Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, is blessed with a rich culture and a unique vibe. At first glance, the gateway to the Himalayas may feel a bit chaotic and overwhelming. But, amidst the clutter, noise, and chaos, lies a vibrant city that is buzzing with life. You need to spend a few days soaking up the vibes to thoroughly enjoy this historically fascinating city.
Don’t know what to do in Kathmandu? Worry not, we’ve got you covered with a list of best things to do in Kathmandu.
Top Things to do In Kathmandu
- Worship at Kumari Palace
- Shopping at Thamel
- Helicopter Ride
- Whitewater Rafting
- Visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Souvenirs at Asan Market
- Eat Momos in Boudhanath
- Drink Hot Tumba
Get the Blessings of the Living Goddess at the Kumari Palace
Nepal has a tradition that is unique to its country and culture. Here, young pre-pubescent girls are worshipped with the belief that they are manifestations of the divine female energy or devi. This tradition of Living Goddess in Nepal dates to the 1700s.
Traditionally, a virgin girl is chosen to represent Telaju, the Goddess who advised the Nepali king. It is worth an experience how Kathmandu and its people have preserved the centuries-old tradition strongly believing that goddess Taleju brings good luck and protects the city in the form of Kumari every day.
- Location – Durbar Square, Kathmandu
- Timings – You can catch a glimpse of the Living Goddess as she peeks out of her palace window every day at 4 pm.
- Local Tips – Tourists aren’t supposed to take photos of the Goddess. You may be asked to leave the square if the guards spot you with your camera.
Indulge the Shopaholic in You at Pocket-friendly Prices
If shopping is therapy to you, then Thamel is the place to check out. This neighbourhood is the prime tourist area in Kathmandu and has an array of restaurants, cafes, shops and tourist agencies. As you stroll around the busy streets of Thamel, you will be greeted with a cacophony of voices inviting you to take a look at their shops.
As you continue your exploration, you can come across a wide array of random coffee shops, souvenir shops and garden restaurants, all at affordable prices. We encourage you to stray beyond the main streets and wander into the side streets to know more about the Nepali way of life.
- Location – Thamel, Kathmandu
- Timings – Throughout the day
- Local Tips – If you’re planning to trek in Nepal, then Thamel is the place to pick your gear at great prices. From trekking boots to sleeping bags, down jackets to thermal wear, you can find all outdoor equipment at reasonable prices. Just be ready to practice your bargaining skills.
Get Close to the Majestic Peaks of the Everest via an Aerial Tour
No trip to Nepal is complete without an adventurous mountain flight that takes you close to the world’s highest peak. Yes, you can hop aboard a small airplane or helicopter and witness the beauty of the snow-capped Himalayan mountain ranges at close quarters.
If you don’t want to go through the physical strain of hiking up the Himalayas, then this is an excellent option for you to experience the magic of these ancient mountain ranges.
- Local Tips – Several private agencies in Kathmandu offer these flights to tourists from airplanes or helicopters. One such tour operator is the Fishtail Air that has been offering these services since 1997.
Unleash the Adventurer in You with Whitewater Rafting
Very often, people think only of mountain treks when they think of Nepal. However, this tiny kingdom has several other activities to appease the adventurer in you. And, white water rafting is one popular activity.
Head down to the Trishuli river on a short-day trip from the capital city. The rafting routes cross challenging rapids and stunning natural backdrops. Apart from rafting, you can also try out Kayaking if the weather is ideal.
- Location – A short-drive (3.5 hours) away from Kathmandu.
- Timings – The monsoon season is the best time of the year, as the rivers are at their peak intensity.
- Local Tips – You can either take a short-day trip or opt for a 2days/1night package, that includes an outdoor camping stay at the banks of the river.
Check out the City’s Landmarks on a City Tour
Kathmandu is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage sites and several other cultural and architectural landmarks. The best way to check out all these places is to join a city tour. When you enter these tours, you are accompanied by a local guide who takes you around and explains you the history of all the places on the tour list.
