Shopping in Nepal is a pleasurable experience. This little mountain state has many treasures to offer, from gems and jewellery to silver artefacts, trinkets, shawls made of Pashmina wool and handwoven cottons, which make excellent souvenirs to carry back home. But run the mandatory quality checks, especially in the case of jewellery purchases. Also, try and take along a local with you when you embark on your shopping spree.
Buying locally made Nepalese products is a great way of supporting the local community.
Shopping in Nepal is as much part of a Nepalese holiday as trekking through the mountains, visiting the magnificent temples, or experiencing the tasty local food of Nepal. You can see what the local shopping scene is like in the destinations below:
In the days gone by, the Kathmandu craftsmen held pride of place in the Chinese court. Even today, when you visit their workshop, you can find these same crafts being made just as they used to be almost 400 years back. And when you carry the crafts back home, you carry with you a whiff of exotic courts and gruelling trade routes from another age.
Handmade woollen shawls and sweaters, caps, jackets and trousers are ideal souvenirs to carry for friends and family. They are functional, yet distinct. If it is business attire you are looking at, then you can get them made to suit your specifications by tailors who will produce replicas of the best global brands at a fraction of their cost!
Many precious and semi precious stones, some of them with healing properties, are extracted from the mines of the higher Himalayas. You can find the widest range of these in Kathmandu, right from quartz and green and black tourmaline to aquamarine and ruby.
Nepal is a treasure trove for jewellery aficionados. This is the place to pick up ancient Tibetan jewellery, traditional silver beads, rings, bracelets and necklaces especially crafted in Patan. Do not miss the market near Indra Chowk, which sells glass beads in all colours, sourced from the different corners of the world!
The khukuri symbolises Nepal and the valour of its Gorkhas. Made even today by ironsmiths using only traditional instruments, the khukuri is famous all over the world and is the ideal memento to carry back home.
Most Nepalis decorate their houses with traditional metal artefacts like anti (liquor jars), bowls, hanging lamps and karuwas (water jars). Made from bronze, brass and copper, these functional artefacts are embellished with engravings and make excellent souvenirs to take back with you.
Another handicraft unique to Nepal is the lokta paper or rice paper, which is made from the bark of the daphne or lokta tree, found only in the remote, interior regions of Nepal. You must carry home lamp shades, calendars, journals and writing pads made from lokta paper and sold in the stores of Patan and Thamel. You may not find them outside of Nepal!
Pashmina is derived from the Persian word, ‘Pashmineh', which means wool. It is gathered from the undercoat of the Himalayan mountain goat, found only in the remote areas of the Tibetan plateau. Pashmina is long-lasting, very soft and yet extremely effective in keeping one warm. Coveted by the rich and famous around the world, as well as the common man, Pashmina wool is handwoven into blankets and shawls.
For centuries, this wool could be woven into shawls only in Kashmir because of some agreements that gave the King of Kashmir exclusive rights over the supply of Tibetan Pashmina wool. The Western world knows Pashmina as ‘cashmere wool'. Today, however, most of the shawls are woven in the Kathmandu valley. Lately, thanks to the innovations of the weavers, Pashmina shawls are woven with a warp of spun silk so as to enhance the strength and flexibility of the final product. This blend of cashmere and silk is quite a rage among the fashion conscious in the West.
Nepal is also the place to shop for authentic Tibetan paintings called Paubha. Paubhas (also known as Tibetan tankhas) depict religious symbols and deities from Buddhism. The best paubha is printed on a cotton scroll, with vivid colours made from stone pigments. Sometimes, the artisans also use gold and silver powder.
The potters of Kathmandu specialise in making both glazed and terracotta pottery from the black clay that is found in abundance in the Kathmandu valley. These artefacts, which comprise earthenware for household use as well as decorative pieces, are reasonably priced and make excellent gifts.
The Asian spice markets have attracted people right from ancient times and continue to do so even today. From Nepal's spice shops you can carry home genuine saffron, anise, mace, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, coriander seeds, black pepper and many other condiments, which will give that extra zing to your curries!
Nepal offers many beautiful statues, which are made from the lost wax process dating back to the thirteenth century. In this process, the casters first make a model out of bees' wax, on which an earthenware mould is made. The wax is then "lost" or melted away before casting. It is a laborious process, but definitely worth the effect.
Illam and other districts in the hilly regions of eastern Nepal produce fine tea. Though much of it is exported, you can still take home attractively packaged fine tea from Kathmandu, both for your own use and as gifts.
The beautifully carved windows, doors and pillars of the temples across Nepal are testimonies of the skill of the Newar wood carvers. Visit the wooden workshops of Bhaktapur and Patan to pick up picture frames, jewellery boxes, intricately carved doors and windows, and even furniture.
Nepali hand-knotted carpets using traditional Tibetan techniques are worth a dekko. Premium carpets are woven by mixing wool from the highland Himalayan sheep and staple long wool from New Zealand.