Best Things To Do In Kathmandu

With so many captivating temples to explore, travelers will find it difficult to decide which one to visit first. There are many best things to do in Kathmandu. The Kathmandu Valley offers plenty of hiking opportunities to satisfy your wanderlust. When you’re not busy exploring the local food scene, you can climb the nearby peaks and enjoy the breathtaking views and ancient temples. 

Kathmandu shows Nepal’s remarkable diversity and rich history. The ancient cities and surrounding communities unite to portray a timeless story. Exploring the central area of Kathmandu takes you back to the old Indian-Tibet trading route, where busy merchants have sold commodities for hundreds of years. 

Some of the best things to do in Kathmandu Valley:

Visit Historical and Cultural Attractions in Kathmandu

Wander Kathmandu Durbar Square

Durbar Square is one of the main attractions around Kathmandu Valley. It lies in the heart of Kahmandu’s Old Town. You can admire the lavish architecture and statues as you wander through the square. Now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this place serves as an open-air museum where travelers can explore the royal palace, admire the exquisite Dancing Shiva statue, and see beautiful carvings telling ancient stories. 

kathmandu durbar square

Following the devasting 2015 earthquake, numerous historic buildings have undergone significant changes. Exploring Durbar Square is a must-do when visiting Kathmandu. 

Explore Swayambhunath Stupa (Monkey Temple)

The Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the Monkey Temple, is a prominent temple in Kathmandu. The place contains many temples, shrines, and monasteries, as well as a library and museum. The National Museum of Nepal is also near Swayambhunath. 

You must approach the temple from the eastern side, where you will encounter a challenging ascent of over 350 steps. The temple showcases a magnificent 12-foot-tall Tibetan prayer wheel and three exquisite Buddha sculptures. The peak provides breathtaking views of Kathmandu illuminated by the evening light.

The temple is home to a group of monkeys. They are scary because of their Manjusri hair. You can also discover the five carved Panch Buddhas, visit the Harati Devi Temple, and admire the majestic Stupa that towers above everything else. Swayambhunath Stupa is one of the historical sites in Kathmandu.

Discover the beauty of Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath is one of the ancient and significant Hindu temples in Nepal. It is a prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site with an impressive collection of 500 temples, pagodas, ashrams, and shrines. At the temple, you’ll find a diverse community of Hindus, Buddhists, and sadhus who freely roam the areas and generously grant blessings to visitors. 

The main temple holds an important place in the hearts of countless devotees worldwide. You can witness the cremation rituals of Nepalese Hindus by the river, which provides a glimpse into their unique culture and spiritual practices. The open-air cremation happens between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. At 6 p.m., aarati (fire worship) begins.

Roam around Boudhanath Stupa

One of the best places to visit in Kathmandu is Boudhnath Stupa, Nepal’s largest Buddhist stupa. Kathmandu is home to several stupas. In the 1300s, a stupa was constructed along a trade route that eventually led to Tibet. Unfortunately, the original structure was destroyed after the Mughal invasion, but it continued to serve as a holy site for Buddhists. 

The gilded details, prayer flags, and the captivating presence of Buddha’s giant eyes at the top of the stupa attract visitors. Elevated platforms give breathtaking views from the hilltop location, making  Boudhnath a mesmerizing destination for travelers. 

Experience the ancient city of Bhaktapur

Just 6 miles from the heart of Kathmandu is the delightful village of Bhaktapur. Established in the 12th century as an independent city-state under King Ananda Malla, it has numerous buildings and temples. You can have a peaceful experience as you explore the city center, as cars are not allowed, creating a pedestrian-friendly environment. 

One of the most spectacular attractions in Bhaktapur is the Nyatapola Temple, Nepal’s tallest temple. Don’t miss out on the Royal Palace in Durbar Square and the National Art Gallery; they are worth visiting. 

Visit Patan Durbar Square

During your time in Kathmandu, you can visit Patan. It is one of the oldest towns in the Kathmandu Valley. With its historic architecture and storied streets, Patan, known as Lalitpur, will surely leave you in awe. You can explore these complex Newari buildings that comprise a significant part of this ancient town.

You can walk past temples, palaces, and the renowned Durbar Square of Kathmandu. Outside these sites are maze-like streets with courtyard after courtyard connected by pencil-thin alleys. It’s a great place to find delicious restaurants and shops. 

