Kathmandu (काठमाण्डु)  is the largest city and capital of Nepal and the namesake of the Kathmandu Valley. Once thought to be the fabled and inaccessible Shangri-La, Kathmandu is now a hub for independent travellers as well as a growing vacation spot catering to all budgets. As a result of considerable urban growth in recent decades, it is now part of one continuous urban area together with Patan to the south.
According to a census conducted in 2011, Kathmandu metropolis alone has 2.5 million inhabitants, and the agglomerate has a population of more than 3 million inhabitants. The metropolitan city area is 50.67 square kilometres (19.56 sq mi) and has a population density of 3000per km² and 17000 per km square in city.
The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal. It is surrounded by four major mountains: Shivapuri, Phulchoki, Nagarjun, and Chandragiri. Kathmandu Valley is part of three districts (Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur), has the highest population density in the country, and is home to about a twelfth of Nepal's population.
Historically, the Kathmandu Valley and adjoining areas were known as Nepal Mandala. Until the 15th century, Bhaktapur was its capital when two other capitals, Kathmandu and Lalitpur, were established. During the Rana and Shah eras, British historians called the valley itself "Nepal Proper". Today, Kathmandu is not only the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, but also the headquarters of the Central Development Region of Nepal. The Central Region comprises three zones: Bagmati, Narayani, and Janakpur. Kathmandu is located in the Bagmati Zone.
Kathmandu is the gateway to tourism in Nepal. It is also the nerve center of the country's economy. It has the most advanced infrastructure of any urban area in Nepal, and its economy is focused on tourism, which accounted for 3.8% of Nepal's GDP in 1995–96. Tourism in Kathmandu declined thereafter during a period of political unrest, but since then has improved. In 2013, Kathmandu was ranked third among the top 10 travel destinations on the rise in the world by TripAdvisor,and ranked first in Asia.
The city has a rich history, spanning nearly 2000 years, as inferred from inscriptions found in the valley. Religious and cultural festivities form a major part of the lives of people residing in Kathmandu. Most of Kathmandu's people follow Hinduism and many others follow Buddhism. There are people of other religious beliefs as well, giving Kathmandu a cosmopolitan culture. Nepali is the most commonly spoken language in the city. English is understood by Kathmandu's educated residents.
Kathmandu's sister cities (Lalitpur Patan) and Bhaktapur are integral to Kathmandu's cultural heritage, tourism industry, and economy; therefore UNESCO's World Heritage Site lists all three cities' monuments and attractions together under one heading, "Kathmandu Valley-UNESCO World Heritage Site".
Kathmandu Valley is in the Warm Temperate Zone of Nepal (elevation ranging from 1,200–2,300 metres (3,900–7,500 ft)), where the climate is fairly temperate, atypical for the region. This zone is followed by the Cool Temperate Zone with elevation varying between 2,100–3,300 metres (6,900–10,800 ft). Portions of the city with lower elevations have a humid subtropical climate, while portions of the city with higher elevations generally have a subtropical highland climate. In the Kathmandu Valley the average summer temperature varies from 28–30 °C (82–86 °F). The average winter temperature is 10.1 °C (50.2 °F).
The city generally has a climate with warm days followed by cool nights and mornings. Unpredictable weather is expected given temperatures can drop to 3 °C (37 °F) during the winter. During a 2013 cold front, the winter temperatures of Kathmandu dropped to −4 °C (25 °F), and the coldest temperature was recorded in January 10, 2013 at −9.2 °C (15.4 °F). Rainfall is mostly monsoon-based (about 65% of the total concentrated during the monsoon months of June to August), and decreases substantially (100 to 200 cm (39 to 79 in)) from eastern Nepal to western Nepal. Rainfall has been recorded at about 1,400 millimetres (55.1 in) for the Kathmandu valley, and averages 1,407 millimetres (55.4 in) for the city of Kathmandu. On average humidity is 75%.
For information on visa requirements and immigration procedure, see Nepal#Get_in
Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport (IATA: KTM), is the largest and only international airport in Nepal, located 5.5km east of the popular tourist neighborhood of Thamel.
Whilst Kathamandu lacks direct flights to most of Europe, Africa, North and South America and Australasia, the airport is well connected and it is usually possible to reach Kathmandu with only one change of flight, in most cases using the same airline.
International airlines serving Kathmandu include:
- Nepal Airlines - Bangkok, Bengaluru, Delhi, Doha, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai.
