• Roshan Adhikari
  • Last Updated on Mar 11, 2024

So, the tourism season has begun in Nepal. Foreigners worldwide come to Nepal to explore its natural beauty, culture, and tradition. The country of Nepal provides visitors with unique experiences, thrilling adventures, and culinary delights. Nepal, home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is one of the most popular destinations for trekking, travel, tours, and tourism. The country has eight of the fourteen highest mountain peaks in the world, including Mount Everest.

Thus, Nepal has been a popular choice among trekkers and mountaineers who wish to trek towards the mountain region of Nepal. Not only this but also for individuals who want to travel around the world and have a unique experience, Nepal has become a popular choice.

However, one thing in common between many trekkers and explorers who enter Nepal from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu is that they are found to reside in and around Thamel. Most of the tourists, though solo or associated with a trekking company, are found to be roaming around the streets of Thamel; why?

Why are tourists attracted here? Why is Thamel popular among tourists? What is so special about Thamel?

These are the questions that many people are still ambiguous about, many people who are interested in finding the answer. So, from this Blog, we will explore the reason behind the popularity of Thamel, the activities that can be done here, some significant destinations around Thamel, and the cultural aspect of this vibrant neighborhood.

Table of Contents

Routes to enter Thamel

Thamel is known as the tourist hub of Nepal. Located in the central city of Kathmandu, the drive from the International Airport to Thamel is around 20-25 minutes, depending on the traffic and road conditions. The primary north-south routes are where most people approach the Thamel area. As you turn onto Tridevi Marg from the crowded Kantipath, you will first encounter Amrit Marg, which runs south to Jyatha, followed by Thamel Marg, which connects Narsingh Chowk to Kwa Bahal, and finally Chaksibari Marg. The Paknajol Marg divides Thamel's western edge and extends south to Chetrapati.

Thus, being the most popular place to stay, eat, shop, and enjoy, Thamel indeed provides an opportunity to immerse in the hospitality of Nepalese culture. Creating a never-ending memory as it has been the home of the tourism industry for more than four decades. Starting from the hippie days.

What is Thamel like? Is Thamel worth a visit?

Thamel is the commercial neighborhood of Kathmandu, which is characterized by a long, narrow alley filled with shops and vendors. The streets of Thamel commonly sell foods, trekking gear, clothes, artifacts, handicrafts, mountaineering equipment, souvenirs, and many more. Handmade Nepalese Khukuri, Pashmina or Cashmere scarves, trekking garments, boots, gears and equipment, artifacts resembling the Buddhist and Hindu religions, paintings like Thanka, jewelry, singing bowls, prayer flags, books, maps, DVDs and postcards are some of the popular items at the display. So, in short, Thamel has everything.

These shops are limited to buying and selling the items. However, there is more to what Thamel has to offer. There are various restaurants and pubs for fine dining. An enjoyable feast can be experienced with you and your loved ones, with a delicious and wide range of dish options. All the restaurants provide Nepalese food, but it is broader than that. There are places in and around Thamel that offer varieties of culinary delights ranging from Indian, Tibetan, Continental, Western, and many more. Thamel is thus a playground for food enthusiasts and vloggers. Despite the culinary fusion, various street foods and dishes are available, which can be found only in Nepal. Likewise, Thamel serves excellent and healthy food for vegetarians and meat lovers.

On the other hand, the city streets also have hotels, lodges, and guesthouses for accommodation. The accommodation options range from basic to more luxurious hotels, classified as 3-star or 5-star. Hotels and motels are found at every corner of Thamel, which can be seen with a quick stroll around the streets. The cost can vary depending on the type of facility one is willing to pay for. This means those who want more luxurious amenities can settle in expensive hotels by paying higher amounts. Meanwhile, for those on a budget and not looking for anything fancy, an average hotel or lodge with good facilities can also be found at an average cost.

For those seeking rejuvenation before or after a trek or any tiresome activity, various spas, saunas, and massage parlors are also available. Thamel is the perfect destination to help you relax and rejuvenate after a tiresome day. Many hotels in Thamel offer traditional Nepalese massages, Ayurvedic treatments, yoga, and meditation experiences, which will help to release tension and stress in the body.

Also, an individual walking inside Thamel can come across various temples, hidden hitis (water spout), and Buddhist bahals. Similarly, due to narrow streets and pavements, walking or taking a two-wheeler to explore Thamel is better. However, particular areas of Thamel have been made a no-vehicle zone or labeled one-way to reduce traffic and ensure comfortable walking for travelers, so I recommend taking a walk for exploration inside Thamel.

Besides exploring cultural landmarks and heritage, one unforgettable thing about Thamel is its nightlife, which is a fantastic experience. As the dawn sets, the nightlife in Thamel begins, which is crazy. Suppose you are there for Friday night or simply on any other day. In that case, you are up for a lively and exhilarating experience filled with music, dancing, and vibrant energy that sweeps through the streets until dusk.

Every next building in Thamel is filled with clubs, pubs, bars, live music venues, and lounges. Fairly popular with older people and highly favored by youngsters, these clubs and venues are excellent places to drink, dance, and enjoy the night with full entertainment. The experience can be closely described as entering a festival with vibrant color lights, loud music, and a rhythmic atmosphere of celebration.

