Kathmandu Valley Travel Guide

  • Ram Khadka
  • May 8, 2024
Table of Contents
Kathmandu Valley is a captivating destination surrounded by majestic mountains. It is home to three major cities: Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan.

The valley’s ancient charm and rich cultural heritage have remained the main attraction. It also offers a fascinating glimpse into Nepal's history, unique architecture, and traditions.

Immersing oneself in the rich culture of Kathmandu Valley is an essential part of the experience. Festivals like Dashain and Tihar bring the valley to life. Likewise, exploring traditional arts and crafts and tasting the local cuisine will provide a glimpse into the daily life of the valley's inhabitants.

The major attractions for Kathmandu Sightseeing are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites; seven monuments and buildings have made their name on the list. Travelers also visit Kathmandu for its natural beauty and hiking trails.

Historical Background 

Kathmandu Valley's historical significance dates back to ancient times. It attracted many merchants and travelers in ancient times as the valley was a trading hub between India and Tibet.

The valley has witnessed the rise and fall of various dynasties and kingdoms over thousands of years. Kirats ruled the valley for about 1,225 years, from 800 BC to 300 CE. They were known for their agricultural practices and their religious traditions.

Lichchhavi later conquered the valley by defeating the last Kirat King Gasti and ruled from approximately 400 to 750 CE. It was the golden period of Nepal. The rise of numerous temples, monasteries, and public squares took place during this period.

Later the Malla Dynasty took over the valley from 1200 to 1769 CE. The Malla kings promoted art, culture, and architecture. They flourished the valley with Newari art and architecture. Furthermore, during the Malla reign, the valley was divided into three city-states: Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan.

From 1769 CE onwards, the Shah Dynasty and Unification took place. The king of Gorkha, Prithvi Narayan Shah, launched a campaign to unify various kingdoms and states of Nepal in the late 18th century. He conquered Kathmandu Valley in 1769 and established the Shah dynasty.

After the end of the Shah dynasty, the modern era began in 2008. A significant change in the political landscape took place in the country. Nepal transitioned to a federal democratic republic from a monarchy. Yet, the Kathmandu Valley remained Nepal’s cultural, political, and economic center.

Influence of various dynasties and kingdoms on the valley's architecture and culture.

Each ruling dynasty and kingdom of the valley left a distinct mark on the valley's architecture, art, and culture.

Kings, including Pratap Malla, Prithvi Narayan Shah, and Jayasthiti Malla, were active in nurturing art.

During the Lichchhavi dynasty (4th to the 9th century), Hinduism was introduced as the dominant religion. Many Hindu temples and religious monuments were constructed. Pashupatinath Temple and Changu Narayan Temple were built during this dynasty.

The Malla Dynasty, which lasted from the 13th to the 18th century, profoundly impacted the valley's artistic creations. The Malla kings contributed a lot to the arts and architecture in Kathmandu.

Jayasthiti Malla encouraged the construction of temples, palaces, and public squares. Yaksha Malla built Yaksha Malla Palace and founded Yaksheswar Temple.

Pratap Malla was into poetry and called himself Kavindra (the King of poets). Because he set an image of Hanuman beside his palace, the palace became known as Hanuman Dhoka.

Pratap Malla was fond of building temples. Krishna Mandir (Patan Durbar Square) and Guheshwari Temple were constructed during his reign. He was also the one to introduce the three-day chariot festival Seto Machchhindranath Jatra.

Likewise, the Shah kings also contributed to the formation of mansions, shrines, and public buildings.

Besides the Kings, the Tibetan culture and the Newar community have played a crucial role in shaping the valley’s architecture and culture.

Tibetan Buddhism significantly impacted the valley's religious practices and artistic traditions. A glimpse of their influence can be spotted in sites like Boudhanath Stupa and Swayambhunath Stupa.

The Nwear community is indigenous to the Kathmandu Valley. They are renowned for their craftsmanship, particularly woodcarving, metalwork, pottery, and painting. The Newari people have preserved their expertise and contributed to the valley's unique architectural and artistic heritage. They have passed down their skills and techniques through generations.

