Whether you are in Kathmandu for a short getaway or have a few days to prepare for (or recover from!) a Himalayan adventure, there is no need to stay within the confines of your hotel. Kathmandu has many unique things to see and do. In three days, you can see many of the Kathmandu Valley’s highlights, from markets, temples and cultural sites to sunsets, mountain views and hiking.

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Kathmandu! Kathmandu
Day 2 Explore Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 3 Kathmandu to Nagarkot; optional visit to Dhulikhel or NamoBuddha  Nagarkot
Day 4 Nagarkot to Bhaktapur Bhaktapur
Day 5 Tour Bhaktapur, tour Patan Patan
Day 6 Depart Kathmandu  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Kathmandu!

The cityscape of Kathmandu and Boudhanath Stupa
The cityscape of Kathmandu and Boudhanath Stupa

As you fly into Kathmandu, you'll have beautiful views over the valley, the Himalaya, and of the terraced fields below. After going through customs, a representative will be waiting to guide you through the initial culture shock of Kathmandu’s narrow, winding streets and get you settled into your hotel. Once you've settled in, head out and visit one of Kathmandu's cultural highlights. In the evening, the tourist hub of Thamel is a good place to grab your first meal, with a variety of restaurants to chose from offering both Western and local Nepali dishes.

Day 2: Explore Kathmandu

Boudhanath Stupa
Boudhanath Stupa

Kathmandu has a special atmosphere during the early morning hours when the city is slowly coming to life yet not too chaotic. It's a great time to walk and explore the streets or have a chai overlooking one of the local courtyards or durbar squares. There are a number of ways you can spend the day given the many incredible sights around the Kathmandu Valley. Later in the evening, head out for dinner at one of the city's great eateries, or your specialist can arrange a home-cooked dinner with a local family.

Day 3: Kathmandu to Nagarkot

Teej festival at Pashupatinath
Celebrating Teej festival at Pashupatinath, where women visit the temple to honour the reunion of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati (© Alex Buri)

Early morning is the best time to wander the streets of Kathmandu, as they are quieter, less congested and you can witness people performing their daily worship at temples and shrines. Take a pre-breakfast walk from Thamel to Indra Chowk, traditionally a cloth market that is home to some impressive temples.

Later, head to Pashupatinath, the holiest Hindu site in Nepal. The place is a collection of temples dedicated to Shiva, as well as riverside ghats on the Bagmati—steps where people bathe and the deceased are cremated.

From Pashupatinath, travel to Nagarkot, about a two-hour drive from Kathmandu. This town is situated on a ridge northeast of Bhaktapur. It is a popular place to visit for sunrise and sunset views of the Himalaya (especially the Langtang range), so an overnight stay is ideal. Although the main stretch of hotels in town is quite busy, the Nagarkot Farmhouse is a renovated Newari ranch set in spacious gardens away from the hustle.

If you’re looking for somewhere a little less crowded (but in the same area as Nagarkot), with similar panoramic views of the Himalaya and nearby hiking options, try one of these towns, instead:

Dhulikhel. Although a bustling modern town now, Dhulikhel still retains a well-preserved Newari core of buildings. It is also home to one of Nepal’s finest boutique hotels, Dwarika’s Dhulikhel, as well as plenty of cheaper options.

Namobuddha. This is one of the holiest Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Nepal, and a colorfully painted, golden-roofed monastery sits at the end of a ridgeline. The homely Namobuddha Resort prepares all meals from its organic garden.

Day 4: Nagarkot to Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur
Bhaktapur's Durbar Square

Hopefully, you enjoyed a sunset view of the mountains from Nagarkot the night before, but if the weather didn’t cooperate, you’re more likely to be treated to views in the clear early morning light.

After breakfast, you can either choose to drive straight to Bhaktapur from Nagarkot (about an hour) or hike there, instead. Hiking is downhill and takes around four hours, and passes through Changu Narayan. The temple in this small town is a UNESCO World Heritage site but is the least-visited such site in the Kathmandu Valley. The temple dates from the thirteenth century and is believed to be the oldest temple in Nepal.

If you drove to Bhaktapur, you will have plenty of time to tour this medieval Newari city in the afternoon. The town is known as a producer of fine Newari crafts, especially pottery, which you can see drying in the large town squares.

Day 5: Tour Bhaktapur, tour Patan

The Inn, Patan
A peaceful place to escape the crowds of Kathmandu at this boutique hotel: The Inn, Patan

If you took the hiking option on the previous day, you’ll get the chance to explore Bhaktapur this morning. Although the town was extensively damaged in the 2015 earthquake, most of the impressive religious buildings—including the tallest temple in the Kathmandu Valley, the five-story Nyatapola Temple—remain standing.

After, head to Patan, about an hour by car. Like Bhaktapur, Patan was once an independent kingdom that rivaled Kathmandu. This importance is still evident in its fine Durbar Square, a collection of temples and palace buildings. In one wing of the palace is the excellent Patan Museum, made with the help of Austrian aid, which showcases the religious arts and architecture of the Kathmandu Valley.

Around the Patan Durbar Square are a number of other visit-worthy places, such as the Hiranya Varna Mahabihar, called the Golden Temple even though it is neither made from gold (the golden colored metal is brass!) nor a temple (it’s a monastery!).

If souvenir shopping is in your plan, Patan is a great place to do this. The town is full of traditional Newari craftspeople, so you can find shops selling Buddhist thangka paintings, metal statues, all kinds of jewelry and brass and copper cookware.

Patan doesn’t contain as many hotels as central Kathmandu, but that’s to the discerning traveler’s advantage. A number of local heritage buildings have been turned into boutique guesthouses with a lot of charm:

  • The Inn Patan, a traditional brick-and-timber Newari house that has been converted into ten highly in-demand guest rooms;
  • Tajaa Pha Heritage Home in Pimbahal, a quiet neighborhood just ten minutes’ walk from the Patan Durbar Square, overlooking a large water tank;
  • Swotha Traditional Homes is just around the corner from the Patan Durbar Square. Downstairs is the high-quality Cafe Swotha.

Day 6: Depart Kathmandu

Swayambhunath Temple
Swayambhunath Temple

Time to say farewell to Nepal. Enjoy your last moments in Kathmandu with breakfast in a café, a city stroll, and/or souvenir shopping. A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home. It's good to be at the airport at least two hours prior to departure.

Map

Map of Kathmandu Valley - 6 Days
Map of Kathmandu Valley - 6 Days