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I didn’t have any particular expectations regarding Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Because all the travelers I met on the road beforehand, who had been there before I did, told me not so good things “Kathmandu is in chaos! Cars everywhere, it’s filthy, very noisy and there’s nothing to do there! You don’t need to stay in Kathamdu, there’s a lot better elsewhere in the country!” Therefore I had no expectations regarding the places to visit in Kathmandu.
Description of Kathmandu
Honestly, after spending a few weeks in India, I didn’t find Kathmandu that horrible. I had heard tens of times how crazy the city is with all the cars, the crowd, thr stray dogs, the noise… But truthfully speaking, after my stay in New Delhi, nothing shocks me anymore. Yes Kathmandu is crowded, yes there are many cars, yes you’ll see stray dogs (all over South Asia actually…). But I’m not lying, this is nothing compared to India, especially if we compare Kathmandu with New Delhi.
As I was walking around the streets of Kathmandu, there’s one thing I noticed : the locals. Almost all of them were wearing anti-pollution masks. However I visited cities more polluted than Kathmandu, I’m thinking about Tehran. But yeah, I understand why they all wear those masks, there are cars everywhere but most importantly, dust all over the place. Yeah, Kathmandu is a city with an enormous amount of dust outside, just as much as India, if not more. Oh and I can’t forget all the electric cables hanging above your head… Thus having a walk outside is not always enjoyable…
In the streets of Kathmandu, we can see several shops selling tailor-made suits, but most of the shops there sell all you need if you want to trek in the mountains of Nepal. In case you didn’t know, almost all the travelers going to Nepal plan to trek in the country (Annapurna trek, Everest, etc…). Therefore, almost all the travelers I saw there (men and women) were in very good shape, and they had athletic bodies. Clearly, people who take care of themselves!
You can find anything you need if you want to trek in Nepal, and you can either buy it or rent it if you don’t need the equipment after leaving the country. Renting is not expensive, neither buying but be careful, counterfeiting is the norm there! You’ll notice that almost all the Nepalese wear North Face jackets, but they’re fake and poor-quality… It’s the same when you get in a shop selling North Face, you just need to touch them to realize they’re fake (hence the very low prices…).
I remember a female traveler I met in Isfahan, Iran, who told me she didn’t like Nepal at all. Because she doesn’t like countries were people mistreat animals. Sad to say, but she was right. I saw several times guys smacking their dogs, an old woman hitting a kitten with a broomstick… A dog approached me, growling and the owner’s dog punched the poor dog in the eye! “Hey! You shouldn’t have to do this!” “Next time, I’ll let him bite you and we’ll see if you’ll keep saying the same thing…“
Locals seem to be relaxed there, just doing their things. Some of them look like Indians, others look like Chinese. There’s no typical “Nepalese” look. People greeted me several times in the street, they sometimes asked for a picture (teens mostly). I also saw several guys holding hands. They’re not gay, it’s just comradeship. Oh and guys there kept asking me if I needed marijuana, at least ten times…
Things to do in Kathmandu
The Garden of Dreams
I have to tell you, there’s almost nothing to visit in Kathmandu. You’ll notice there are many temples spread all over the city. The only quiet and peaceful place, is the Garden of Dreams. You’ll have to pay 200 rupees (1.65€) to get in, and it’s possible to relax once you’re in there. Many teenagers, some tourists reading on the lawn, a café to have a drink and a room with paintings and work of art from Nepal.
Built in the 14th century, this is one of the largest stupas (place of worship for Buddhists) in Asia. It’s impressive, and you really have to see it. Boudhanath Stupa survived the 2015 earthquake, and wasn’t really damaged. Boudhanath Stupa is one of the top visited attractions in Nepal. It’s 400 rupees (3 euros) to get in.
Listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll find at Durbar Square a collection of temples and stupas. Some of them date back to the 16th century! It’s in the heart of the old town, and this is where the king used to rule the country. Unfortunately, the 2015 earthquake destroyed most temples there. Some of them are restored, others are under reconstruction. It’s 1000 rupees (7.50€) to get in.
Also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s mostly known as the monkey temple (I think I don’t have to tell you why!). Be prepared, this temple is located on a hilltop, you’ll have to climb many stairs! From Swayambunath temple, you’ll be able to enjoy 360 degrees views of Kathmandu. Don’t miss it! Try to get there in the morning, it’s less crowded, and the sky is beautiful! If you want to walk around the temple, don’t forget to do it clockwise, in accordance to local customs!
