Nepal has lots of great things that you can take home with you. Either for your family and friends or as reminders for yourself as to what a great time you had here! What you take of course depends on your budget and whether you are going straight home or are continuing to travel to other countries. To give you an idea of what kind of souvenirs are available I have listed some out below. The majority of these items can be found in Thamel, but some might be more appropriate to buy in other locations, so I have mentioned that here also.
As with everything, you get what you pay for! And you need to be careful not to overpay for something or walk away from something that although perhaps seems expensive, is exclusive so justifies the expense. I know we often get tired seeing the same thing time and time again in the tourist shops but once you get home, that little Ganesh statue, or handmade paper journal, or Nepali Kukuri knife will stand out as unique!
These are pretty much exclusive to Nepal and Tibet and are hand painted Buddhist hangings. Originals are lovingly created over a long time by an expert Thangka painter. Real gold may be used in the paint, certainly in the more expensive ones. The price for an original by a master painter can be in the thousands of dollars. If you are thinking of this price range, I suggest you go and meet the painter and watch him work.
There are mass produced ones which are also very beautiful and probably more in the range of what the average person going to buy. These range in price around USD 50 to USD 100 and are available widely. There are also mid price range paintings available where you can also meet the artist. Please research thoroughly before buying.
These make great gifts and can certainly brighten up your home! Depending on size, thread count, design etc the prices can vary from the very expensive to the more mid range. I would suggest you do not buy these in Thamel but visit one of the Tibetan Refugee Camps where these are made. There is one in Jawalakhel and in Pokhara. This way the profits from the rugs are going to support the local community and you can see them being made. They can also help you with shipping these home.
Semi Precious Stones & Jewellery
You will see many shops selling semi precious stones and jewellery from Lapis to the Rudraksha seeds (Sacred to Hindus). These are expensive. And I would suggest, unless you know your stones, do not buy!
There is plenty of lovely handmade silver jewellery made in Nepal. Whether you want something traditional, contemporary, or something that says ‘Nepal’ you will find it in Thamel or Lakeside, Pokhara. The prices of the silver jewellery vary depending on the design and the makers. Those more mass produced will be less expensive than those hand made by a master craftsman. If you want something a bit different you could visit The Local Project shop in Jhamsikhel or one of the many workshops in town.
For more ethnic and inexpensive bead jewellery, visit Ason where you will find stalls selling strings of glass beads which are loved by the local women. Easy to carry home and inexpensive!
This is a very popular gift from Nepal. Like the silver jewellery mentioned above, you might well find pashmina at a less expensive price in your home country. Because there are buyers who can purchase in bulk for big stores. However, the one you take home from Nepal as been handpicked by you. In the country of origin!
Pashmina shawls, scarves, and clothing vary in price as per the quality. In general the higher the price the better the quality. But not always! Care needs to be taken when buying. At exclusive shops like Tara Oriental Cashmere on Lazimpat you can be assured of quality coming out of their well run factory in Kathmandu. But expect to pay hundreds of dollars for a stunning shawl. If that’s out of your budget you can easily get something in Thamel for under USD 50 at a much lower quality but on the other hand, you will not be scared to wear in your local bar or restaurant!
Goat & Tiger Game
This is a very interesting and different gift! Great for kids or as a coffee table feature for adults. It’s basically a board game (But the board is made out of thin brass), with brass goats and tigers pitted against each other.
Papier Mache Dolls
You will see these puppet dolls hanging in shops around Thamel. But the best place to get them is Bhaktapur. So hold off if you are planning to visit Bhaktapur the quality and quantity there is amazing. Papier Mache heads and cloth bodies in different Nepali dress and designs. Again, inexpensive gifts for adults or older children.
Wood Carvings & Pottery
While you are in Bhaktapur take a look at the hand carved wood and hand made pottery. These will range in price from expensive (For a large wooden carving) to inexpensive for a small ceramic item. There is a whole area in Bhaktapur dedicated to potters, where you can also watch them at work. But everything is also available in Thamel.
Kukuri knives are traditionally used by the Nepal Gurkhas. Those available to buy in the shops around Kathmandu (For example in the shop near the Radisson Hotel) are made specifically for tourists but are still very interesting things to take home. Just don’t pack into your hand luggage!
Tea & Spices
For inexpensive gifts which are easy to carry, why not take some Nepali tea and spices home? There are numerous specialist tea and spice shops around, such as one opposite Big Mart Supermarket on Lazimpat. You can also buy tea and spices in special souvenir packaging in Thamel.
On the subject of food Himalayan honey makes a great gift also! The genuine honey hunter’s honey is hard to find. This mildly hallucinogenic honey is collected from hives high up on cliffs and requires great courage and expertise to harvest it. It is also quite expensive and should not be taken in more than a tiny amount per day (Used traditionally for medicinal purposes). On the other hand, other honeys, collected and made and Nepal are available throughout the city and can be used liberally!
This is traditional paper made in Nepal for centuries. Handmade through a process of ‘cooking’ the bark, washing and beating, the final material is dried in the sun. Then final, quite thick, paper is made into wrapping paper, journals, photo albums etc. Some also have dried flowers incorporated into the paper while still wet.
Note: Countries like Australia may not allow you to take this plant based paper into the country. Check before you buy.
Probably in the mid price range and a bit heavy to carry, brass ware is available in places like Ason and comes in the form of traditional dining plates, cups, jugs and trinkets.
When you are on your trek you will see prayer wheels everywhere. From the large ones on Mani walls that you will pass on the trails, to smaller ones people are spinning as they walk. You can get these in Thamel or Lakeside, but why not explore the shops around Boudha Stupa so you can say you bought them at the Tibetan Buddhist area in Kathmandu?
While in Boudha, why not buy some prayer flags? Very easy to carry, very inexpensive! Great gifts and can be hung in gardens back home!
Still on the Buddhist theme, singing bowls vary in price depending on the quality of the bowl. Used in meditation and traditional healing practices these can be used as centre pieces on tables at home or played for wellbeing purposes.
Fossils known as Shaligrams are found around Nepal. Prehistoric Nepal was once under water, so these fossils are around 2000 years old. Whereas in the past you might have come across them when trekking in places like Mustang, it is highly unlikely you will find them ‘in the wild’ now! But you can purchase them in many shops around Thamel and Lakeside. For your nerdy friends or for kids perhaps! Or just a great talking point on your travels!
To Sum Up
There are many great gifts to take away from Nepal. As I said, these depend on your budget and luggage space!
But some of the best gifts are those you cannot buy. Nepal is renowned as a very friendly country so the most precious thing you will take home is your memories and new friends!