5 Essential Things to Do in Kathmandu, Nepal

Jase Wilson shares his favorite experiences to have in Kathmandu before he leaves the bustling city to go trekking in the mountains.

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Photo © Jase Wilson

Kathmandu is one of the most culturally rich, bustling and unique cities in Asia. Populated by stunning Hindu, Buddhist, and Newari temples, there's so much to see and do it can be hard to decide if you only have a short amount of time before you venture off into the mountains.

Swayambhunath

Swayambhunath – or the Monkey Temple as it’s commonly referred to – is an incredible place to soak up views of the Himalayas and the stretching sea of colorful houses that make you feel like you’re in another world.

The traditional Buddhist Stupa is second in importance only to Boudhanath in Nepal. It’s definitely worth the long walk up the stone-cut staircase. Just watch out for your belongings – monkeys roam the steps, and can get quite aggressive.

Swayambhunath. Photo credit: Jase Wilson

Boudhanath

Boudhanath Stupa is one of the largest spherical stupas in all of Nepal, and is a very important Buddhist site in Kathmandu.

The entire structure has been designed in the shape of a mandala, which represents a microcosm of the universe.

When you're there, walk clockwise – or sunwise as it was originally referred to – around the Stupa. Spin the prayer wheels as you go, but only in the clockwise direction, as it is offensive to do the opposite.

Purifying bathe in smoke. Photo credit: Jase Wilson

Thamel

Thamel is the central tourist district in Kathmandu. Here you’ll literally find everything you need for your Nepalese adventure.

If the shopping doesn’t interest you, check out the impressive variety of restaurants.

My personal favorites are the vegetarian-friendly vedors. After a long trek, the chocolate soufflé will blow your mind!

Also, don’t be shy – try some Nepali dishes at one of the many traditional restaurants. Coffee lovers can find incredible coffee and cakes at Himalayan Java.

Inside Thamel, you can find ample amounts of live music, food, clothing, and trekking supplies, all within walking distance.

Pashupatinath

Pashupatinath is one of the most important places in Kathmandu for Hindu people, where many of the city’s Hindus are cremated. Of course, it’s important to practice the utmost sensitivity when witnessing the cremations.

For those who visit, you’ll find a surprisingly serene and thoughtful atmosphere, populated mostly by men clad entirely in white, with shaved heads, save for a small tuff at the back.

These mourners will spend up to two weeks and sometimes more in the temple to grieve for their loved ones.

Cremation area at Pashupatinath. Photo credit: Jase Wilson
A family gathers outside the temple. Photo credit: Jase Wilson

Durbar Square

This is one of the best places to see ancient Newari carvings, which are both beautiful and incredibly intricate. It’s a UNESCO heritage site, along with other Newari sites such as Patan and Bhaktapur.

Other Fun Things to Experience in Kathmandu

  • Get a haircut! Seriously, it’s quite the experience and it usually comes with a bonus shoulder massage.
  • Visit Jazz Upstairs on Wednesday nights for a good time.
  • Go climbing at Astrek Climbing wall in Thamel.
  • Take a language class — Nepali is surprisingly easy to learn the basics.

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1 Comment

  • Will - monkey steals peach said

    I was in Kathmandu in 2007. My stay was unfortunately cut short due to a big Maoist movement going on at the time. They basically held the city under siege and cut the power and water, so I left the day before. Was an amazing city though, would love to go back.

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