There, amid its gazillion temples and medieval styles of living, in the ever still Himalayas, is Kathmandu. A buzzing swarm at any point during the day draws a line of stark contrast with the rest of the country. Kathmandu is by far the most dynamic of its kind, and we can’t say if we are any less impressed by the city’s lively vibe than we are of the subtle valleys and mountains.
Of the few, Nepal is one country that welcomes tourists with open arms. With very lenient VISA policies, that sure will make one thing less to worry about when you’re planning to go to Nepal. Many checkpoints through land or air routes offer visas on arrival. If you arrive in Kathmandu, the TIA (Tribhuvan International Airport) has a smooth process for Visa on arrival. Though they accept cards, pay visa fees in US$ (preferred) for a quick and hassle-free process. Make sure you carry exact change and valid passport and photos along. Read the complete blog post here – How to obtain a Tourist Visa for Nepal.
The Nepalese Rupee (NPR) is widely accepted across the city; however, you can also carry some US$ when traveling to Nepal as a safe side. Like most of Nepal, the city doesn’t cost you a fortune and, for that matter, is quite bargainous. Though credit cards are accepted at most of the hotels and restaurants, sometimes the fanciest place would surprise you by asking payment in cash. So be ready for that! Not to mention all the small Khaja-Ghar (Eateries), local cafes, and homestays would expect payment in cash.
Best time to visit
Spring-Summers in Kathmandu gives way to clear skies and lovely sunny weather, with the average temperature, just swinging between 15-30 degrees Celsius. It’s the bloom season from early March to June, so meadows and valleys are quite a sight of wonder, and you don’t have to cover yourself in layers of clothing in the daytime.
Rains bless the hills of the valley in abundance during July- early September, it obviously rains more than a city in the plains, so be prepped up for wet streets, days on a stretch during the rainy season.
Winters are for snow, and it snows beautifully in Nepal. After the rains, the dust is cleared off, and the view of snowy peaks with clear blue skies is marvelous. That’s why despite being the peak season, October-November is the best time to visit Nepal. Trekkers find that a fantastic opportunity as the mountains gains much to their glory with fresh white layers atop them during the months of November-February.
On the compass
Kathmandu city is the capital and is the largest city in Nepal. It is located in the central region of Nepal and is home to 1.7 million people.
Land: Kathmandu, the capital city, is well connected to the rest of the country and neighboring India, through the road. Multiple passes (most prominently the NH27 of India, passing through Gorakhpur, Bihar) on the Indo-Nepal border allow access to Nepal from mainland India. Needless to say, the city is well connected to the rest of Nepal via road transport.
Air: Not only is Kathmandu well-connected to the world with regular direct flights and indirect ones, but flights to the city are also quite rewarding in terms of the spectacles you get to watch from up in the sky. It’s Nepal’s only international airport and connects other cities in Nepal via Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu.
The airport is sometimes a little overwhelming, courtesy of the long cues, unfunctional ATMs, and a bit of management crunch. Bring for yourself some spare dollars, just in case the ATMs ditch you at the last moment. Indian travelers must confirm that their debit cards are accepted in Nepal (multiple banks do offer that), before blindly relying on them.
Kathmandu is best traveled with its public transport, buses, and cabs. If you are strong-hearted, you can board on the chaotic, busy, and sometimes erratic city bus services. On the other hand, we found the cab services (both car and bike taxis) is bliss in Kathmandu. You know it’s great to have bike rides, and when you have cool cabbies that can teleport you to the hardest corner of a bustling, traffic-ridden city. Exactly why it’s highly recommended to hire a bike taxi that can help you a great deal while getting around in Kathmandu. These rides are cheap, and you can expect a quick 2 KM ride for under an 80 NPR (probably cheaper).
And then, of course, Kathmandu’s old city, the Darbar Square, Bhaktpur and Patan, is a few great places to be explored on foot. The streets, almost all of them, tell stories about the culture and history of the city.
Where to stay
We stayed at Newa Homes in Thamel, and we loved our stay. Newa home is located at the northwest end of Thamel, a five-minute walk to all the good places and away from Thamel’s chaotic and busy streets. Ocean, the owner’s son, is a friendly guy and is there to help you with anything. The rooms were clean and spacious, and few of them have a small kitchen too. The private room with the kitchen costs 14$ ( 1700 NPR) per night.
