First published August 2017, latest updated February 2019
As the trekking capital of the world, Nepal isn’t normally associated with luxury! However, it is quite easy to do some luxurious places to visit in Kathmandu at a relatively low cost. As it 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 for Kathmandu Sightseeing for a luxurious long weekend or post trek treat!
Places to Visit in Kathmandu – Getting There:
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Everest Base Camp Trek Guided Tour Options
Haven’t decided yet if you’re going to do the big Everest Base Camp Trek? Or one of the other many trekking options available from Kathmandu? There are loads and loads of options so I thought I would just focus on Everest Base Camp in this post as that is what I did. Most of the companies listed below will also offer a range of treks besides base camp.
For a really good comparison of tour options available check out Viator.Compare Everest Base Camp Trek Guided Tours
I travelled 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 are a good operator for base camp.
I have written several posts on my experience of trekking to Everest Base Camp covering everything from what the Tea Houses are really like to a day by day guide. I found it really difficult to get a genuine feel for what the trek was like before I went so I took ALOT of notes!
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 – Read my full review of Dwarika’s Here. (more below) 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.
Kathmandu has some more basic boutique hotels that offer great value for money. Dalai-La and Kantipur Temple House offer traditional Nepalese style. Aria Boutique Hotel & Spa is somewhat more modern with its offer. Uniquely for Kathmandu, its interiors are heavy on white!
After my trek, I went heavy on luxury and stayed at the stunning sister hotel to Dwarika’s Kathmandu – more on that below – Read my full review of Dwarika’s Dhulikhel here.
Looking for a hotel in Lukla? I am afraid there aren’t any boutique options – Click here for the best Lukla options
1. Things to do in Kathmandu – Check out and Stay at Dwarika’s Hotel
Dwarika’s is half hotel half museum. It is a stunning boutique hotel that is locally owned. The hotel 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. There are several fantastic restaurants (see below), a spa, a gorgeous pool, three gift shops, a library and multiple outsides 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, it 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 Visit 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.
Have a wander around the garden and fountains when you arrive and fight through the locals taking selfies galore! Explore 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. 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 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 here and one at Dwarika’s Kathmandu for the perfect luxurious long weekend in Kathmandu.
There is a multitude of delightful sounding options at Dwarika’s 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.Book Your Singing Bowl Treatment
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. It 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 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 yoghurt and a truly delicious carrot cake.
This 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.Book Your Kathmandu Food Tour
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 also a lovely little town and well worth a wander. I thought the shops here 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.
Or learn more by taking a tour of Bhaktapur.
The third area to go shopping is the well known Thamel area in the middle of Kathmandu. 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
This is a don’t miss this amazing experience! It 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 are absolutely amazing so take your camera and your phone.
There are several companies who 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 to 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!Book Your Nepal Helicopter Tour Here
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 alot less.Book your Air Tour over the Himalayas
Finally, if you have 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 is the oldest shrine complex in the Kathmandu Valley. It 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).
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 Bodnath Stupa
Bodnath is one of the largest Stupas in the world. It is quite magnificent. It 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! If you are limited on time I would visit Swayambhunath Temple ahead of Bodnath Stupa as there is so much activity at the Temple and lots to see. Bodnath 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 tours which combine the two and even more which I think is the best option to get the most out of your time in Kathmandu.Book your Kathmandu Tour Here
9. See old Kathmandu in Durbar Square
Durbar Square is the most well-known sightseeing location in Kathmandu and is a UNESCO 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 the square and this is being added to all the time.
The square does still have Kumari – the living goddess – who can be seen from time to time. Cafes etc are still open and opening – I had dumplings overlooking the square.
There is a payment charged to visit the square which is helping with the rebuilding.
Currently Planning Your Trip to Nepal?
I spent a lot of time figuring out what to do and where to go in Nepal. Some of my research and decisions paid off – some things I would have done differently. Learn from my errors in my full itinerary post!
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Also published on Medium.