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Things to do in  Kathmandu

Welcome to Kathmandu

Nepal's chaotic and colorful capital is set in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley, surrounded by the jagged, snowy peaks of the Himalaya. You'll want to explore Kathmandu's old city center, a crowded warren of small shops and cobblestone alleyways, by foot or rickshaw—the streets are too narrow for most cars. Crumbling buildings open onto courtyards where chilies, rice, and laundry dry in the sun, and around nearly every corner you'll find temples, shrouded in incense smoke and bedecked with marigolds. Learn more about the region's dominant religions by touring Buddhist Bouddhanath Stupa and the impressive Pashupatinath Hindu temple complex (note, however, that only Hindus are allowed inside its gates). A 2015 earthquake devastated some of Kathmandu's historic sites, including UNESCO-listed Durbar Square, a former royal residence that dates to the 16th century, but many others were unharmed. Popular short excursions from Kathmandu include Shivapuri National Park, the medieval village of Bhaktapur, and the former hill station of Nagarkot. And of course, Kathmandu is the main hub for trekking in the Himalaya. Trekking tours can be arranged to suit almost any budget, ability, and available time. Consider a guided trek in the Annapurna Sanctuary or, if you’re short on time, book a helicopter flight to get a glimpse of Everest. Safari tours to Chitwan National Park can also be organized from Kathmandu. The former royal hunting ground is now a protected ecosystem of marshes, jungle, and grasslands, home to more than 400 animal species, including Bengal tigers and rhinos.

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Top 20 attractions in Kathmandu

Kathmandu Durbar Square (Basantapur)
#1

Kathmandu Durbar Square (Basantapur)

Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, one of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Nepalese capital, was once the location where kings were crowned, and today remains the heart of the city. The square dates back to the 11th century, when the Hanuman Dhoka Palace was constructed, and remained the abode of the Nepalese monarchy until the 19th century. The temples and palaces that still surround the bustling Durbar Square demonstrate the intricacy of Newar architecture, characterized by carved wooden windows and fine brickwork. The structures of the palace complex now house the King Tribhuwan Memorial Museum, the Mahendra Museum and the bizarre Kumari Chowk, a gilded palace where a young girl lives who is worshiped as the human incarnation of the goddess Durga. You can sometimes catch a glimpse of the current Kumari through her palace windows. During the Indra Jatra festival each September, the Kumari is paraded in her chariot through the square....
Thamel
#2

Thamel

Thamel is the beating heart of Kathmandu’s traveler scene. Hiking and rafting businesses, hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, and souvenir shops are jam-packed into the narrow streets of Thamel. While Thamel is hardly typical of the rest of Kathmandu, it’s a lively place to spend time, and is convenient for planning your travels around Nepal....
Boudhanath (Boudha Stupa)
#3

Boudhanath (Boudha Stupa)

Experts disagree on just how old Bodhnath Stupa is, but this site of Buddhist worship is undeniably one of the largest stupas in the world and the most popular site in Nepal. The oldest structure likely dates back to the fifth century AD, and local legend tells of a woman who tricked the king at the time into giving her a large plot of land to build a shrine to the Buddha. It’s unclear whether the Bodhnath Stupa houses a holy Buddhist relic as most such stupas do, but locals will tell you it has a small piece of bone that the Buddha once carried. Whatever the case my be, pilgrims still come here to walk clockwise around the stupa and spin the dozens of prayer wheels lining the brick wall that surrounds the structure....
Pashupatinath
#4

Pashupatinath

Pilgrims from Nepal and India flock to Pashupatinath Temple, the holiest Hindu site in Nepal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and is on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. Pashupatinath is also where many Hindu Nepalis come to die and be cremated....
Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)
#5

Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)

The oldest shrine complex in the Kathmandu Valley, Swayambhunath Temple (sometimes called the Monkey Temple) was said to have been built over 2,000 years ago. Situated at the top of a winding staircase, Swayambhunath has one of the city’s best panoramic views. The complex, containing multiple shrines and a stupa, is considered holy to both Buddhists and Hindus....
Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park
#6

Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park

Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park is in the north of the Kathmandu Valley, a chance to enjoy nature close to the city. There are many hiking and mountain biking trails through the park, and on a clear day visitors can see snow-capped mountains to the north. It’s a great place to come for a quick escape from Kathmandu, or to embark on a longer trek....
Sundarijal
#7