I do not recommend drinking, as a man's health and well-being are a top priority. However, if you want to drink, do it on a Friday night in Thamel. Whether you are looking for a few drinks with friends or a party enthusiast, clubs in Thamel are an excellent option. If you choose to drink, it is recommended to drink responsibly in moderation.

Popular attractions in and around Thamel

So, you finally arrived in Nepal and are now staying in Thamel. As you have the day to yourself, the urge to explore Thamel grows bigger and bigger. Once you head out, the first thing that comes to mind is Where to go? Or What to explore in Thamel?

Many popular destinations in and around Thamel are worth visiting. The primary places of visit are explained below; however, the choice of travel is unlimited and different based on what an individual chooses to do. Anyway, here is a short list of significant places that most tourists or locals visit during their stay in Thamel.

The Garden of Dreams

Well, the very first thing you will see as you enter Thamel for the Kanti path Marg is the Garden of Dreams, which is located next to Keshar Library. The garden is a two to five-minute walk from central Thamel. Rana Prince Keshar Shamsher built the park during the 1920s from the money he won from his father and present-time prime minister in a game of cowrie shells (Kauda). The Garden of Dreams, as the name suggests, is a botanical garden accessible from the city's noise, hustle, and bustle. So, anyone willing to stay in a peaceful environment can spend some time here. The Garden of Dreams is open to the public from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM with a reasonable ticket fare.

The Garden of Dreams consists of cream-colored statues, pavilions, pergolas, fountains, a lily pond, and lushly planted beds, representing the garden of six seasons. Similarly, the Keshar café, which was closed due to COVID-19, is now open to the public under the management of Baser Boutique Hotel.

Museum of Nepali Art (MONA)

MONA is Kathmandu's first modern- art museum, founded in 2020. It is located in the Kathmandu Guest House, about three to five minutes' walk from central Thamel. The Museum of Nepali Art has brilliantly showcased the country's artistic heritage with masterpiece portraits. The museum also blends traditional and contemporary themes, making it a wonderful experience.

Artists such as Samundra Man Singh Shrestha, Asha Pangol, Manish Dhoju, and Shushila Singh have been working to bring traditional Nepali art into the modern era.

Chhusya Bahal

The Chhusya Bahal is located on the south road to Durbar Square and can be reached comfortably by individuals. The entrance of the Chhusya Bahal consists of two magnificent lions with Prajnaparamita. This Buddhist deity is portrayed at the top of Torana. The monastery is dominated by Gunakar Temple, which is intricately carved.

The first thing that you will witness after entering the courtyard is the collection of chaityas and statues. Inside the court, there are two votive stupas where. One is the statue of Vajrasattva, and the other is Tara's image.

Temple tour around Thamel.

  • Bikramashila Mahabihar (Bhagwan Bahal): The Bikramashila Mahabihar, commonly known as Bhagwan Bahal, is rumored to be 1000 years old and is believed to be the first monastic building in the Newari area of Kathmandu.
  • Bhagwati Mandir:The Bhagwati Mandir is in the middle of a junction between the Bhagwati Marg and Thamel Marg. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Bhagwati, and some Ganesh shrines are around it.
  • Hanuman, Ganesh, and Shiva Shrines: You can see the two small roofed temples on the left. The first is dedicated to Hanuman; next to it is a roofed Ganesh shrine, and on the same compound lies the small Shiva shrine.
  • Tri Devi: The Tri Devi temples are opposite the North Face stores. The tri devi, also meaning three goddesses, is dedicated to goddess Dakshin Kali, Manakamana, and Jawalamai.
  • Ganesh Mandir and a Buddhist Stupa: The Ganesh Mandir is located north of Thamel, just up from Bhagwan Bahal, and is dedicated to Lord Ganesh, a Hindu deity.
  • Shiva Compound: It is located on the north boundary of Thamel and Lekhnath Marga and is a pristine location filled with statues and shrines.
  • Ghairi Dhara: The Ghairi Dhara is north of Thamel near Hotel Shakti, a bricked-up water source sunken.
  • Ashok Stupa: Ashok Stupa is located south of Narshing Chowk along the street known as Ashok Gally.

Tridevi Temple

Food Hunt in and around Thamel

Thamel is a great place for food enthusiasts or those who want to try out various dishes or cuisines. From local Nepalese cuisines to more international flavors, a range of options are available for foodies. There are multiple options to look after and various restaurants and cafes. There are some recommended places and cuisines in and around Thamel where you can enjoy delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some popular attractions are