Preservation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu Valley

There are 1,157 World Heritage Sites across 167 countries as of January 2023.

Kathmandu Valley is home to many natural and culturally rich sites, of which seven were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The valley’s places and buildings hold special importance for its outstanding cultural and historical significance. Many tourists worldwide visit Kathmandu to explore its beauty and learn its history.

Preserving the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu Valley is crucial for sustaining local economies and promoting tourism. So, government authorities, heritage conservation organizations, and local communities collaborate to preserve the seven listed World Heritage Sites.

Ensuring the continued transmission of Nepal's unique cultural heritage to succeeding generations is also necessary. It will help to preserve the valley’s cultural identity, foster historical continuity, promote cultural diversity, and ensure sustainable development.

Thus, the locals always aim to safeguard the country's rich heritage and pass it on as a legacy for future generations to cherish and build upon.

Geographical Features

Kathmandu Valley sits in the lap of the Himalayas. It lies in the central part of Nepal at approximately 1,400 m above sea level.

The valley floor is relatively flat. However, the topography varies according to elevation. The bowel-shaped valley has terraced agricultural land in the lower areas and forested slopes and ridges in the higher ascent.

Three major cities: Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan

Kathmandu, Lalitpur (Patan), and Bhaktapur are the three major cities in Kathmandu Valley. These cities cover a total area of 220 square miles (570 km2).

Kathmandu is the capital and most populated city. It has been the home of the Newari people for centuries. The city is the gateway to the Nepal Himalayas. Most of Nepal’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites lie here.

In the south-central part of Kathmandu Valley lies Lalitpur. The city is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, arts, and crafts. Local and international tourists visit Patan to observe the festival and fine ancient art.

Bhaktapur lies in the east corner of the valley. It is the smallest and most densely populated city in Nepal. It is famous for its Newar tradition, cuisine (the jūjū dhau), and artisans. Since there are over types of traditional dances, Bhaptur also gets called the Capital of Music and Dance.

Many smaller towns and villages have gotten spread across the valley. The historical, cultural, and architectural significance it holds has been cherished by people worldwide.

Surrounding mountains and natural beauty

The majestic peaks include Shivapuri Hills (2,732 m), Phulchowki (2,695 m), Nagarjun (2,095 m), and Chandragiri (2,551 m) have surrounded the Kathmandu valley.

The valley has been intersected by several rivers and tributaries. Bagmati River is the major one flowing through the valley. It runs through Kathmandu, and the Manohara River, passing through Bhaktapur.

Main Attractions

Kathmandu Valley has many places and monuments which attract thousands of travelers.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

There are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu Valley. These sites reflect the valley's rich cultural heritage.

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square is one of the three royal palaces in Kathmandu Valley.

The palace was home to Malla and Shah Kings while they ruled Kathmandu. It comprises courtyards, fountains, ancient statues, small ponds, and temples.

The Durbar Square showcases stunning Newari architecture and artistic craftsmanship. The site includes notable structures like the Hanuman Dhoka Palace, Kumari Ghar (House of the Living Goddess), and numerous temples.

Travelers who want to learn the palace’s history can explore it; it is open to the general public as a museum.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square is another royal place home to the Malla Kings of Nepal.

The visitors can observe Newari architecture, pagodas, temples, and stone sculptures while visiting this museum. They can also witness artisans creating pottery, woodcarvings, and metalwork using age-old techniques.

Furthermore, the square was the biggest and the grandest during its independence. However, only 15 out of 99 courtyards have remained throughout the centuries. The 1833 and 1934 earthquakes heavily impacted the palace by damaging many buildings. 

The concerned authorities have preserved the palace’s historical essence despite the challenges. They have successfully maintained the authenticity of the square.

Patan Durbar Square

The Malla kings of Lalitpur resided at Patan Durbar Square. Like the other places, this square showcases Newari craftsmanship.

Architect enthusiasts also visit Patan Durbar Square to witness the distinct pagoda-style architecture and its delicate detailing.

Cultural travelers can drop by the museum to observe the impressive collection of religious art, ancient artifacts, and sculptures.

Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple is the largest and oldest Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Pashupati.

