Kathmandu is packed with amazingly architecture, centring on Durbar Square with its eclectic collection of temples and shrines. Beyond this though and the astounding experience of being there, Kathmandu offers tourists restricted adventure activities. However, Kathmandu is the starting place for several adventure activities in the rest of the country like trekking, rafting, adventures in the jungle and many extreme sports.
Kathmandu’s history and stunning architecture provides lots for visitors to enjoy.
Our Kathmandu destination guide below tells you the major highlights when visiting the city. You can also book an interesting tour in Kathmandu directly with us, or take a look at some useful information for your travels in Nepal. You should also check out some of the exciting things to see and do in other great Asian destinations such as India, Pakistan and China.
Things to see & do in Kathmandu
If you wish to see some of the Himalayan Mountains without going on a trek, you can spend some time walking for a couple of days out of the Kathmandu valley. You will be rewarded with some wonderful views of the mountains without the rigour involved in a trek. The walk up to the hillside of Nagarkot, which takes a couple of days, is a good way to see the surrounding mountain ranges at dawn and dusk. Any company in Kathmandu that organises treks will be eager to coordinate this trip for you.
This stupa, measuring 36 metres in height, is one of the largest stupas in South Asia. It is located 6km east of Kathmandu on the ancient trade route to Tibet and symbolises Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. The Tibetan bazaar in this area is a good place to shop for jewellery, handmade carpets, Tibetan paintings called "Thangkas", masks and the peculiar knives used by the Gorkhas known as "kukri". There are other stupas nearby in the surrounding area and all of them are worth visiting.
This temple, dedicated to the Hindu Lord Vishnu (The Lord of Creation), is located in Changu village, which lies 12km east of Kathmandu. This temple is considered to be the oldest temple in Kathmandu Valley and is a must-see for its treasure trove of ancient arts. Nepalese art history showcased here covers a span of over 1600 years and has some of the best pieces of stone, wood and metal craft in the country. Then of course there is the popular statue of Lord Vishnu sitting astride his mount "Garuda".
This is the famous street where hippies from the West sought enlightenment; however, it is now reduced to nothing more than a place where you can find only some restaurants and hotels.
You can take a relaxing stroll in this beautiful and serene walled garden located near the King's Palace. The entry ticket is Rs 200.
In the heart of Kathmandu lies this ancient square which is crowded with palaces and temples. This is the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal. It also houses the latest version of the "Kasthamandap" or "Wooden House" from where the name of the city was derived. After the construction of a palace here in 1000 A.D., this square has been a lively place.
The entry fee for this square is Rs 200, or around US$3. Durbar Square is a magical sight at dawn and dusk. However, it can be a very tiresome experience due to the large number of young men offering to be guides. Be firm and say "No" if you do not want one but also beware that just standing in a place or looking at a map will attract a number of "helpers". The Kathmandu Durbar Square Museum is a must-see here.
There are dozens of statutes and buildings of importance in this small area. Some of them include:
Taleju Temple - It is one of the oldest temples in this square. It is constructed in the typical Newari architectural style with pyramid-shaped bases and three roofs.
Kumari Palace - This palace, located at the southern end of Durbar Square, is home to a young girl who is considered to be a "living goddess" or "kumari".
Saraswati Temple - It is a temple devoted to "Saraswati" who is the "Goddess of Knowledge and Learning".
Sweta Bhairab - In this temple the statue can only be seen during the "Indra Jatra" festival.
For a better view of the square, you can climb the steps of any temple and sit on top to see the bustle below.
The King's Palace is a modern palace, which is well protected. Worth seeing are the 20-foot tall bamboos all around the palace and the huge fruit bats hanging from the tall trees. It is a sight to see them, especially at dusk when they fly away en masse.
Here you can find the Rana Museum, temples and statues.
This famous temple is an important shrine to Lord Shiva, who is depicted as the "Lord of the Animals". Morning is a good time to visit this temple where you can also see saints, a holy cave, cremation ceremonies and monkeys.
Pashupati lies only 1.5 km from the international airport. The area is surrounded by a thick, green jungle where birds and animals live and play in large groups on the pavements of the temples in Pashupati. Here, you will also find "sadhus" or saints who follow the way of life of Lord Shiva. They cover their bodies with ash, wear loincloths and "Rudraksha malas", and apply "tika". Legend goes that Lord Shiva came to Pashupati to escape boredom and became famous as "Pashupati" or the "Lord of the Animals".
Today, millions of Hindus from the Asian sub-continent of India, Nepal and Pakistan come here to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva. Many Hindus from other parts of the world as well come here to fulfil their dream of visiting the holiest Hindu Pilgrimage site in the world. The temple is a "pagoda" house with a gold-plated roof, silver doors and exquisite carvings on wood. The sanctity of the Pashupati Temple lies in the "linga" (phallic symbol) of Lord Shiva, his pictures, statues and the Bagmati River flowing beside it.
The Kathmandu Valley originated from the Swayambhu Temple. The history of this valley is that it was actually a lake. Bodhisattva Manjusri travelled to this area and began to admire a lotus in the lake. He made a gorge in a hill on the southern side of the lake to drain the water in order to worship this lotus. Later, people settled on the bed of the lake and named it Kathmandu Valley.
In English the word "Swayambhu" means "self-existent". Today this temple of "stupas" enables us to see the religious harmony in existence in Nepal. Tibetan monks, Brahmin priests and Newar nuns all worship here. An elegant touch to the temple is added by finely crafted Buddhist paintings, giant prayer wheels and special oil lamps.
Thamel is the major tourist ghetto of Kathmandu, with plenty of restaurants, hotels and shops for tourists.
Nepal, stretching across the highest reaches of the Himalayan Mountains, is a land of transcendental scenery, ancient temples and one of the best walking trails in the world. Although it is a poor country, it is rich in scenic beauty and cultural wonders. Nepal has long tugged on the imagination of the Western world and it is difficult to forget this place once you leave.
This is the reason many tourists return to Nepal, equipped the second time around with a sturdy pair of walking shoes, a wish to explore the land more on foot and a better knowledge of the natural and cultural diversity of Nepal.
Due to the wide range of geographical features in Nepal, trekking is a highlight for most tourists here. Nepal offers a diverse landscape and vegetation. Apart from the natural surroundings, there is the existence of a rich Himalayan culture.
Thousands of tourists go trekking in different parts of the country throughout the year to experience nature and the rustic charm and culture of Nepal. Most treks go as high as 1000-3000 metres and some popular treks also go beyond 5000 metres.
There are three famous areas for teahouse trekking in Nepal. Teahouse trekking means good food and accommodation is available at teahouses or lodges en route. The most popular teahouse route is Annapurna, which takes between 3 to 28 days, Langtang-Gosainkunda-Helambu, which takes around 5 to 18 days and Everest, which takes 6 to 30 days.