As the trekking capital of the world, Nepal isn’t normally associated with luxury! However, it is quite easy to find some more luxurious places to visit in Kathmandu at a relatively low cost. As Kathmandu is a 5-hour flight from Hong Kong and only a 4-hour flight from Qatar a long weekend makes more sense – and it allows you time to take advantage of some of the lovely facilities listed below. It is also the perfect amount of time to spend in Kathmandu recovering from a major trek!
Here are the best places to visit in Kathmandu over a luxurious long weekend or as a post-trek treat!
1. Places to Visit in Kathmandu – Dwarika’s Hotel
Dwarika’s Kathmandu is half hotel half museum. It is a stunning boutique hotel that is locally owned. Dwarika’s hotel Kathmandu has been designed to keep the best of Nepalese woodworking art and practices alive. Although there is a stunning theme to the hotel, every room is unique.
Dwarika’s has several fantastic restaurants (see below), a spa, a gorgeous pool, three gift shops, a library, and multiple outside and inside areas for relaxing. Staying at Dwarika’s is like staying at someone’s amazing home rather than being at a hotel and perfect for a luxurious long weekend in Kathmandu.
However, Dwarika’s does have all the upsides of a good hotel! Great plunger coffee and tea in the rooms, delicious snacks and turn down chocolates, gigantic very comfortable beds with appropriately high thread count on the linen sheets, full cable tv, and a DVD player, toiletries and everything else you may need.
This is the perfect hotel for relaxation and a luxurious long weekend in Kathmandu. Start with breakfast in the courtyard, lie by the pool, perhaps pop out and see a Stupa, be back from lunch, relax and read in one of the many courtyards in the afternoon and then get ready for some wine and a delicious dinner!
If staying at Dwarika’s is out of reach do try to have at least one meal here. Firstly and most importantly the food is delicious. Secondly, the building and the courtyard are absolutely stunning and so Instagram friendly! Allow some time to have a wander around and make sure your camera batteries are fully charged!
2. Places to go in Kathmandu – Spend an afternoon at the Garden of Dreams
Kathmandu is a crazy busy dirty city. A good deal of construction is going on at the moment which brings up a lot of dust and dirt and that is the norm. This is one of the things that makes the Garden of Dreams such a wonderful oasis in Kathmandu. Located literally on the edge of the busy Thamel district behind walls it is a lovely clean garden with a fantastic restaurant called the Kaiser Café.
This neo-classical garden was created by Field Marshal Kaiser Sumsher Rana in early 1920. After its completion, it was considered to be one of the most sophisticated gardens of the time. The six pavilions within the Garden of Dreams were built for each of the six seasons of Nepal. The garden was restored in conjunction with the Austrian government between 2000 and 2007.
Have a wander around the garden and fountains of the Garden of Dreams when you arrive and fight through the locals taking selfies galore! Explore the garden slowly as there are lots of hidden nooks and crannies in the gardens. Once you’re done grab an outside table at the Kaiser Café for lunch and don’t forget to have their well-known ice cream for dessert!
3. Things to do in Kathmandu – Have a spa day in the Himalayas
Less than a one hour drive from Kathmandu is the town of Dhulikhel which is home to the amazing Dwarika’s Dhulikhel Resort (sister to Dwarika’s Kathmandu). This stunning resort sits on the top of the Kathmandu Valley and has extraordinary 360 views. If you can ideally spend one night at Dwarika’s Dhulikhel and one at Dwarika’s Kathmandu for the perfect luxurious long weekend in Kathmandu. Indeed Dwarika offers a range of city and country packages that allow guests to experience the best of Kathmandu and the Kathmandu Valley.
There is a multitude of delightful sounding options at Dwarika’s Dhulikhel resort – chakra sound therapy chambers, an infinity pool, yoga, a meditation maze etc etc. There are two things that I would highly recommend you try which are quite unique to Nepal and the Himalayas. The first is the pink Himalayan salt room. You can take your book in and relax for 20 minutes and clear out your system.
The second is singing bowl therapy. The singing bowl originated in the Himalayan region and here it is used as a form of sound therapy – apparently, each organ in the body vibrates at a certain frequency when healthy and singing bowl therapy can bring them back into balance. This was my first ever experience of sound therapy and I really enjoyed it. The sound does seem to travel right through your body and it was very calming.
⇒ If you can’t make it all the way to Dhulikhel there are options to take a singing bowl treatment in Kathmandu.
