Kathmandu is an ancient city soaked in rich culture and tradition. It is Nepal's largest city and serves as the country's capital. It is above 4,344 feet (1,324 meters) and lies at the confluence of the Bagmati and Vishnumati rivers. With its bustling city life, ornate temples, and vivid Bhaktapur Influences, Kathmandu is truly a unique and unforgettable city to explore.
The city was founded in 723 by Raja Gunakamadeva and was originally known as Manju-Patan. The name originates in a wooden temple called Kathmandu, built from a single tree by Raja Lachmina Singh in 1596.
The original building is now used as the sadhus' residence or holy men still standing in the city's central square. Kathmandu was the home to the ruling Shah family of the Gurkha people from 1768 until 2008, highlighting the city's deep ties to its unique cultural identity. For visitors, there are endless sights to explore in this ancient city, making it an unforgettable and worthy destination.
The city houses some of the world's oldest religious sites. This site includes cultural attractions such as the Durbar Square, the Kumari Ghar (house of living goddesses), and the Swayambhunath Stupa. All these historical sites reflect the Country's architectural heritage and religious and historical significance.
The Kathmandu Valley has been imbued with a rich historical legacy spanning over two millennia, with indications of human residency tracing back to 300 BCE. Enduring countless earthquakes over time, the region's most ancient surviving tower is over 2,000 years old.
Charumati, the daughter of Ashoka, the emperor of Maurya, is believed to oversee the construction of four stupas in Patan. Despite the lack of evidence indicating Ashoka's presence in the valley, Charumati's contribution to constructing these stupas is widely acknowledged.
The Licchavis were the subsequent rulers of the valley, and their earliest inscriptions go back to 464. Their close association with the Gupta Empire of India is well-known. The Mallas controlled Kathmandu Valley and the surrounding region from the 12th to the 18th century CE. Prithvi Narayan Shah of the Gorkha Kingdom defeated the valley's inhabitants in the Battle of Kirtipur. This marked the beginning of his conquest of the area and the formation of present-day Nepal.
An aesthetically pleasing fusion of traditional and modern, Kathmandu presents a vibrant opportunity to explore a variety of architecture, religious sites, and shopping experiences. As an 'urban escape' or a gateway to incredible trekking and sightseeing opportunities, Kathmandu offers something for every type of traveler. Kathmandu is Nepal's political and cultural capital. Because of this, the city serves as a destination filled with multiple opportunities for sightseeing and cultural experience. It combines traditional and modern elements, enchanting visitors to stay longer. To truly capture the essence of Kathmandu, it is best to explore the city's historical architectural sites, attend workshops, and soak in the views of majestic mountains.
Things to Know Before Travelling to Kathmandu
Preparing to visit Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal involves doing homework to understand the impact of the April 2015 earthquake. Though seven years have passed since the natural disaster that hit 7.8 on the Richter scale. It's still front of mind for the locals, who have seen thousands of lives and ancient buildings devastated in its aftermath. Examples include the many stupas, temples, and homes that tragically fell to the ground. Kathmandu is rebuilding, so expect construction work and rubble around the city.
From a health perspective, travelers to the Nepalese capital must be aware of the dust pollution levels, which can be pretty heavy. This could hurt anyone with respiratory difficulties, so it would be wise for them to bring along an anti-pollution mask and inhaler or their usual medication. When traveling around Kathmandu, tourists should also take A/C buses and taxis if possible.
The local cuisine of Kathmandu normally includes staples of rice, vegetables, pulses, and some meat. Touched by Indian and Tibetan influences, it has an unmistakable great taste. Must-try delicacies include traditional Nepali food like dal bhat (lentils and rice cooked in ghee) and momos (dumplings filled with vegetables or meat). Awareness of the city's past, possible health risks, and the exciting range of food visitors can savor are vital. With all this in mind, visitors can take comfort that Kathmandu is safe. The people have unique and warm hospitality, and the city has lots to offer for exploration for those who are ready.
