The Kathmandu Valley lies in the heart of Nepal, and with three days, you can see all the highlights of the area. Explore all three of the Valley’s holy cities (also the three largest in Nepal) and catch a stunning Himalayan sunrise.
Day 1: Welcome to Kathmandu
Kathmandu’s laid back nature and kooky eccentricities have been drawing in travelers for decades, and the busy city makes a good base for your explorations throughout the Kathmandu Valley. Start your morning with a visit to one of the world’s most important Hindu temples, Pashupatinath. Here you’ll be greeted by bands of monkeys and dread-locked holy men who’ve come to pay their respects to the Lord Shiva. You may even get to witness a Hindu funeral along the river.
Make the easy 20-minute trek to nearby Bodhnath Stupa for a taste of Tibetan Buddhist culture. This shrine to the Buddha, shaped like a mandala from above, is surrounded by monasteries and nunneries. Circumnavigate the stupa alongside maroon-robed monks and nuns and spin a prayer wheel for good measure.
Head to Kathmandu’s Durbar Square and aptly named Freak Street, former hippie traveler ghetto, for some lunch and people watching. This is also the place to pick up some new threads if you’re interested in channeling your inner flower child. In the afternoon, stop by Swayambhunath, or the Monkey Temple, for picturesque views from a hilltop overlooking the city below.
Day 2: Patan, Bhaktapur and Changu Narayan
In the morning, get an early start and cross the Bagmati River to the city of Patan, known as the fine arts capital of Nepal. Spend the early hours of the day enjoying the architectural wonders surrounding Patan’s Durbar Square. Be sure to pick up some wood carvings or silver jewelry from one of the many shops lining the streets and back alleys.
After lunch, make your way further afield toward Bhaktapur, an ancient town without the crazy traffic of the capital. You’ll feel like you’re walking through a living museum as you explore its cobbled streets filled with temples, shrines and palaces.
In the evening, head to the Himalayan resort outpost of Nagarkot and get ready for an early morning.
Day 3: Himalayan Sunrise
It would be a shame to come to Nepal and not see your fill of Himalayan peaks, so today’s all about the scenery. Wake up before the sun to watch the majestic mountains surrounding Nagarkot light up. If you’re lucky enough to come on a very clear day, you can even see the tip of Mount Everest from this forested mountain oasis.
Spend the morning hiking or mountain biking through the surrounding hills, and in the afternoon, enjoy the scenic drive down winding mountain roads, through Bhaktapur and back to Kathmandu.