My arrival to Kathmandu on 31 August was eerily similar to my situation when I was last in Nepal, 5 years prior: I was sick, revisited the CIWEC medical clinic/hospital (highly recommend if you’re in Kathmandu or Pokhara and sick) and even saw the same doctor, and had to check myself into a hotel in the city’s outskirts to heal.
To get through the infection so as to not make an entire rural village (with no access to medical care) sick. For the price, Grand Norling is a little slice of heaven!
However, the Grand Norling is quite a distance from the city’s main attractions and accessible only by roads in such poor conditions that one might think that area of Kathmandu had recently survived a civil war. So not ideal if you’re only coming to Kathmandu for a couple of days and/or you plan to be in the city daily. For that, pick a hotel in Thamel (main tourist district). If you’re not on a super tight budget, I HIGHLY recommend the Hotel Mullberry. It is super lux for Nepal, has a great gym, beautiful rooftop infinity pool, is super quiet, comfy beds, good (free!) wifi, and a great breakfast buffet.
First Impressions (*for the 2nd time)
When I arrived to Kathmandu 5 years ago, I remember being a bit overwhelmed by the noise, congestion, and smells. Amazing what a couple of weeks in India will do to shift that perspective! Kathmandu seems positively peaceful; though still horribly polluted. Even when peak tourist season kicked in the crowds still didn’t compare to street congestion in India; however, the literal streets are MUCH better in India. (Lack of a functioning government and infrastructure mean that things such as streets and roads, even in the busiest parts of the capitol city, are not a priority.) I found the city bright, lively, energetic, and fun. And sometimes you even get lucky and the police clear the streets of all vehicle traffic for a festival, so you get to walk around without dodging cars and scooters every 10 seconds!
Similar to India, street animals are too often treated poorly (unless you’re in the Buddhist regions of the country, where there is a noticeable improvement); positively breaks my heart. Unlike much of India, as a female, solo traveler, I felt completely comfortable walking around the city by myself. Yay! I was amazed at how quickly I remembered places from 5 years ago (favorite restaurants and grocery stores mostly, because… have you read any post on my blog? I ❤️ food!). Speaking of food, recommendations below.
I was also struck with amazement that the entire city hasn’t burned down in one massive, electrical fire. Because, well, here’s what power lines and electrical poles look like in Kathmandu…
Where to Go, What to See/Eat
While Nepali food is nowhere near as yummy as Indian food (despite heavy Indian influences), there are tons of great cafes and restaurants in Kathmandu. You should definitely go to the Sagarmatha Bazaar, which is home to the city’s only truly pedestrian street, and full of shops and great restaurants. Two of my fave picks: the most incredible falafel stand, Chick N’ Falafel (you get a huge falafel wrap for the equivalent of just over $2), and OR2K (one of the top rated vegetarian restaurants in the city). I also had a nice lassi at Green Organice Cafe & Farmers Bar (they have great wifi too!), and really enjoyed the courtyard and ambiance at Jatra. And for real, the Hotel Mullberry’s restaurant serves up one of my fave veg burgers in all of Nepal. Finally, no trip to Nepal is complete without a visit to one of the many German bakeries that can be found in just about every city or village!
There are so many important sites to visit in and around Kathmandu. For this trip, I revisited Durbar Square (because my prior visit was pre-earthquake, it was worth going again to see how dramatically different things are) and took a trip out to Bhaktapur, John’s favorite city in Nepal (for me, that “award” goes to Pokhara, hands down). For the trip to Bhaktapur, I was lucky enough to have Deb Pandey (who I was connected to by Andrew Sherwood, the wonderful man responsible for my first trip to Nepal to trek EBC) make the 150km trip (each way!) from Chitwan to meet me and spend the day with John, CP, and me.
Durbar Square, Kathmandu
All in all, Kathmandu is a cool city that is really affordable and a super easy place for solo female travelers. Stay tuned for recommendations about Pokhara.