Not only does this city boast the best names on the planet, Kathmandu is the launching pad into the Himalayas – home to eight of the ten of the world’s highest peaks.
If you are trekking to Everest Base Camp from Lukla you will begin from Kathmandu where as Annapurna treks begin from Pokhara. Nepal boasts ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Kathmandu’s ancient city, Bhaktapur, is filled with temples, monuments and art dealers.
Kathmandu is the base and not the main destination when there is a wild wonderland to explore in Nepal. It is, however, a bustling and beautiful city that is worth exploring.
Three to four days is enough to explore Thamel, Bhaktapur (the old town), the Monkey Temple, Boudhanath Stupa and Patan Ancient City.
Remember, it is vital to have some time to spare in Kathmandu in case you are unable to get your internal flight back from your EBC trek.
No doubt you will want to rest up but there is much to do in and around Kathmandu and plenty of trinkets and clothing to fill your suitcase with. It’s the perfect shopping haven! Your days in Kathmandu are best split either side of your trek or adventure tour.
If you are trekking the Annapurna circuit you have a better chance of getting your flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu so you can time your departure with a little more certainty.
WHERE TO STAY?
What I did not realise before visiting Kathmandu was that Thamel is the main hub for tourists.
It is the most convenient neighbourhood for western guests seeking hotels, trekking & mountaineering equipment and the tourist offices to book treks, tours and experiences.
Don’t be put off, it certainly feels like Nepal with markets, restaurants and is at the mercy of the daily electricity cuts, it is simply more set up for tourists needs than other parts of the city.
The old historic city is called Bhaktapur, the main hustle is around Durbar Square.
It is a cab ride, 12k from Thamel though I would suggest going with a private guide who drives you and walks you through the old town, we learnt so much from our guide which added to our experience there.
The streets are full of locals in the early morning selling vegetables and fruit, shops full of jewellery and Buddhist trinkets, art galleries and restaurants. After 10pm the town winds down and the nightlife and general vibe is back in Thamel.
Most tour companies pick up and drop off from Thamel hotels, I would suggest staying in Thamel for the convenience and making day trips to and from.
MY RECOMMENDATION: Kantipur Temple House
I stayed at Kantipur Temple House in Thamel, Kathmandu and loved the concept and experience so much I would like to give them a shout out!
They stand to protect our environment and make as little impact as they can. The drinking water was brought to your room each day in a ceramic jug, there were no TV’s, no air conditioning, just simple fans and hot water bottles and blankets in winter.
Saying that, the hotel is beautiful and peaceful and the amenities were high quality and clean.
The food at the hotel’s restaurant was some of the best I have eaten in Asia. The was breakfast healthy and delicious and the restaurant served the best green curry with brown rice I have ever had, I would walk back to Kathmandu for just one more bowl.
I have no affiliation with this hotel. Click here to visit their website
A trip to Nepal would not be complete without laying your eyes on the majestic Himalayan Mountains. Most travellers do some kind of trek in Nepal but for those who are not I would recommend booking a scenic flight.
On the scenic flights I imagine they fly around a few times and they give both sides of the plane the opportunity to see the mountain peaks.
FLIGHT TIP – If you are on the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla where you will begin your Everest Base Camp trek, make sure you sit on the left side of the plane to see the mountains. The seats are not allocated so you need to be eager and at the front of the line as you march across the tarmac to the tiny plane.
Bhaktapur is one of three royal cities in Kathmandu Valley and is said to be the best preserved. Walk through the winding streets, art shops, ancient temples and wooden carved figures. Buy some pottery, it is the specialty of this beautiful city.
Durbar Square, Dattatreya Temple and Taumadhi Square are the main sites to explore.
Unfortunately, the city was heavily damaged in the 2015 earthquake, I was there the previous year so I can’t be sure how much has survived but I am sure it will still be worth a visit and they certainly need the support of tourists returning to the region.
You may choose to stay elsewhere in the city, in which case I would strongly recommend spending a day wandering through Thamel, a neighbourhood in the north of the city.
This is a shopping mecca full of trinkets and market knick-knacks. There are also countless shops selling great quality trekking, mountaineering and hiking equipment, from shoes and outerwear.
I strongly urge you to wait until you arrive in Kathmandu and purchase all your goods in the city to support the locals and save a ton of money!
Known as the Monkey Temple, you will have to hike the 365 steps to the golden dome of Swayambhunath Complex.
This Stupa (Buddhist Shrine) was first noted in scripture from the 5th century though scholars believe it existed several centuries prior. Monkeys spend their day running around the complex so watch out for their sticky fingers!
MY BEST ADVICE…
I realise it is better to be prepared than jumping on a plane without the items you will be needing in an extreme climate like the Himalayas but I can’t urge travellers enough to wait until you arrive in Kathmandu for extra clothing and smaller items. The quality is high and the prices low!
Since I was in Nepal they have upgraded their visa service and I have now read that it can be sorted online. I believe you now upload your digital passport photo and bring the print-out with you before you pay to receive your visa.
Please visit the official Nepali Government page for the online application and the correct information pertaining to the passport you hold.
I haven’t been to a country before that had so many power cuts and, not only that, a schedule for when the electricity will and won’t be available.
Nepal does not have the infrastructure to support the amount of energy required to run the countries electricity needs, thus, they have scheduled blackouts across the country to spread what electricity they do have.
We had a schedule in our hotel room to go by, but it did not always stick to these times. This can get frustrating when you have batteries charging or trying to send an email and the internet gets cut. It did, however, add to the experience in Nepal. Save electricity where you can by switching off lights and power points when you are not using them.
Get out there and meet the locals with a big smile on your face, it changes your whole experience in a country
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So who am I…? Hi! My name is India.
I am a nomadic Australian who has wandered the world full time exploring over 60 countries and 5/7 continents.
After ten years on the road, I have launched my own website – Travelling Notebook – to share the knowledge I have gained on the road and the images I have collected over the years with fellow adventurers. Keep reading…
I am a freelance travel writer, photography and videographer, based in London. If you need specific travel advice or would like to collaborate please send an email my way!
Always say yes to adventure!