Nepal’s popularity has recovered rapidly since a few earthquakes shook the country in 2015, but many people are bypassing its capital en route to the Himalayas and beyond.
Despite all the things to do in Kathmandufrom culture, to cuisine, to nature, the city is but an overnight stop for far too many visitors to Nepal.
The good news is that Kathmandu is such a treasure for travelers, you will not have to wait very long after landing to feel delighted.
In fact, it starts the moment your plane lands at Kathmandu Airport, covering the rolling hills around you in its colorful cityscape.
Kathmandu temples and sacred landmarks
It is not surprising that many of Those of Nepal The most important sacred sights are in Kathmandu as it is the most densely populated city in this land of dedicated Hindus and Buddhists.
On the contrary, what surprises many visitors is the sheer number of temples in Kathmandu, to say nothing of how enchanting they are once you take a closer look inside.
Thamel District in Kathmandu
Starting in Thamel, which is the densely populated district where most foreign visitors sleep in Kathmandu city, the most striking attraction is Durbar Square.
Durbar Square appears to be a collection of temples, but is actually the former residence of the former royal family (who was brutally murdered in 2001 – read more about it here).
As you walk through the narrow streets of Thamel, you will also see smaller and less dramatic temples, such as the dove-covered stupa of Kaathe Swyambhu Shee and the picturesque Ganesh temple.
In addition, many of the attractions in Kathmandu require you to come from Thamel — and, yes, to discover Kathmandu’s least enjoyable feature, its traffic.
However, the journey is more than worth it when you arrive at massive Boudhanath, a huge Buddhist stoepa (one of the world’s largest) about 10 km northeast of Thamel. You can easily spend an entire evening here and enjoy some hot Nepalese tea at a rooftop cafe while gazing at the illuminated monument.
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Bagmati River District
Kathmandu attractions stretch even further outside Thamel, specifically as far as the banks of the Bagmati River, this is where you will find Pashupatinath.
This Hindu temple — and important part of the Kathmandu Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site – is a place of many cremations, which travelers are welcome to look at as long as they remain respectful.
Natural things to do in Kathmandu
More than two million people call Nepal’s relatively compact capital, which may make some visitors wonder if there are any natural places to visit in Kathmandu apart from buying the marigolds you see at local markets.
The general answer to this question is “yes”, although some reservations exist.
For example, the so-called “Monkey Temple” of Swayambhunath technically answers the question of what to do in Kathmandu if you are looking for nature, given the number of animals that visit here.
On the other hand, while you can see the Himalayas (on a clear day) after walking to the summit of this hilltop temple, the experience is still as urban as it is natural.
Garden of Dreams
Another natural stop on any Kathmandu tour is the Garden of Dreams, located just north of Thamel.
One of the only dedicated green spaces in Kathmandu, it is far away from the parks you have seen in North America, Europe or even elsewhere in Asia, and offers only a brief respite from the chaotic cityscape you seem to leave behind when you enter. .
The simple fact is that only a few Kathmandu attractions are the least natural, and those that remove you in a significant way from the chaos of the city do not remove you.
However, they are still worth a visit, if only to see a balanced picture of this diverse destination.
Discover Nepalese food
One thing that surprises travelers to Nepal is how much the Kathmandu temperature drops at night. The best way to overcome this, at least before you crawl into your warm bed, is to discover delicious — and understated — Nepalese cuisine.
The most popular Nepalese food you will see when you peek at restaurants during your Kathmandu attractions is the “Thali” set, a plate with a variety of vegetarian meat-based Nepalese curries wrapped around a generous portion of rice, with delicious roti- bread to pick it all up.
The taste of these curries is not entirely different from Indian ones you have already tasted, although it is definitely less intense.
Another hot Nepalese food to combat the sometimes cold weather in Kathmandu is the “momo”.
A dumpling stuffed with meat or potatoes that is even more popular in the Himalayas (Tibetans claim it as their own foodfor example) that it’s in Kathmandu, it’s just as much about hearty, satisfying fragrance as it is about the power of steam to warm your soul.
The best part of Nepalese food, no matter what you eat, is that it is fairly fast. This means that you do not have to take much time to discover tourist attractions in Nepal and Kathmandu if you want to discover the local culinary scene.
Day trips from Kathmandu
Visiting places in Kathmandu can take at least a few days of your time, but one of the most exciting aspects of spending time in Nepal’s capital is the various day trips you can undertake.
If you are adventurous, you can get most of these by bus or minibus from Kathmandu’s central bus station, although private taxis here are affordable enough to be a good option too – arrange it through your hotel.
First in this round of Kathmandu day trips is Bhaktapur. This former medieval city-state is technically only 15 km outside Kathmandu’s city limits, but feels much further away thanks to traffic.
It is also even worse damaged than Central Kathmandu in earthquakea fact that you have to keep in mind to temper your expectations before you arrive — there is still a lot of damage.
Like Kathmandu, Durbar is home to its own Durbar Square (Durbar means “Royal Palace”), this is where its own royal family lived.
The main attractions here, such as Nyatapola Pagoda and Changu Narayan Temple, are some of the most satisfying places to visit near Kathmandu, although it is only the beginning, not the end.
To be sure, if you are not planning a longer hike to the Everest or Annapurna ranges of the Himalayas, you can still experience the majesty of the mountains and leave the tourist spots in Kathmandu far behind you.
Towns like Nagarkot are just a few hours further outside Kathmandu than Bhaktapur, but offer a sense of true escape while enjoying a view of the Himalayas that are less dependent on the smog in the air than within the city limits.
Everest Base Camp Helicopter Tour
This 4 hour helicopter ride to Everest Base Camp is an excellent option for those who want to see Mount Everest. The journey starts early in the morning from Kathmandu. There are 3 stops: Luka for refills, Everest View Hotel for breakfast and a panoramic view of Everest and Kalapatha (5644m / 18517 feet) for the view of Mount Everest. Magical Nepal works Everest Base Camp Helicopter Tour on a part-time basis for only $ 1000 per person
The Bottom Line
If you really want to discover Nepal in all its glory, you need to spend at least a few days in its capital.
The sheer wealth of activities in Kathmandu makes it just as worth a visit as the Himalayas, the smaller (and more beloved) city of Pokhara and any of the other award-winning destinations within this mountain nation. Adding it to all the places near Kathmandu that you can visit on a day trip makes it a world class tourist destination, even if it is the only city you have a chance to visit in Nepal.
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