Local Insights into Kathmandu's Hidden Gems

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  • Nepal

  • Kathmandu

  • Adventure Travel

  • Couples Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Solo Travel

  • Local Culture

  • Local Food

  • Entertainment

An aerial view of a statue near mountains during daytime.
Fora’s Take

Nepal, a Himalayan paradise, is one of those rare places where time seems to stand still, allowing you to immerse yourself in the mysteries of bygone eras within its hidden alleys. Gazing upon the majestic Himalayan range never fail to bring a smile and a deep sense of awe. Read about our various recommendations based on diverse experiences, whether it's a solo adventure, a family trip with kids or a getaway with girlfriends. This enchanting country has something to offer every kind of traveler.

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Where to stay in Kathmandu

The Dwarika's Resort

Where nature and luxury harmonize in a Himalayan paradise.

Dwarikas Resort Dhulikhel

A serene sanctuary where traditional Nepali architecture meets modern luxury in the heart of the Himalayas.

Hotel Mystic Mountain

Where nature's beauty and luxury accommodation converge amidst the picturesque landscapes.

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Things to do in Kathmandu

An aerial view of the resort and mountains during daytime

Treasured Hideaways:Exploring the Enchanting Patan Durbar Plaza

Nestled in the heart of Lalitpur, Nepal, the Patan Durbar Plaza stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, preserving an exquisite array of historic buildings dating back to the 16th and 18th centuries. This architectural treasure trove encompasses temples, palaces, courtyards and other magnificent structures, making it a must-visit destination for tourists. Revered as a prime example of Newari architecture on a global scale, the square truly captures the essence of Nepal's rich heritage.

The Patan Durbar Plaza is, without a doubt, one of our all-time favorite places in Kathmandu. Its intricate network of winding side alleys, renowned for their exquisite Thanka paintings and antique finds, transforms each visit into a captivating treasure hunt.

Within this architectural wonderland, you'll discover delightful local cafes like the Heritage Museum Cafe and hidden gems tucked away in the charming side alleys.

For those seeking to immerse themselves even deeper in the essence of this place, there are a handful of remarkable heritage properties within the square. Spending a few nights in these historical boutique hotels can truly transport you to a different era.

Weekend Markets, Delicious Brunch, and Garden Café Vibes

Kathmandu has a special treat for travelers and locals alike – the weekend markets. These vibrant gatherings are a favorite pastime for those looking to savor the best of local flavors, including artisanal cheeses, aromatic herbs and fresh, farm-to-table vegetables. But it's not just about the culinary delights, it's the entire experience.

Set in charming garden cafes throughout the valley, like The Yellow House in Sanepa, these markets offer a delightful brunch experience in a tranquil, al fresco setting. It's the perfect way to unwind on a weekend afternoon.

As the afternoon unfolds, the sound of live music fills the air, providing the perfect backdrop for forging new friendships. It's a great experience that captures the heart of Kathmandu's diverse and welcoming community.

Temple Tranquility at Twilight: Unveiling the Spiritual Beauty of a Historical Stupa

While most tourists flock to this magnificent temple during the daytime, our cherished moments are reserved for the hours just before sunset. It's a time when the temple transforms into a breathtaking spectacle. Picture this – a hundred candles flickering to life, their warm glow painting the surroundings in a soft, mesmerizing light. As the candles come alive, you can hear the enchanting chants of visitors encircling the temple, creating an aura of serenity.

This stupa is a marvel in every sense. It's not just a place of worshi, it's a historical pilgrimage site revered by Buddhists from all corners of the world. According to belief, this grand stupa was constructed shortly after the passing of Lord Buddha in the 5th century AD. Its design follows a mandala pattern, making it one of the largest spherical stupas not just in Nepal, but on a global scale. This temple is a testament to the enduring spirituality and cultural significance that continues to draw people from far and wide.

Visiting this enchanting stupa isn't just about witnessing its beauty, it's also an opportunity to engage in its traditions. You can be a part of the mesmerizing candle-lighting ritual, adding your own glow to the spiritual ambiance.

If you prefer to savor the moment from a culinary perspective, there's no shortage of options. You'll find a plethora of cozy cafes, each offering a perfect view of the stupa. Two of our favorites in the vicinity are The Roadhouse Cafe Boudha and Pho 99 Boudha. These cafes not only serve delicious food but also provide a front-row seat to the stunning views of the stupa, making your experience both delectable and visually captivating.

Unearthing Treasures Amidst Thamel's Tourist Hub

Thamel is undeniably a go-to destination for tourists in Kathmandu, a bustling district filled with cafes, restaurants and shops. Yet, within the energetic chaos of Thamel and its surroundings, lie some hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Once your shopping adventure is complete, consider a tranquil escape to the 'Garden of Dreams' . This neo-classical historical garden, just a stone's throw from Thamel, offers a serene refuge. Known originally as the 'Garden of Six Seasons,' it was crafted by the late Field Marshal Kaiser Sumsher Rana in the early 1920s. It's the perfect place to catch your breath amidst the late afternoon calm.

From there, take a leisurely stroll towards the Palace and Durbar Marg, where an array of restaurants and bars await. Our favorites among them are The Old House and the rooftop lounge, Mezze by Roadhouse, as prime spots to enjoy a sundowner.