Listed below are a few highlights that you shouldn’t miss on your Kathmandu city tour:
- Durbar Square
- Swayambhu (also known as the Monkey Temple)
- Pashupatinath Temple
- Kopan Monastery
- Garden of Dreams
- Local Tips – Several tour operators provide tailored city tours, based on your preferences. You can either contact your hotel concierge to find out if they can recommend a good tour operator or take a Kathmandu package that offers this as part of the itinerary.
Travel back in Time with a Trip to Asan Market
If you want to see the ancient parts of Kathmandu, then you must check out the Asan market. The streets of this market, where buildings lean towards each other feel untouched by time.
Tiny doorways, vendors selling fresh produce from baskets on the streets, leaning balconies that look down on the streets below – Asan market takes you back in time to the ancient days of Kathmandu.
- Local Tips – You can find all that you need here. From banana leaf bowls (that make for great souvenirs) to underpants, this is a one-stop market for everything.
Stuff yourself with Delicious Momos from Authentic Tibetan Vendors in Boudhanath
The tiny hamlet of Boudha on the northern side of Kathmandu is home to the world-famous Boudhanath Stupa. It’s believed that this stupa holds a bone fragment of Lord Buddha. This area is home to a Tibetan village.
After your visit to the Boudhanath Stupa, check out the tiny stalls selling momos. These are traditional Tibetan dumplings stuffed with meat, chicken, veggies and even sweet fillings. They are available either as steamed or fried options, with a spicy tomato sauce on the side.
- Local Tips – You can never go wrong at any of the tiny stalls selling momos in this locality. To enjoy them with a great view, head over to Café du Temple. The roof terrace of this tiny eatery overlooks the stunning gold and white stupa of Boudhanath. This is one of the best views in all of Kathmandu.
Relax with a Hot Tumba after a Long day of Sightseeing
Tumba, what? This is one of the most popular drinks in Nepal. The hot drink is a great way to warm up especially on those long, chilly winter days. How is the drink made? Fermented millet is taken in a mug and steeped with hot water.
The drink is then served in old-fashioned steel tumblers with metal straws (no, the metal straws are not because of the plastic straw ban, but because the brew is so hot, that it makes sense to sip with a metal straw).
- Location – the streets of Thamel
- Timings – Best to have after sunset or during wintery evenings
Get your Yoga On!
Kathmandu is a great place to learn the art of yoga and meditation. Several monasteries in the city offer guided courses on yoga and meditation. If you’ve always wanted to learn yoga and connect with your inner self, then your trip to Nepal may be the best way to start it.
- Local Tips – a 10-day long yoga course is offered at a centre near the Shivapuri National Park. Apart from this, there are several other centres around the city providing beginner to advanced yoga classes.
Hit the Trekking Trails
Nepal, owing to the presence of the Himalayas, is one of the best countries in the world for trekking.
Whether you’re looking to tackle the mighty Himalayas or just getting started, there are plenty of trekking trails to suit all levels of trekkers. And, Kathmandu has plenty of trekking spots that are just a few minutes drive away from the city.
- Local Tip – There are hundreds of trekking tour operators functioning in Kathmandu. While some offer you all the gear that you need, others require you to bring your own. So, make sure to check out reviews and feedback from other travellers, to help you pick the right tour operators.
Some Other Cool Things to Do in Kathmandu
Apart from the things listed here, Kathmandu has plenty to offer. Make sure to check out the temples and serene monasteries in the city. Kathmandu also has a thriving nightlife and is home to some of the most-talented Indie artists. And, if trekking is not your style, then try your hands (and feet) at indoor wall climbing or the archery ranges of Pathan. Apart from these, there are several tours that allow you to do experiential cooking or arts with local Nepalis.
There’s a lot to explore in Kathmandu. So, make sure that you don’t just pop in and pop out of the city on your way to the Mount Everest base camp. Add some time to your itinerary to explore this and enchanting Himalayan city.
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