Chill Out In The Garden Of Dreams

If you’re looking for an exciting hub of activity, Thamel is the perfect place for you. Not only is it a bustling center, but it also serves as your getaway to explore the best local attractions. While exploring there, you should definitely go to The Garden of Dreams to chill.

Located just a few steps away from the busy laneways, this hidden gem offers a peaceful escape that will instantly relax and rejuvenate you. When you go there, take a moment to admire the magnificent gate before exploring the beautiful fountains, small lakes, and a few remaining pavilions. After you find a cozy spot, you can lie down and relax.

Enjoy A Homestay Just Outside Of Kathmandu City

If you’re looking for an incredibly genuine experience that uplifts women and supports local communities, then a community homestay is an absolute must. Located a mere 32km away from Kathmandu, Panauti is a captivating Newari village decorated with charming red-brick buildings and exquisite wood trimmings. It is a great place to relax. The key concept of this homestay is connecting global travelers on homestays with local women and their families.

Homestay participants have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the authentic lifestyle of the Nepali people. They can learn to cook traditional dishes like dal bhat and yomari and even try harvesting fresh products. Through this experience, they can better understand the local culture and traditions.

See Jana Banal (Seto  Machindranath Temple)

There is a hidden gem of a temple complex called Jana Mahal (Seto Machindranath Temple), tucked away between Thamel and Kathmandu Durbar Square. Tourists often overlook it, but it’s absolutely breathtaking in its own unique way. This temple, built in the 17th century, holds great importance for both Buddhists and Hindus. The main deity worshipped here is Seto Machindranath.

According to Buddhists, Seto Machindranath is seen as a manifestation of Avalokiteshvra, embodying the compassion of all the Buddhas. On the other hand, Hindus believe that he is an incarnation of Shiva, who brings rain. The courtyards have small shrines, chaityas, and statues, including suspiciously European-looking female figures surrounded by candles who face the temple. 

Knife Khukuri Making Workshop

The Knife Kukuri-Making workshop provides an immersive and compelling experience. It is one of the incredible things to do while visiting Kathmandu. You can see how much talent and creativity you need to make a Kukuri knife. This workshop focuses on craftsmanship appreciation, allowing you to see firsthand the complex details and precision needed to craft each knife. It provides you with hands-on experience in crafting high-quality Kukuri knives. 

Khukuri

Natural Wonders

Hike to Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park

If you’re looking for a change of scenery from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, Shivapuri National Park is a must-visit destination in Nepal. You can hike to the summit of Shivapuri Hill Station, which stands at an impressive altitude of nearly 9,000 feet. You can explore the amazing trails through the lush forests, beautiful vistas, and majestic summits. It is an ideal destination for a day-long hike. 

Enjoy panoramic views from Nagarkot View Tower

Outside the Kathmandu valley, you can visit Nagarkot. It is famous for its stunning views of the Himalayan range, including the majestic Mt. Everest. The Nagarkot View Tower is an absolute must-visit if you enjoy breathtaking views. It offers a complete 360-degree panorama of the surrounding mountains and valleys. As the sun rises and sets over the Himalayas, you can see the incredible peaks of the Langtang, Gaurishankar, Ganesh Himal, and other mountain ranges. 

Hike to Champadevi-Chandragiri 

The Champadevi-Chnadragiri hike is one of the top hiking trails that Kathmandu offers. The exciting hike in the southwestern hills surrounding Kathmandu Valley takes you through lush forests, monasteries, villages, ancient temples, and magnificent vistas. It gives you a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Adventure and Outdoor Activities in Kathmandu

Go trekking in the nearby green hills

Kathmandu is the first stop for many trekkers in Nepal. Before entering the Himalayas, you can get last-minute gear and relax. The lovely green hills around the capital city are worth trekking. The hills are excellent opportunities to explore Kathmandu and its surroundings and clear your head before bigger activities. Nagarkot and Phulchowki are popular local hill treks. It also gives you panoramic views of Kathmandu Valley.

Experience with rafting in the Trishuli River

Rafting in the Trishuli River is an exhilarating experience that ranks among the most thrilling adventures in Nepal. Nepal offers a challenging and exciting Whitewater Rafting experience. You can easily reach the Trishuli River from Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan. The river Trishuli offers breathtaking scenery, with its small gorges and a captivating view of the cable car that leads to the renowned Hindu Temple Manakamana. 

