A lot of people visit Nepal for trekking. Which is understandable because chances are, you will experience one of the highlights of your life there, both figuratively and literally!
Standing at the highest point of your trek, looking around at that gorgeous view; the mountain, even bigger than you imagined. Breathing in that fresh mountain air. All your agony and tiredness disappears. You don’t remember, the pain, the altitude, food poisoning and all other stories you will be talking about for years to come. You will just be having your moment, your heart bouncing in your throat and eyes watery (no not just because of the wind). Realizing, you freaking made it! And you feel right to be proud!
BUT, this article is not about that incredible moment that most travelers in Nepal go through. There are way too many cliche articles describing that better than we do. This article is about the untold stories. The backroads, and the things to do in Kathmandu you don’t usually experience as a tourist. These things to do in Kathmandu might not have been the reason you came to Nepal. And they might not even be the “highlight” of your trip, but I can tell you….. They come pretty damn close and have actually topped the original highlights of many travellers!
Exposing the Locals’ Best Hideouts and eating local food
Especially after you come back from a trek, Kathmandu can be sensory overload. It is not very hygienic, there is dust and dirt everywhere. The traffic is busy and there is never a moment of quiet. The sidewalks are filled with bags of fragrant spices or people selling flowers and the sewage system is not very good, leaving a pretty strange mix of smells.
But once you give in to the chaos and go with the flow, you will fall in love with colorful Kathmandu. Especially when you get to meet local people, eat traditional (delicious) food and explore the little hidden spots.
Going through narrow staircases finding hidden restaurants with new exciting flavours that you never knew existed will make you see Kathmandu with different eyes. Even more so, when you get to hear about the history of the places and the meanings behind the symbols. You can only find these places if a local takes you there. Therefore, when you are in Kathmandu I would suggest to go on this Secret Food Tour experience. Far from all the usual westernized fare you get in Thamel, the tourist district, here you get the real deal, what locals eat, what they queue for, what they jostle for, and like many of our guests, enjoy a little bit of Nirvana after finding a little corner to enjoy their little secret piece of Kathmandu.
Things to do in Kathmandu: Secret Food Tour
If you want to have a better impression, you can watch some of the videos that blogger Christine Kaaloa made during her experience in Kathmandu!
Meeting the masters!
Things to do in Kathmandu: Thangka Painting Workshop
A lot of things to do in Kathmandu will perish compared to these hands-on workshops. In them, you get to create an authentic souvenir to take home, which is great! But (to me) that is just the icing on the cake.
To me these workshops are about empowerment and connectedness. Getting to learn a skill from a local master. Seeing them in their element. The flow and ease they emanate while working on their craft, seems magical.
Things to do in Kathmandu: Khukuri Making Workshop
When doing a Backstreet Experience there is no inequality, no different incomes or skin colors – just a master, proudly teaching their skill to a new pupil, and it feels wonderfully humbling!
Things to do in Kathmandu: Cooking Momos with Home Chefs
I have done many Backstreet Experiences, in multiple countries. And although the experiences differ, the smiles of the local hosts (at me butchering their trade) is always friendly and patient. With these things to do in Kathmandu being no exception.
Things to do in Kathmandu: Learn Wood Carving
Seeing these masters at work is delightful and getting to “help” make the product creates a bond that is difficult to describe on paper. It gets even more special when you get to meet, and become a part of, the proud family. The open hearts of these people are why I do Backstreet Experiences whenever possible, not only in Kathmandu but in every city Backstreet Academy operates in.
Things to do in Kathmandu: Pottery Workshop
Buddha was born in Nepal. Perhaps that’s why everybody is so peaceful and friendly in the midst of chaos.
Things to do in Kathmandu: Monkey Temple tour with a Monk
If you are interested in Buddhism and spirituality, Kathmandu has got plenty to offer. You can get inside access to monkey temple. Where you get to witness first hand how Buddhism is practised by the monks who have dedicated their lives to the faith.
Things to do in Kathmandu: Prayer Wheel Workshop
Or you can create your own Prayer wheel. Prayer wheels are central to Tibetan Buddhism. These prayer wheels have prayers/chants written on them that devotees believe is chanted with every rotation.
Getting out of your comfort zone
And for a little bonus, get out of your comfort zone! Isn’t that precisely what you came to Nepal to do? To break your limits by climbing to the highest mountains, to live in villages to see how long you can go without the conveniences of modern technology? Now try the scariest food you have ever tried: The Newari tradition of eating the insides of Buffalos- also known as the Kathmandu Fear Factor Challenge. National Geographic writer sums up this experience in a hilarious and breath-taking way in her article Nepal: Carnivore Cookery!