What is it about Kathmandu that inspired Bob Seger and Cat Stevens to pen songs, Pico Iyer and Satyajit Ray to write novellas and Dev Anand to film his Hare Rama Hare Krishna there? A magnet for climbers, mountaineers and hippies since the ‘60s, Kathmandu is the gateway to Nepal dotted with ancient temples and sacred peaks. Thousands come here in the hope of scaling Mount Everest, the Annapurna range and Mustang Valley.
Best time to visit: To enjoy the best weather in Kathmandu, you must visit between September to November.
Visa requirements: If you are an Indian passport holder travelling to Kathmandu, then you do not require a visa.
How to reach
By Air: Tribhuvan International Airport is the only international airport in Nepal, located 4.08 km away from Kathmandu. IndiGo operates daily, non-stop flights between Kathmandu and Delhi & Mumbai.
By Bus: You can reach Kathmandu from India by bus as well, from either Varanasi or Gorakhpur to the Nepalese Border, Sunauli. And then travelling by local bus to Kathmandu. There is also a new bus service from New Delhi to Kathmandu, that takes about 30 hours.
Getting around: Local city buses, taxis and rental cars are the most common mode of transportation to travel in the city.
A Traditional Newari-style restaurant that serves impeccable food, especially veg and non-veg thalis and raksi (Nepali rice wine), to the accompaniment of local song and dance
An atmospheric dining venue set within the historic Garden of Dreams (entry Rs.200) with excellent Continental cuisine.
A slow dining experience like the ritual feasts of the Newari community, this traditional fine-dine serves meals ranging from six to twenty-two-courses on conventional brass and earthenware, by hostesses representing Nepal's diverse ethnic communities.
Simple Nepali eatery serving great momos, fried rice and daal bhaat. A traditional sit-down section on low stools rounds out the experience!
If you are a meat lover, there’s no better place for steaks in Kathmandu than this! Ask for the mustard or garlic steak, served medium-rare, accompanied with steamed vegetables and fries.
This small café off a Thamel side street allows you to dine indoors by candlelight or in the beautiful quiet garden. Try the homemade fresh baked ravioli, beef bourguignon, Rosemary chicken and yoghurt cheesecake.
Great fusion restaurant serving Continental and Nepali fare—from momos, daal-bhat, choela (local BBQ), aloo sandeko to excellent Thai wok noodles, Blueberry special chicken, yoghurt cheesecake, carrot cake with ice cream and Nepali organic coffee.
Franco-Nepali fusion food served in a 200-year-old home with a serene courtyard and vertical garden. There are sandwiches and salads, or a five-course tasting menu, in addition to signature dishes like Nepali spicy chicken, pork skewers, lime trout, chicken leg with olives, bacon and wine sauce, to be washed down with excellent coffee and dessert.
Kathmandu is a shoppers’ delight with Buddha heads, colourful masks, Tibetan beads and chains, bright funky T-shirts and traditional souvenirs to take home. Posters of Mount Everest and the Annapurna Range are also popular collectables.
Mangal Bazaar: Trawl the markets of Mangal Bazaar or hop into a Thamel store to pick up embroidered T-shirts with mandalas, Buddha eyes or ‘Yak Yak Yak,’ ‘Tintin in Tibet’ and ‘Hard Yak Café’.
Durbar Marg: If you’re not into hippie clothes, try the more upmarket shops on Durbar Marg for western style clothes or browse through Kathmandu Mall on New Road.
Bhadgaon and Bhaktapur towns: The towns of Bhadgaon and Bhaktapur are famous for the Newari black cap called Bhadgaule topi or you could pick up the striped traditional Dhaka topi. Patan, one of Nepal’s ancient kingdoms is called the ‘City of Living Art’ and has several artisans selling paintings, metal sculptures, singing bowls and masks.
Khukri House & Handicrafts: To pick up traditional Nepali curved daggers or khukris, head straight for Khukri House & Handicrafts in Patan Industrial Estate. Folk Nepal is another fair-trade handicraft shop.
The Peacock shop: Drop by at The Peacock Shop near the Peacock Window at Bhaktapur and pick up pottery and terracotta artefacts while exploring Thimi. At tourist hubs like Bouddha and Swayambhunath locals can be seen working on paintings, thangkas, mandalas and stone sculpture, making it an excellent place to buy directly from the artists.
