While not being an ultra-popular tourist destination when most people think of destinations in Asia, Kathmandu holds a special place in my heart.
Right when I arrived to Kathmandu, I was immediately greeted by the hustling and bustling locals and the energy of the city was one of the rarest I've ever encountered.
The teeming temples and religious monasteries, the hikes through the sublime terrain, the paths through the culture-packed squares, and the samples of some of the country’s best cuisine; these are just a few highlights of what makes Kathmandu great.
Let me share with you some of my favorite highlights on the best things to do in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Top 9 things to do in Kathmandu
9. Admire the Swayambhu Temple
As one of the best places to visit in Nepal, the Swayambhu Temple boasts serene sights at every end. Also known as the “Monkey Temple,” this ancient gem offers marvelous views of the Kathmandu Valley.
I was super impressed by the white domes, glittering gold details, and vibrant features found throughout the Swayambhu Temple.
Learn all about Nepal’s culture while soaking up all the scenery. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the local resident monkeys!
8. Taste a favorite local dish: Momos
You cannot go to Nepal without trying one of the country’s most beloved dishes!
Taste the delectable flavors of momos at any of Kathmandu’s restaurants.
Dip it in sauce or eat it solo and top it off by pairing the dish with a traditional tea known as chiya.
7. Stroll around the Thamel District
A visit to Kathmandu is commonly filled with scenic hikes and untamed nature, but there’s also beauty in the area’s bustling city life.
Make sure to head to the Thamel District and soak up all the colorful and vibrant chaos.
Take in the strong scents, gorge on the delicious food, or purchase unique trinkets from local vendors. You can even try out a cooking class!
As the beating heart of Kathmandu, Thamel offers visitors plenty of facilities, activities, hotels, and restaurants. Additionally, if you’re looking for accommodations, the Thamel District is one of the best places to stay in Kathmandu, Nepal.
6. Check out the Boudhanath Stupa
If you’re on the hunt for the best things to do in Kathmandu, there’s no doubt you’ve come across this gem. I know I have.
Nepal’s Boudhanath Stupa is easily one of the most recognizable sights and is packed to the brim with religious history.
Wondering what a “stupa” is? Stupas can be found all over the world and are usually characterized as sphere-shaped buildings containing religious relics and remains. They are also used as places of meditation.
Explore this vibrant religious attraction and learn about the old trade route with the neighboring Tibet.
Don’t forget to stop for a refreshing cup of tea at one of the surrounding shops.
5. Visit Bhaktapur
The city of Bhaktapur, one of Nepal’s UNESCO-listed sites, offers travelers unique experiences and awe-worthy views. Pop into the Nyatapola Temple or walk around Durbar Square. Admire the beautiful Dattatreya Temple and grab a bite to eat at Taumadhi Square.
I highly recommend to not rush through this ancient gem!
Spend a few hours walking around soaking in the culture and history of Bhaktapur. This little city is a must-see if you’re on a trip to Kathmandu.
4. Get lost in the Ason and Mangal Bazaars
Get ready to shop ’til you drop—Kathmandu style!
If you’re looking for an upbeat area to score some souvenirs and practice your bargaining skills, you’ve got to check out the Ason and Mangal Bazaars.
These bazaars are great places to source the most colorful spices or shop for bracelets and hand-made jewelry. Grab souvenirs for your loved ones back home and recharge your energy with some classic Nepali street food.
3. Trek the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park
Escape the bustling city life and get a taste of the greenery in Kathmandu.
Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park offers flourishing forests, winding trails, and soaring heights to be explored. As one of the top things to do in Kathmandu, you can check out local wildlife and untouched nature, all while adding a bit of exercise to your Nepal trip.
For thrill-seekers looking for a more unique adventure through the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, mountain biking, trekking, and adventure sports experience are also offered by the park.
If you want to explore by foot, you can explore the lush forest yourself or as part of one of the many tours.
2. Stand in awe at the Pashupatinath Temple
Coined as a sacred spot by Hindus all over the globe, Pashupatinath Temple houses millions of visitors each year. This stunning complex is home to many religious sites, gorgeous architecture, and colorful buildings.