Numerous temples, ashrams, images, and inscriptions are within the temple site. It holds immense religious and spiritual significance for Hindus worldwide.

So, travelers and devotees visit this temple to offer prayers, seek blessings, and experience a deep spiritual connection.

Likewise, the temple’s distinct pagoda-style design with detailed woodcarvings, silver doors, and golden spires attracts art enthusiasts.

A significant population of monkeys also inhabits Pashupatinath. So, visitors can also catch sight of playful monkeys roaming around the premises.

Boudhanath Stupa

Boudhanath Stupa is one of the largest spherical stupas in the world. It carries immense religious importance for Buddhists around the globe.

Boudhanath’s traditional mandala design, decorated with carvings, and colorful prayer flags, and its beautiful central dome, are a sight to behold.

Furthermore, the stupa is very peaceful. Visitors can immerse themselves in Buddhist traditions and witness devotees performing rituals and prayers.

Swayambhunath Stupa

Swayambunath Stupa is another sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site at the top of a hill in Kathmandu Valley. Travelers can watch a panoramic view of Kathmandu city from the stupa.

Swayambhunath also attracts Hindu devotees; it reflects the harmonious coexistence of these two religions. It is also home to temples, statues, and shrines dedicated to Hindu deities.

The stupa also has iconic architecture. It has a golden spire topped with a white dome and the watchful eyes of Buddha. Likewise, the prayer wheels surrounding the premises, colorful prayer flags, and numerous shrines have enhanced its beauty.

Changu Narayan Temple

Changu Narayan Temple is an ancient temple on a hilltop near Bhaktapur. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

The temple is one of the oldest in Nepal. Furthermore, it is renowned for its stone carvings and inscriptions.

Changunarayan Temple also houses a small museum. The museum has a collection of ancient artifacts, stone sculptures, and artworks with historical and archaeological significance.

Cultural and Historical Sites

The UNESCO World Heritage sites are not the only attractions in Kathmandu Valley. Local and international travelers also visit the valley to explore other cultural and historical sites.

Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex

Hanuman Dhoka is a palace complex spread over five acres in Basantapur, Kathmandu. The Malla kings and the Shah dynasty resided in this palace during their dynasties.

The palace complex offers visitors a glimpse of the remnants of ancient royal life. Travelers can also visit the museum to witness the collection of artifacts, ancient weapons, royal regalia, religious artworks, and historical documents.

Furthermore, every temple and courtyard the royal palace houses has historical and religious significance. It is also a center for festivals, religious ceremonies, and cultural events. Locals perform traditional music, dances, and religious rituals around the area during various fiestas.

Kathmandu Valley Museum

The valley has several museums within its area. These museums cover Nepal's history, art, archaeology, and cultural traditions. Some of the well-known museums in the Kathmandu Valley include:

The National Museum of Nepal

The National Museum of Nepal is a cultural institution. It has a vast collection of artifacts, art, and historical objects representing Nepal's cultural and artistic heritage.

Since it provides visitors insight into Nepal's History, it is the best place to explore for students, researchers, and history enthusiasts.

The Taragaon Museum

The Taragaon Museum is a private museum owned by the Taragaon Regency Hotel.

The museum located in Boudha aims to promote local artists. It houses a permanent collection of foreign artists and a contemporary art gallery of Nepalese artists.

There is also an event hall and amphitheater to conduct events or exhibitions. It is known for its high quality and advanced art and performances.

Besides that, Patan Museum, Bhaktapur Durbar Square Museum, and Kathmandu Contemporary Arts Centre are other treasuries that allow travelers to engage with diverse art forms.

Religious Centers

Kopan Monastery

Kopan Monastery is a prominent Buddhist monastery famous for teaching Buddhism to global learning enthusiasts.

Visitors can learn about Buddhist philosophy, meditation techniques, and mindfulness practices at this monastery.

Travelers can also immerse themselves in the Tibetan Buddhist culture. They can witness daily rituals, prayer sessions, and ceremonies that the resident monks perform.

Kopan Monastery has a peaceful environment. So, visitors seeking a spiritual retreat or a break from the busy urban life can meditate and spend time for self-reflection and personal growth.