In addition to a standard bed and board day rate, Dwarika’s Dhulikhel has a range of different spa packages that allow guests to focus on everything from yoga to positive energy to relaxation.
Dwarika’s Dhulikhel also has a range of fantastic restaurants. The Farm Lounge and outdoor deck is the site for breakfast and lovely lunches with amazing views over the Kathmandu Valley. The Ananta Poolside restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a light lunch by the infinity pool. And Nature’s Flavours restaurant features ingredients sourced from Dwarika’s organic farm and the menu changes daily.
4. Have Dinner at Nepal’s best restaurant
Krishnarpan Restaurant is Nepal’s most well-known restaurant – as evidenced by the many photos in the reception of the famous people who have eaten there. It is a beautiful restaurant – all in traditional Nepalese red and black. Krishnarpan Restaurant serves traditional Nepalese cuisine in a multi-course format that aims to take you on a journey through Nepal’s diverse culinary cultures.
I went with the 6-course option – the fewest number of courses on offer! What a meal! It began with mixed local hors d’oeuvres beautifully presented, then bread, roasted mushrooms, and chickpeas. Next up were some delicious momos followed by an amazing mushroom soup. The highlight for me was the traditional Nepalese curry which was so wonderfully tasty. It also came with some fantastic vegetables – particularly the eggplant. Dessert was some amazing yogurt and a truly delicious carrot cake.
Krishnarpan was, without doubt, the best meal I had in Nepal and it would have performed well anywhere in the world.
Like so many places there are now lots of food-based Kathmandu sightseeing options. I love taking these tours as they are generally run by locals and offer an insight that is not otherwise available. Also, they tend to be fantastic for photos! In Kathmandu it is possible to do everything from having dinner in the home of a local, attending a cooking school or visiting food markets.
5. Go Shopping
I bought the most stunning blue cashmere wrap whilst in Nepal. It is amazingly soft and comfortable and I do love it. I bought it at Musumusu which is one of the shops at Dwarika’s. Their cashmere products are all locally made and the colours are absolutely stunning.
The second place to go is the town of Bhaktapur which is about 30 minutes in a cab from Kathmandu. It is also on the way to the Dwarika’s Resort so you can combine this with the spa day above. Bhaktapur is the third of the medieval city-states in Kathmandu and this UNESCO World Heritage site was my favourite. I actually far preferred it to Kathmandu.
I thought the shops in Bhaktapur were the best I saw in Nepal. There are some lovely paper shops which also have nice designs. I also purchased some wooden boxes and there were many other wooden items as well as pashminas etc on sale.
In addition to shopping, there are several places to visit in Bhaktapur and it is very photogenic. Bhaktapur has its own Durbar square with the beautiful Golden Gate. To the right of the Golden Gate is the 55 Window palace – which of course has 55 windows! And whilst there take a look at Taleju Temple.
⇒ Or learn more by taking a guided tour of Bhaktapur
The third area to go shopping is the well known Thamel area in the middle of Kathmandu. Thamel is the epicentre of Kathmandu tourism. This area is also filled with youth hostels and a lot of tat. However, if you are after some good knockoffs or some cheap souvenirs to please small children at home this is the place to get them! And I don’t think you should leave Kathmandu without taking at lease one wander through Thamel!
6. Take a Helicopter Ride over the Himalayas
Going on a helicopter over the Himalayas is a once in a lifetime experience! The flight is normally best done first thing in the morning eg 6 am and make sure you check the weather conditions as of course if it is cloudy there is no point in going. The views over the Himalayas are absolutely amazing so take your camera and your phone.
There are several companies that offer helicopter rides and there are variations as to how far you can go and how long you can spend in some locations eg you can go all the way to Everest base camp but you will only be able to stay for 5 minutes due to altitude concerns. If you have decided not to go on a trek or to do some more limited walking a helicopter ride is a fantastic way to get a better feel for the Himalayas. Of course the higher you go the higher the cost! However, it is worth every penny!
FYI – The path for the helicopter is very different from that of the flights to and from Lukla and far more scenic. Plus, of course, the helicopter is much better set up for taking photos!
A cheaper option that will get you similar style views is to take an Air Tour vs a Helicopter Ride. You won’t get as close but the cost is generally a lot less.
Finally, if you are travelling to Pokhara it is possible to take a balloon ride given the right weather conditions.
