Our stay in the Kathmandu Valley was interrupted by our trek in the Annapurna. We spent a day and two nights in Kathmandu before leaving for Pokhara. Coming back from Pokhara, we continued with Patan, Bhakaptur (normally Nagarkot) Dhulikhel and finally, Bouddha. here is the place to visit in Kathmandu that should not be missed.
Our arrival was chaotic, as I explained in the article on crossing the Tibetan-Nepalese border. But it ended in joy and good humor with our friends. We were ready to discover Nepal!
If you choose the helicopter option or arrive by plane, take a taxi to get to Kathmandu or the surrounding cities.
Visit Kathmandu’s center: First of all, you should know that the Kathmandu valley is not extensive. Therefore, it is easy to get from one village/town to another, either by local bus or taxi. We started this trip with a visit to the city of Kathmandu itself.
After a good night’s rest, we took advantage of the breakfast at the Lemon Tree hotel before setting off.
To get an idea of the city’s geography, we decided to start with the temple at the top of Swayambhunath Hill, which offers a 360° view of the capital and the surroundings. We took a taxi across the street outside the hotel to the hill for 400 rupees. Here are some places to visit in Kathmandu Valley after arrival.
The taxi drops us off at the bottom of the city side steps of the hill. This is where we meet the masters of the place: the monkeys! These notably gave the nickname “Monkey Temple” to “Swayambhunath,” but the locals find this very derogatory. So stick to the official name of Swayambhunath or Swayambhu Temple. The steps are done in the heat and the sun, but we stop a few times to enjoy the city’s view, take a closer look at the statues and stupas but above all to give way to the monkeys who “surf” on the ramps stairs! A pretty funny show! On the other hand, you have to be careful with monkeys: do not feed them, watch your belongings and never look them in the eyes at the risk of being attacked. They do not laugh at these critters there!
We went down the same path to go to Durbar Square (the main square), passing through Kathmandu’s small districts. It was really nice and there was not a single tourist on the horizon.
Arrived at Durbar Square, we are a little disappointed. The buildings are still very marked by the terrible earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015 and it’s a bit of a mess on the square. Besides, we are harassed by vendors of all kinds and guides who all want us to hire them to visit the city center. We did not drag ourselves on this place, and we continued our walk.
We wandered (and even a little lost) in the neighborhoods between Kathmandu Durbar Square and Thamel, taking inspiration from an “original” route proposed by Le Routard, except that we did it in reverse.
Finally, we finished the visit to the Mitho Restaurant which did us a lot of good after all that! After returning to the hotel for a well-deserved nap, we went out in the evening to eat in a restaurant just behind our hotel in Thamel, the Upstairs Cafe, where we ate great food!
This is a great way to end this beautiful day of visiting the Nepalese capital.
Coming back from our stay in Pokhara to trek from Poon Hill to the Annapurnas, the bus dropped us off on the street where we had taken the bus the other way a week earlier. Then we took a taxi to Patan, where we will spend the next two nights. Patan is not far at all but the traffic is such that it will take us over an hour to get there by taxi, negotiated at 600 rupees.
Our hotel is also right in the center, and festivities are going well, which does not facilitate access. I booked two nights at the Heranya Yala and it was a very nice surprise! The hotel itself and the rooms are gorgeous! The decor is neat, and everything is done with love and good taste. Also, the hotel owner offers guided tours of the center of Patan for free! So we signed up for the next morning.
We took advantage of the end of the afternoon to rest in our magnificent room to start looking for a restaurant for supper. TripAdvisor allowed us to choose the highest-rated restaurant closest to our hotel because it was raining heavily. This is how we end up by the greatest of luck in Raithaane. A restaurant managed by two Nepalese and a French woman in love with Nepal, Mathilde, discussed this particular restaurant concept. It aims to present ethnic dishes forgotten in Nepal and Franco-Nepalese fusion dishes made with local ingredients. A real delight, we enjoyed ourselves (special mention for the yogurt pie)!
After a good night’s rest in our cozy bed, we paid for breakfast at the hotel (not cheap but perfect) before meeting the boss who takes us to visit Patan. The cultural visit was fascinating, interspersed with family anecdotes and rich street art, especially by the parade of people who celebrate the dead.
