Exploring Kathmandu was one of my favourite experiences in Asia. This beautiful city has suffered a lot recently, but there is so much to see and enjoy in the Nepalese capital. The city has delicious food, some great locations to get an insight into Buddhist culture and is an important gateway to Nepal’s famous trekking. Any outdoor gear you need can be found here and there are so many interesting travellers and locals to be met.
Before visiting Kathmandu, its important to note that things are still getting repaired from the devastating earthquake that heavily affected Nepal in 2015. Some tolerance and understanding when visiting many of the attractions, such as the impressive buddhist temples, goes a long way. When we were there in December 2015, electricity and fuel crises also meant that there were difficulties experienced (What It’s Really Like Travelling In Post-Earthquake Nepal).
A building half destroyed by the 2015 earthquake
Where to Stay
Accommodation in Kathmandu is very affordable and hospitality is regularly to a high standard. During our stay here we splurged and stayed at Hotel Shanker. However this only equated to the cost of a nice hostel dorm bed in Europe or Australia. It was a super nice hotel with a massive breakfast offering that often kept us fuelled until dinner. There are also some great hostels and guesthouses such as Elbrus Home and Family Peace House if you are looking to save your money for extra plates of momos!
What to See
There are many famous Buddhist shrines in Kathmandu, and the most famous is Boudhanath Stupa. As you walk around the dome-like structure, take some time to spin the prayer wheels and enjoy the Tibetan temples located around the edges of the complex. Do be aware that the stupa was heavily damaged and is still under reconstruction.
Another great temple to visit is Swayambhunath which remains largely undamaged from the earthquake. Many monkeys call this place home and the views overlooking Kathmandu itself are vast and panoramic.
Kathmandu Durbar Square is another great spot to visit. However, lots or rubble and buildings being held up by stilts remain. Entry tickets continue to be at full price and locals do not pay. The entry fee is very expensive and easy to avoid, but the money does go to repairing the Square so it is up to you. Leading out from Durbar Square is a hectic and long Nepalese market which is definitely worth visiting.
Finally, the suburb of Thamel within the city is a great place to visit for some Nepalese bargains. Things such as outdoor gear, prayer flags and other trinkets can all be found and great prices here. Thamel is the tourist area of Kathmandu but it is very beautiful and there is lots to do around here.
Kathmandu’s Durbar Square as a flock of pigeons fly overhead
What to Eat
Our hands-down favourite Nepalese dish is momo’s, and Kathmandu is an amazing place to try them. They are usually filled with either vegetables, buffalo meat or pork, wrapped in a light dough and steamed or fried. A tasty dipping sauce often accompanies these delicious parcels. Yangling Restaurant’s signature chilli momo’s were the best place for Nepalese dumplings.
For one of the best vegetable curries and delicious Naan breads you’ll ever eat, pay Western Tandoori & Naan House a visit. When trying to find this place keep your eyes peeled, as this hole in the wall restaurant is easily missed. A couple of curries and a basket of hot flat breads straight from the tandoor will only set you back a few dollars. The breads are made in a clay oven at the entrance to the small restaurant and the food was one of the best meals we’ve ever had overseas (and definitely one of the cheapest!).
A plate of daal bhat, a lentil based curry with various accompaniments is another dish worth trying in Kathmandu. Many restaurants offer this meal, so when one takes your fancy, head in and give it a try.
Chilli mo mo’s from Yangling – my favourite!
How to Get Around
The fuel crisis that recently hit Nepal seems to have lifted, meaning the cost to travel around Kathmandu by vehicle has also reduced once again. Taxis are easy to find, especially around the tourist areas. Always insist on using the metre and tipping to get the best rate. If the driver says no simply ask the next one. If there is no metre haggle hard to get a decent rate.
During our time in Kathmandu we opted predominantly for walking to get around. This allowed us to take in everyday life more and see things often missed when driving past in a taxi. As for getting to nearby towns from Kathmandu, local buses are the most affordable option. They are very cheap and get very packed with people. Buses with many passengers sitting on the roofs is a common sight. We caught a couple of these buses and it certainly is something worth experiencing when in Nepal! There are also tourist buses than run more frequently in peak tourist season. Finally, you can hire a taxi but be prepared to pay accordingly.
Our backpacking Kathmandu experience was fantastic and we would highly recommend spending some time exploring this city. Kathmandu is full of interesting travellers, warm and friendly locals, fantastic history and delicious food. While some of the sights are still undergoing repair they are still insightful places to visit. Kathmandu is also a great gateway to Nepal’s famed trekking.