In addition to this information, understand the city's climate too before traveling. Kathmandu experiences milder weather and more extreme temperatures in the Himalayan foothills than in many other areas. Usually, Kathmandu has sunshine and clear skies during the winter months. But the foggy atmosphere may account for the city in an autumn month. Pack light layers and an umbrella if you bring one during these months. Kathmandu's bustling and chaotic streets can overwhelm first-time visitors, so knowing the local laws and customs is essential. For example, the city's traffic will be complicated, with drivers honking their horns and weaving around in all directions.
Regarding safety, Carry only the cash you need, as theft is high. Invest in a small travel pouch with a long strap to store money and keep it close to your person while you explore the city. Before visiting Kathmandu, it is also essential to ensure that you secure the proper documentation. All visitors must obtain a visa in their home country before entering. Additionally, many city hotels may ask you for your passport for identification, so always keep a copy of your passport with you.
Those who come to Kathmandu can also enjoy various activities. Take part in outdoor adventure sports, like trekking and mountain biking, relaxing in natural spas, or exploring the night markets and temples. There is no limit to the experiences Kathmandu offers its travelers. Travelers will find something that will entice them and keep them coming back every time with proper planning and guidance.
When arriving in Kathmandu, travelers should expect to be met by their organization's representatives. They will help travelers with transportation and accommodation and familiarise themselves with the city. Sometimes, the organization may provide a language crash course, depending on their volunteer program. This will help travelers quickly learn the basics of Nepali. This will prove beneficial in navigating the streets of Kathmandu and interacting with its people.
Booking ahead is not necessary for affordable accommodation in Kathmandu.
Volunteers can usually find suitable hotels for their needs for a reasonable price. Such hotels may charge extra for weekend excursions and set aside some budget for food and entertainment, as there are incredible restaurants and bars to explore.
In addition, travelers need to be aware that the roads are typically bustling with activity, and traffic flow can often be perplexing. Public transportation is limited at night, so travel around Kathmandu during the day. Taxis are available. However, they may be expensive and should be booked in advance.
Regarding safety, Kathmandu is generally a safe city for travelers. However, Trekkers should know that petty crime occurs in some areas. The best way to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience is to be aware of one’s surroundings and to avoid carrying large amounts of money and valuables. Volunteering with a reputable organization will also minimize risk, as they know the potential places and situations that can harm a volunteer’s safety.
During this exploration, you will realize that the experience of Kathmandu is not just about checking off the major sites and museums. Still, it is more about immersing yourself in the culture and more subtle, intangible city elements.
Visiting Kathmandu is also about taking advantage of opportunities to expand and test what is possible. You can add learning a foreign language, scuba diving lessons, and even a bungee jump during your Kathmandu stay. The city will allow you a safe place to practice and explore something so new and thrilling. Altogether it will be an eye-opening experience that will help you shape your plans for backpacking and volunteering abroad.
As you explore the backstreets, you will develop a taste for the rich masala tea, eat out of hole-in-the-wall fried momo joints, and diligently search for the best rooftop bars for special occasions.
Most importantly, you will have the privilege of slowly peeling away the layers of the Nepali culture and uncovering the undiscovered hidden gems in the area. One thing that will be so beautiful and ceaselessly rewarding is making endless friends with someone and watching how they move through the city—eating, singing, and joking like family.
Things to Do
Day Hike to Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park
Shivapuri Nagarjun National park offers its visitors a much-needed break, with a breath of fresh air, beautiful scenery, and plenty of hiking and biking trails to explore.
It is located just 20 miles from the Kathmandu valley and is a suitable spot for any traveler. It is a perfect spot for traveling on a shorter trek than EBC or ABC.
On clear and cloud-free days, you will see sights of snow-covered mountains to the north. The park uniquely appeals to those looking for a spiritual retreat: an all-female Tibetan Buddhist convent called Nagi Gompa has been here for centuries. It's home to more than 100 nuns, a rare find in this largely male-focused region for Buddhist establishments.