Dakshinkali Temple

Dakshinkali Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Kali. Thus, devotees visit the temple to offer prayers, seek blessings, and perform religious rituals.

The temple is surrounded by lush greenery and rolling hills. Moreover, while visiting Dakshinkali, you can also explore Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park. The national park is near the temple.


Kritipur is an ancient city with a rich historical background. The city has witnessed various dynasties and kingdoms.

Kirtipur is known for its Newari culture; the Newari people are natives of the city. So, visiting Kirtipur will provide visitors with the experience of the distinct culture, customs, and lifestyle of Newars.


Thamel is a shopper's paradise. Here is the availability of many shops, boutiques, and markets. Visitors can find goods like handicrafts, clothing, jewelry, trekking gear, artwork, and souvenirs.

Food lovers can explore restaurants, cafes, and eateries. Travelers can savor Nepali or international dishes as per their desire.

The area comes alive after dark. There are numerous clubs, live music venues, and cultural performances for entertainment. Garden of Dreams and Narayanhit Palace Museum also lie near Thamel.

Therefore, these attractions help the valley’s economic development. The money travelers spend on accommodations, transportation, food, shopping, and various services, contributes to the local economy.

Furthermore, it promotes local crafts and traditions. These attractions also provide a platform for local artisans, performers, and entrepreneurs to showcase their skills, fostering cultural pride and preserving traditional practices.

Outdoor Activities

Kathmandu Valley is rich in natural beauty and offers a range of outdoor activities for adventure admirers.


Kathmandu Valley is the capital of a country rich in Himalayan ranges. Thus, it is the gateway to some of Nepal’s most popular trekking routes.

Trekking enthusiasts can start their journey to Langtang Valley Trek, Shivapuri Hiking, or Nagarjun Forest Reserve Trek from the valley. Likewise, going out for the Helambu Trek, Gosainkunda Trek, and Ganesh Himal Trek is possible.

Mountain Biking

The valley also has various biking trails. 

Travelers into biking can rent a mountain bike and explore biking routes. They can go from Nagarkot to Bhaktapur, Shivapuri to Budhanilkantha, or explore the off-road trails.


Paragliding is a very daring activity to do. It requires courage to fly with a parachute.

Visitors can take off on a paragliding journey from places like Godavari, Chapakharka, or Sundarijal.

While soaring high above the valley, the paragliders can enjoy the breathtaking views of the valley, lush landscapes, and distant Himalayan peaks.

Rock Climbing

Kathmandu Valley also has rock climbing sites. There are places where beginners and advanced climbers can go for a rock climbing journey in Hattiban, Nagarjun, or Bimal Nagar.

Hattiban has cliffs with natural rock formations and artificial holds. Likewise, Bimal Naga has limestone cliffs, and Hattisar has well-maintained cliffs.

Bird Watching

Travelers who admire watching birds can find a variety of bird species in Kathmandu Valley.

Many colorful birds soar in the sky of Phulchoki, Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, and Taudaha Lake.

Phulchoki is one of the valley’s best bird-watching sites. It is home to over 300 bird species. Visitors can spot White-capped Redstart, Black-throated Tit, and Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers in Godavari Botanical Garden.


Rafting in Kathmandu Valley is a lifetime experience. Trishuli River is one of the most popular destinations for rafting.

Numerous local and international travelers go to the Trishuli River on weekends as a city escape with their friends and family.

Festivals and Events

The valley is renowned for having vibrant cultural traditions and lively festivals.

Numerous festivals and events take place in Kathmandu Valley throughout the year. Many visitors are fascinated when they get an opportunity to watch and participate in the rich cultural heritage of Nepal.


Dashain is the most important Hindu festival celebrated by the valley’s locals.

It is the biggest fiesta that falls in September or October annually. The festival is celebrated for 15 days to honor the victory of good over evil.

Families gather to feast, play cards, music, dance, and catch up. Children fly kites of different colors and sizes on rooftops.


Tihar is the festival of lights that falls in October or November. It is a five-day festival that honors animals, Laxmi (the goddess of wealth), and brothers.