  • Nepali Dal Bhat: The Dal Bhat, a mixture of Rice and lentil soup, is the primary staple food of Nepal. The dish comprised steamed Rice, mixed vegetables, meat of choice for non-vegetarians, pickles, lentil soup, and some salad. This is the first food choice for all the Nepalese and is considered the national dish of Nepal.
  • Himalayan Java Coffee: The Himalayan Java Coffee of Nepal is similar to Starbucks. The coffee beans are extracted from the Himalayan region of Nepal, which makes the coffee popular. Many tourists, as well as locals, are fond of the place, and if you ask the locals for a place to have a good cup of coffee, the Himalayan Java will be the first thing they will say.
  • Chatamari: Chatamari is a traditional Nepalese cuisine that consists of rice crepe topped with minced meat, vegetables, and egg placed at the center. Chatamari is a famous Newari cuisine, and many locals describe it as pizza with a touch of Nepalese flavors. The food is a unique experience in Nepal and is very delicious. The chatamari can be found in any Newari restaurant in Thamel.
  • Mo: Mo: If you visit Nepal, you must taste Mo: Mos. These beautiful dumplings are made with white flour, finely chopped meat (of various kinds, including pork, chicken, goat, and buffalo), or vegetables or cheese. Similarly, you can find multiple variations of these simple cuisines. The variation can be steamed, fried, or served in a chili sauce called the C- Mo: Mo.
  • Panipuri: The Panipuri (in Nepal) or GolGappa (in India) is also a popular snack in Nepal. As the name suggests, Panipuri is a mixture of Pani (water) and Puri (light, crisp fried flour dough). The puri is filled with coriander, lemon, potatoes, and beans with Nepalese spices and topped off with zesty water. You can find the puri on display at various local shops in Thamel. Be sure to eat one whole puri at once.
  • Chatpate: In Nepal, Chatpate means the burst of flavors with a mixture of dried peas, onions, coriander, boiled potatoes, peanuts, dry noodles, and puffed Rice. The ingredients are mixed in a jar, adding spices and masala that make it tangy, hot, and spicy. Chatpate and Panipuri are served in the same shop in and around Thamel.
  • Lakhamari: These are typical Newari sweets made of rice flour, black gram, sesame seed, and sugar. The crunchiness and softness may vary, and many varieties of Lakhamari are based on their shape and size.
  • Nepali Bara: Bara is a classic Nepali appetizer made of lentils. The lentil is ground and made into a dough, so pancakes or patties are formed in a thick bottom pan. Ingredients like minced meat, vegetables, and eggs are added to Bara. These can be found in Newari shops of Thamel.

Besides these foods and dishes, other cuisines distinguish the unique Nepali flavors. As there are many to name and describe, it's astonishing to understand the varieties of tasty foods in Nepal, each unique. Chowmein, Thukpa, Choila, Thenduk, Yomari, Sel roti, Samosa, Alu Paratha, Chaat, Chiya (Tea), Dhido, Gundruk, JuJu Dhau, Samay Baji, Tongba (Alcoholic) and many more. As for those who wish to enjoy Western foods like pizza, burgers, crunchy chicken, or anything else, Any Western or modern-looking restaurant in Thamel serves those.

Food you will get around thamel

Pub, Clubs, and Live Music in Thamel

The nightlife in Thamel has been a popular choice to spend the weekend with the locals of Kathmandu. Spending the Friday night followed by drinks and music in clubs and pubs can be a popular choice among youngsters and locals. Similarly, the drinking scene in Thamel has risen with the introduction of popular cocktails, mocktails, and craft beers from breweries like Yeti, Barhasinghe, Sherpa, Gorkha, and Mustang.

If you want a calm place to sit down and relax with a glass of beer or any other form of alcohol, Thamel has many places. Black Olive is a popular destination for chilling and having a drink with live music. Similarly, Electric Pagoda, Kathmandu Guest House, and Sam's Bar are popular choices for a calm evening and to stay away from the regular noise of the city.

The Reggae bar, Black Bird, and Irish Pub serve delicious cocktails and mocktails for visitors. These are more for solo travelers and friends who like music and entertainment. The main highlight of these places is the live music that the musicians play, bringing infectious energy that makes it impossible not to dance along.

The clubs, however, are a whole new deal in Thamel. While most have free entry, some may charge tickets according to the artist scheduled to play, and others charge just because they are popular. One of Thamel's famous clubs is the Purple Haze Rock Bar, located left of Narshing Chowk or near the Thame junction. You can find ample settings with an electric environment. The club has also paid tribute to the late great Jimi Hendrix. One has to go there to know that.

Similarly, there is also a super club named LOD, which stands for Lord of the Drinks. LOD is said to be the 49th best club in the world, according to a list of DJ Mag of the top 100 clubs of the world. So, one can understand how good the atmosphere is inside the club. Most of the clubs focus on Nepali audiences, which can be seen by the choice of Nepali music they play. Clubs like this target the international audience with music involving rock, trap, electronic dance music, metal, R&B, and hip-hop.

So come for a rendezvous in Thamel, where the dawn meets the bustling streets and ancient temples. Take a walk in these vibrant areas while indulging in the tantalizing flavors of local cuisine. Enjoy the nightlife and immerse in the musical night in clubs, pubs, or live music.

Pub in Thamel

Roshan Adhikari

Roshan Adhikari

We were meant to be on Earth to enjoy, unwind, and play with little to no purpose. But as time went on, people decided to alter their destiny. A system is not something that everyone wants to live in, and one individual cannot alter it. For more absurd stuff like this, follow me.