Kathmandu attracts thousands of visitors every year. Undoubtedly, it is the most popular city in Nepal. Many will agree if I say Kathmandu is chaotic. But there’s a magical atmosphere that everyone loves. From the corners teeming with temples, shrines, and stupa to the beautiful hills on the outskirt of Kathmandu, here are 13 reasons why you should visit Kathmandu.
Densest concentration of UNESCO World Heritage sites
Kathmandu, with Patan to the south and Bhaktapur to the east, boasts 7 of 10 UNESCO world heritage sites in Nepal. The capital city is home to hundreds of temples, shrines, and stupa, and hence also called “City of Temples.”
From honking of the vehicles in the busy streets to echos of touting in the street of Thamel, the city has its very first impression: chaos and bustling. If you have been to the street of Kathmandu, you very well know it.
Whether you visit Swayambhunath or pay reverence to the holy Pashupatinath, you will enjoy the aura of the capital city. Whether you eat momo or dal bhat, you will fall in love with Nepal. And whether you walk in the busy street of Kathmandu or hike on the outskirts of the city, you will admire the beauty of the city.
If you are thinking of things to do in Kathmandu, you need not worry because this city bestows a plethora of opportunities for you to stay for weeks, and at the end of the day, you will end up longing for another beautiful day here.
Thamel- a haven for tourists
Thamel is the most happening place in Kathmandu. Also called The Backpacker’s Paradise, Thamel is the place where you can find anything (from currency exchanging booth to trekking gears) for your adventure to the Himalayas. Check the hashtag #thamel, and you will get some photography ideas in the Thamel area.
Thamel, a commercial neighborhood in Kathmandu, is a haven for every backpacker, a pit stop full of shops and vendors selling everything from intricate artifacts to trekking gears, walking gears, souvenirs, and attires catered specially to travelers from western countries.
The narrow alleys in Thamel lead to pubs, travel agencies, small grocery stores, foreign money exchange booths, budget hotels, restaurants, and clubs on either side of the street. Strolling, or rushing the road of Thamel in a taxi or rickshaw will make you realize that Thamel is the hottest spot for tourism in Nepal.
City of Temples
Did you know, Kathmandu is called the “City of Temples?” It is believed that there are more than 2000 temples in Kathmandu. Kathmandu, the “City of Temples,” is the capital city of Nepal and the most popular tourist hub brimming with centuries-old Hindu shrines and Buddhist stupas in every corner.
If you walk through the street of Kathmandu, chances are you will come across a temple every 15–20 minutes. With world-renowned stupas and temples and small shrines found in every nook and cranny, Kathmandu is the City of Temples.
Shop at Asan Bazaar
Kathmandu’s busiest market square, Ason or Asan, is crammed with shops selling everything from tea to yak tails, condiments to chicken, cup to cakes, clothes to chocolates, and everything imaginable.
A swarm of pedestrians, two-wheelers, rickshaws, and sometimes even four-wheelers congest the streets of Asan. Visit Asan and surprise yourself with some classic photographs of busy alleyways, traditional markets, and temples and shrines.
6 narrow streets (Bhotahiti, Kamalachi, Nhai: katwa, Teuda, Balkumari, and Makhan: Galli) converge towards the market. In the southeast corner, you can see 3-storey Annapurna Temple.
Wander around, and you will find shops selling vegetables, spice, and metalwares. This historic marketplace buzz from dusk till dawn. Remember, this market attracts shoppers and very few wanderers. If you can dodge the crowd, I can assure you that you will love to explore Ason.
Fly to Everest
If you want to catch a glimpse of Everest, you can fly to Everest from Kathmandu. Interestingly, you can admire stunning views of more than 10 peaks. All you need to do is hop aboard a plane from Kathmandu.
The classic way to admire the breath-taking views of Everest is to trek for days. And if you want to skip days of trekking, embark on a beautiful journey of about an hour-a flight tour to Everest. Just make sure to book a window seat and hope for a clear day. Note, the flights get canceled due to poor weather.
Taste Dal Bhat and Momo
Your travel to Nepal is incomplete without tasting Dal Bhat and Momo. Dal is a cooked lentil soup seasoned with herbs and assorted Masalas (spices). Sprinkled with herbs and spices such as coriander, garam masala, cumin, and turmeric, these can be eaten with onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, tomato, or tamarind.
Dal Bhat is always accompanied by Curry (vegetable or non-vegetarian) -a mix of available seasonal vegetables, such as cauliflower, battered broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, soybeans, etc. Momo is the dumplings that are steamed over some soup broth. Momo shops are almost in every corner of the city, whether in hotels or streets.
Hike in the hills
There are four hills on the outskirts of Kathmandu: Phulchoki, Shivapuri, Nagarjun, and Champadevi. About an hour away from Kathmandu’s busy streets, the green hills with amazing views of the mountains welcome you. You can either hike or go cycling along the hills. Many local travelers hike in the hills to escape the chaotic atmosphere and admire Kathmandu’s rustic charms.