- Biman Bangladesh - Dhaka
- Air India - Delhi, Kolkata, Varanasi
- Jet Airways &- Delhi, Mumbai.
- Indigo - Delhi
- Bhutan Airlines - Paro, Delhi.
- Druk Air - Paro, Delhi.
- Air Arabia - Sharjah.
- Fly Dubai' - Dubai.
- Etihad Airways - Abu Dhabi.
- Qatar Airways - Doha.
- Oman Air - Muscat.
- Turkish Airlines - Istanbul.
- Air Asia - Kuala Lumpur.
- Malaysia Airlines - Kuala Lumpur.
- Silk Air - Singapore.
- Thai Airways - Bangkok.
- Air China - Chengdu, Lhasa.
- China Southern Airlines - Guangzhou.
- China Eastern Airlines -; Kunming, Shanghai.
- Sichuan Airlines - Chengdu, Lhasa.
- Dragonair - Hong Kong.
Commercial domestic flights are available to/from Bhadrapur, Bhairawa, Bharatpur, Biratnagar, Dhangarhi, Janakpur, Nepalganj, Pokhara, Simara, and Tumling Tar. Domestic flights take about an hour and cost USD100-175. The primary domestic airlines are air viva, Yeti, Nepal Airlines, and Buddha Air. Domestic flights are almost always delayed and afternoon flights run the risk of cancellation as delays from the morning compound. Domestic flight schedule are available at NepalAirflight
Baggage Handlers & Concerns
Your luggage is vulnerable entering and leaving this airport. Do not keep anything of value in checked bags, and if you lock the bag, the zipper may be forced open and broken. There is little to no security for your bags. You should also be aware that most luggage is treated quite poorly in Nepalese airports. It is recommended that all fragile and valuable items be kept in your carry on luggage.
Be aware that when you collect your luggage, an "airport baggage cart collector" may appear and assist you with a baggage trolley. Unless you insist on handling your own baggage, your items will be loaded on the trolley and will be conveyed with you to the entrance of the terminal. You will then be expected to pay a tip to this person. Arriving just beforehand in Nepal, you will often only have larger denomination foreign currency in your pocket, making the issue of a tip a bit of a problem. It's fine to pay the tip in foreign currency but make sure you have some small bills or coins on hand (even a dollar or two will be significant to Nepalis).
Money Exchange at the Airport
Try not to exchange money at the airport as there are service charges and lower rates offered than what you can get in Thamel or elsewhere in the city.
If you keep the exchange receipt, you could change back to your original currency at the rate on the receipt.
Getting to and from the airport
There are no trains in Kathmandu and renting a car without a driver is not possible.
- Pre-Arranged Hotel Transfers are available from most hotels and are included in most trekking/touring packages. Representatives will be standing outside the arrivals doors behind a barricade and will hold a sign identifying themselves. This form of transport is particularly helpful if you are a novice to Nepal, arriving late at night and unfamiliar with how things work in the country.
- Prepaid Taxis cost NPR 700-800 to Thamel. Don't give the receipt to the driver until you are at your destination and you are satisfied, as this serves as the driver's payment. If the driver asks for more money, don't give it. There is no culture of tipping taxi drivers.
- Regular Taxis are an easy way to get to the city but be prepared to negotiate the price beforehand, heavily. The cheapest rate that you can get to Thamel is NPR400-500, or, if you go to the end of the parking lot and catch a taxi there (where the taxis do not have to pay the airport entrance fee), you may be able to get a rate of NPR200-300, which is close to the standard meter rate. Taxi drivers may try to extract some commission by showing you one or more hotels on the way. Update Nov 2015: due to fuel shortage taxis can charge up to 1500 rupees for the ride to/from town.
- Local buses pickup and drop-off at the airport gate, 0.5km from the terminal. The buses generally do not have fixed schedules and are often crowded and painful but cost only NPR10. Ask the cashier about where the bus stops. To get from Kathmandu to the airport buses start from the Purano Bus Park near Ratna park ( GPS 27.703577, 85.316711). You can place your bag on top (and sit there if you wish) and as it's the first stop you get the seat too. The buses wait till full before they go and cost 15 rupees ( November 2015). Allow plenty of time, as the ride may take 1h.
For more information, see Nepal 'Get in' section.
There is frequent and cheap bus service between Kathmandu and nearly all parts of Nepal. However, due to poor roads and frequent delays the buses are some of the slowest and least comfortable in South Asia.