This one’s a thing of beauty, a palace converted into a boutique stay, Baber Mahal was once a full-fledged royal castle which was later sold off to the Nepal government. Beautifully painted ceilings, wooden interiors inspired by Nepali architecture, majestic stairways, and chic-white walls, everything just falls in perfect. You’ll feel like royalty while staying in here, plus you have more than a couple of shops that sell gorgeous Nepali artifacts inside this palace. A private room can make you shell out at least 150$ (18000 NPR) per night.
Gokarna Forest Resort
Wanna feel what living out in the woods is like? Well, this resort nestled in the forests gives you the exact feels. This forest resort is by no means an ordinary place of stay. It’s an otherworldly wonder with stupendous stone walls adorned with Nepali window shades and lots of greenery engulfing it. Get a room for a night for about 125$ (NPR 15000), and enjoy the luxury of watching Nepal right in the eye.
Talk about economy stays in Kathmandu, and Zostel breaks all charts. Claimed to be the best hostel in all of Nepal, Zostel Kathmandu is a beautiful place to be at, with a lovely reception made in wood, it’s got the most relaxed vibe you’d have felt in a while. The common room features a honeycomb library, which is impressive, and what’s best? The people you meet here, travelers, students, young solo hikers, and who not? We came here for breakfast twice at the open-air cafeteria and always ended up meeting fantastic people.
Standing up to its name, this hostel is all sorts of green. A huge tree puts it on shade and makes it an unusual, humble place you’d like to spend time in. Bombed with colors, the Big tree also features a bar, closed and open common spaces, and is a magnificent sight at night. You’d love to see the city from their roof is one thing we can put our strong bets on. Get a shared room for as low as 400 NPR, which is insanely cheap for the value it provides.
Kantipur Temple House
In a world that you live in today, is a shadow of the world that you left behind. The time-lapse is kept alive in the center of this beautiful Nepali-styled home adorned with extraordinary craftsmanship. It’s like living in a local’s home, the most real experience you can get of the culture is here. What is it that you’d especially love could be a down-table meal on the floor or an evening tea in a beautiful open lawn. And hey, isn’t it remarkable that you can get a night’s stay for as low as 5500 NPR.
What to see around
Give Kathmandu a shot at time travel
Talk about Kathmandu, and Durbar Square makes it to the list. Well, this one’s obvious, it’s the city center and all of what Kathmandu is and was lies into the Durbar Square, the kingdom’s place of stay (Hanuman Dhoka), multiple beautiful temples that the city worships in, and museums of the past, you’ll find all of it here. So do you care for an evening stroll down the Kathmandu Durbar Square? Yes, of course.
Explore the marvels of Boudhanath Stupa and Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath Temple and Boudha Stupa, both architectural marvels, have immense popularity in all of Kathmandu. Just the sonorous temple bells tearing absolute silence, light morning sun, and amazing views you get to explore while you are here make it all that worthwhile. The marvelous buildings of these two temples are enough reasons for you to be out there and have a closer look at them.
Get blessings from The Living Goddess of Nepal
Only a few legends live in the world today, the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu (who resides inside the beautiful Kumari Mahal) is one of them. Kumari is believed to be the reincarnation of Goddess Taleju, who is worshipped as a living goddess for the Hindu believers of Nepal. Every day in the morning and evening, the royal Kumari glares out of the window and lets the tourist take a glimpse of the living legend herself. Be careful if you plan to capture her in your cameras, it’s forbidden to do that. In September, during the Indra Jatra festival, the royal Kumari is carried out on a chariot on the streets. If you are there around the festive season, don’t miss this opportunity.
Daydream in the Garden of Dreams
A thing of amazement, this garden is all kinds of beautiful, with its lush green and vast open lands containing all types of flora. Architectured in six sections, there are more than enough seatings in the park for you to sit and contemplate, but what makes things even more interesting are beautiful pagodas that add to the charm of the place. You have to shell out about 400 NPR to visit the place.
Get ready for a shine in the eye at Swayambhunath Temple
Swayambhunath monkey temple, with its Midas golden top, is like a mirage in the middle of the city. After climbing a couple of hundred steps on the hill, the Tibetan flags flutter with the winds make a soothing sound, while you are immersing in the spirituality of the temple just makes your visit here better. The mythology is that of a lady Manjushree, the bodhisattva of wisdom, was behind the building of this temple, and while she was at it, lice from her head fell and converted into monkeys (thus, the name monkey temple). We don’t know what it is, but playful monkeys make the place a lot more fun. Here’s a pro tip, do the hike right before sunset, and you’ll be blessed with some mesmerizing sunset hues and the bokeh of city lights shimmering all around you.
