kathmandu city guide
The bustling city of Kathmandu is like many cities in Asia, one that leads to complete sensory overload. Since the earthquake in 2015 the city has been socked in by dust and residue, although some would argue it’s been dusty for decades. Regardless of whether you’re swerving through the alleyways on a scooter, or walking through densely populated Thamel Square, you’ll want something to mask the dust from your every breath.
Don’t get distracted by the chaos though or you’ll miss the deep rooted architectural beauty of Kathmandu. Durbar Square, a UNESCO site, is a massive public space of temples dating back to the 18th century. There are multiple Durbar Squares in Kathmandu and it’s surrounding cities, my favorite being Patan’s Durbar Square. A smaller more quaint plaza with red brick walkways to handcarved wooden structures, beautiful shrines, and temples. It lacks the scale of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, but it’s much more zen.
Unfortunately Patan’s Durbar Square was severely affected by the 2015 earthquake and many of the iconic structures have been destroyed. They are still rebuilding, and are currently charging foreigners 10 USD to enter the square.
Kathmandu is only a short taxi ride away from Patan, and is home to the Monkey Temple, also known to locals as Swayambhunath Temple. One of the oldest religious sites in Nepal, it can be accessed by a 365 step stairway which is swarming with wild monkeys and local craftspeople. From a distance you’ll notice a dome with Buddha’s eyes painted on each of the four sides. The eyes represent wisdom and compassion, and despite the mass of tourists at the top, it is a very sacred spot for Buddhists.
Second to Boudanath Stupa, which is one of the holiest Tibetan Buddhist sites outside of Tibet. Many Tibetan refugees reside in the winding streets adjacent to the Stupa, which falls along the ancient trade route from Tibet to Kathmandu Valley.
If you’ve traveled through Asia you’ve probably seen your fair share of temples, and religious sites. So, if you’re ‘templed out,’ not to worry there is plenty of shopping to be had. The best being outside of Kathmandu in Patan. The culinary scene in Kathmandu is rather uneventful, but there are a couple hidden gems that are suited mainly for Westerners.
Nepal’s capital city is overrun by dust, dirt and pollution, but if you can bare to look past it you’ll see the magic that shines through this remarkable city. Even more magical is what lies beyond it in the great Himalayas.
We had the luxury of staying in both Kathmandu proper and Patan, its neighboring city. Patan is slightly less overwhelming than Kathamandu.
Although, it's entirely possible that we came to that conclusion because of Swotha Traditional Homes. A peaceful oasis down an alleyway in Patan surrounded by greenery. Swotha is a 70 year old Newari home that got a new lease on life when Traditional Homes restored the building into an inn near Patan Durbar Square.
Go luxe or go home. You can find luxury in Kathmandu that is sure to be a wonderful escape from the bustling city life.
Dwarikas Hotel is perfection. A quick five minutes from the Kathmandu international airport, Dwarikas Hotel is enclosed by a brick wall that blocks off the excess noise surrounding the hotel.
With a center courtyard, complimentary yoga, multiple restaurants and a luxurious pool, you won't need to leave.
Nepal is famous for trekking, so the most wonderful attractions in my opinion lie outside of the bustling cities.
It's worth checking out Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Swayambhunath Temple and Boudanath Stupa, but nothing beats trekking the Himalayas.
There are an endless number of treks in Nepal, some of which can take you so remote that you're likely not to see a soul for at least 24 hours. Others will have you surrounded by foreigners with a common mission of trekking the views of the Himalays. In particular, Everest and the other 8 of the world's highest peaks.
Despite being overrun by tourists the Everest Base Camp Trek is sensational. Most travelers don't care for the crowds, dust, smell and having to dodge animal poop that you'll come across on this trek, but once you've reached 13k feet to Namche Bazaar and view Everest for the first time.... It's magical.
Another popular trekking option is the Annapurna Circuit. With stunning scenery this trek is slightly less crowded, leading to less dust and chaos. However, you may not get the crystal clear views of Everest that the EBC trek gets.