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The best way to describe Kathmandu is equal parts intoxicating and exhausting — the people, the foods, the traffic and temples make for an overwhelming and oh-so exciting experience!
Kathmandu made our itinerary, en route to check off one of our biggest Bucket List items (wooot!): visiting our giving back program, the Kopila Valley Children’s Home & School in Surkhet, Nepal!
If you’re stepping foot in Kathmandu, you too probably have other Nepal adventures on your itinerary (like trekking Everest Basecamp, the Anapurna Circuit or visiting the popular lakeside city of Pokhara), which means it’s important to do this city right!
Here are our must-see spots and recommendations for squeezing in one-heck of an adventurous day in Kathmandu:
STAY IN AN AUTHENTIC NEPALESE BOUTIQUE HOTEL
Of course, first things first, you’ll need a place to stay during your 24-hour adventure through the city, and we highly recommend staying at a Nepalese boutique hotel for a more authentic experience.
We loved our stay at the Dalai-La Boutique Hotel located in the popular Thamel area. Aside from being a fantastic central location for your full-day of adventures, the hotel itself is a small lux oasis inside the bustling city.
The whole property boasts Nepalese architecture, unique handmade artifacts and incredible details like hand-embroidered pillows, hand-carved pillars and traditional pottery that left us ooing and ahhing around every corner!
Aside from the comfortable beds, plush robes and gorgeous terrace, our favorite part was their quaint courtyard. It was the perfect spot for a dreamy and peaceful morning breakfast surrounded by the beautiful Nepalese architecture.
TAKE IN VIEWS OVER THE KOPAN MONASTERY
If gorgeous views and tranquil Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are your thing, then definitely head to Kopan Monastery located on a hilltop at the outskirts of Kathmandu. It’s definitely worth the drive to grab a Nepali tea at the small onsite cafe while soaking in the stillness, the monks and the views overlooking the city.
VISIT THE FAMOUS MONKEY TEMPLE
The famous “monkey temple”, Swayambhunath, is one of the most sacred Buddhist temples perched on a hilltop in Kathmandu and definitely worth the visit. A small workout will be needed to climb the 300-something steps to the top as mobs of holy monkeys run around the base of the temple.
If you caught our Instagram Stories from the trip, you’ll have seen an influx of sassy and cute monkey videos 😉
Once you reach the top (possibly out of breath like we were!), a grand stupa lies in the middle with small shrines surrounding it along with a handful of local shops selling trinkets.
HAVE LUNCH OVERLOOKING THE BOUDHANATH STUPA
This was one of our favorite experiences in Kathmandu as we enjoyed a blissful lunch overlooking the Boudhanath Stupa, the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet — built in the 14th century!
There are many rooftop cafes that overlook the stupa, although we highly recommend Roadhouse Cafe complete with a charming rooftop patio, delicious (and healthy) food options and strong Illy coffee if you need a little caffeine pick-me-up.
After lunch at the rooftop of the Roadhouse Cafe, stop by the second floor to admire the traditional paintings at the Thangka School of Thangka Paintings. The paintings are so intricate they can take up to one year to complete — and they even paint using 24 carat gold!
GET A SOUND HEALING SESSION IN PATAN DURBAR SQUARE
Patan Durbar Square is our favorite of the three historic Durbar Squares in Kathmandu known for its traditional Newari architecture. The ancient royal palace and temples are definitely worth the visit — the history and details of this place are incredible having been built around the 14th century!
After your visit of the temples and palace, be sure to wander the narrow streets of Patan.
Head to Tibetan Singing Bowl & Healing Center, a local shop that specializes in sound healing therapy from handmade Tibetan bowls. The vibrations of the bowls are said to cure headaches, back pain, stress and insomnia!
The quick sound healing session took less than 5 minutes and was free — although we bought a small handmade sound healing bowl to take home with us.
ENJOY “CHIYA” AT A LOCAL TEA HOUSE IN PATAN
Right around the corner from Tibetan Singing Bowl & Healing Center, is a small local tea house, Swotha Tea & Coffee Shop serving up some delicious Nepali tea! The shop owners are brother and sister (so cute!) and we’re incredibly friendly.