Kathmandu boasts some of the best hiking trails. Hiking around Kathmandu valley offers an opportunity to embrace the incredible sights of lofty mountains and visit rural Nepali villages and explore the lifestyle of local people.
A hike to Nagarkot is one of the most popular hikes- it offers stunning views of the Annapurna range, Manaslu range, Ganesh Himal range, Langtang range, Jugal range, Rolwaling range, Everest range, and Numbur range. Similarly, a day hiking to Shivapuri is another popular hiking route for tourists.
Explore the Narayanhiti Palace Museum
Narayanhiti Museum, next to Thamel, is one of the reasons why you should visit Kathmandu. Built by King Mahendra in 1963, this palace, now a museum, is embellished with extraordinary courtyards, gardens, and buildings. After abolishing the Nepalese monarchy following the 2006 revolution, this palace was turned into Public Museum.
It is said that there are still bullet holes from the massacre of the royal family, and the palace contains the deepest dark history of the kingdom of Nepal. The museum showcases the old monuments and the remains of the kings and the family, including the royal crown made from 730 diamonds, over 2,000 pearls, and other gems.
The palace is divided into three wings: the guest wing, the state wing, and the private wing. There are 52 rooms named after 75 districts of Nepal. You have to pay the entrance fee, leave all bags, cell phones, cameras, etc., in the locker room before entering the palace. Taking photos is strictly prohibited.
Visit Kopan Monastery
A Buddhist monastery on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Kopan Monastery is a must-visit destination in Kathmandu. Every year hundreds of foreigners arrive at this popular monastery to study Buddhism and enjoy the spiritual atmosphere. It is home to more than 300 monks and lamas.
Kopan monastery is possibly the first monastery to accept westerners to attend the full course of discovering Buddhism.
Currently, the monastery is closed, and the courses program has been canceled. The Kopan monastery official website states that “Kopan is distributing food for people in remote areas affected by the coronavirus lock-down.”
Explore Royal Botanical Garden
If you want to escape the chaotic atmosphere of Kathmandu, Godawari Botanical Garden or National Botanical Garden is one of the ideal options for you. Perched in the base of Mount Phulchoki and surrounded by evergreen forests, this garden flaunts greenery and soothing ambiance to breathe and enjoy the day.
The garden is home to more than 250 species of birds, more than 300 species of butterflies and boasts more than 4,500 specimens of flowering and non-flowering plants.
The gardens are open daily, from 9 am to 4 pm mid-November to mid-February and for the rest of the months, the gates are open from 9 am to 5 pm. A small admission fee is charged. FYI, it is also a popular picnic spot in the valley. And, needless to say, heaven for the birdwatcher.
Enjoy birds-eye views of Kathmandu from Swayambhunath Stupa
Swayambhunath Stupa atop a hill bestows stunning views of Kathmandu valley. Swayambhunath Stupa, a self-existing stupa since the 5th century, is the must-visit place in Kathmandu. Overlooking the Kathmandu valley, Swayambhunath stupa with the whitewashed dome, fluttering prayer flags, and abounding monkeys have distinct aura amidst the chaotic Kathmandu.
It is one of the most Instagrammable places in Kathmandu. It comprises a large stupa with Buddha eyes gazing sleepily, surrounded by small temples, chaityas, and numerous other religious objects.
The long inclined stairway that runs the forest is inhabited by hundreds of monkeys, which give rise to its name (monkey temple). Huge numbers of prayer wheels around the stupa are spun by devotes to release prayers and mantras to heaven. This UNESCO world heritage site in Kathmandu is considered a vantage spot to revel in the bird-eye views of Kathmandu valley.
Evening Aarati at Pashupatinath
If you are visiting Pashupatinath temple, make sure to visit in the evening from (6-7:30 pm)- to indulge in evening aarati, a religious ritual of worship, the highest form of prayer. Songs with the religious theme, tandav, and custom with oil lamps are performed to offer reverence to Lord Shiva, the holy Bagmati river and Pashupatinath.
Vedic mantras are chanted, incenses are burnt, and oil lamps are lighted to create a blissful aura that draws hundreds of devotees. Pashupati Bagmati aarati is conducted for about 1.5 hours and ends with a thankful gesture to the god for the wellness of every living soul.
Wall Climbing at Astrek Wall Climbing
Wall climbing is one of the underrated activities in the capital.
Astrek Wall Climbing is one of the popular climbing centers in Kathmandu. The climbing wall is 50 feet high and is Nepal’s tallest indoor climbing wall. The center comprises twenty different routes for all experience levels. It also boasts a fully stocked bar, serves great food, and offers free Wi-Fi Internet with blissful ambiance.
If you are a beginner, you need not worry. The friendly and experienced staff will let you get off the ground to the top of the wall. Nepali youths and mostly foreigners can be seen at the center, who opt to polish their climbing skills.