You have the choice to dine in this area or return to Thamel for a taste of local cuisine at The Kathmandu Guest House (KGH) Cafe, nestled within a beautiful garden in the heart of Thamel.

To cap off your evening, venture to the lively bar just beyond KGH's gates, where you can revel in live music, shisha and exquisite cocktails. Thamel may be tourist-central, but it's these hidden delights that will truly make your visit memorable.

Day Trips

  1. Chandragiri Cable car: Breathtaking 360 views of the Himalayan range
    Just a short drive from the Kathmandu Valley, this thrilling cable car journey whisks you away to one of the region's highest points, offering a sweeping vista of the city below. But the real gem of this experience? The awe-inspiring 360-degree panoramas of the snow-capped Himalayan mountains, a sight to behold on clear days.
    Upon reaching the summit, you'll discover cafes, a serene temple, and a dedicated kids' play area – perfect for family outings. The surrounding area invites leisurely strolls, allowing you to soak in the breathtaking views from all angles. For an added touch of magic, plan your visit during the late afternoon to witness a mesmerizing sunset or in the early morning to greet the day with the Himalayas as your backdrop. Chandragiri promises not just a cable car ride but a memorable journey into the heart of Nepal's natural beauty.

  2. Shivapuri Park Day Trip or Weekend Getaway: An Introductory Hike for All Ages
    For those seeking a leisurely adventure or families with young children, the Shivapuri National Park offers a delightful hiking experience for beginners. A short drive from the Kathmandu Valley, this natural haven boasts charming boutique resorts where you can enjoy a day of exploration, local cuisine, board games, or simply relaxation. They offer walks and lunches for the day trip, and different itineraries for the hikes (long or short). They even have a spa and rooms with lovely views of the valley if you want to spend a night or weekend.
    Guides are available for a short and scenic hike leading to a picturesque waterfall, where you can even take a refreshing dip (though beware of leeches during the rainy season). The ideal times to visit this serene retreat are between October to November and from March to May when the weather is at its most inviting. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just beginning, Shivapuri Park beckons with its natural beauty and rejuvenating ambiance.

  3. Dhulikhel: Day trip oasis or romantic weekend getaway for special occasions
    Escape the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu with a day trip to the charming resort town of Dhulikhel, located just 30 kilometers to the east of the Kathmandu Valley. This idyllic hill station is renowned for its breathtaking panoramic mountain views, making it an ideal destination for a romantic getaway or a leisurely day hike.
    Dhulikhel boasts an array of options for hikers of all levels, with many resorts serving as perfect starting points. You can begin your day by indulging in a local meal at one of the boutique lodges, all while taking in the majestic Himalayan vistas on a clear day. From these lodges, you can choose from short, easy hikes or longer treks that can be arranged with the help of hotel guides.
    For those looking to celebrate special occasions like anniversaries or birthdays, the opulent Dwarika Dhulikhel is an unmatched choice. With its luxurious spas, pink salt rooms, infinity pools, and exquisite villas, it offers the ultimate indulgence.
    If you're on a budget for a day trip or a weekend getaway, then one of our favorites was the Dhulikhel Mountain Resort . You'll find that Dhulikhel offers a variety of lodges, each promising a memorable and rejuvenating escape.

  4. Nagarkot Day Trip: Chasing Everest's Majesty: Nagarkot, a beloved hill station for locals and tourists alike, is renowned for offering breathtaking views of the majestic Mount Everest, provided the skies are clear. We were fortunate enough to witness these awe-inspiring peaks during two of our trips. For the best chances of crystal-clear views, plan your visit between October and November or March and April.

    While there's a viewing tower that draws many eager onlookers, lines can form on busy days. To increase your odds of gazing upon the world's tallest mountain, consider enjoying breakfast or lunch at one of the resorts in Nagarkot. Spend the day on their scenic balconies, where you can savor the perfect view. Most of these hotels even provide telescopes for an up-close look.

In addition to taking in the stunning vistas, Nagarkot offers opportunities for short hikes and even overnight stays at some of the area's charming boutique hotels. Whether you opt for a day trip or a weekend getaway, places like the Mystic Mountain and Club Himalaya have been our go-to choices for unforgettable experiences.

Places to eat & drink in Kathmandu

An aerial view of the hotel and mountains during daytime
  • Heritage Museum Cafe: A lovely garden cafe at Patan Durbar Square, take a break while exploring the gorgeous heritage square and enjoy local momos.

  • La Sherpa: Lovely brunch place on weekends with the vibrant weekend market and amazing food. The mushroom ravioli and goat cheese salad are must try’s. Also, a good place for a romantic dinner or to celebrate special occasions.

  • The Yellow house: Great vibe, outdoor brunch under a gorgeous tree with live music. The weekend farmers market is amazing.

  • The Old House: Visit for lunch or dinner. Favorites on the menu are the revisited momos, grilled vegetable sandwich and mixed mezzo platter. Good selection of wine and cocktails - try the mulled wine on a chilly evening.

  • Chez Caroline: Ambience, great food and yum dessert. This is a weekend go to place. Houses in the Kings old horse stable converted to cafes and shops - this place has all the charm that reflects Kathmandu.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Iryna Apperson's guide, Discover the Ancient Charm of Kathmandu. This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Kathmandu.

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Kathmandu.