Header image courtesy of Prasesh Shiwakoti Lomash (via Unsplash)
There’s an obvious charm to the streets of Kathmandu (काठमाडौँ)—dusty, chaotic, and intoxicating. The city captures your heart and leaves you wanting more. Beyond the hostels and backpacking culture however, there is a long list of must-do and unexpected experiences that will have you booking a return journey time and again. Not sure where to start? Here are the top five things to do in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Once a hotspot during the Hippie Trail (an overland journey between Europe and South Asia), Old Freak Street (झोछेँ टोल; Jhochhen Tole) may no longer legally sell marijuana from market stalls, but it is more than worth the trip down memory lane. You’ll typically find cheap guesthouses and backpacking hotels, but its colourful shop fronts and restaurants are unique in their own right, selling an array of unusual souvenirs and Nepalese products. Few original shops remain, but keep your eyes peeled for the weird and wonderful—it’s not uncommon to spot jars of teeth in the windows. If you’re making your way there from Thamel (ठमेल), Freak Street can be found at the far side of Durbar Square (दरबार क्षेत्र), but you’ll need to walk around the outside to skip the admission fees as you potter around the temples while you’re in the area.
One of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in a new culture is by trying local delicacies and food staples. Social Tours offer a unique cooking class that promises a “farm-to-table” experience as you hit the local market with the head chefs and source fresh produce for a three-hour foodie feast. You can expect to whip up traditional, tasty dishes such as the much-loved savoury and chocolate momos (मम; steamed dumplings), dal bhat (दालभात; steamed rice and lentil soup), and chicken curry, to name but a few. Classes run twice daily with a maximum of six people to ensure each participant is fully immersed in the experiences. The course has no set price and customers instead pay what they think the class is worth; you’ll even be sent the recipes after your class so you can take a bit of Nepal home with you to enjoy.
Le Sherpa Farmer’s Market runs every Saturday and is always popular with locals, expats, and tourists in the know. A huge variety of organic produce is always on offer—the perfect start to the morning as you nibble your way around freshly grown fruit and vegetables, handmade cheeses, bread, runny honey, jams, and chutneys. Open from 8 am to 12.30 pm, it is the perfect spot for breakfast or light bites. Can’t make the market? Le Sherpa Restaurant serves a special brunch menu and all-day happy hour using ingredients often grown on the premises!.
We can’t all climb Everest, but that does not mean the mighty mountain is not a top spot on our bucket lists. There’s more than one way to explore the Himalayas and if you’ve been saving up to splurge on the occasion, then “Flight of the Angels” might be just the thing for you. It is an all-inclusive breakfast at Everest experience that will take you on a four-hour round trip from Kathmandu to Base Camp, and on to Yeti Mountain Resort for bubbly—just a stone’s throw from Everest. Himalayan Trekkers offer endless adventures around Nepal for different budgets, but this unique brekkie, in particular, will set you back around US$1,449 per person.
Nepal is notorious for its treks and trails, but not many people know that Kathmandu also has a few hidden hilltop hikes that can be conquered in just one day. Four to five hours is all you’ll need to capture the beauty of the surrounding valley and explore the cultures of local communities living in the surrounding area—but there are also overnight excursions where you can opt to stay at a local guesthouse before heading home the next morning. Fully customisable to suit time restraints and needs, there are a plethora of trekking companies in town to choose from who can arrange excursions at short notice.