Buses arriving from the border with India, Pokhara, and Chitwan terminate in Kathmandu either at the Balaju Bus Station (north) or the Kalanki Station (south). From there, there are 'mini buses' which criss cross the main roads of the city for about NPR20.
Tourist buses (NPR800, 6-7h) and crowded local buses/microbuses (NPR400-600, 6-7h) travel the 200km journey between Kathmandu and Pokhara almost every 15 minutes starting at 07:30 through late afternoon. Night buses are available, but the ride is painful. Greenline operates a convenient bus every morning between the popular tourist areas of Thamel in Kathmandu and Lakeside in Pokhara (USD20, lunch included). The road is winding and includes many switchbacks and offers wonderful views of hills and rural Nepalese lifestyle. The drivers will generally not drive too fast but some will calmly weave in and out of the stream of opposing traffic and slam on the brakes when a stop is required, making for a scary ride if you look out the front window. During the rainy season, there may be problems with the roads and flying may make more sense.
Buses run between Kathmandu and the Indian cities of Patna, Gorakhpur, Varanasi (INR1,200), and Lucknow.
Buses and minivans run between Kathmandu and the Nepalese border town of Kodari, across the Sino-Nepal Friendship Bridge from the Tibetan city of Zhangmu / Dram. The 123km journey takes 6+ hours and costs NPR500. Buses depart until the early afternoon. Private jeeps (USD60 for up to 4 people) are a faster option, and can make this journey in 4 hours.
Map of central Kathmandu
If you fly in, be sure to pick up a free Katmandu Valley map at the airport. The first thing some visitors notice about Kathmandu is the general lack of street names except for major roads such as Tri Devi & Ring Road (loops around the city) & address numbers. In most cases directions are given relative to the nearest chowk or tole (an intersection or square, often with a market) or a noteworthy location or building (such as a temple or restaurant). In the tourist district of Thamel, the Kathmandu Guest House & Hot Breads bakery are two main landmarks.
It is possible to get around Kathmandu by foot, but it is not always a pleasant walk & you may want to consider a public transportation for anything more than wandering around a specific area.
By rickshaw or taxi
Rickshaws can be found around the tourist area of Thamel and taxis are everywhere. All taxis have meters which should be used - simply say 'no meter no pay' if the driver refuses to use the meter and move to the next taxi. Before 9pm rates start at NPR14 and after 9pm they are 21NPR. If a driver uses his meter it is courteous to tip (up to one third is about the norm). Alternatively, negotiate a price before you get in a taxi or Rickshaw. A negotiated price will typically be two to three times the metered rate unless you are a very good negotiator! Prices go up after dark (see above) and in less busy areas. Taxis are easy to find; they park near all major streets & have fare-meters. After 22 it can be very difficult to find taxis away from central tourist areas or major hotels. It should be possible to hire a taxi for 300rs one-way to Patan & 800-1,200 rs to Bakhtapur from Thamel or the airport. For longer trips & to hire a taxi by the day negotiate with the driver. Haggle hard and you will easily find another driver if you are not satisfied. The meter is always your best bet if you are not confident enough to negotiate. However it should be avoided if the driver suggest using it, as it is probably fixed and will overcharge you. After 11PM, taxis can be harder to find outside Thamel.
There are also buses for longer trips within the valley, ie Patan, Bakhtapur, Boudha, etc. that can be used for trips in & around around town. See below for tips on traveling outside of the valley. Blue buses & green buses constantly drive in circles/loops around the city on "Ring Road" - for 20 to 35rps - depending on the distance. Every bus has a cashier/attendant who can tell you where it stops & alert you upon arrival. Riding the buses with the local people can be very pleasant & interesting but at the same time it is confusing as well as there are no proper signboards for navigating around. The buses are typically very old and rough. Local people are usually very friendly and helpful in case you are confused during the excursion. Having 5 and 10 rupee notes can be very helpful. From Thamel, it is about 1.5km walk to the Ring Road, and you can take the bus for many of the main attractions, saving money of a taxi/rickshaw.
