There’s no doubt about it – Nepal is a traveler’s dream. With visa free access, a mixture of history, culture, mountains and raging rivers, the country is on every traveler’s bucket list. And being the base for the stunning Himalayas and amazing Everest doesn’t hurt either. Although most international flights land in Kathmandu, most tourists usually skip this city totally and simply stay there for a night before continuing their journeys to Pokhara, Bhaktapur, Chitwan or the infamous Last Resort for Bungee Jumping. Despite having been to Nepal myself three times in the last 3 years (there’s something about this country that keeps calling me back), I myself decided to explore Kathmandu only last year, and boy, am I glad that I did!
There are many ways to discover Kathmandu – you can choose to go with many of the “city tours” on offer from your hotel or online, you can choose to rent a car with a local driver (recommended), which will give you the option to customize your own itinerary, or you can choose to use local transport and get to your destinations (like I did). If you are making your own way to your destinations via public transport, the best people to provide advice will be your hotel managers, who should also become your first point of contact for any queries you may have. The following is a list of places which could serve as your checklist when deciding to explore Kathmandu.
Located in Central Kathmandu, Durbar Square is a sight to behold. The best time to visit is usually in the morning or in the late afternoon. The neo-classical architecture immediately transports you back in time and one can spend hours just sitting there on the steps or in a hidden alcove, and admire the view. If you’re especially lucky, you may even get to catch a glimpse of the “Kumari” (a young female girl believed to embody the spirit of a goddess). Durbar Square is open to the locals who usually just stroll in, but there is an on again-off again system in place for charging foreign tourists, so whether you will be charged a fee or not is a bit of a hit-and-miss. Don’t forget to fully complete your experience by strolling into any of the eateries and grabbing a bite to eat or a leisurely cup of tea.
I absolutely loved this place! We boarded a small public minivan that stopped nearby our hotel (as advised by our hotel manager), paid a fee of roughly 20-30 rupees each, and got dropped off right at the bottom of the steps of the Swambhunath complex. Swambhunath is an ancient religious Buddhist architectural complex atop a hill in Kathmandu. There are quite a few steps to be climbed before you can go up (so prepare thyself), but it’s an entertaining journey to the top, with playful monkeys, several small stupas and statues midway, and wonderful photo opportunities as you keep ascending. Once you reach the top, pause for a moment to catch your breath and marvel at the amazing views of the Kathmandu valley, following which you can explore to your heart’s content.
The Pashupatinath Temple, a famous and sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Nepal's national deity Pashupatinath, is located on the banks of the Bagmati River, 5 kilometres North East of Kathmandu Valley in the eastern part of Kathmandu. Due to time constraints, I was unable to visit it during my time in Kathmandu, but I’ve heard friends mention that it is an interesting experience and that it is sometimes possible to witness funeral pyres, the traditional Hindu custom of burning the bodies of the deceased.
These should be easy to visit and explore even if you only have a day in Kathmandu – just remember to start your day early.
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