I was lucky enough to visit Kathmandu about a year and a half ago. And I can honestly say it’s still one of the best trips I’ve ever done. As I did the research for this post and looked through all my photos from the trip I was once again blown away by the beauty of the place! So let’s not waste any time. Here are my top five things to do and see in Kathmandu (with some extra tips at the end for anyone still reading).
- Boudhanath Stupa.
A stupa is a buddhist shrine and this one is the largest in Nepal and one of the largest in the world. And you can certainly see it towering above the other smaller buildings. It is big, it is shiny and it is gold, it stands out quite a bit! There are buddhist prayer flags flying all around the stupa which adds to the magic of it. I loved these prayer flags so much I have them covering the walls of my apartment, doesn’t hurt that they are meant to bring you health and happiness (who doesn’t want some health and happiness?). Boudhanath is, like almost every place on this list, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I visited this stupa in the evening and enjoyed taking my time to stroll around it. It is surrounded by lots of little shops selling beautiful handmade journals and cards, perfect for gifts and souvenirs.
- Pashupatinath Temple.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This one is a sacred hindu temple. You pay a 1000 Rupee entrance fee (about 10 USD) and there are guides (unofficial; men trying to make an honest buck) who will show you around, however tips are very much expected.
This temple is honestly so breathtaking. This is the first place I went to, soon after landing at the Tribhuvan International Airport. The sun was going down and I had to pinch myself, I just couldn’t believe where I was and that I was really standing there!
There are Sadhus at this temple (saints). They will show you their crazy long dreadlocks and let you take pictures, for a price or a ‘donation’.
The man showing us around told us that a part of the temple was a house meant for sick Hindus, where they came to live their last few days of their lives. When they die, they are cremated right there on site. I did happen to witness one, it isn’t a sight for the faint hearted, the guide pointed on the person’s burning arms and legs to us. It was a very overwhelming experience.
- Kathmandu Durbar Square.
Durbar square is actually just a name to describe plazas or squares opposite old royal palaces in Nepal. There are three in the Kathmandu Valley and all three are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Kathmandu Durbar Square holds a few palaces. Unfortunately it was badly affected by the earthquake in April 2015, just about eight months prior to my trip (December 2015), so the damage was very visible. There was piles of rubble everywhere, it was very sad. However, it’s still definitely worth a look. You can walk right up to the square and see everything, however, there is a charge to go into the square itself which we decided not to pay as we felt like we could see enough from where we were. On our way walking back to the car, we were lucky enough to see a wedding party passing, men were playing instruments, the cars were decorated with flowers and the women were wearing amazing sarees. It was so beautiful.
- Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)
This was by far my absolute favourite temple in Kathmandu, or anywhere I’ve been really. It was so beautiful and so serene up there. It is on top of a big hill, 365 steps up! Or a taxi ride if you’re not quite cut out for treading steps like myself! You can see the whole city of Kathmandu from up there, framed by more prayer flags hung from tree to tree. This is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site and also a Hindu place of worship. This seemed to be common in Kathmandu. Most temples were for both Buddhists and Hindus. It was refreshing to see two religions coexisting peacefully together.
There were lots of shops at the top too where you could pick up some buddhist flags or beautiful hand carved wooden elephants and buddhas.
This temple is also known as the Monkey temple. The monkey are not very tame so be careful, my friend was almost attacked by one particularly brave one. We were told a story about the monkeys that I liked. Manjushri, the boddhisattva of wisdom and learning, was raising the hill at Swayambhunath and decided to grow his hair long, he then got head lice and the head lice are said to have transformed into the monkeys. So these are holy monkeys!
Ok so Patan isn’t technically in Kathmandu, it is a city in it’s own right but it’s only 20 mins away, so close enough. You pay 500 Rupees (about 5USD) into Patan Durbar Square and you could probably spend at least half the day there looking around at everything. There are lots of ancient monuments, temples and shrines as well as shops and restaurants. There’s a hindu museum inside which was really interesting and we ate lunch at this lovely restaurant in the courtyard of one of the old buildings. It was a really nice way to spend the day.
So if you’re still here and still reading you now get my little extra tips! I stayed at Hotel Shanker which is on the more expensive side so if you’re on a budget I would check out some other options. But it was a very nice hotel with very helpful staff so I would definitely recommend it.
I also recommend getting a tour guide, you can get one before you go or when you arrive. We found ours at the airport and just haggled on the price. It’s much easier getting a tour guide as each of these places are a distance apart so you will end up spending the money on taxis anyway! We asked our tour guide for a day away from the city and we got to do some trekking in the beautiful mountains not far from Kathmandu. It was amazing to see the lifestyle of the people living in the small villages in the mountains, and we would of had a view of Everest if it hadn’t been a cloudy day!
My last tip is to visit the Thamel area of Kathmandu. This is a very touristy area with lots of shops for any gifts you might want to pick up. There’s a very chilled out vibe in this area. We stopped into Gaia Restaurant in the Thamel area, it’s a bit tricky to find but once you do it’s definitely worth it. The food was lovely and the atmosphere was very romantic. Dinner here followed by a stroll through Thamel is a great way to end your stay in Kathmandu.
Hope you’re having a great day. Thank you so much for reading, if you liked it please feel free to check out my blog for more travel tips and inspiration.
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