7. Hang out with the Monkeys at Swayambhunath Temple
Swayambhunath Temple is the oldest shrine complex in the Kathmandu Valley and one of the most popular places to visit in Kathmandu. This templ is situated at the top of a large and winding staircase and provides stunning views over Kathmandu (sunset is the best time to go for photos in my opinion). Located on a hilltop 3 km west of Kathmandu, Swayambhunath Temple is the oldest stupa of its kind in Nepal and one of its holiest.
This is no quiet temple. Swayambhunath is filled with life. There are people everywhere and lots and lots of monkeys! The area at the top of the staircase is quite large. There is shopping, a cafe, a park and lots to explore. I do recommend walking the stairs as there is lots of life among them and great photo opportunities.
It is easy to get to the temple via a cab or walking from the centre of Kathmandu. However, if you would like to learn more about the temple there are also lots of Swayambhunath Temple Tour Options.
8. Take a Selfie at Boudhanath Stupa
Boudhanath is one of the largest Stupas in the world. It is quite magnificent. Boudhanath Stupa Kathmandu is situated in the middle of a large square and there are always people walking around it clockwise (which you must also do) and spinning prayer wheels. Of course, there are also loads of shops and cafes on the square and this is one of the most popular places to visit in Kathmandu.
If you are only able to make it to one of the temples to visit in Kathmandu, I would visit Swayambhunath Temple ahead of Boudhanath Stupa as there is so much activity at the Temple and lots to see. Boudhanath Stupa is stunning but at the end of the day, it is just a stupa. And it is further out of town.
Having said that there are many Kathamndu sightseeing tour options which combine the two temples and even more which I think is the best option to get the most out of your time sightseeing in Kathmandu.
9. See old Kathmandu in Durbar Square
Durbar Square is the most well-known tourist spot in Kathmandu Nepal and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. However, a very large amount of it was destroyed in the dreadful earthquake of 2015 and building it back to its former stature has been and is a very very slow process. There are still things to see in Durbar Square and this is being added to all the time.
Although most of the square dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries and earlier, quite a few of the buildings are from after the 1934 earthquake. Durbar Square is actually three different squares that are loosely connected.
Durbar Square does still have Kumari – the living goddess – who can be seen from time to time. This pre-pubescent girl is worshipped by some of the Hindus of Nepal. There are several Kumaris throughout Nepal but the one in Kathmandu is the best known and one of the more popular Kathmandu attractions. Cafes etc are still open and opening – I had dumplings overlooking the square.
There is a payment charged to visit Durbar Square which is helping with the rebuilding.
How to get to Kathmandu:
I flew to Kathmandu with Qatar Airways business class from London and it was a fantastic experience.
This is one trip where you MUST take out travel insurance! I certainly ended up using mine!
Everest Base Camp Trek Guided Tour Options
⇒ If you’re planning on heading up to Everest Base Camp check out this really good comparison of tour options on Viator.
I did the Everest Base Camp Trek with Exodus. Exodus is the biggest tour operator for Everest Base Camp so there are quite a few benefits in going with them in terms of expertise, access to the best teahouses etc. They also know what they are doing and are very organised. As Exodus is a big deal in Nepal anyone working with them locally will be keen for this to continue and therefore service levels are pretty good.
In terms of UK based tour operators, we saw quite a few G Adventures groups during our trek. They tend to stay at the same kinds of tea houses and have a similar setup. I have also heard that Intrepid is a good operator for base camp.
I have written several blog posts on my rather tumultuous Everest Base Camp Trek experience which you may enjoy reading:
Boutique Hotels in Kathmandu
I recommend enjoying some luxury pre and post the Nepal Tea Houses! Without question, the best boutique hotel in Kathmandu is the lovely lovely Dwarika’s. It was also my best place to visit in Kathmandu Nepal for its restaurants and stunning building.
It isn’t exactly boutique but as options at a higher boutique end are a bit low in Kathmandu I am going to list the Hyatt Regency Kathmandu.
Aria Boutique Hotel & Spa is somewhat more modern with its offer. Uniquely for Kathmandu, its interiors are heavy on white!
If you’re after a real treat check out my post on the stunning Dwarika’s Dhulikhel Resort – stunning Himalayan luxury!
Who Paid for What in this Post
I covered my costs associated with most of this trip but Dwarika’s were kind enough to give me a discount on my accommodation costs. But as always my opinion is my own.
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click through on them and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. This won’t affect the price that you pay. I just wanted to make sure that you were aware of this.
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Also published on Medium.