Ultimate Kathmandu Travel Tips – Best Things To See and Do
Nepal is a vibrant country between Tibet and India in South Asia. After spending four amazing days in the capital of Kathmandu en route to a 7-day Bhutan trip, I am sharing my top Kathmandu travel tips in this article.
What is the best time to travel to Kathmandu, Nepal?
Late September to December are generally known as the best time to visit Kathmandu because the weather is dry and suitable for exploration and trekking. During this time, visitors also have superb views of the many glaciers and mountains nearby and many local festivals give tourists the opportunity to dive deep into local Nepali culture.
One of the biggest festivals in Nepal in autumn is Nepal’s Festival of Lights which lasts 10 days and celebrates the relationship between animals and people.
Air travel to Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu’s airport is called Tribhuvan International Airport and is about 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) from the city center of Kathmandu. This is currently the only international airport in Nepal with one domestic and one international terminal. The airport serves as a hub for several Nepalese airlines and over 30 international airlines connecting Nepal to destinations in Asia and the Middle East.
The international terminal is relatively small with only 5 gates. Commonly, information about gate numbers and boarding times appear on a screen between the terminals. It happened to me twice that my gate was announced at the time of boarding – so don’t be alarmed!
How to get a Nepal travel visa at Kathmandu airport?
Kathmandu Travel Tips
Everyone except Indian citizens require a visa to enter Nepal. However, the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Nepal couldn’t be easier. You can simply get a visa on arrival at Kathmandu airport.
You can get tourist visas for US$25, for 15 days, US$40 for 30 days and US$100 for 90 days. They can only be granted for a maximum of 150 days in each 12 month period.
All tourist visas are issues as “multiple entry” type visas allowing you to enter and exit Nepal during the period of validity.
When paying for your visa, you can pay in US dollars, euros, Pound sterling and Australian dollars.
When I did my own research about the visa on arrival for Nepal I found sources that said you also need one or two passport-sized photos – but I did not need those at Kathmandu airport.
Kathmandu Solo Female Travel
Kathmandu Travel Tips
Is it safe to travel to Kathmandu?
Before traveling to Nepal by myself, I also did a bit of research to find out what’s it like to travel around Kathmandu alone as a female. As a main base for backpacking, Kathmandu is relatively safe for all types of travelers. Of course, you should always stay aware of your surroundings and not wander into dark parts of town late at night.
I also chose to stay at a highly rated hotel near the Thamel area called Kantipur Temple House. The staff at the hotel were very helpful and attentive so that I always felt safe when staying in Kathmandu.
Best Place to Stay in Kathmandu
Kathmandu Travel Tips
There are a few different areas to stay in Kathmandu, each with their own pros and cons. The Thamel area is ideal for first-time travelers to Kathmandu – and it’s also where I chose to stay.
If you’re looking for a luxury resort to stay at during your time in Kathmandu, the Shangri-La Kathmandu is the perfect destination. Many guests treat themselves to the first-class service and facilities after trekking in the Himalayas.
What makes this property a great choice is the lush green and award-winning Shambala Garden, the outdoor swimming pool along with sauna and steam facilities.
Ghangri Boutique Hotel
Located just next to Kathmandu’s famous Boudhanath Stupa, Ghangri Boutique Hotel is a fabulous place to stay at. Ghangri Boutique Hotel has been welcoming Booking.com guests since 4 Mar 2015.
Boudhha is a great area for travelers interested in ancient landmarks, history and monuments. Solo travelers particularly like the location.
MY TOP TIP:
Kantipur Temple House
I spent four nights at Kantipur Temple House and loved my stay. The eco-friendly hotel is located in Kathmandu’s historic district, 2 km from Old Durbar Square, downtown Thamel and Kathmandu International Airport is 7 km away.
The eco-friendly resort focuses on conscious living and healing body and mind. Breakfast and dinner is included in the room rate. Guests can also join free daily walking tours with a licenses guide and take yoga sessions every morning on the rooftop or in the garden.
If you are looking for a relaxing place to stay in Kathmandu that is within walking distance to the historic center, Kantipur Temple House is the perfect choice.
KATHMANDU TRAVEL TIPS
While a lot of people only spend a short amount of time in Kathmandu en route to Himalaya trekking adventures, the city actually has a lot to offer. I spent 4-5 days in the city and just managed to visit all the “must-see” attractions. This Kathmandu valley travel guide covers the most beautiful must-see attractions in and around the city.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Nepal is home to three distinct Durbar Squares, all of which lie in the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu Durbar Square makes up the historic center of the city in front of the old royal palace of the former Kathmandu Kingdom. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a great place to start exploring the city.
