Whether you’re a newbie to the backpacking scene or a well-seasoned traveler, stepping off a plane in Kathmandu airport can be an overwhelming experience, but don’t let this put you off anything this remarkable destination has to offer. From soaking up the history of Durbar Square, embracing the madness of colour, sights and sounds in the Thamel or seeking refuge in the serenity of the Garden of Dreams. There is something for everyone in this intoxicating city.
Best time to Visit Kathmandu
As September ends and the monsoon season subsides, the peak tourist season ignites the city over October and November giving sunshine and beautiful clear skies for optimum trekking conditions. It is also Dashain, the biggest and most celebrated festival in the Nepali calendar, an amazing time to absorb the very best of the Nepali culture. The weather cools again over December and January before the spring trekking season brings the city back to life until late April.
Good to Know about Kathmandu
In 2015 many parts of Kathmandu were devastated by a huge earthquake, including the iconic temples of the UNESCO listed Durbar Square. The aftermath of this is still evident across the city and some buildings are still marked with a red sticker, branded as condemned. Despite this, the spirit of the city and the Nepali people endured.
One Day in Kathmandu Itinerary
You’re up, back pack on, bottled water packed and ready for your day in Kathmandu.
Kicking off in the backpackers’ district of the Thamel, head to one of Kathmandu’s legendary bakeries for pastries, decent Wi-Fi and a good, strong coffee. The Pumpernickel Bakery in the heart of the Thamel is an excellent place to meet people and start the day with fresh pastries and full cooked breakfasts on offer, perfect for healing the fuzzy heads of the previous night’s party goers.
Once you’re fuelled up its time to hit the streets.
Tuk Tuks and Temples
By taking just a short walk down the street and you’re sure to be approached by someone offering city tours. These can be from a rickshaw, taxi or if you’re not going too far afield, even on foot although I would recommend taking the rickshaw for the best experience.
Your first stop should be the Swayambhunath Temple, also known as the Monkey Temple. The stairs to the top are quite a trek and as the name suggests there are plenty of Monkeys but take care of your belongings and you’ll be safe. Take a few coins to toss in the fountain and make a wish.
It’s time to jump back on your rickshaw and brave the noisy, bustling streets and head to the iconic UNESCO world heritage site of Durbar Square. Buy a pass from the booth at the head of the square and take a walk around the earthquake scarred temples before browsing the artefacts and reading up on the history of the Nepalese Monarchy. It’s very easy to spend hours here so take your time and head to one of the terraced café’s to watch the world go by while picking at a lunch of fried momo’s.
It’s not for everyone but if you wanted, you could extend your city tour to the Pashupatinath Temple. This temple is one of the most important temples in Nepal, dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. This is also the place where hundreds of Nepalis gather to cremate their dead along the banks of the Bagmati River. As mentioned previously, not to everybody’s taste but a very real insight to Nepalese culture.
Take it Easy in the Thamel
Kathmandu can be an intoxicating, hectic place so slow things down mid-afternoon and end your city tour by being dropped off at the Garden of Dreams. Escape the madness, fumes and constant beeping to a beautiful, quiet and green haven in the city.
By this time the Thamel is really starting to come to life for the night so take your time wandering the packed alleyways back to your accommodation. Browse the street stalls and pick up hand woven shawls and Yak booties and any last minute trekking gear you need if you’re heading up to the mountains.
The Thamel is the place to be for nightlife in Kathmandu. Head out to one of the many restaurants and bars in the area for traditional Dhal Bhat, piles of steaming hot momo’s or even a big fat steak and cocktails at the K-Too steak house. From here you can people watch from one of the terraced bars above the street or take in some live music with a few Khukri rums and coke at the Shisha Terrace bar in the heart of the district.
Extra Tips for Visiting Kathmandu
Money Matters – There are ATM’s in the Thamel but they can be temperamental so bring cash (preferably dollars) and use one of the many currency exchanges. Never carry all your cash with you when you’re out and about and try and get large notes broken down to smaller denominations.
Bottled Water – Never drink water that hasn’t come from a sealed bottle.
Lemmie Take a Selfie – Its always polite to ask locals before taking a photograph but in Nepal some will refuse or ask for money so always get permission before snapping away.