Kathmandu at a Glance
Not knowing what to expect from a trip is often the best way to fully arrive with an open mind, and that’s exactly what you are going to need to bring when you land in this extraordinary city. Normally we would have both been pretty overwhelmed with the whole hustle and bustle of the city, but as I’ve spent a lot of time in Ghana, and we’ve both been to Morocco and Cambodia a couple times, it wasn’t completely new to us. After a knackering 20 hours travelling from London Gatwick, stopping at Istanbul and Dehli, we got a much needed wake up on our taxi ride to the hostel. The roads are basically a free for all, but in the absence of traffic lights, they have ‘traffic police’ standing in the middle of the crossroads to direct the traffic, not that the motorbikes take any notice!
This city won’t be for everyone, but if you enjoy discovering tiny family ran restaurants, exploring cobbled alleyways to amazing hidden temples and don’t mind getting your clothes dusty, then you will absolutely love it!
This is a monkey temple which is one of the most definitive and historical experiences of Kathmandu! Swayambthunath is exhilarating experience, with an intoxicating smell of butter lamps and incense. This is then magnified if you can catch the sunrise or sunset as you will be joined by many local devotees during their ritual lap of the stupa, spinning the prayer wheels and laying out flower offerings and lighting candles as they go. This estimated 2000 year old temple homes a fantastic view of Kathmandu and the sun peaking out from the horizon. Have a look around, maybe even buy and light a candle. (Make sure you cover your legs and shoulders girls, and walk clockwise around the stupa, don’t offend the locals!)
One of the main attractions of Kathmandu is the historical Durbur Square, located a 20min drive from Swayambthunath and 10 mins from Thammel. This square was quite badly damaged in the 2015 earthquake, which is evident in the square still today, with some areas being cut off and with piles of bricks where temples once were. The are many entrances to the square and at one of them, some guarded will try to charge you to get in, they seemed to pick and choose who they wanted to charge. This happened to us and we just turned around and went in a different entrance. There are so many cool places to eat, western and traditional food, so make sure you go in time for lunch or dinner!
Thamel is the heart of Kathmandu, with nightlife, restaurants and bars a plenty, you will be spoiled for choice. The shops supply anything you can think of, although they can sometimes be more expensive than other areas in Nepal. Kathmandu is built up around 3 main roads so it’s not that hard to get lost. The roads are narrow and dusty but with the shop signs and prayer flags the roads look very cute and characteristic.
Our hostel had a really nice restaurant on the roof so we didn’t try as many different places to eat as we maybe should have. But the two best places we went to were: Fire and Ice, for amazing pizzas and deserts (it’s right next to the Garden of Dreams). The second place was New Orleans which had amazing burgers and was in the centre of Thamel down one of the narrow roads. We would also recommend you to a bakery for breakfast called Hot Breads which will make you feel as though you have just stepped straight into Austria!
Claiming the title as the largest stupa in Asia, this 14th century build is a must see if you have the time. Located in the eastern surrounding towns of Kathmandu, its roughly a 20min taxi ride from Thamel. It costs 200NRP to enter, which seems alot considering you walk around it a few times and then leave, but then you remember thats only £1.50! Ladies, you don’t have to cover up shoulders but legs would be appropriate. Cute market like shops surround the Stupa, selling scarves, trousers prayer flags, the usual. There are also many rooftop restaurants to grab some food and a drink, but annoyingly they were all closed when we went due to a festival going on. Remember to walk clockwise around the Stupa!
Stupa definition- A dome-shaped building erected as a Buddhist shrine.