On this day in Patan, all people who have lost a loved one in the past year parade with their portrait and make offerings of rice and flowers to each little temple they come across (and they have a package!). For others, it’s a party, like a carnival; they drink and parade in disguise. It’s really nice; we are lucky to attend such an event.
We finished the visit to our host’s new establishment, located at the edge of Durbar Square of Patan, whose rooftop offers a superb view of the square and the surroundings. Access to the place is chargeable (1000 rupees/person), but if you do not cross it and only go around it, it is free. Anyway, the view was better from the roof, so you don’t miss much.
Since we only have one night in Bhaktapur, we leave Patan around 8 am to make the most of it. We take a negotiated taxi at 800 rupees and arrive, not without difficulty, an hour later. You should know that Bhaktapur’s center is pedestrian and that entry is chargeable: 1,500 rupees/person! There is no question of escaping here!
If you stay overnight and two days like us or more, you must show your hotel reservation and your passport not to pay 1,500 rupees/person every day!
The taxi is a bit difficult to find our hotel, but we end up getting there. I booked a night at the Tulaja Boutique Hotel, and I’m glad I didn’t stay any longer. What a disappointment compared to what we left this morning! But hey, its positive point is that it is very well located, close to the Durbar Square in Bhaktapur. We put our things down then we set off to explore the city.
There is no denying it is the most beautiful Durbar Square in the valley without a doubt! It is huge, and the buildings are just splendid (a temple even has naughty sculptures)!
After strolling on the square, we go to Beans, The Coffee Shop, for brunch worthy of the name. On the menu: pizza bread, delicious espresso, fresh and melting coffee/brownie juice to top it off. That was delicious! A great place to brunch or have a coffee. After all that, we are worried about continuing the visit to Bhaktapur. We leave the place, and we walk in the pretty little alleys full of small shops to reach Pottery Square.
Unfortunately, it’s Sunday and no one is working so we don’t see the artisans at work, just a few broken pots.
We then continue to walk from store to store to fulfill our “postcard” mission. After finding THE card, we go to the post office to buy a stamp and since it starts to rain, we take the opportunity to fill it and send it; that’s a good thing! As soon as he leaves the post office, when he starts picking up more beautiful ones, we take shelter in a small shop while waiting for it to calm down before returning to the hotel, soaked like ducks.
We will only come out for dinner at the restaurant. I ate a delicious cordon bleu; I think it’s been at least 10 years since I ate that anymore :). To finish on a sweet note, we tested the famous “Juju” yogurt from Bhaktapur, traditionally made in small earthenware jars. It was delicious! We cannot say that we ate badly in Bhaktapur!
The next morning, we got up early to enjoy Durbar Square one last time and see the carved windows near Dattatreya’s temple (which also has its share of naughty sculptures!) Before having breakfast. (not great) at the hotel.
Then we set off for the bus station for Nagarkot, near the Kamal Vinayak pond. But on the way, we passed two Spanish girls who told us that no bus went there because of Nagarkot’s demonstrations. They were thinking of taking the bus back to Kathmandu but I told them that we would go directly to Dhulikhel, where we had planned to go after Nagarkot. They then decide to join us and we go to the bus station for Dhulikhel, in Jagati, 3km away.
We take a public bus to Dhulikhel for 25 rupees/person.
We arrive at the Dhulikhel bus station, down from the city center 1h30 later. We do our best to find a taxi to Tashidelek Guesthouse but no available. Then a little old gentleman asks us where we are going and tells us to wait. He returns 5min later with a driver to take us to the guesthouse, none other than the manager’s brother. The world is really very small in these places where everyone knows each other. He, therefore, drives us to the guesthouse for 400 rupees. When we arrive, the manager is surprised to see us because we are there a day earlier than expected and accompanied by two more people. But that’s okay since there is always room in the low season. The view from our room is striking, and the owner super friendly.
He offers us to lunch with our two Spanish friends, on-site, at a very democratic price; then we rest in the afternoon because we have planned to trek tomorrow.
In the evening, we go out at Gaia Holliday Home, 1km from our guesthouse, a delicious lemon chicken with mint lemonade.