A popular neighborhood among tourists in Kathmandu. You’ll find international restaurants there, souvenir shops, coffee shops, bars… You’ll see many Westerners getting prepared to go to a trek elsewhere in the country, or coming back from a trek there. Some people call Thamel the Khao San Road of Kathmandu (that famous street in Bangkok full of nightclubs)! Just have a walk there, it’s a pedestrian zone. And enjoy the food!
Pashupatinath is a sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple complex is the largest in Nepal. It was built in the 5th century and it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main temple is restricted to Hindus only, but as foreigners, we’re allowed to visit certain parts of the complex. You may see cremation ceremonies there, please be respectful of the locals mourning their loss and avoid taking pictures. In the complex, you’ll see Sadhus (holy men) who want you to take a picture of them… and then ask for money! It’s 1000 rupees (7.50€) to get in.
Located in the south of Kathmandu, it used to be called Lalitpur (city of beauty). It was a different city back then, but Kathmandu and Patan have merged into one. You have to go there just to enjoy the beautiful architecture, the stupas, the stone carvings in the temples… Don’t miss the Golden Temple and Patan Durbar Square. Many expats live in Patan.
Freak Street, sometimes called Jhochhen Street, used to be the Thamel of the 1960s and 1970s. This is where the hippies used to go for its cheap cost of living and its legal cannabis (at the time). It’s close to Durbar Square and you’ll find cozy restaurants there.
This is the oldest market in Kathmandu. It’s a nice market where you can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, exotic spices and tea. Prices are much more affordable than in Thamel. Ason Market is a good place to see local life.
Activities in Kathmandu
You can also go on a Nepalese cooking class. Click here for more info. Or go on a panoramic Everest flight. Click here for more info. You can also go on a private tour with a local guide. Click here for more info.
Honestly, with all the bad things I heard about Kathmandu, I was expecting worse than what I saw. I’m not saying this city is wonderful, but Kathmandu is not as bas as what I heard before getting there. Let’s be honest, Kathmandu is usually the first step when you get in Nepal, a city where you spend one or two nights, before going elsewhere in the country.
How to get to Nepal
You’ll probably get to Nepal by plane. Click here to check the latest flight prices. Check the visa policy of Nepal here. Citizens from all Western countries can get a visa on arrival, if you arrive by plane at the Kathmandu airport (most likely). For a 15-days visa, you’ll have to pay 25 US dollars. For a 30-days visa, the cost is 40 US dollars and for a 90-days visa, the price is 100 US dollars. If you wanna get in the country overland, go in an embassy beforehand or you can apply for your visa here.
How to get around in Kathmandu
You can visit Kathmandy by foot.
Where to stay in Kathmandu
If you’re traveling on a budget, the Yog Hostel is a good one. Click here to book your stay. Wanna stay in a mid-range hotel? The staff at the Kumari Boutique Hotel is great, and the hotel is modern. Click here to book your stay. If you’re into luxury hotels, then the Dwarika’s Hotel is probably the best option. Click here to book your stay. Otherwise, click here to check the hotels available in Kathmandu.
Finally, if you prefer to stay in an apartment, click here to check the apartments available on Airbnb.
Other things to do in Nepal
Travelers go to Nepal to trek in the mountains, however I didn’t trek in the country… It’s my own fault, I didn’t get organized well enough (the visa, a local trying to sell me a trek and to rip me off, and a few other things…). Anyway, one day in the future…
I didn’t write about it, but I’ve also been to the Chitwan National Park, very famous in Nepal. I was with two girls. We started the day on a canoe, then we walked around in the park, in the middle of hair grass. We had two guides with us, one was walking in front of the group, the other one behind us. Because there are tigers in the park (we saw tiger footprints several times on the floor).
We saw rhinos a few times, but no tigers. The day in the park was 4700 rupees (almost 40 euros), expensive for what it was, and we spent a night in a hostel not too far. From Pokhara, a bus goes there every morning. I paid 650 rupees (5.40€) for the six-hour ride in the bus. And from the park, you can go back to Kathmandu by bus for 600 rupees (5 euros).
Kathmandu travel tips
- Traveling soon? Check out my travel resources page! This list of travel accessories can also be useful!
- Do not go to Nepal without a travel insurance! Here’s why buy travel insurance!
- Planning to go to Nepal and want a tailor-made trip? Get a free quote here!
- Like anywhere else in the area, the cost of living is pretty low. It’s possible to have a good meal there for les than two euros, and to stay in a hostel for a few euros per night.
- Always use a VPN when traveling. I use ExpressVPN and I love it! Here’s why use a VPN when traveling.