Most Nepali people drink tea (“chiya”) at least two times a day — and it’s often made with tea, water, milk and sugar boiled in a kettle.
We sat on their little wooden chairs outside and sipped our tea while admiring the incredible old architecture of Patan!
In general though, we made it part of our adventure to try chiya almost any chance we had 😉
EAT DELICIOUS LOCAL MOMOS
You can’t visit Nepal and not try the delicious local food — one of our absolute favorites are the local “momos”. Momos are a kind of dumpling (similar to Japanese gyozas) and can be filled with veggies, chicken or buffalo.
We ordered momos at almost every meal while we we’re in Nepal — that’s how much we loved them 😉
We highly recommend having dinner (and momos!) at Rosemary Kitchen and Coffee Shop, a charming and casual dinner spot located in Thamel and set off from the busy roads. It was one of our favorite dinner spots in the city!
READ A BOOK IN THE GARDEN OF DREAMS
An absolute sanctuary and oasis of greenery in the middle of the city, the Garden of Dreams is a must-see! Once inside the garden walls, you’ll step foot into a gorgeous neo-classical, sophisticated garden.
Large pavilions, quaint benches, water ponds and flowers fill the space — perfect for you to enjoy a good book or soak in the sun.
There are also a few beautifully designed cafes inside the garden walls, like the Kaiser Cafe, where you can enjoy a quiet coffee and a bite.
CATCH THE SUNSET AT PASHUPATINATH TEMPLE
Pashupatinath is a large, famous and sacred Hindu temple located on the edge of the Bagmati River. This was the last temple we visited during our stay in Kathmandu — and thankfully so, as it’s an intense, out of this world experience.
Pashupatinath Temple is also a public cremation site where the last rites of Hindus are performed on raised platforms along the river around sunset time — definitely not an experience for the faint hearted.
QUICK TIPS FOR ADVENTURING AROUND KATHMANDU:
● Purchase a SIM card at the airport: We highly recommend purchasing a Ncell SIM Card when you arrive at the airport. The counter is just after baggage claim — we recommend the 15GB plan which will only cost you about $10 USD. Make sure you have a passport sized photo to give them (which they require) or they will take one for you at the counter which will be an additional $0.50 cents. The process is super easy and once you have your local SIM — it’ll be so easy to use your 4G to get around the city!
● Hire a driver for the day: to get the absolute most out of your day, it’s most efficient to hire a driver to take you to each location which cuts down on time potentially getting lost or haggling with taxis. This cost us $60 USD for the day — and our driver doubled as a tour guide giving us interesting facts throughout the day.
● Most temples require an entrance fee: Each temple we visited required an entrance fee which must be paid in rupees. We recommend changing your currency into Nepalese rupee at a currency exchange in the city or withdrawing rupee from an ATM. You’ll also need rupee if you plan on doing any shopping in the city!
● Wear conservative clothing: Throughout Nepal, it’s respectful to make sure your shoulders and knees are completely covered — and same goes for exploring around Kathmandu and being allowed to enter the temples.
● Power outages are common: Power outages are quite common in Kathmandu throughout the day so don’t be caught off guard. Usually it’s back on within a minute or two and shouldn’t affect your trip.
● Only drink bottled water: Never drink tap water or water that isn’t properly bottled in Nepal — it’s very easy to purchase bottled drinking waters at convenience stores around the city and we recommend opting to purchase bottles at a proper establishment if possible (i.e. restaurant, hotel, larger store).
Have you been to Kathmandu? What were your favorite spots to explore in the city? Let us know in the comments below!
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Author: Cassie & Shay
Cassie and Shay are the sarcastic and sweet BFF duo behind The Bucketlist Bombshells where they teach and empower millennial women how to build an online service-based business that gives them the freedom to travel the world and live creatively. They’re also slightly obsessed with finding the best latte in each city and believe that dance parties are a cure all.
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Hey! We’re Cassie & Shay – we’re obsessed with helping millennial women build an online service-based business giving them the freedom to travel the world!
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