During the five days, the locals decorate their homes with colorful lights and diyos (traditional oil lamps). They also make beautiful rangolis at the entrance of their houses to welcome Goddess Laxmi.

Young people play Deusi/Bhailo to spread joy from house to house singing traditional songs and performing cultural dances. In return, they receive offerings of money, food, fruits, or sweets as a gesture of appreciation and blessings.


Holi is the festival of colors celebrated in March. It is a joyous occasion where people play with water and colored powders.

Everyone, from children to adults, drenches one another in a rainbow of colors. They dance, sing, and celebrate the triumph of good over evil.

Bisket Jatra

Bisket Jatra is celebrated in Bhaktapur during the Nepali New Year.

The festival holds religious and cultural significance for the people of Bhaktapur. The people from Bhaktapur participate in pulling the two wooden chariots representing the deities of Bhairab and Bhadrakali. 

Visitors can also witness traditional performances, including dances, music, and dramas. Pulukishi Nach is the highlight of the event. They also perform Pulukishi Nach, a masked dance, while wearing elaborate masks and costumes.

Indra Jatra

Indra Jatra is one of the most significant religious and cultural festivals celebrated in Kathmandu Valley.

During the Jatra, many devotees pull the chariot of Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed deity, and the living goddess Kumari. The chariot is accompanied by traditional music, dance, and chanting.

The performance of Lakhey and Pulu Kisi (masked dances) is the highlight. Lakhey is a demon-like character, and Pulu Kisi represents an ancient Kirata deity. Skilled artists perform the dances wearing traditional costumes and masks.

Kumari Jatra

Kumari Jatra offers the visitors to witness the living goddess called Kumari. She is believed to be the living incarnation of the goddess Taleju.

The living goddess is a young girl selected carefully from the Newar community. Kumari undergoes a selection process based on specific criteria and traditions.

Services and Facilities

While exploring certain places, travelers need various accommodation services for daily livelihood. Kathmandu Valley always ensures to provide its guests with the best facilities.

Accommodation options in Kathmandu Valley


Travelers can find extensive hotels, ranging from budget-friendly options to luxury establishments. They can rest in comfortable rooms with additional facilities such as restaurants, spas, and fitness centers.

Hyatt Regency Kathmandu, Hotel Yak & Yeti, Dwarika's Hotel Kathmandu, and Kathmandu Marriott Hotel are some 5-star hotels providing top-tier services.

Guesthouses and Hostels

Guesthouses and hostels are budget-friendly. It is a popular choice for budget travelers and backpackers.

These guesthouses offer private rooms with shared facilities. They have common areas and a communal atmosphere. Visitors from different nations and backgrounds can socialize and exchange travel experiences.

Boutique Hotels

Boutique hotels provide personalized experiences. These hotels offer stylish accommodations with attention to detail featuring artistic décor, local themes, and a cozy ambiance.

Baber Mahal Vilas, Dwarika's Hotel Heritage Home, Kantipur Temple House, and Hotel Jampa are a few boutique hotels in Kathmandu Valley.


Homestays offer travelers to connect with local families. It provides a glimpse into the daily lives of the locals.

Homestays allow guests to engage with the host family and learn about their customs. The best part is getting to enjoy home-cooked meals. These services are available in various parts of the Kathmandu Valley.


Resorts in Kathmandu Valley offer a peaceful retreat. They are located on the outskirts of the valley, surrounded by nature.

Some of the most sought-after resorts in the valley are Gokarna Forest Resort, Dhulikhel Mountain Resort, Shivapuri Heights Cottage, and Namobuddha Resort.

Heritage Properties

As Kathmandu Valley is rich in cultural heritage, some of its heritage properties have been converted into accommodations.

Dwarika's Hotel is one of the heritage properties showcasing traditional Newari architecture and craftsmanship. Staying in these places allows guests to experience the architectural charm and historical significance.

Transportation within the valley

There are various options for transportation in Kathmandu Valley. Travelers can navigate the way by riding taxis, local buses, or other means.


Taxis are readily available throughout the Valley. Travelers can hail one from the roadside or find it on a taxi stand.

Taxi offers a comfortable ride. Negotiating the fare in advance is recommended. Also, travelers should ask the driver to use the meter before starting the journey for a fair charge.

