My Favorite 8 Things to Do in Kathmandu, Nepal — Understand
Kathmandu is the gateway to the magnificent Himalaya Mountains. There is almost no way to avoid Kathmandu before you head to Mount Everest or the Annapurna region.
Since my last visit, a lot has happened in Kathmandu—the earthquake destroyed a huge amount of the historic buildings and monuments. Even worse, it seems that the once quiet back alleys of Thamel have become a street race area amongst trucks and motorcycles in a neighborhood where streets are even too small for pedestrians to walk through.
My Favorite 8 Things to Do in Kathmandu, Nepal — Get In and Get Around
Qatar has amped up Kathmandu flights to four every day and even offers a lie-flat Business Class option on one of the four daily flights. All the major Indian carriers go to Kathmandu (I flew Jet Airways
The airport is several decades behind and none of the facilities are adequate, but there is no major replacement available.
There are taxis available at the airport for convenience. Once you're in town, there are plenty of taxis to get around the area. Rides need to be negotiated, but they should be around $4 or less anywhere in town.
The major problem is the manic traffic generated by the rough roads. Most are dirt roads that also have plenty of pedestrians and buses.
My Favorite 8 Things to Do in Kathmandu, Nepal — Pollution
Air pollution generated from all the diesel-powered buses and trucks is a huge issue in Kathmandu. Unless it just rained, the air is typically toxic and becomes a real health hazard.
My Favorite 8 Things to Do in Kathmandu, Nepal — Safety
The manic traffic really is a huge health hazard, especially for pedestrians. It is best to stay in the car as much as possible, in order to have some sort of protection around you. Thankfully, crime isn't a big deal so you don't need to take any major precautions.
My Favorite 8 Things to Do in Kathmandu, Nepal — Connectivity
The Internet in Kathmandu is often painfully slow. There are very few coffee shops or restaurants that have speedy connections. One of the very few exceptions is the Himalayan Coffee near the Boudhanath Stupa.
T-Mobile's Simple Choice does not cover the country, unfortunately, and neither does Skyroam.
My Favorite 8 Things to Do in Kathmandu, Nepal — See and Do
Stare at the mountains
On a clear day during most of the dry seasons, the view from any roof top terrace, towards the snow-covered Himalayas, is intoxicating. I could do it every day, especially during sunset.
Boudhanath Stupa is a huge Buddhist Stupa, located northeast of the city. It is also my preferred neighborhood when in Nepal since it has fewer manic motorcycles and lots of good cafes and some decent restaurants.
Tourists are charged $4 per entry, but it's easy to avoid that if you are a regular.
Patan Durbar Square & Basantapur
Both Patan Square and Basantatpur are shows of its former glory. Before the massive earthquake, you could see them inside and out, and entrance fees were minimal. Now, you will be asked to pay ($9 for each) just to walk through a few ruins—most of them hidden behind huge scaffolding.
I'm not sure if it is even worth going there at this point. I headed to the fee entrance area instead and felt that I saw just as much.
It did not need the 2015 release of 'Everest'
to make Thamel famous. Long before the movie, it was tourist heaven before heading on to your big ascent. However, it is a shadow of its former self—the traffic isn't just hectic, it is destructive now. I found it painful to navigate through the alleyways with a myriad of construction racing both behind and in front of me.
Durbar Square (Bhaktapur)
A little further out is another historic plaza with the typical mix of Hindu and Buddhist architecture.
My Favorite 8 Things to Do in Kathmandu, Nepal — Eat and Drink
Fire & Ice
Just as I dismissed Thamel above, Fire & Ice truly reflects that lost spirit of Thamel. It's a wonderful place to enjoy great Italian food on a cold evening.
Himalayan Coffee (multiple locations)
Himalayan Coffee is my favorite chain in town. The espresso drinks are solid and the food is better than it looks (really!). The location near Boudhanath Stupa is the best of them all. It is also the only place with fast Wi-Fi.
My Favorite 8 Things to Do in Kathmandu, Nepal — Where to stay
I really loved the Hyatt Regency Kathmandu—a great hotel anywhere in the world, but given its huge estate and the chaos outside, it just feels so much like an oasis. Stay here if you can (It is just 5,000 World of Hyatt points).
There are also plenty of $50 hotels in Thamel and around Boudhanath Stupa. Be sure to select carefully as some can be exposed to incredible street noise and pollution.
My Favorite 8 Things to Do in Kathmandu, Nepal — Hike the Himalayas
World famous Annapurna Circuit gives you a chance to see the Himalaya up close for 2-3 weeks of daily hiking without passing into the serious mountaineering zone.
You also do just a partial circuit for about a week from Pokhara - something I undertook a few years ago.
There are generally lodges along the way so all you need to bring is good fitness, hiking boots, a backpack, a warm sleeping bag and water bottles.
Stay at a Monastery
Pokhara has a number of monasteries in the surrounding areas. Many allow guests against a nominal fee for the room and food.
The Everest Basecamp is a serious 17,658 feet of elevation and requires some serious stamina. The trek typically begins in Lukla (you have to fly in or walk in from Kathmandu) and takes about a week one-way. If you suffer form frequent altitude sickness (like yours truly) this might not be a route that you can do in a short amount of time but you may need much longer to deal with the altitude.