Kathmandu is not for the faint-hearted: it’s loud, it’s dusty and it can be downright exhausting, but if you look past all the chaos it is also one of the most beautiful and charming cities in the world. With the majestic Himalayas that can be seen towering over the valley on clear days, the capital of Nepal has become a jumping-off point for trekkers — but there are many treasures in the city itself.
Kathmandu boasts seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as countless relics of bygone eras that are well worth seeing. To get you started, take a look at our pick of hotels, restaurants and activities that are not to be missed in the gateway to the Himalayas.
Where to stay: Dwarika’s Hotel
Kathmandu may lack luxury hotels, but make up for it with idyllic hotels that will make even the most seasoned travellers feel at home, like Dwarika’s. Stepping through the wooden doorway is like taking a journey back in time — thanks to the guards saluting you like royalty. The constant rumble of tuk tuks and beeping car horns also disappear behind the heavy wooden doors and you find yourself standing in a tranquil courtyard flanked by beautiful red brick and wood buildings reminiscent of Newari palaces.
Just 10 minutes from the city centre, Dwarika’s is the perfect starting point for excursions with comfortable rooms that feel like they’re taken straight out of a museum. With its large pool, gym and spa and handful of dining options, it offers everything you need to relax after a tiring day of sightseeing. We found the service is impeccable and the staff had us feeling comfortable in no time.
The Dwarika’s Hotel, PO Box 459, Battisputali, Kathmandu, Nepal, +977 1 447 9488, www.dwarikas.com
Where to eat: Krishnarpan
Even if you aren’t staying at Dwarika’s Hotel, their Nepali restaurant Krishnarpan is a must — after all, there’s a reason why the likes of Prince Charles, Hillary Clinton and John Carter (to name a few) have dined there. Upon arrival, we were asked to take off our shoes while the staff helped wash our hands in brass bowls before leading us into the restaurant.
The set dinner ranges from six to 22 not-so-little courses so choose wisely. The dinner took us on a journey through the many cuisines of Nepal, and was absolutely delicious. We had no trouble picturing an ancient feast as we received our main course, served to us by a succession of ladies clad in gorgeous traditional robes, each with a separate dish that they spooned out onto our brass plates.
Krishnarpan, The Dwarika’s Hotel, PO Box 459, Battisputali, Kathmandu, Nepal, +977 1 447 9488, www.dwarikas.com
Where to shop: Baber Mahal Revisited
Kathmandu is far from a shopping mecca — unless you’re looking for a knock-off backpack from The North Face — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any nice finds, especially if you’re looking for art, crafts and cashmere.
The best place to shop for luxurious items is at Baber Mahal Revisited, located in the south-east area of Kathmandu. With its palace-style architecture and many courtyards, it has become a beautiful home to chic clothes shops, designer galleries and high-end restaurants. Make sure to stop by the Siddhartha Art Gallery, which actively promotes contemporary Nepalese art and has brought several international artists to the people of Kathmandu.
Baber Mahal Revisited, Bijulibazar Road, Kathmandu, Nepal, www.babermahal-revisited.com
Where to go: Bhaktapur
Before the unification of Nepal, the Kathmandu Valley was home to three small kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. Although the borders have been blurred by the ever-growing population, each of the former kingdoms has a unique feel and lifestyle to it. The 40 minute drive from Kathmandu to Bhaktapur is bumpy and you run the risk of suffocating on exhaust fumes and dust, but it’s a must-see.
Bhaktapur is by far the best preserved city in the valley — it’s a lot more rural than Kathmandu and is made almost exclusively of buildings that look like they’re from the middle ages (and the fact that there is virtually no traffic is definitely also a plus). You can easily spend an entire day wandering through the countless alleys, discovering hidden courtyards and rest-houses and just soaking up the mystical atmosphere, and when your stomach starts to growl there are plenty of picturesque tea-houses to turn in to.
For more information about getting there and things to see, visit www.bhaktapur.com.
What to do: Everest Experience mountain flight
Don’t miss the chance to see Mount Everest up close, even if it doesn’t look that much bigger than the mountains surrounding it. In fact, there are so many gigantic mountains in Nepal (eight of which exceed 8,000 meters in height) that most people wouldn’t realise that they were looking at the world’s highest peak unless told. That being said, the sight of the Himalayas is awe-inspiring, so if you’d like to see the mother of all mountains for yourself but don’t have a year to prepare (nor interest in freezing to death on your way up), the Everest Experience mountain flight is just the thing for you.
Flights depart at 6am, but are definitely worth the early wakeup call. Boarding the plane, you’ll notice that every seat is a window-seat, so you’ll have an unobstructed view of the Himalayas which seem close enough to touch. If you wake up to a cloudy day, don’t worry — the flights are guaranteed so they will either reschedule you for the following day or, if you leave before the weather clears, you will receive a full refund.
A one hour flight is priced at approximately HK$1,500 per person. For reservations, contact +977 1 552 1015 or visit www.buddhaair.com.