We get up early to have breakfast and say goodbye to our friends. Then we take the road to Namo Buddha. The path is not superb; it is just a road that descends gently for a few km. We meet a few cars and children going to school. We arrive at a village where a plaque indicates 5km towards Namo Buddha via a dirt road. At times, it goes up a bit, but it’s nothing at all compared to what we experienced a few days before. We still cross a few traditional villages before arriving at Namo Buddha after 3 hours of walking.
When we got to the monastery, we only have one word in our mouths: “wow.” What a majestic place, lost in the middle of nowhere, with a breathtaking view of the whole valley. The Namo Buddha monastery is a retreat place for monks. No doubt, coming to meditate in such a place must be great. We wandered the whole complex past the apartments and the kitchens before going to see the stupa at the top. On the way down, we visited the temple, which is, in our eyes, the most beautiful Buddhist temple we have seen (and we have seen a bunch of them between Mongolians, Chinese, Tibetans, and Nepalese!)
After settling down for a cold soda, we set off again for Panauti, where we plan to take the bus. The path that goes down into the valley is really tough, and we have to be really careful not to fall (luckily, it is not raining!). Then we join a road that passes through the rice fields, but it is in full sun, there is no fart of shade, and we cook!
When in the next village, I realize that there is a bus that stops; I rush to it to ask if it goes to Panauti. The guy laughs a little at me since there is only one road and only one bus which passes on this road, and here we are on the way towards Panauti (15 rupees/person). However, this bus is hell. The driver has put Nepalese techno at the bottom of the balloons (I think everyone is deaf) and the road is as rough as possible. Between that and walking in the sun, it’s a bit like choosing between the plague and cholera… It’s deaf and your ass stewed until you arrive a little later in Panauti. We were supposed to visit the center but it is chargeable and we are exhausted so we take another bus to Banepa (20 rupees/person) then get off to take the last bus to Dhulikhel (20 rupees/person).
It’s a little broken and all burnt that we wake up this morning. After a good breakfast, our host brother brought us to the bus station (400 rupees) to take a bus to Kathmandu (55 rupees/person). We got on the first bus and 1.30hrs, after many scares, we arrive near the airport. But we were stopped in traffic. I saw it on Maps. Bouddha is closer than Thamel, so we got out of the bus, which was not going to take a taxi to Bouddha (450 rupees). We arrived in Bouddha 30 minutes later at our OYO 206 Mount View Homes hotel. Our friend Jade met in Tibet and told us that there was also a restaurant from our now favorite chain in Nepal, the Roadhouse Cafe, with a rooftop overlooking Boudhanath’s stupa. So this is where we decide to have a little mojito/caipirinha and a good pizza for our last evening in Nepal.
The next morning, we have breakfast at the hotel before visiting Boudhanath’s famous stupa and making some final purchases for the road. We can’t resist the idea of going to the Roadhouse Cafe one last time for a good carbonara paste before continuing our visits.
After this nice little lunch, we set off again (not without difficulties) to visit Pashupatinath, not far from there (2km on foot). We walked along the river to see the monkeys playing in the water, right next to the kids and the washing people. We entered by a small bridge that looked abandoned and then took stairs to climb along what appears to be a paddock with goats.
Arriving on the path that leads to the river, we were almost knocked down by a herd of cows running down the stairs (since they are sacred here, they live their cushy life). Arriving at the river, we attended a Hindu funeral ceremony. It was extraordinary, embarrassing, moving and disgusting to the faith. I was speechless and everything.
Relatives bring the body to the river, unpack it, undress it and wash it (it’s the weirdest part because we never handle our dead and it’s funny to see that. Moreover, they throw clothes, plastic, etc. in the river, but that is another debate);
They bring the body to a stake at the edge of the water;
The families closest make three turns around bodies (like the kora around temples and stupas); The family leaves and the remains are thrown into the river.
Then another body arrives with his family and it starts again.
These are all things that we left this place after landing for a drink. The temple itself is beautiful and very different from Buddhist temples, but the funeral ceremonies make this place an exceptional place in Kathmandu.
It was on this final note that we concluded our stay in the Kathmandu Valley.
We returned to the hotel to make a few phone calls and shower before going to the airport by taxi (500 rupees), where new adventures await us.