Three days in Kathmandu is enough time to get a feel for the city and its culture, watch the sun rise over the highest mountains in the world, and hike through rolling, forested hills. Visit UNESCO World Heritage sites, including sacred Hindu and Buddhist temples. Here are some great things to do in Kathmandu.
Day 1: Temples and Palaces
There are seven UNESCO World Heritage sites within the Kathmandu Valley, many near the center of the city. First head to Pashupatinath; it's the most sacred Hindu temple in Nepal. Next, visit nearby Boudhanath Stupa, the most important Tibetan Buddhist site in Nepal and the center of Kathmandu’s Tibetan community. After lunch overlooking the stupa, head to the hilltop stupa of Swayambhunath, which has been nicknamed Monkey Temple for the monkeys that live nearby. Be sure to take in the great views of the Kathmandu Valley from Swayambhunath. In the evening, have dinner in Thamel or Durbar Marg.
Day 2: Sunrise and Village Life
While Kathmandu is a big congested city, you don’t have to travel far to find rural village life and nature. Get up early to reach Nagarkot in time for sunrise. This town is famous for its sweeping Himalayan views, which are especially notable when bathed in a golden early morning glow. After breakfast, take a day hike or a sightseeing tour to nearby villages. Active travelers can hike to Namo Buddha, Panauti, Dhulikhel, or Changu Narayan. Travelers who want a more relaxed pace can reach these places by car to check out the ancient temples, farmland, and views.
Day 3: Visit an Ancient Kingdom
On your third day, visit either Patan to the south or Bhaktapur to the east. Both are outlying areas of Kathmandu that were once independent kingdoms and still retain their own distinct atmospheres and traditions. The old cities are culturally Newar, with the architectural styles and handicraft traditions reflecting this. The focal points of both are the Durbar Squares, collections of temples and old palace buildings around a plaza. Patan also has the excellent Patan Museum, and Bhaktapur the five-storied Nayatapola Pagoda. In the lanes around the squares, find hidden temples and courtyards, handicraft workshops, and relaxed cafes and restaurants.