- Swayambhu (स्वयम्भू) aka Monkey Temple - A site on a hill overlooking the city with a large stupa and other Buddhist and Hindu iconography. One of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the country. There are 350 steps to the top - the back route is less steep but the views on the way up are not as nice. Aside from the views over the city and the ancient carvings in every available space, it's crowded with monkeys mingling with the visitors. The base of the hill is a 30 minute walk from Thamel (make sure you have a map as there are several confusing intersections along the way), or take a taxi or rickshaw. As with the Boudha Stupa, are plenty of Buddhist and Tibetan-inspired trinkets for sale. There are also drinks for sale at the top, and at least one small restaurant selling momos. For those that have their own transport or have difficulty climbing stairs there is a parking lot at the back entrance that significantly reduces the number of stairs that need to be climbed to gain access to the main compound. This is one of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley. Foreigners: NPR750 for a multiple entry pass. NPR200 for single entry (Dec. 2014)
- Boudha Stupa in Boudha (बौद्ध). One of the most sacred sites for Tibetan Buddhism. This huge stupa is one of the largest in the world. It is located to the north-east of Dwarikas' Hotel and just to the north of the airport area. This is another World Heritage Site.
- Narayanhiti Palace Museum - This is the former Royal palace which was turned partly into a Museum and partly into the Foreign Ministry after the abolition of the monarchy in 2009. Now you can visit the splendid Halls of the main building of the palace. Giant fruit bats hanging from the tall trees and 20 foot-tall bamboo around the otherwise modern (and still well secured) former palace are a sight, especially around sunset when the bats depart en masse. Foreigners: NPR500
- Thamel Chowk - a tourist neighborhood with many restaurants and shops.
- Freak Street - Historic street where western hippies seeking enlightenment would stay. Now just a few restaurants and hotels.
- Pashupatinath - An important Hindu temple to Shiva in the form of Lord of Animals. See monkeys, cremation, sadhus and meditation caves. Morning or sunset are great times to go. 1000 Rupess for foreigners, though you can sneak in through the park at the North side of the temple, as many locals do (beware of police though, who try to catch people doing exactly this). No entry inside the main temple for foreigners, though you can peer inside from the doorway. Also, there are stairs on the East side of the river leading to the Boudha Stupa (a short walk away).
- Garden of Dreams / Kaiser Mahal  - Relax in this beautiful and peaceful walled garden close to Thamel and the former Royal Palace. Beautifully renovated in partnership with Austrian government. Currently has two pavilions depicting two of the six annual seasons in the Hindu calendar. It has several expensive cafes and a bar. Nice toilets. NPR200.
- Budda Neelkanth Temple (Narangdham), (6km from Main Bus Park, Kathmandu). An Idol of Bhagwan Vishnu in a sleeping position surrounded by water is an extraordinary cool and calm experience. edit
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Durbar Square, Kathmandu
This ancient square is crowded with palaces and temples, including the current incarnation of the Kasthamandap or "Wooden house" that gives the city its name. The square has been occupied since the construction of a palace around 1000AD. This site is the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal.
The Square is particularly fascinating in the very early morning as all the various merchants set up their wares and when many devotees make their offerings at the various shrines and temples. There will be a number of young men who will offer to be "guides." Be firm with saying "no" if you are not interested. The entrance fee for foreigners is NPR1000. If you plan to be in the area for more than one day, it's worth being directed to the Site Office where you can exchange your single-entry ticket with a multiple-entry pass allowing you to wander in and out as you wish. You will need your passport and one passport photo. The whole process takes only a few minutes. Your entry pass gives you access to all open parts of Durbar Square as well as the Hanuman Dhoka. If you don't feel like coughing up the slightly hefty entrance fee to enter an area of a city, it is very easy to sneak in Durbar square via small side alleys from the west side. In Nepali, Durbar means "palace" and this is where the monarch was crowned and from where he ruled.
It is possible to climb the steps of many of the temples for a better look and to join others seated near the top watching the activity below. There are more than a dozen buildings and statues of note in this small area. They include:
- Taleju Temple One of the oldest temples in the square, this three-roofed temple with its pyramid shaped bases, is an example of the typical Newari architectural style.
- Ashok Binayak
- Shiva Temple
- Maju Deval
- Narayan Temple
- Shiva-Parvati Temple
- Kumari Palace- home of "the Kumari", or living goddess, a young girl. South side of Durbar square,
- Bhagwati Temple
- Saraswati Temple The Goddess of Knowledge and Learning
- Krishna Temple
- Sweta Bhairab Statue shown only during the Indra Jatra festival.
- Kal Bhairab
- Indrapur Temple
- Vishnu temple
- Mahendreswar Temple
- Nasal Chowk Statues, temples and the Rana museum. Located in the Hanuman Dhoka former palace complex, the courtyard was used for royal coronations as recently as 2001.