Kathmandu is Nepal's capital and largest city with about 2.5 million inhabitants. Kathmandu is also the country's largest metropolitan area. Kathmandu is also 6th friendliest city in Asia beating likes of Hongkong, Seoul, Dubai, Mumbai and many more.
Kathmandu, also known as the City of Temples, with one of the oldest Pagodas known as the Pashupatinath Temple, stands in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley in central Nepal at an altitude of about 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) above sea level.
For many years, Kathmandu has been the centre of the history, architecture, culture and economy of Nepal. Within a Hindu and Buddhist majority, it has a multi-ethnic population. A major part of the lives of people living in Kathmandu is religious and cultural festivities. Tourism is a big part of the economy. In 2013, TripAdvisor ranked Kathmandu fifth among the world's top ten upcoming travel destinations, ranking first in Asia. The city is the gateway to the Himalayas of Nepal and home to several sites of world heritage: Durbar Square, Swayambhunath, Boudhanath and Pashupatinath.
Here are the things to do in KTM: -
Visit the city’s major landmarks
With such a diverse city as Kathmandu, there are certainly plenty of attractions or landmarks worth visiting, but to get started, below are some of the places you must NOT skip!
This is a holy Hindu temple complex that serves as the seat of the national deity of Nepal, Lord Shiva (one of the main Hindu deities where Pashupatinath or Pashupathi is one of his names). As the city's oldest Hindu temple, you can find a widespread mix of temples, ashrams (spiritual monasteries), images, and inscriptions from the moment you set foot in this location.
Tips: If you want a unique experience, you can visit in the morning to see them do cremations or visit in the evening from 6PM to see the aarti (worship with fire).
This is a well-known stupa (place of meditation) overlooking Kathmandu's skyline, where its huge mandala (spiritual symbol in Buddhism) makes it one of Nepal's largest spherical stupas. It helps to note that it has been a beacon of Buddhist belief for centuries and has since been an important place for many local Nepalis and Tibetan Buddhists to meditate and pilgrimage.
This is an ancient religious architecture that includes shrines, temples, a stupa, a Tibetan monastery, a museum, and a library — in addition, it's also surrounded by' holy monkeys' (as per mythology) that gained its nickname:' Monkey Temple.' Although this site is considered Buddhist, both Buddhist and Hindus still have to reverence it.
Tips: Visit the Tamang Gompa monastery to get a beautiful panoramic view of the stapa. Meanwhile, it's best to come either early in the morning or early in the evening for a less crowded environment.
'Durbar Square' is a generic name used to identify plazas opposite old royal palaces in Nepal, and this particular Durbar Square in Kathmandu City is surrounded by magnificent architecture that exhibits the skills of Newar (Kathmandu Valley historical inhabitants) artists for centuries.Regrettably, due to the big earthquake that occurred last 2015, some of the buildings here have fallen — but the charm of this square remains due to its impressive palaces, courtyards and temples.
Old City: Make sure you visit this tangle of narrow alleys and temples located north and south of the central Durbar Square as one of your things to do in Kathmandu City, so you can also take a closer look at the culture and way of life of the local people.
Other Durbar Squares: Check out the other Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley (in Patan and Bhaktapur) if you have the time.
For its courses on Tibetan Buddhism, this Tibetan Buddhist monastery near Boudhanath is mainly popular with foreigners. Visitors are usually welcome to join their morning meditation sessions as well as introductory and advanced courses (held in English).
Go through Thamel and enjoy it!
If you're searching for the city's most vibrant commercial area, you just need to head to Thamel, which is renowned for its narrow alleys filled with various buildings and vendors: clubs, hotels, hostels, bars, cafes, stores, tour operators, and more — you'll find almost everything here! Following is a list of recommended things to do in Kathmandu's Thamel to complete your itinerary:
- GoShopping: Take some souvenirs and gifts back by searching through colorful shawls, shoes, sculptures, paintings, and so on. As for my tip for # 1? Haggle hard if you're going to get a fair and equal rate. The goal is to ask for half or a third of their original quoted price as a standard.
- Stuff yourself with local food: Eat "momo," which is a steamed dumpling native to Nepal and Tibet, first and foremost. If you're looking for a full meal option, get a "thali package" which contains several choices of bowls such as rice, curry, pickles, vegetables, and "dal bhat" (a staple Nepal food that's a thick lentil soup). Meanwhile, for dessert, look for “sel roti” which is sweet and crispy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside.
Fly above the Himalayas
Let's face it: many of us are NOT prepared to reach the height of the highest peak in the world; but thankfully, as part of your job in Kathmandu, there are providers in Nepal that give anyone the chance to get close to the Himalayas and see the beauty of Mt. Everest.
Of course, nothing beats the trekking trip up to the summit or to the Everest Base Camp — but if you can't do that, why not travel there, right? Besides, in just a few hundred meters you will be among the fortunate few who will be able to witness this magnificent mountain range from above!
And ... as you'd imagine, it's NOT absolutely cheap; but surely, it's going to be worth it!
For 45 minutes to an hour, most flights start at about $150 where you can choose from two options: either by helicopter or by plane. There are many tour operators providing helicopter rides, but when it comes to aerial flights, there are 3 airlines popular for doing this: Buddha Air, Guna Air, and Yeti Air.
Enjoy the natural scenery by outdoor activities
As part of your job in Kathmandu, you can make sure you always take the opportunity to appreciate the natural scenery surrounding the city by doing the following outdoor activities ...
- Hiking / Trekking: There are a number of wonderful hikes around the valley like Chisapani, Champadevi, Nagarkot and Nagarjun. You can also go to Shivapuri National Park's high peaks, or if you're on a longer trip, there's a 6-day trek from Kathmandu to Langtang National Park (Nepal's 1st Himalayan National Park). All in all, I can tell you that when you see the surrounding scenery at sunrise or sunset, the sights will be spectacular — more so.
- River rafting: If you're looking for this sort of adrenaline pumping operation, you can opt for a river rafting tour which runs across the Trishuli River which connects Kathmandu to Pokhara. For this adventure, go here to reserve your place.
- Mountain biking: You will note that there will be a lot of shops when you go through Thamel offering organized mountain biking trips or simply offering rented bikes. If you're up for this, I'm asking you to do it because it's going to be worth your time!
- Rock climbing: There are several choices for you in the heart of Kathmandu if you're looking for something to climb that isn't Mt. Everest. First of all, there's an Astrek Climbing Wall in Thamel if you're not yet able to go for natural cliffs. Otherwise, great natural climbing cliffs can be found at Hattiban (Pharping) and Nagarjun.
Explore nearby cities and towns
Want to completely escape Kathmandu's traffic and urban setting? There are several beautiful towns and cities you can visit in the course of your time.
- Lalitpur/ Patan