Kathmandu is a vibrant metropolis where old meets new and bicycle rickshaw drivers peddle past goats grazing trash outside sparkling clean restaurants, the modern kind, tailor made for Western hikers. A city that is overcoming natural disaster and capitalising on the tourism created by it’s world-class hiking trails, famous towering mountains and incredible, almost overwhelmingly kind hospitality. In this 4 minute travel guide: Kathmandu, you’ll get a taste for this Himalayan capital.
Four Minute Travel Guide: Kathmandu
This four minute travel guide: Kathmandu is designed to give you just the most important features of a destination, without the heavy reading! Designed to be read and digested in around 4 minutes. So kick back, scroll down and spend 4 minutes exploring one of my favourite cities in the world. If you reach the end and find yourself captivated, I’ve inlaced some links to some of the best Kathmandu related reading from around the internet.
Getting Started in Kathmandu
The main thing to know about Kathmandu is that Thamel is the main tourist-area. It’s where you’ll find the most shopping, bazaars, hotels and restaurants in Kathmandu. If it’s your first visit to Kathmandu, this is most likely where you’ll want to be. Kathmandu is serviced by an International Airport. You can also reach the city via bus from India (Delhi, Varanasi and Gorakpur are the most common places to leave from). At the time of writing, the roads to Tibet are still closed, and Nepal only shares a land border with these two countries. Nepal has no trains (well none useful to visitors, anyhow) so getting around is by bus, car and taxi.
When to Visit Kathmandu
October is Autumn , and the peak season for visiting all of Nepal. The weather is mild and the air is clear from recent monsoons. It is dry but not too cold at night, and generally warm and sunny during the day. It also features Tihar and Dashain, the two main Nepalese festivals of the year. So if you like the atmosphere, this is an excellent time to come over. If you want to avoid the festivals and throngs of tourists, then the springtime, from March until May, is a fabulous time to experience the rhododendrons and other blossoming flowers of Nepal. Best to avoid: June-August is summer and also monsoon. So unless you particularly like the wet, monsoon season, it’s not a good time to visit. December – February is winter, it can be very cold and snow (but not in Kathmandu). However it can also be very scenic and good for low altitude trekking, so take your pick!
What to Do in Kathmandu City
Kathmandu is an interesting city to explore, and has a number of areas, temples and markets to explore. Some of the key things to do in Kathmandu are:
- Shop for handicrafts in Thamel. Some of the popular wares include pashminas, yak wool blankets, bone, wood and glass jewellery, wooden musical instruments and puppets.
- Visit Durbar Square to explore historic temples and the temple of the living goddess
- Stroll the Garden of Dreams for a soothing spot of tranquility amongst the chaos of the city
- Check out Swayambhunath Temple & Boudhanath Stupa to see some of the more ornate and spiritual sites of Kathmandu.
Where to Stay in Kathmandu
Kathmandu is the hub of Nepal and there are no shortages of accommodation, especially within the area of Thamel. It is definitely possible to turn up and look for somewhere to stay once you arrive. However, if you feel more comfortable booking in advance, I can personally recommend:
- Katshmandap Travelers Home: What I believe to be the best hostel in Kathmandu, great for dorm-style living and meeting other travelers
- Bright Star Hotel: Private rooms at a good price. Clean and safe and in Thamel, but down a side road so away from the chaos
- Papaya House: Unbelievably good value and gorgeous, comfortable, clean rooms. Good WiFi too. A little out of the way so you need to catch taxis or local busses to get just about anywhere.
4 Minute Travel Guide Kathmandu Takeaways
- Nepal is home to some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met in my travels. The hospitality is exceptional
- Kathmandu is an amazing city to explore, although rather compact and small. After a few days you may feel that you’ve seen it all
- The city is in a valley and the pollution is some of the highest in the world. Factor this in when you are deciding your length of stay
- The city has an amazing blend of Nepalese, Indian, Tibetan and Chinese Influence, so the food is diverse and the atmosphere much more relaxed than in neighbouring india
- Thamel is one of the best spots in all of Nepal for well-priced handicrafts, so shop it up!
Have an Urban Adventure in Kathmandu
Urban Aventures is one of my absolute favourite partners, and I use their services myself – so these recommendations come from my own experiences! (check out the time I went to Mexico with their parent-company, Intrepid Travels) If you’re not sure how to spend a day in Kathmandu, they offer some pretty incredible (and super affordable) day trips within the city. For under $100 (yep, that’s right) you could be exploring Kathmandu by bike, getting to know the cities spiritual side, Experiencing the city as a rickshaw night explorer or learning to cook some incredible Niwali cuisine in a traditional cooking class.
Who would I recommend Kathmandu to?
Anybody who wants to be near excellent trekking, or experience a more chilled-out version of India. Kathmandu still has the amazing culture, vibrancy and delicious foods, curries and festivals like India, but without so much of the things that can make it overwhelming. If you’ve enjoyed the 4 minute travel guide: Kathmandu, then odds are you should know by now if this Himalayan city is the right destination for you.
General: Guide to Thamel, Kathmandu | 10 Important Tips for Visiting Kathmandu | Ten Interesting things to do in Kathmandu | 5 Offbeat Experiences in Kathmandu | Solo Female Travel: Traveling Alone in Nepal as a Woman
Books to Read: The Snow Leopard (Penguin Classics)| Lonely Planet Nepal (Travel Guide) | Escape From Kathmandu | Lonely Planet Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya (Travel Guide) | While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal | Nepal – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture | Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal
Eating: Eight Great Eats in Kathmandu | Trip Advisors Top Kathmandu Restaurants List | Vegan & Vegetarian Food in Kathmandu | A Backstreet Guide to the best Cafes in Kathmandu | Putting Nepali food on the map
Kathmandu Itineraries: Rough Guide’s Kathmandu Itineraries | Kathmandu Valley, Nepal: itinerary, cost breakdown, packing list | Nepal in under a week: visiting with only a 7 day or less itinerary
Trekking: Tips for Trekking to Everest Base Camp | A Backpackers Guide to Nepal | Guide to the Annapurna Circuit Trek | A Photographic Journey to Everest Base Camp
Other parts of Nepal: Chilling at Lakeside Pokhara, Nepal | Hike From Nagarkot To Nala | 2 Days in Pokhara | 10 Reasons to Visit Chitwan National Park
Have You Been to Kathmandu?
Let me know what you thought of the 4 minute travel guide: Kathmandu in the comments! I’d love to hear your own recommendations or experiences from your trip.