Try paragliding from the hills of Pokhara

Paragliding in Pokhara is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a thrilling and challenging sport to conquer your fears. It is an extremely popular adventure activity in Nepal. The surroundings of Pokhara City are stunning, with majestic mountains, lakes, and beautiful terrain. Paragliding operations use pilots who have obtained international certification. 

Culinary Delights

Sample authentic Nepal cuisine at local eateries

Wandering Kathmandu’s streets will be fun if you like sampling new foods. You’ll discover an extensive variety of traditional dishes that have been lovingly passed down from generation to generation. If you want a taste of true authenticity in Nepalese cuisine, then Newari cuisine is the way to go. Spices provide organic food with a wide range of flavors.

One classic Newari dish you should try is Kwati, a healthy vegetarian dish with lots of flavor. For simplicity, order a Newari Khaja Set, a 10-plate meal that showcases traditional food. There are many Newari restaurants around the Kathmandu Valley.

Explore the bustling streets of Thamel for international Cuisines

If you want international cuisine, then Thamel is a must-visit in Kathmandu. You’ll find everything from Mexican to Italian, French to American here.  Some of the top Western restaurants in Thamel are:

  • Roadhouse Cafe
  • La Dolce Vita Italian
  • OR2K
  • Rickshaw Cafe and Bar
  • Cafe Mitra
  • Upstairs Cafe

Attend a traditional Nepali cooking class

You should definitely attend a traditional Nepali cooking class while traveling to Nepal. It is one of the most popular things to do in Kathmandu. The classes will take place in a genuine home kitchen, and they are an excellent opportunity to master the art of preparing authentic Nepalese cuisine, which you undoubtedly adored during your time in Nepal.

They will teach you traditional Nepali dishes like Momo, which are delicious dumplings filled with either meat or vegetables. They will also teach you different Nepali meals like DalBhat (a combination of rice, lentils, and curry), paratha (a stuffed bread), and Chatpati.

Shopping and Markets

The vibrant market street of Asan is a must-visit destination in Kathmandu. You’ll discover a wide range of options between Thamel and Kathmandu Durbar Square. Experiencing this market is not just about shopping in Kathmandu; it’s about immersing yourself in the lively atmosphere as locals come to the streets searching for the best deals. You can enjoy tea from the local area seller while watching the world. You can talk with the people accompanying you and learn about their towns. 

If you’re looking for the typical tourist gifts, Thamel is the place to go. Shopping in Thamel is one of the best things to do while visiting Kathmandu. It offers many items, including Buddha statues, mandalas, colorful wristbands, trekking gear, cashmere scarves, and electronic gadgets. 

Local Festivals and Events

Kathmandu hosts the most jatras (street festivals), more than other places in the country. Besides Holi, the local calendar includes plenty of other festivals. Indra Jatra is the most significant annual jatra, symbolizing the vibrant festivals in Kathmandu. The celebration spans eight days in the eleventh month of the Nepal Era calendar. 

You will witness numerous masked dances symbolizing deities and demons accompanied by captivating processions of chariots showcasing Kumari, the living goddess. There are also two other significant festivals in the valley: Bisket Jatra and Rato Machindranath Jatra. Kathmandu Valley was historically known as the “Nepal Mandala” and has been home to the Newar people. 

FAQs

What is the best month to visit Kathmandu?

The best time to visit Kathmandu is September to November.

What are the special things to buy in Nepal?

The special things to buy in Nepal are Khukuri, Pashmina, Singing bowls, Handicraft, Nepali tea, Jewellery, and Thanka paintings. 

What is the most famous street in Kathmandu?

Old Freak Street is the most famous street in Kathmandu. 

Why is Kathmandu famous for tourists?

Kathmandu is famous for tourists because of its cultural and heritage sites.

What is the most unique thing in Nepal?

Nepal’s most unique thing is its diverse range of ethnic groups and indigenous communities. 

Which is the best place to stay in Kathmandu?

The Chetrapati is the best area to stay in Kathmandu.

Conclusion

If you are planning to visit Nepal, your first stop will be the vibrant capital city, Kathmandu. Make sure to include more than a quick visit to Kathmandu in your travel plans because this captivating city is worth immersing yourself in and enjoying its unique atmosphere. The most fascinating things to do in Kathmandu range from heritage, architecture, and culture to spirituality and different places to visit. 

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