Stunning temples, great hiking and view of Himalayas: these are the best day trips from Kathmandu.
Within the incredibly steep terrain of Nepal, the Kathmandu Valley is geographically very unique area with here fertile land is lifted up towards the sky. The valley only has 25 kilometers across, but it is packed with sacred sites. Taking account distance and good accessibility, there are lot of great places to visit near Kathmandu.
During my recent trip to Nepal, I only had limited time to explore the capital and it’s surroundings. Which is anyway the case for most trekkers leading to Annapurna or Mont Everest base next. Don’t worry – these Kathmandu day tours cover the highlights without being too tiring.
These are the best places to visit near Kathmandu. Pick your favorite!
Shall you have time to do only one day trip from Kathmandu, pick Bhaktapur. It is an absolute must-see in Nepal. They say that Bhaktapur has the highest concentration of temples per square meter – yes, there is more of them than in Patan or even Kathmandu. The city was built in 13th century and most of its inhabitants belong to Newari culture.
Great thing about Bhaktapur is the atmosphere and the peace – it is so much quieter than Kathmandu. I visited it on my very first day in Nepal – instead of taking a nap after my overnight flight, I just dropped my luggage and then still spend an amazing day in Bhaktapur. It happened to be the first and favorite place in Nepal. I highly recommend spending here the whole day, or even overnight if you got the time. You will love it!
The highlight of Bhaktapur is without any doubt the Durbar square: a conglomeration of pagodas and temples all grouped around a 55-window palace of brick and wood. Pretty amazing is the Nyatapola Temple constructed at 5-story pagoda back in the 18th century. There is still a lot to see despite the massive damage of 2015 earthquake whose epicenter only 90 kilometers of Bhaktapur. Sadly, this city has the most victims from whole Nepal.
GETTING TO BHAKTAPUR:
Bhaktapur is located about 13km from the center of Kathmandu to the east. It can be reached within 40 minutes driving from Thamel, the taxi costs about 1,500 Rupees for one way. The bus costs 50 rupees, it takes one hour and is leaving from Ratna Park bus stop near Thamel.
Entrance fee is 1500 NRS (USD $15)
Patan, third largest city in Nepal, is home to more than 200 000 people. It has always beengrowing together with nearby Kathmandu, but still remains proudly separated. One or two hours are enough to explore its historical center – and again, there is always the option to stay overnight if you get bored with hustle and bustle of Kathmandu.
Patan Durbar Square is the smallest of all three durbar squares yet people often say that it is the most beautiful one. It is smaller in size, so all the amazing sights are closer to each other. The temples and pagodas are constructed in the Newa style which stands out with its delicate engravings and multi-storied pagodas.
By the way, don’t get confused when travelling to Patan – the city has several names. Local people call it Lalitpur (City of Beauty) or by its Newari name, Yala. Yes, all this is the very same city.
GETTING TO PATAN
Patan is 30 minute drive from Kathmandu. The taxi costs 200-350 rps (3.00-5.00 usd). Alternatively, the bus is for 2-3 usd. I visited Patan on trip with Earthbound Expeditions.
Entrance fee is 500 NRS (USD $5)
With elevation of 2175 meters Nagarkot Hill offers panoramatic views, greenery and fresh air. It is definitely among the best places to visit near Kathmandu for the sunrise. You can visit the View Tower and go hiking in the hills covered by pine threes (for example to Chagunarayan temple listed by UNESCO). With little bit of luck and clear views, you get to see the magnificent peaks of Himalayas – that is why Nagarkot is popular choice among the Kathmandu day trips.
When you get an early morning taxi (or join a tour), you can visit Nagarkot the scenery and come back during the same day and still have enough time for some Kathmandu sightseeing. If you are not a morning person, it is okay – I did the trip to Nagarkot in the evening and the sunset is still nice experience.
Nagarkot is not too far from Kathmandu but the trip with the bus can be bumpy – there are couple of resorts to stay overnight if you want to make your journey worth the while. I was staying in Nepal Yoga Retreat Centre, which is a great choice for anyone interested in yoga.
GETTING TO NAGARKOT:
Nagarkot is situated at 32 km east of Kathmandu city. One hour by taxi, two or three hours by bus. When using the second option, you will likely have to travel from Bakhtapur first and then get another bus to Nagarkot. The whole journey is for under 100 rupees, get ready for the crowds.
There is no entrance fee.
Although I was incredibly lucky to have great views of Himalayas including Mount Everest on my regular flight, there are other options for you when not getting this lucky. When the weather is good, Everest mountain flights take off every day at 6 am. The best season for best viewing season is from September through May
This is really nothing for the claustrophobics: you are travelling by small plane (usually a 19-seater) so everything seems very tiny compared to normal passenger planes. You will always get a window seat and often you get access to the cabin with pilots to take extra pictures.
If you want to know how it’s like, my blogging friend published an entire article with many stunning pictures here. The best season for flying out there is from September through May. If your flight gets cancelled due to bad weather, you can have it rescheduled or refunded.
If you are only travelling for a day, there is no need to carry too many things around. You should definitely bring your camera, sun scream or a hat and comfortable shoes all packed in the light backpack. Also remember to have enough money with you (dollars or rupees) since you have to pay the entrance fees to enter the ancient city center (in Kathmandu, Patan and Bakhtapur).
Although Nepal is known for its mountains and cooler climate, it can get really hot in Nepal. I visited Nepal and these sights in July, when the temperatures where above 30 degrees. There was no wind plus the sunshine was really A LOT. Without a hat or a cap, I would die making all these walking tours.
And good news for the girls: the dress code for temples is not as strict as for example in Thailand. Shirts and shorts are accepted – of knee length is better. Generally, in normal trekking clothes you will have no problem.
Nepal is an amazing choice for trekking and mountain experience in general. Although I had limited time to explore Kathmandu and its surroundings, I can say that there is a lot to see even if you just have few days. You can visit the places on your own or use some of the local travel agencies to get you around more comfortably. Now tell me – what is your favorite day trip from Kathmandu? I look for your tips.
Thanks for reading.
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My trip was possible thanks to Nepal Tourism board, Turkish Airlines and Earthbound Expeditions.