Nepal’s markets and shopping areas are fun and rewarding. Gems, crystals, jewelry, carpets, rugs, high-quality metalwork including stunning gilded Buddhas, hand-woven cotton clothing, pashmina shawls, scroll paintings (thangkas), fine wood and stone carvings and the famous bronze ‘singing bowls’ used for meditation are all favorite purchases. The Terai region’s beautiful woolen bags and woven baskets make great gifts at amazing prices after haggling for a bit.
In Kathmandu, the Thamel area is a fascinating place to shop with narrow streets crammed with little stores specializing in fine Nepalese handicrafts. For upscale fashion, the outbuildings of the old Rama palace are the place to go for its designer boutiques and chic clothing. The Dharmapala Thangka Center just off Durbar Square offers beautiful mandala designs and the chance to see the artists at work.
Indra Chowk is Kathmandu’s oldest and busiest market, and a fascinating place to wander. Everything from spices and traditional foods to handicrafts, gifts, clothes and leather goods are on sale, bargaining is expected and people-watching is at its height. Antiques-lovers are out of luck as it is forbidden to remove genuine antiques from Nepal, but the reproductions are of high quality and made using the same, ancient lost-wax method of casting. For more conventional shopping, Kathmandu also has a selection of shopping malls.
Pokhara is a sleepy town despite its fame as a tourist hub with shopping facilities mostly of the outdoor market variety. Shopping is more laid-back with no aggressive sales pitches from curio dealers. Batiks, wood carvings and a good selection of traditional Tibetan handicrafts are best buys with hand-stitched wall hangings a highlight. In the town’s Tibetan enclave you’ll find beautiful, locally produced wool rugs and carpets in attractive designs, with the tiger pattern a popular choice. Carved wood masks make for interesting home décor and silver jewelry set with coral and turquoise is the perfect souvenir from Nepal.