Kathmandu is dirty, smelly, loud and chaotic. But we fell in love with it all the same. There is something intoxicating about the hustle and bustle, the colour, the entropy. There is so much to see, so much to do and so much to learn about, even after 4 seperate trips there we only just saw it all.
This post is going to lay out all our favourite spots in the city and show you what to do in Kathmandu to get the most of your stay.
We already showed you the delights of Bhaktapur’s squares and Kathmandu’s is just as interesting. In fact, it may be the best place in the city for people watching and the stunning architecture is the backdrop to it all. Eccentrically decorated rickshaws rule the streets and colourful babas wander through the crowds often, luring you in for a 20 rupee photo with their floor length dreads. Take yourself up the steps of one of the stoupas or monuments and take it all in, camera and 5 rupee chai in hand.
There is now an entrance fee to the square, which is incredibly pricey for Nepal and does put a lot of tourists off. However if you pay once ($7.50) you can get a month or more long pass for the rest of your trip. You can also sneak in if you are clever… but we didn’t tell you that.
Swayambhu is famous by one other name, the monkey temple, and as soon as you step foot on the first of many steps up to the temple you will see why. The primates running around are super tame and love a good photo shoot. The views are unbeatable, looking over what looks like the whole of Kathmandu with a few white peaks visible on a good day. And the temple itself is incredible. Monkey temple is a must in Kathmandu. Even on the most grey days, it is so photogenic. I think the photos do it the most justice…
Oli and I both agree that this is our favourite stoupa in Kathmandu. It is absolutely huge and the thousands of prayer flags fluttering from it create an awesome atmosphere. It is also incredibly well laid out with restaurants and cafes surrounding the temple, all with rooftops with these incredible views. You can see Bouddhanath by day or night, both of which are busy with circling monks and worshippers.
This is one of the most important Hindu temples in Nepal and is definitely the most fascinating on this list. Devoted to the Lord Shiva, this temple attracts thousands of people for one very important but somewhat peculiar reason. Many Hindus come to Pasthputinath at the end of their lives, to die and be cremated. On the banks of the Bagmati River, their ashes slowly make their way to the holy River Ganges.
It may seem strange but watching a live cremation may be one of the best things you see in Kathmandu. It is certainly the most opening. Unlike in the West, these funerals are open to the public, and no one bats an eyelid to you sitting across the river watching intently as the females weep and males shave their heads in mourning. Seeing this wholly different attitude to death was amazing.
The Garden of Dreams
Need a respite from all the craziness? The Garden of Dreams, just outside of Thamel is the place. It may be 200 rupees entry but the peace, quiet and pretty foliage are totally worth it. Especially if you manage to grab one of the garden ‘beds’ pictured below. It’s especially nice just before sunset.
I think it’s actually impossible NOT to shop in Kathmandu. In Thamel there are more shops than any other establishment and they sell some seriously awesome souvenirs. From ridiculous cheap hiking knock-offs and cashmere goods, to one of a kind paintings, to yak-wool gloves and hand-carved flutes, I could write an entire post about retail therapy in Kathmandu. Don’t feel guilty, just shop and revel in the bargain prices.
The only other thing to note is food and wow does Kathmandu do it well. But this is worthy of another post as we all know how much Oli and I love to eat, so look out for that later this month.
Have you been to Kathmandu? Is there something big I’ve missed? And, if not, does this list entice you?