A Few Days In Kathmandu
Kathmandu is a dusty, chaotic, and incredibly fascinating capital city. From the ancient architecture of Bhaktapur to the cafes & shops of Thamel to the religious sites that the Buddha himself visited, there is so much to do and see in Kathmandu. Emmett and I spent a month in Nepal, with Kathmandu being both the first and last place we visited. There is so much to see in the city and I know that we only scratched the surface. Check out our five favorite places in Kathmandu below.
Heading to Kathmandu for just a few days? Try this for an itinerary (details on each activity to follow):
+ Shopping & Dining in Thamel - 1 Day
+ Swayambunath, Boudhanath, & Pashupatinath - 1 Day
+ Bhaktapur - 1 Day
If you have more than 3 days, you could always add an extra day to exploring Thamel or Bhaktapur and throw in a side trip to the town of Nagarkot to see a view of the Everest range. (Just check the weather forecast before going to Nagarkot because it was very cloudy when we made our attempt).
Thamel is the primary tourist district in Kathmandu. It has the widest variety and most affordable choices for accommodation in the city. I love Thamel. It's very much a touristic place but there's something so endearing about all the alleyways and shops. The best things to do in Thamel are Shop for Souvenirs and Eat Out. A lot of the shops will sell the same sorts of items, so make sure you ask the price of the product you want at each shop first to compare deals. And don't forget to barter a little because that's the expectation most vendors will have of you as a tourist.
On each of our visits to Kathmandu, we stayed at the dorm in the top of the cozy and very friendly Hotel Silver Home for 1,000 NPR ($10 USD) per person per night.
Also known as the Monkey Temple due to it's population of rhesus macaques, Swayambhunath is one of the oldest religious sites in all of Nepal. The whole site is comprised of a set of very steep steps leading up to a hilltop complex of Buddhist temples and shrines surrounding a large stupa. In addition to it's historical and spiritual significance, Swayambhunath is a great place to do people-watching. There are souvenir touts, locals in prayer, women feeding the monkeys and stray dogs, and plenty of other tourists.
Entry for tourists is 200 NPR per person (about $1.80 USD) and Swayambhunath is about a 30 minute walk from Thamel.
Along with Swayambhunath, Boudhanath is one of the most significant sites for Buddhists in Nepal. The huge stupa is said to be built around the remains of Kassapa Buddha and is surrounded by a circular courtyard which must be walked in a counter-clockwise fashion as one circles the stupa. It may be difficult to see in photos, but Boudhanath is a maginificent sight to behold. The top of the stupa is estimated to be 118 feet (36 meters) high - if that gives you any indication of the scale. We walked both of the lower rungs of the stupa, taking our time and listening to the tinny sounds of a stereo playing the Buddhist chant "Om Mani Padme Hum." The stupa is, like most historic sights in Kathmandu, surrounded by a series of shops selling souvenirs and religious artwork.
Entrance to walk the lower level of the stupa is 400 NPR per person (about $3.60 USD).
If you're anything like me, you may be under the assumption that Nepal is a Buddhist nation. Maybe it's the plethora of Buddhist prayer flags to be found in every souvenir shop in Nepal? Or maybe it's the fact that the Buddha himself was born in the country? Either way, you maybe be surprised to learn that the majority of Nepali people (a whopping 81.3%!!) follow Hinduism!
Pashupatinath is the oldest Hindu temple in Nepal and is located on the outskirts of Kathmandu. I have a confession to make: Emmett and I were running low on Nepalese rupees and did not purchase passes to enter the complex. Instead, we wandered around the outskirts and watched a Hindu funereal procession from a respectful distance. We spent a while just watching some stray cows eat from a garbage pile as monkeys played in the dirty river that ran through Pashupatinath's center. The shops surrounding the temple were full of Hindu souvenirs and piles of very photogenic powdered dyes.
Entrance to the Pashupatinath temple complex is 1,000 NPR (about $9 USD) per person.
Bhaktapur is an incredible ancient city about 8 miles (13 kilometers) outside of Khatmandu proper. In fact, Bhaktapur is the most well-preserved ancient town in all of Nepal and is full of beautiful and ornate architecture. However, even after three years, the whole of the city is definitely still reeling from the effects of the 2015 earthquake. There are rubble piles every couple of blocks, half-crumbled buildings, and even more buildings being held up precariously by thick wooden beams. That being said, it is still very impressive and 100% worth the trip. In fact, I have so many good things to say about it that I plan to make a post solely about Bhaktapur very soon.
Entrance to Bhaktapur's Durbar Square is 1,500 NPR (approx. $15 USD) per person.
Have you been to Kathmandu? What were your favorite things to do and see?