Up for shopping spree on Asan Tole?
Not only the streets act as a living organism, but most areas have fantastic wall art too. You have a lot to explore when roaming around in the markets. People running in their hasty daily chores, local food, ranging from Thukpa to momos and many other Asian street snacks, to the crafty souvenirs and trek gear, you have everything that you need to buy and see in the markets of Nepal.
Not to be missed around food
The food culture of Kathmandu is pretty much up to the mark, which you could tell the moment you visit this cafe in the garden of dreams. A quiet breakfast by the beautiful vines of the garden, you sure can enjoy a great variety of sandwiches and crepes. Maybe grab a book too.
This restaurant is locals go-to place with authentic Nepalese food at a very reasonable price. The restaurant is located at the crossing of Chaksibari Marg and Z Street. Though the entrance is non-glamorous, you will not leave this place without having your stomach filled. Vegetable Daal-Bhat is our all-time favorite dish at this cafe. Moreover, you can try Special Thakali with Chicken also. The restaurant is warm in winter, the staff is friendly, and they give a refill too.
This place was situated right beside our homestay. Undoubtedly, one of the best places if you want to try authentic Tibetan cuisine. Alongside the best dumplings and Thukpa, you can also get yourself Nepal’s best domestic brew, the Sherpa beer. The restaurant is run by a family native to the place, and that is the reason for its authenticity! Although the place is small, food is hygienically cooked and tastes extraordinary.
The Roadhouse Cafe
If it is too many Nepalese meals for you and you are craving some western food, head to The Roadhouse Cafe. A break is never complete unless it includes a “good lazy pizza” episode, and here they offered us just what we needed. Pizza! The Roadhouse Cafes are a fantastic chain of cafes spread throughout Nepal, but Thamel is where they started, and so has the originality-factor attached to it. The cafe has earthy vibes and is beautifully decorated with indoors complimenting the beautiful outdoor views. And the authentic taste of pizza made it so much better!
Himalayan Java Coffee
A classic in these hills, this chain of cafeterias is very common to spot in all of Nepal, and here in Kathmandu itself, there are two of these. A place to laze around and leave yourself immersing in a football match in their Tridevi Marg branch is what you’ll love if you are going upbeat today. But for a more relaxed, smoothed out visit to have a coffee and some lowkey talks, the Thamel branch at Mandela St. would be more of your choice.
Fire and Ice
Walking past the posh streets of Kathmandu, hungry? You’d love to grab a chair at this brilliant Italian eatery and relish a hot meal on a Sunday night. Freshly baked pizzas and pasta, and authentic flavor and a decent place to sit around, you’d probably like this place more than your average round the corner food joint.
This open-air restaurant serves Mexican and Indian tandoori dishes with an add-on menu of western cuisine. We were lucky to relish our food with live Nepali music. Now, that is a unique combination to come across, and one should savor it while you can. The place is spacious. There are even firepits outdoors, which will light up your winter evenings, like nothing else!
Middle eastern cuisine is impressive, isn’t it? Take your shoes off and get to the ground at this lively Israeli restaurant where they serve dollops of fantastic food in neat brass bowls and make you sit authentically on cushions and low top tables. No time to sit in? Grab a falafel wrap to take with you on a trek.
Experience the city
Flying by Everest
Kathmandu is a special place that makes dream riding easy. You can charter planes for a change in Kathmandu that makes you fly past the Mt. Everest and gives you a larger than life experience to remember for a good while. It’s a thing of amazement to watch the stark white peaks shine in some sunbath.
Up for a hike?
Kathmandu is a hotspot for all kinds of treks, hikes, and adventures. You just have to choose a circuit, a hill, or sometimes only a direction, get your gear on, and make your voyage begin! It’s what it is popular for, in case you didn’t notice yet!
Out on a jungle safari
National parks near Kathmandu are a fantastic choice for an excellent adventure in the wild, so make your polaroids ready, you have a lot to capture in these hills. While Chitwan national park is the most talked about, it’s a bit out of the town. Proximal is the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park. Sagarmatha National Park is a wonderful option too.
Kathmandu would always be one of those cities that you’d want to go, to know humans on a middle ground. One foot in the heavens of Himalayas, so you take a quick break before doing a sin again, the other one stuck in ‘modern developments’ to live the life that’s controlled by survival.