Top Five Things to Do in Kathmandu
Just a four-hour flight from Dubai, Kathmandu feels a world away. As you come in to land lush green fields and forested foothills lead up to the mighty Himalayas, and in the city itself, narrow streets open out into large palace squares that still exude much of the feel and charm they had when they were first built. It could hardly be more different from the UAE’s high-rise, high shine streetscapes.
With numerous direct flights from Dubai to Kathmandu every week, the Himalayan kingdom makes a great weekend getaway. But with just a few days to explore the vibrant city, it’s important to plan in advance. To get you started, here are five must-sees while in the Kathmandu Valley.
No trip to Nepal is complete without a mountain flight. You have to get up early and it’s not cheap – but it’s an unmissable experience. Everyone on the 21-seat plane gets a window seat so there are no arguments about who gets the best views, and the crew points out which peaks you can see on the way to the big one. You also take turns to enter the cockpit for even more amazing panoramic views – it’s one hour and $175 (Dhs643) well spent.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is one of the three main palace squares in Kathmandu Valley. Surrounded by traditional architecture, much of it dating back to medieval times, the square is not only a tourist hotspot but a popular meeting place for the locals. It is also home to the Living Goddess, or Kumari, as she is more commonly known. The eight-year-old gives ‘audiences’ every morning – but they are fleeting, blink-and-you-miss-it appearances that end at midday, so if you want to see her, arrive early. The square also features the Golden Gate, the 55-Window Palace and a striking statue of King Bhupatindra Malla. The Art Gallery, meanwhile, has an extensive collection of ancient manuscripts, thankas, centuries-old stone sculptures and antique paintings that belong to the Hindu and Buddhist traditions of various eras. The other main squares, Kathmandu Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square will give you another take on traditional architecture.
It may be close to the centre of Kathmandu but life at Boudhanath Stupa runs at a calmer pace. As it’s the focal point for Buddhists in Nepal, you’ll see many monks going about their daily lives here but tourists are still welcomed into the monastery. The stupa itself is also open to tourists although you are advised to give a donation on entry or exit. The surrounding shop sell a variety of traditional Tibetan jewellery, as well as locally hand-made clothes and souvenirs – but things here are generally more expensive than in the main shopping district of Thamel, so you need to haggle.
Swayambhunath UNESCO World Heritage Site
Also known as Monkey Temple, Swayambhunath is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering uninterrupted views over Kathmandu Valley from its hilltop position. According to translations from an inscription dating back to 460 AD, it was built by King Manadeva and had developed into a centre of Buddhism by the 13 century. Don’t get too close to the monkeys, though, as they’re not all friendly.
As the main entertainment district, Thamel is buzzing both day and night. You can buy everything from trekking gear and tea to t-shirts and prices are more reasonable than in other areas. It is also full of restaurants and bars. For lunch head to the Garden of Dreams – set in the grounds of a colonial-style residence it’s a rare patch of green in the middle of the city – but for something more traditional book dinner at UTSAV, where you will be entertained by traditional singing and dancing while you dine. And don’t miss Rum Doodle; it’s not the food that makes this restaurant but the ‘yeti footprints’ decorated by previous diners that cover the walls. Ask the waiter for your own and leave your mark too. Finally, make sure to check out TAMAS, the perfect way to chill after a day at the shops.
Flight time from Dubai: 4 hours 15 minutes
Currency: Nepalese rupee (Dh 1 = NPR 19.4)
Climate: Summer is monsoon season so expect hot sunny days, mixed with thunderstorms. Winter days often start cold but warm up by lunchtime
Where to stay: Hyatt Regency Kathmandu. This five-star property is just 4km from the airport and a 10-minute walk from Boudhanath Stupa but, because it is set in 37 acres, feels incredibly peaceful and relaxing.
Where to eat: For traditional Nepalese food, try Café Nyatapola in Bhaktapur Durbur Square for lunch, or UTSAV in Thamel for dinner. Alternatively, contemporary-style Rox Restaurant & Bar specialises in Southern European cuisine.
Flight details: flydubai flies direct to Kathmandu 13 times per week. Prices from Dubai to Kathmandu start from Dhs470 one way, with fares from Kathmandu to Dubai starting at Dhs759. Fares include one piece of hand luggage weighing up to 7kg and one small laptop bag or hand bag. Checked baggage starts at Dhs50 for 20kg. For more information or to book, visit flydubai.com or phone 04 301 0800.