UNESCO heritage monuments. All are unique so if you can visit them all please do so. The largest is at Bhaktapur (see our link here). Monuments in all squares were damaged in the April 2015 earthquake, particularly in Bhaktapur but local worshippers still attend daily and visitors are needed to encourage and inspire those in charge of restoration.

Hop on a rickshaw around Thamel

Although rickshaws are not used in Kathmandu these days as daily transport (they are still used in various towns in the southern parts of the country) you can find rickshaws around Thamel and they are a fun way to get about! I still remember my first rickshaw ride in Kathmandu during a foggy Christmas night. Very atmospheric and poetic!

Taste some local food and learn to make it (Dal bhat/ Momo)

For an authentic dal bhat experience, try the Kathmandu Kitchen in Thamel. Momo can be found everywhere but the locals know the best places to go! Try around Nursing Chowk in Thamel where you can find a variety of restaurants selling them, including dessert momo. Interested to learn how to make Nepali food yourself? Then ask us about organising for you to learn how to make dal bhat and momo! It’s a fun thing to do and you can then have a Nepal night when you get home, combining showing your pictures and videos with providing a taste of Nepal through your cooking!

Take a mountain flight and see Mount Everest

Not all of us are aspiring mountaineers so why not do it the easy way? Mountain flights are available every morning to bring you close to Everest. Most of the commercial airlines organise these flights and don’t worry, if you cannot take off because of bad weather, you will be refunded 100%.

Visit Bouddhanath Stupa

Bouddha is home to a large number of Tibetan refugees and the atmosphere here is very different from the rest of the city. Visit in the early morning or around dusk to watch hundreds of Buddhist devotees circle the stupa (known as doing ‘kora’) in prayer. Many women are dressed in traditional Tibetan outfits and monks are prominent in their red and yellow robes. Around the stupa are many shops selling everything from prayer beads, Tibetan music CDs to jewellery and Thanka. There are a good selection of restaurants also so come for breakfast or dinner and enjoy the different culture. Please note that once the sun has set the area around the stupa quickly becomes deserted and restaurants close early.

Visit Pashupatinath Temple and Witness Hindu Funeral Rituals

Situated near the airport, Pashupatinath is a complex of temples and shrines and houses the most important temple in the Hindu religion. Unfortunately, non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple but you can watch pilgrims, priests and sadhus going about their prayers around the temples and bathing in the sacred Bagmati River. Come at festival time and it will be very crowded and colourful.   This is also where Hindus are cremated. Life in Nepal is very public, and death is too, so do not feel embarrassed to witness cremations on the banks of the river, but please be respectful. Tourists (non-Hindus) are allowed to stand on the opposite bank to the burning ghats but are not allowed on the burning ghats themselves.

Visit the Former Royal Palace – Narayanhiti Palace Museum

The entrance gate for the Narayanhiti Palace Museum is located at the top of Durbar Marg. Although it’s not nearly as grand as well known European palaces, this museum allows visitors a glimpse of how the royal family lived until its fall in 2006. You can also see the remains of the private quarters where the massacre of the King Birendra and his family took place in 2001.

Escape the Busy Streets of Thamel to the Garden of Dreams

The Garden of Dreams was created by Field Marshal Kaiser Sumsher Rana in 1920, and is laid out to represent Nepal’s six seasons with pavilions and fountains. Restored and opened to the public in the late 2000s the garden offers a lovely rest from the hustle and bustle of Thamel. There is also a restaurant and bar run by Dwarika’s Hotel inside the garden to ensure your visit is even more enjoyable.

Visit Kopan Monastery

North of Bouddha, on Kopan hill, is Kopan Monastery, home to around 360 monks, lamas, teachers and workers. Here they study and practice the teachings of Buddha Shakya Muni, with special emphasis on the teachings of Lama Tsong Khapa, founder of the Gelug Linage. Many visitors come to Kopan for retreat, pilgrimage, study and meditation. Please contact the monastery direct if you would like to know more about their up-coming retreats. Please note that the monastery does not encourage day visitors so please also contact them directly if you wish to visit for the day only.

Shop in Thamel

Thamel is a good place to shop and its right on your doorstep! Here you can find anything you might need for your trek (not need to bring it all from home) and souvenirs to take home with you. Trekking gear is cheaper here than in your hometown. There are branded items from Mountain HardWear and North Face. If you want genuine, quality goods, go to the branded shops. Be aware, smaller shops might not be selling the original North Face etc. But even if it is not original, the quality of the gear is still very high.

Enjoy shopping for souvenirs – see our 10 top things to buy in Nepal section.

About Author

Jackie has lived and travelled in Asia for 27 years, more than 20 of these in Nepal. This writer/ editor is currently the owner of a small vocational training company. She is also involved in the tourism and development sectors. When not working she can be found at live music gigs, at the theatre, or art events.

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