Local customs and ceremonies are still held at this temple, making this site a living piece of history. The Pashupatinath Temple is the best place to come to get an authentic perspective on Kathmandu’s culture and history.
Mount Everest is famous for its snow-capped peaks, soaring jagged heights, and indisputable idyllic scenery. Experiencing this well-known mountain in whatever way possible is a bucket list item for most people.
Not much of a mountaineer, but don’t want to miss out on one of Kathmandu’s most significant attractions? A plane ride could be the answer you’ve been looking for. Although a private plane ride can be a little over budget, it’s still cheaper than a multi-day hike for a panoramic mountain view. Not to mention it’s significantly more relaxing!
If you’re looking for something more affordable but thrilling, explore Mount Everest by paragliding, and it might just take your breath away from both the view and the thrill.
This a reminder to continually research the companies you take these adventures with! Safety and credibility are significant factors when putting your life in their hands.
Should you visit Kathmandu?
If you’re visiting Nepal, you should definitely plan a stop in Kathmandu! Kathmandu is the capital and the center of Nepali culture and history. A visit here is a must if you happen to be exploring the country or surrounding area.
Broken up into three cities, Kathmandu hosts a handful of exciting pursuits both within and outside its bounds. Take a day trip to Patan, appreciate any of the 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, or get lost in Bhaktapur.
Adventure lovers can go white-water rafting on the Trishuli River. Brave visitors can take a bet at the Casino Royale. Alternatively, daredevils can get their hearts racing paragliding in Pokhara Valley. There is something to satisfy everyone and their budget too!
Common Questions & Answers
Can't wait to travel to Kathmandu after this but have a few burning questions that you'll want answered? I've gotchu covered. Here are some of the common questions travelers have before heading to Kathmandu so you'll be ready to take off!
What's the iconic thing Kathmandu's most popular for?
Kathmandu is most known for its religious landmarks, in particular, the temples, monasteries, and stupas across the city. Some of the most visited landmarks include the Pashupatinath Temple and Changu Narayan.
I recommend checking these landmarks out during non-peak hours because it can get really crowded at times. When visiting the temples and stupas, make sure you follow the signage to be respectful of the locals!
How many days should I spend in Kathmandu?
There's a lot of debate on this topic, as it really depends on how much of the city you'd like to explore.
For first time travelers, I'd recommend staying for a full 3 days, excluding flight days, to really take advantage of seeing all of what Kathmandu has to offer. Some would recommend 2 days, but I think you might be pressed on time for some of the attractions.
I was able to squeeze in a few city walking tours when I was there for 4 days, but a full 3 days can be more than enough for first-time travelers!
Is it really cheap in Kathmandu?
Kathmandu is frequently labeled one of the cheapest countries in Asia to travel to and stay at. But that doesn't really go in-depth to answer how much you'd really need to budget for, so here it goes:
For stays... the average price of accommodations in Kathmandu, based on my research, is roughly 1.5k to 3k NPRs (Nepalese Rupee) for 1 to 2 person rooms.
For food... It really depends. I tried a variety of authentic street food to high-end restaurants, but I roughly spent 450 NPRs per day. Keep in mind this can fluctuate drastically based on where you'd like to dine.
In general, I'd budget roughly around 30-45k NPRs for a mid-range trip for a total of 4-6 days there.
Keep in mind these are all my own personal projections and your range, based on what your preferences are, may fluctuate quite a bit!
Discover South Asia
Jam-packed with delicious cuisine and busy cities rich in culture and history, what’s there not to do in South Asia?
If you’re already visiting Nepal, you should consider spending the extra time exploring more of the region! South Asia is jam-packed with exciting activities and awe-worthy attractions at every corner.
Spend a week in Thailand, exploring Bangkok, or getting rowdy at the Full Moon Party. Discover the lush greenery of Bali or the unique cuisine of Hanoi. There’s always somewhere new to explore in South Asia.
Visit Kathmandu, and don’t look back!
While you’re in Nepal, why not plan a South Asia tour? Use Pilot to organize this crazy adventure so that everything you need will be right inside your pocket.