10 Excellent Experiences in Kathmandu
During our time in Nepal, we spent several days in Kathmandu. Below find our top 10 Kathmandu experiences!
Visit Swayambhunath at Sunset: Dubbed the “Monkey Temple” for the primates that roam its grounds, visit this Buddhist temple and Unesco World Heritage Site in the morning or evening for amazing sunrise or sunset views over Kathmandu. Be prepared for the steep, but worthwhile, trip up the long staircase!
Tip: Be sure to walk around this, and all other stupas and chortens, in a clockwise direction; also spin prayer wheels clockwise.
Wander Thamel: Kathmandu’s bustling and vibrant tourist district is chock-full of trekking gear, souvenir, and bookshops, along with a slew of bars, cafés, and restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines to curb your appetite after a day of sight-seeing. Guesthouses and tourist agencies line every street, with small temples and shrines tucked amidst the mayhem. Looking for a singing bowl, prayer flags, or Tiger Balm? This is where you’ll find it.
Tip: If you find the streets of Thamel a bit too hectic for your taste, tuck down the quieter Mandala Street, Thamel’s only pedestrian walking street. Some of our favorite places to eat in Thamel: Yang Ling (try the paneer chili), Kizuno (great little Japanese stall tucked down an alley south of Roadhouse Café, try the sutadon), and Chick ‘n’ Falafel on the south end of Mandala Street – cheap and delicious.
Relax in the Garden of Dreams: Worn out by the chaos of Thamel and the streets of greater Kathmandu? Just east of Thamel, the Garden of Dreams is tucked within a walled courtyard and, despite the busy streets outside its walls, is a remarkably quiet and peaceful place to while away the afternoon lazing in the grass or enjoying a cup of tea in the restaurant within its grounds.
Tip: Pick up a good book at one of Thamel’s many bookshops, as you’ll want to relax and stay awhile!
Tour Durbar Square: No trip to Kathmandu is complete without a stroll around Durbar Square. The historical center and pulse of the capital, the grounds of Durbar Square include temples, monuments, a palace, and the home of the Kumari, the living goddess of Kathmandu. Chosen through a rigorous selection process, the young girl lives as the Kumari until she reaches puberty, at which time a new Kumari is chosen. While Nepal’s devastating earthquake in April 2015 caused significant destruction and damage to many of the buildings and temples of Durbar Square, reconstruction efforts are under way and the area is still worth a visit.
Tip: To get a glimpse of the Kumari, check locally to see what time(s) the Kumari will peer out the high window above her courtyard and remember – photographing the Kumari is prohibited!
Explore Asan Tole & Around: Beyond Durbar Square, the surrounding streets and alleys are a hub of activity, lined with shops of every good imaginable, vibrant vendors, worn temples, and hidden courtyards at every turn. Take a stroll through the colorful market streets surrounding the chowk (intersection) of Asan Tole. Heading southwest from here, beside Kel Tole square you’ll find the impressively ornate Seto Machhendranath Temple, which draws both Hindus and Buddhists.
Tip: With fascinating sights, shops, and people-watching at every turn, getting lost among the streets surrounding Durbar Square may be one of your best memories!
Stroll through Bodhnath (Boudha): Featuring Asia’s largest stupa, a community of Tibetan gompas (monasteries), and small lanes of shops and restaurants, Bodhnath is a great place to spend an afternoon. Having recently completed reconstruction following damage from the devastating 2015 earthquake, the massive Bodhnath Stupa is the central focal point of the area, where Tibetan Buddhist culture flourishes.
Tip: be sure to explore some of the monasteries in the area. For a bite to eat, check out White Zambala Tibetan/Chinese Restaurant, tucked down an alleyway from the main stupa area, the outdoor pavilion is a nice escape from the crowds and the Sichuan pork and sliced buffalo with black mushrooms are tasty menu choices.
Enjoy a Traditional Nepali/Newari Dinner: Though a bit touristy, dining at a traditional Nepali restaurant is a fun night on the town. Set meals with several courses of traditional Nepali and Newari food are accompanied by a cultural show of traditional music and dance from different regions around Nepal, all enjoyed from your seats on cushions at low tables. While a bit of a splurge, the evening is fun and most of the traditional restaurants are housed in atmospheric restored palaces, mansions, or old Newari homes and buildings. We enjoyed our dinner at Bhojan Griha, one of several traditional Nepali restaurants in Kathmandu.
Tip: Arrive early for good seat for the cultural show. Also, beware – the rice wine is potent!
Soak in Kathmandu’s only Japanese Onsen: Tucked into a small grassy courtyard in the diplomatic district, Nano Hana Garden includes a hot spring bath and open air Japanese Restaurant. For 600 NRs, you can spend the afternoon soaking in the piping hot waters of the shallow cement pool while you sip Japanese tea.
Tip: Women, take note of the diagrams and instructions on the wall for wearing your “bathing dress”, as swimsuits alone are not allowed. Also, as of our visit, the hot spring bath was open only on Saturdays beginning at 3pm.
Devour a Sizzling Brownie @ Roadhouse Café: Looking for the best baked good in Kathmandu? Visit the Roadhouse Café for its sizzling brownie with ice cream. Once we stumbled upon this gem, we were back several times. Literally delivered on a sizzling hot platter, the warm gooey brownie is topped with vanilla ice cream, making for an amazing post-trek treat.
Tip: begin the meal with one of the restaurants great pizzas.
Connect at Mahabir’s Center for Nepal Connection – Restaurant & Café: Tucked down the quiet Mandala Street, with high-speed Wi-Fi, good (and cheap) food, and amazingly kind staff, this is the best café in Thamel to connect online or in person with your newfound trekking buddies. The bonus? Net profits from the center go to support education and health programs in rural Nepal.
Tip: try the chicken chili.
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