BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN KATHMANDU: TRAVELER'S GUIDE
Discover the best places to visit in Kathmandu, Nepal, including Thamel, Durbar Square, Garden of Dreams, Swayambhunath Stupa, and Kathesimbu Stupa. Read more about best things to do in Kathmandu in our comprehensive guide.
Just after we left the arrival hall of Kathmandu's airport, we immediately felt the overwhelming buzz of this bustling capital city of Nepal.
PLACES TO VISIT IN KATHMANDU
Kathmandu is vibrant city covered with smog, dust, loud horn honking is coming from every direction, and various smells are wafting from food stalls along the road, but this is exactly the vibe we love in Asia.
Pedestrians don't have any rights here, so be always alert and don't assume that cars will yield to you when crossing the road. Motorbikes are allowed to drive almost everywhere in the city, even in the narrowest streets and will leave you covered in the dust behind.
Kathmandu was hit by the strong earthquake of 7.8 magnitude (several aftershocks began immediately after the initial quake) back in April 2015 as other areas in Nepal, and you can still see remnants of its destructive power.
People of Nepal are working hard on the restoration of streets and houses, but still have a long way to go.
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It is the most popular tourist area packed with hotels, restaurants, street vendors and small shops. We spent a night here after our arrival and stayed few more after coming back from Annapurna Circuit.
It is possible to walk around the city from Thamel and even though this area is also known for various scams against tourists, we felt completely safe here. The area became a no-go zone for vehicles since October 2017, so the visit should be more pleasant for pedestrians.
But Thamel district is not only about accommodation and food. Wander around the streets, forget about the noise, get lost and you'll soon find yourself in a different world with a peaceful atmosphere. Explore abandoned alleys, hidden temples with unique architecture and everyday life.
Durbar Square is undoubtedly the most popular attraction in Kathmandu, UNESCO designated area since 1979, which is now recovering from 2015 earthquake. The entrance fee for foreign visitors is 1000 NPR, and fee increase should have also helped to restore the square as quickly as possible.
To be honest, visiting Durbar Square two years after the earthquake we expected it to be in a better state already, so we can only hope the Nepali government will work hard on the restoration not only because of its uniqueness but also because it is a significant source of income.
Upon arrival, you will get a map at the counter, which shows the sights structural damage, green color means the building is in good condition, red means it's barely standing, or it is gone, yellow is something in between. The dominant colors on the map are red and yellow.
Despite this fact, Durbar Square is still a must-see in Kathmandu. It is a complex of palaces, statues, temples, shrines, and detailed frescoes.
The central feature is Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex named in honor of the monkey god, Hanuman. Another famous architecture is the statue of Bhairava or Basantapur tower.
You can walk through the old city by yourself, or you can hire a local guide, just be aware of scams and make sure your guide is the licensed one.A short walk from Durbar Square is a food market with oriental spices, dried fishes, veggies, fruits, and meat.
Garden of Dreams
Created in 1920's and recently renovated, this lush green complex is almost unreal and something you would not expect to find in the dust-filled Kathmandu. Garden of Dreams is a place where you can relax after long day walking around the buzzing city and crowded with well-dressed locals and tourists and seems like it doesn't even belong to Kathmandu.
High walls separate this oasis from busy streets, and for a small fee, you can walk around, sit on the lawn and just relax and admire beautiful flowers, fountains, neoclassical pavilions and amphitheaters.
Another worthwhile stop is Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as Monkey Temple, religious architecture sitting atop a hill overlooking Kathmandu and Kathmandu Valley.
We decided to walk from Thamel, it takes about an hour, and you must cross Bagmati River. It is considered holy, but this section of river meandering Kathmandu is smelly disgusting part full of garbage, so walk quickly!
There are many stairs to reach the stupa, you pay entrance fee almost at the top, and it seems that only foreigners must pay to enter. Beware of monkeys as they can be pretty annoying when it comes to food.
From the top, you can admire widespread Kathmandu when it's clear, but Kathmandu is unfortunately very often covered in haze and smog. Most significant attractions on the top are Buddha, prayer wheels, and many stupas connected by prayer flags.
Just a short walk from Thamel is a hidden square without the crowds where you can chill and observe the local life. We discovered this peaceful gem in otherwise busy Kathmandu on our way to Durbar Square. In the center of the square is monumental Kathesimbu Stupa with typical Nepali eyes.
You will find several smaller stupas surrounding the main one and Buddhist temple in the corner of the square. Locals come to pray here and feed pigeons so don't be surprised to see whole flocks here.