Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is a busy city with the sights, sounds and smells leading to sensory overload. Overflowing with
temples , Kathmandu, and the surrounding valley region is a fine place to stay for a few days to a week. Get by on US$20 per day.
It’s the largest, and pretty much the only city in Nepal . You can step away from the busy traffic polluted roads and the touts, and into back streets to reveal the old Kathmandu; amazing cultural and artistic heritage, temples, marigolds,
drying chillies and people living in traditional ways.
You’re more likely to see trekkers than hippies today in Kathmandu. But tourist numbers are down, so discounts can be had. It is easy to spend too much time in Kathmandu; get out to see the real Nepal.
Kathmandu’s sights are definitely the endless temples.
- Visit the Unesco World Heritage sites around the valley
- Swayambhunath – This stupa is Nepal’s most recognizable sight.
- Bodnath Stupa – One of the biggest Stupa in the world
- Patan – Patan’s Durbur square, and the museum are excellent.
- See the amazing architectural monuments in
Durbar Square .
- Stroll around the medieval like old
- Chill out in one of Thamel’s rooftop garden restaurants with good coffee and chocolate cake.
- Durbur Square – a fantastic collection of palaces, pagodas and temples, where the kings were crowned and legitimized. Durbur square remains the traditional heart of Kathmandu, even though the king no longer lives there.
- Swayambhunath – One of the most popular and recognizable symbols of Nepal. This great Buddhist temple sits on top of a hill west of Kathmandu. Also know as the Monkey Temple.
- Bodnath Stupa – Similar to Swayambhunath, but much bigger. One of the worlds largest stupas, found In Bodnath, outside of Kathmandu.
- Durbur Square,
Kathmandu – A fine collection of palaces and temples. Where the city’s kings were once crowed and legitimized, and from where they ruled (durbar means palace). The traditional heart of Kathmandu.
- Durbur Square,
Patan – This concentrated mass of temples is the most visually stunning display of Newari architecture to be seen in Nepal.
Kathmandu has all of the facilities a travel could want. There are travel agents galore offering flights, bus tickets, trekking, kayaking, and everything else Nepal has to offer. Be careful of unprofessional looking agents, and anyone on the
street. Wayfarers are a reliable agent for everything.
There are lots of places offering Internet
access from NRS20 per hour. Hotels charge about NRS50 per hour. If you have your own laptop head to the New Orleans Cafe or Roadhouse Cafe in Thamel, which have free Wifi during the day, as well as a good atmosphere. Several
larger Internet places have stations to plug in your laptop with a wired connection.
Around Kathmandu Valley
- For the easiest views of Mount Everest head to Nagarkot.
- With more time consider crossing overland into Tibet .
Accommodation in Kathmandu
Kathmandu has a great range of places to stay, from luxurious hotels to cheap and cheerful lodges. Prices are competitive, with basic places costing from NRSs300 per night. If you email a reservation you are unlikely to get a good discount, but you should
get a free airport pickup. For less hectic and more traditional surroundings consider staying in Patan or Bodnath.
Thamel is the busy backpacker area and a good base for a few days. It has everything a traveller might want, but is noisy. There are some hotels a little further away for a less touristy experience. It’s always worth seeing a free
rooms before choosing one.
Kathmandu Guest House
A bit of an institution, and very central to Thamel. The first hotel in Kathmandu, now offering a great range of services including BBC TV in the foyer, wi-fi enabled courtyard, lovely rear garden, mini cinema and a sauna. The rooms vary greatly,
and you’ll find better value accommodation elsewhere. US$2- US$60.
A well run place with neat, clean rooms. Central, quietist location, with a small roof terrace, but no garden. Deluxe rooms have TV and AC. A good choice. NRS200 – NRS1050.
Acme Guest House
A good budget place with good size rooms and an open lawn area. The best rooms are overlooking the lawn. Close to, but away from the bustle of Thamel. Has a lawn, restaurant, laundry and Internet access. NRS600 – NRS1000.
Hotel Encounter Nepal
A good value place with a cheaper old block (NRS400) and newer nicer block (NRS1000). There is a great garden and an OK restaurant bar. This hotel is a few minutes away from the main bustle, and amongst more Nepali surroundings.
Hotel Ganesh Himal
A great comfort budget choice, well run and friendly. A 10 minute walk from Thamel – far enough to be out of range but close enough to restaurants for dinner. The rooms are amongst the best value in Kathmandu, with endless hot water, satellite TV and lots of balcony and garden seating, plus a sunny rooftop. The deluxe rooms are more spacious, a little quieter and come with a bath tub. It can be noisy as it’s a residential neighbourhood. Make a reservation to get a free airport pickup. US$7 – US$17.
Eating and drinking in Kathmandu
There is a massive choice of restaurants in Kathmandu, from traditional Nepali food too all western choices. Prices are pretty much the same everywhere. There are quite a few decent bars, but they don’t generally stay open past 11pm.
Kathmandu is the central travel hub for the country. There is no rail network, but busses leave for all destinations.
All Nepali International flights are all to Kathmandu, see the Nepal Flights section.
To and from the Airport
Prepaid taxis are available outside the airport arrivals exit. These guys are associated with the Hotel Encounter Nepal, which is a good choice, so go for it if you want an easy life. Buses are available, but very crowded, so a taxi is the best
bet. Most hotels will arrange a airport pickup, many for free.
Nepali airlines change addresses and phone numbers frequently, so it’s generally better to use an agent. Domestic airports are:
- Lukla (for Mount Everest)
- Various mountain flights
There are generally several companies running each route. Most buses leave at 7am and vendors are always present selling snacks and drinks so that you can stock up before your trip. More expensive journeys include breakfast or lunch, a bottle of water
and a newspaper.
- Buses from Kathmandu to
Pokhara – Most people jump on a bus straight to Pokhara , but there are several things on the way
to consider . Buses leave the Janikpur stand, an easy walk from Thamel. The trip takes 8 hours, the road is poor, the scenery is great. There are many bus companies operating on this road. Local buses cost from NRS300 and are basic. Tourist
buses (Golden Tours & GreenLine) include a meal, have AC and store luggage inside rather than on the roof, they cost NRS800. Greenline is more expensive, but has a depot in Kathmandu and drops you right into Pokhara. Read more .
Taxis and rickshaws
Taxis and rickshaws are cheap, and the best option for getting to anywhere in the valley. If sightseeing negotiate a rate for the whole day. If going to a single temple negotiate a return fare and the driver will wait for you.