Ason is is a ceremonial, market and residential square in central Kathmandu and the perfect place to just wander and explore. I have to admit, I was quite overwhelmed with the bustling chaos of this part of town and was hit by a wave of culture shock that quickly turned into awe-struck excitement.
Swayambhunath Monkey Temple
One of my favorite sites in Kathmandu is this monkey temple. This ancient religious architecture sits atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley overlooking the city. The Tibetan name for the site means ‘Sublime Trees’, for the many varieties of trees found on the hill. As its English name conveys, you will also find countless cunning monkeys running around this temple site waiting to snatch a snack from you.
Boudhanath is located about 11 km from the center and northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu. The stupa’s massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. The best time to visit here is late afternoon when locals start gathering and making their circles around the holy site to pray. There are several rooftop cafes allowing you to sit and watch the spectacle with a nice cup of coffee.
Shri Pashupatinath Temple
One of my personal favorite historic sites in Kathmandu is the Shri Pashupatinath Temple site. It is a famous and sacred Hindu temple complex located on the banks of the Bagmati River. Here, Hindu believers are cremated and their ashes scattered into the river, transporting them all the way to the holy Ganges in India.
There are also several smaller temple complexes (mostly only Hindus are allowed to enter) where festivals and important ceremonies are held. Several Sadhu holy men also live on these temple grounds and will gladly pose for pictures in exchange for a small donation.
Kathmandu Street Food Tour
Nepalese food is well renowned all around the world for its flavorful dishes. If you want to explore the tasty world of Nepalese food while traveling in Kathmandu, I highly recommend the Kathmandu street food tour I went on.
The food tour in Kathmandu is 2 hours long with flexible start times between 12 and 4 PM. Tour partakers have then the opportunity to taste amazingly flavorful dishes in Kathmandu’s off-the-beaten-track side-alleys and streets. Definitely a tour you don’t want to miss out on!
Kathmandu Street Photography Tour
I got the opportunity to join a street photography tour in Kathmandu and learned so many new things that I will be able to use in my future photography. If you, too, enjoy photography, be sure to check out this photography tour in Kathmandu when you’re in town!
It’s perfect for anyone wanting to improve their travel photography skills while exploring the vibrant chaos of Nepal. You’ll get the chance to explore parts of the city many tourists don’t generally venture into while getting professional tips on lighting, angles and subject selection.
Kathmandu Travel Tips
TOP DAY TRIPS FROM KATHMANDU
Patan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and historical gem. It’s an easy day trip from Kathmandu. The well-preserved Patan Durbar Square, Patan Museum, and the Golden Temple are among the must-see attractions in Patan.
Patan Durbar Square is a perfect example for ancient Newari architecture in the Kathmandu Valley. The square area features a variety of beautiful old temples but some can only be entered by Hindus.
Even though the 2015 earthquake brought extensive damage to Durbar Square (like in most of Kathmandu), Patan is definitely worth a visit.
Bhaktapur is the best preserved of the three medieval city-states in the Kathmandu Valley (Kantipur, which is modern-day Kathamndu, Patan and Bhaktapur). Just like in Patan and Kathmandu, the 2015 earthquake caused terrible devastation in Bhaktapur but luckily only a few temples were destroyed.
Besides the many stunning temples and ancient buildings, Bhaktapur is also famous for its pottery culture. This tradition is still very much kept alive, especially at Potters’ Square. Here, you will find an entire public square full of potter’s wheels and rows of clay pots drying in the sun.
Asides from pottery, Bhaktapur’s locals are also masters in wood carving and brass making. This makes Bhaktapur a great place to visit where the past meets the present.
While Patan and Bhaktapur are the most popular day trips from Kathmandu, Kirtipur is more off-the-beaten path and lesser-known than the two others. Kirtipur is an ancient city and one of the most famous and religious places to visit in Nepal.
Kirtipur is a great place to stroll around and get a glimpse into the lives of the locals. Here, you will see Nepali women washing their clothes with their neighbors in the alley, children playing with puppies and kittens and Hindus and Buddhists going about their prayers at neighborhood temples.
The city is also a great place to enjoy Kathmandu Valley views because of its unique location up on a hill. Culinary lovers are also going to find some of the best places to enjoy authentic Newari food in Kirtipur.