Sundarijal

Sundarijal is a village in Gokarneshwar Municipality to the north of Kathmandu, and on the edge of the Shivapuri National Park. Sundarijal means “beautiful water,” and the area is known for its waterfalls. Many visitors come to Sundarijal while hiking and mountain biking in the Shivapuri area....
Asan Market
#8

Asan Market

The Asan Tole Market, also known as Ason Tole or Asan Bazaar, has always been one of Kathmandu’s most strategically well-placed marketplaces. In ancient times, famous trade routes converged here and merchants traveling from India to Tibet would stop at the bazaar for rest and trading. Today, it is produce that is carried from all over the valley to the bazaar. In accordance with the square’s importance of food, the temple of Annapurna Ajima, the goddess of prosperity and abundance presides over the neighborhood. In the form of a filled grain bowl, she looks on from her ornamented pagoda over the market stalls loaded with fresh vegetables, grain, rice, lentils, peas, spices, teas, oils, incense and daily consumer goods. Merchants belonging to the Newari communities worship here and wish for luck in business, good fortune and wealth and both Hindus and Buddhists visit to pay their respects to the goddess....
Garden of Dreams
#9

Garden of Dreams

In the middle of dusty, traffic-clogged central Kathmandu is the neoclassical Garden of Dreams. The garden and pavilions were created in the 1920s as private gardens, but now they’re open to the public and provide a peaceful contrast to the busy streets outside....
Nagi Gompa (Nangkyi Gompa)
#10

Nagi Gompa (Nangkyi Gompa)

The Nagi Gompa (Nangkyi Gompa) is a Tibetan Buddhist convent located in the Shivapuri National Park, on the northern edge of the Kathmandu Valley. It’s home to more than 100 nuns, which is rare in a region that has many monasteries for men. Visitors are welcome, and many travelers stop here while hiking in the park....
Budhanilkantha
#13

Budhanilkantha

The five-meter-long and thus biggest stone statue in Nepal, Budhanilkantha, portrays a sleeping Vishnu, floating like a gigantic astronaut on a bed of snakes in the middle of a big pool of water depicting the cosmic ocean. The incredibly well preserved carving is made out of black stone and is thought to be 1500 years old. Located in the village of the same name, the holy site is a popular spot for Hindus to practice puja, a prayer ritual to worship the gods. The daily ceremony entails priests – they are the only ones allowed to approach Vishnu’s divine head - washing the face and the feet of the sculpture with water and afterwards, applying a mixture of ghee, milk, yoghurt, honey and sugar on the same spots. Later, since only Hindus are allowed to get close the statue, believers worship at its feet and leave offerings of food and flower petals. All other visitors have to be content with viewing the resting Vishnu from the sidelines....
Changu Narayan
#15

Changu Narayan

Changu Narayan Temple, located within easy reach of the town of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley, has a history as a sacred site dating all the way back to the third century AD, though the double roofed temple that stands in honor of the god Vishnu today was erected after a fire in 1702. Some of the statuary contained within the temple date back to the fourth through ninth centuries. The ancient temple honors Vishnu as Narayana, or the First Being. The wooden roof supports that are visible on the temple’s exterior depict several other deities from the Tantric school, and the stone sculptures surrounding the building depict various other avatars of Vishnu as well as of local kings and queens. The traditional Nepali-style architecture includes intricately gilded windows and four gates, each guarded by a pair of stone animals. Only Hindus are allowed inside the main temple when it's open, but there are plenty of sights to enjoy in the courtyards surrounding the main structure....
Nagarkot
#16

Nagarkot

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Bhaktapur
#17

Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur is the third largest city in Nepal, and along with Kathmandu and Patan, makes up the three holy cities in the Kathmandu Valley. The city was founded during the 12th century AD by King Anand Dev Malla and remains well-preserved and free of motor traffic to this day, giving it a sense of timelessness and peace in bustling Kathmandu. Its distance from Kathmandu, about seven-and-a-half miles (12 kilometers) east, and the small entrance fee to enter the city tends to keep the crowds away from this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once inside the city, you’ll be able to walk the cobbled streets filled with more temples by area than both Kathmandu or Patan. Many of the most interesting structures, including the 55-windowed palace that used to serve as the royal seat of Nepal, are centered on the Bhaktapur Durbar Square....

Trip ideas

Trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp from Nepal

Trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp from Nepal

Top 5 Temples in the Kathmandu Valley

Top 5 Temples in the Kathmandu Valley

How to Spend 3 Days in Kathmandu

How to Spend 3 Days in Kathmandu

Frequently Asked Questions