Kathmandu has a buzzing nightlife and Thamel, with its bars, restaurants, karaoke joints and live music venues, is party central. Jatra Café and Bar, The Rum Doodle Bar and Restaurant and Tom & Jerry Pub are the picks of the backpacker bars in Thamel. There are plenty of cover bands floating around town but for good live music, catch quality Nepali rock, reggae and R&B at House of Music on Amrit Marg. The swish JBar on Tridevi Marg is more Downtown Manhattan than Thamel and plays chill-out music paired with its extensive cocktail menu. If you are the Buddha Bar sorts, then you’ll love the cool ambient vibe of Tamas Spa Lounge, with drapes, candles and Buddha statues for the vibe. Beyond Thamel, New Orleans Cafe is a Kathmandu institution where every evening local bands play rock and blues in the courtyard dominated with pub tables. Rox Bar at Hyatt Regency Kathmandu has good live jazz and attracts a posh crowd. Upstairs Jazz is another excellent jazz venue with the valley’s best talent on show on Wednesday and Saturday.
Kathmandu Guest House, Thamel A legendary Kathmandu hotel that started as a 13-room lodge that hosted hippies, artists and mountaineers in the 1960’s. Recently refurbished, they also run Maya Manor Boutique Hotel at Hattisar Sadak and Park Village at Budhanilkantha.
Dwarika’s Hotel, Battisputali Road A stunning heritage hotel of brick and wood using century-old doors, windows and pillars collected by the hotel’s founder Dwarika Das Shrestha. For a Japanese meal stop at the excellent Mako’s. The Pancha Kosha Himalayan Spa with a pool reminiscent of the 12th century Malla dynasty baths ensures a trip back in time.
Hotel Tibet International, Boudha This Tibetan hotel with traditional architecture and clean, comfortable rooms is close to the Boudhanath stupa. On a clear day, views of the stupa and snow-peaked mountains from the rooftop terrace are amazing.
Dalai-La Boutique Hotel, Thamel A lovely boutique hotel with hand-made dacchi itta (local terracotta bricks) façade and 25 rooms between the old and new wings. The traditional Nepalese architecture uses tikijhyā (lattice windows) and 50-year-old hand-carved dhunge dhara (stone water taps) adorning the courtyard.
Kantipur Temple House, Chusyabahal, Thamel A traditional eco-friendly hotel with lovely Nepali architecture, helpful staff, beautiful rooms and gardens with daily yoga on the roof. Strictly adheres to a no plastic policy.
Kathmandu Valley: While exploring, a map of Kathmandu will undoubtedly guide you better to find various tourist attractions. The old capitals of the Malla confederation across the Kathmandu Valley—Kantipur, Kirtipur, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur, which is also known as Patan—are charming fortified cities with durbar squares lined with pagodas and monuments. At Bhaktapur, see the Lu Dhowka (Golden Gate), the Pachpanna Jhyale Durbar (Palace of Fifty-five Windows), the five-storey Nyatapola Temple, Pottery Square, Peacock Window and Hanuman Ghat, a collection of lingams (including Nepal's largest). At the centre of Lalitpur is Patan Durbar Square, with Krishna Temple, Golden Temple (Hiranya Varna Mahavihar), Rato Machhendranath Temple and the Taleju Bhawani Temple dedicated to the Malla clan’s deity.
Kathmandu's original traveller’s haunt Freak Street—the old backpacker street of Jhochhen Tol near Durbar Square—was famous as a hippie haven in the 1960s and 1970s. Though it pales in comparison to the glitzier Thamel, it’s still an unusual experience to explore on your own. Another tourist neighbourhood growing in popularity is Jhamel, a local name coined for Jhamsikhel to rhyme with Thamel. While in Thamel, go bar hopping, catch live music gigs or traditional Nepali dance and drama and down some raksi. For a deep soak in a hot spring bath head to Royal Hana Garden in Lazimpat open after 3 pm, Thursday to Saturday. The restaurant serves authentic Japanese meals but books your bath in advance as it’s a small place. While you’re at it, get adventurous with Kathmandu’s street food—kachila, choila, baph mah: mah: (buff momos) and sandeko. Get onto a Buddha Air mountain flight to catch the sunrise over the world’s highest peaks or book an adventure tour. From the world’s highest canyon swing at The Last Resort to abseiling down a waterfall at Borderlands or go rafting down Nepal’s steepest river Bhote Kosi (described as the most fun you can have in Nepal with your clothes on), there’s lots of hair-raising adventure on offer. Kathmandu is also a great place if you like gambling or trying your luck at slot machines or other games. All the top casinos lie in 5-star hotels—try the old-world charm of Casino Royale at the iconic Hotel Yak and Yeti, Casino Anna at Hotel de l'Annpurna, Casino Everest at Hotel Everest, Casino Nepal at Hotel Soaltee Holiday Inn Crown Plaza and Casino Tara at Hyatt Regency. Visit in October-November, and you can catch the week-long jazz and world music festival Jazzmandu.