Public Buses

Travelers can find public buses anywhere in the valley. Gongabu Bus Park, Ratna Park Bus Stand, Kalanki Bus Park, Bagbazar Bus Stand, and Balkhu Bus Stand.

Traveling by public bus is an affordable option as the fare is minimal. However, passengers should expect crowded spaces, and the ride might be uncomfortable for international tourists.


Rickshaws are a fun ride. It is a popular and affordable short-distance transportation within the valley.

Rickshaws will easily pass through narrow alleys and crowded areas where cars struggle.

Micro Buses

Microbuses run on specific routes within the city. It is convenient for shorter distances. These buses are usually less crowded than regular buses.


Tempu is a three-wheeled electric vehicle. Only a small number of passengers can fit in the motor.

Tempus is convenient for navigating narrow streets. They are also a relatively inexpensive option.

Rental Vehicles

Travelers can rent a motorbike, car, or bicycle from various rental agencies if they have a valid driving license.

It is more independent and flexible compared to other rides. But the riders must be aware of traffic and driving rules of the valley.

Ride-hailing Services

Ride-hailing apps are the go-to option for travelers who don’t like riding a public bus, tempu, or taxi.

Pathao and inDrive are the most commonly used ridesharing apps inside the valley. Travelers can book a ride through their mobile applications.

Communication and Internet facilities

Kathmandu Valley has convenient access to connectivity. Travelers can use various forms of networks to connect with people.

Mobile Network Coverage

NTC (Nepal Telecom), Ncell, and Smart Cell are the most used mobile network services. They provide reliable coverage and allow users to call, send text messages, and access mobile data services.

Internet Connectivity

The valley has high-speed internet connectivity. Most hotels, restaurants, and cafes provide Wi-Fi access for their customers.

Wi-Fi Zones

The valley has public Wi-Fi zones in popular tourist areas like Thamel and Durbar Square. Travelers can use free Wi-Fi for a limited time or with certain usage restrictions.

Mobile Data

If there are no free Wi-Fi zones, travelers can activate data packages. Mobile networks provide various packages to access the internet on your mobile device.

Tips for Visitors

Visa Requirements and Entry Regulations

Tourist Visa:

Tourists who wish to travel to Kathmandu Valley will require a tourist visa.

Travelers can obtain a tourist visa upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport. However, they should check the latest visa regulations and fees before embarking on the trip.

Visa Extension:

If travelers want to explore Nepal for a longer duration, they should extend their tourist visas. To extend the visa before expiration, they can visit the Department of Immigration.

Visa Requirements:

  • valid passport with six months of remaining validity,

  • a passport-sized photograph,

  • applicable visa fee

Safety tips for exploring Kathmandu Valley

Research and Plan:

Doing thorough research and planning before starting a trip to Kathmandu Valley is crucial.

Planning itineraries and noting important landmarks, emergency contact numbers, and the location of your embassy will keep you organized throughout the journey.

Stay Updated on Current Affairs:

Travelers must keep themselves updated and informed about any current affairs, travel advisories, or safety alerts related to the Kathmandu Valley.

Transportation Safety:

Using licensed taxis or reliable car rental agencies when moving around the valley will ensure your safety. Also, check if the vehicles are in good condition and have functioning seat belts. While using public buses, be aware of pickpockets.

Personal Belongings:

Travelers must keep their valuables, including passports, cash, and electronic devices, secure every time. And displaying expensive items will attract unwanted attention.

Street Vendors and Food Safety:

While trying street foods in Kathmandu Valley, travelers must choose vendors with good hygiene practices. Also, opt for freshly cooked food, and ensure that fruits and vegetables are clean.

Thus, this summarizes the important destinations, transportation options, and safety precautions that travelers need to note during their visit to Kathmandu Valley.

The unique blend of the valley’s cultural, historical, and natural attractions will keep the visitors entertained throughout their trip.

Ram Khadka
Ram Khadka

CEO and Managing Director at Sublime Trails Trekking, Ram has been leading adventure-hungry souls into the mountains of Nepal for over 15 years.