Visitors are welcome at Nagi Gompa, and many stops are here while hiking through the national park. However, a day hike in Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park presents much more than just a chance to visit the convent; this area is full of wildlife, culture, and stunning views. Numerous trails with varying levels of difficulty offer a wonderful experience on foot. During a day spent hiking, a person can experience the park's beauty on a deeper level.
The park has something for everyone, from majestic views of the snow-tipped mountains in the north, over lush hills and forests, to the vivid colors of Himalayan flora and fauna. There is a rich array of wildlife, including Himalayan Black Bears, Grey Langurs, and pheasants. You might even spot a rare Red Panda along your hike if you're lucky. The ancient forests are home to maple, pine, spruce, and fir tree varieties. And if this is not enough for you, you can also find many cultural sites while hiking.
Emphasizing the diversity of flora and fauna in the park, this paragraph will describe its unique ecosystem, attractive landscape, and various pursuits available to visitors.
The diverse ecosystems of Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park support a wide variety of flora and fauna. Home to various trees and plants, the park is a haven for wildlife such as spotted deer, partridge, fox, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan thar, monkeys, wild boar, and more. This park consists of one of the finest extensive forests in Kathmandu. So visitors can expect to experience a wealth of nature just a few kilometers outside Kathmandu's city limits.
The park's landscape is attractive and varied, featuring steep slopes, undulating hills, and deep valleys. While trekking to the lower parts, your way is adorned by Large pine and rhododendron trees. Similarly, open grasslands can be found at higher elevations. Throughout the park are numerous small alpine lakes and ponds that add splashes of blue to the vibrant green of the surrounding forests.
Visit Pashupatinath Temple
Built centuries ago on the east bank of the sacred Bagmati River, Pashupatinath Temple is a glorious sight. Every year millions of devotees worldwide travel here to pay their homage to Lord Shiva. During the morning hours, the sadhus of the temple grounds are seen tending to the cremations as they perform their rites on the river's shore. For some visitors, the sight of these can be confronting, mainly as it provides a candid glimpse into an unfamiliar culture's spirituality.
At 6 in the evening, devotees can witness the aarti, or fire worship ritual, where the flames are used to honor Lord Shiva. It is a sight to behold as the small candle-lit flames reach as high as the temple's walls, and the peacefulness of the evening is drenched in prayerful hymns. Despite the hour, the temple remains full of devotees, and the atmosphere is exciting for those attending.
To enter the temple grounds, it is often necessary to pay a nominal fee, with entry being more expensive for those not of Hindu origin. Once inside, the pathways, courtyards, and small chapels add to the religious atmosphere. For visitors interested in experiencing a unique, spiritual atmosphere, Pashupatinath is an ideal destination to seek enlightenment.
While visiting Pashupatinath Temple, you will see a lot of sadhus roaming around the temple's area. Sadhus are ascetics, also known as sanyasis, who seek to be purified of the material world and move closer to Moksha and liberation from the cycle of rebirth. These men are an integral part of the Pashupatinath Temple, and some even offer seekers blessings. This can give visitors an exciting insight into the spiritual realm of Hinduism and its beliefs.
The Pashupatinath Temple is a unique and historically significant Hindu temple, making Kathmandu an unforgettable experience. Whether through a guided tour or self-guided exploration, the area offers a plethora of sights, sounds, and spirituality for any visitor. The towering pagodas, 500 shrines and holy sites, and ringing bells from the ancient Hindu religion fulfill the senses in new and remarkable ways. Although we should always be respectful and mindful when we are in a place of spiritual significance, it is also essential to remember that cremations which are a part of the Hindu tradition, occur at this temple. Because of these activities, the Pashupatinath Temple is a surreal eye-opener to cultural exchanges that are unique and hard to come by in some parts of the world.
At the same time, we are also allowed to learn and admire a culture based on devotion and religious ceremonies. Visitors can better understand the Hindu way of life and its impact on Nepali culture by observing and witnessing some temple practices.
Swayambhunath Stupa is a timeless structure that has stood in its place on a hilltop in Kathmandu since the 5th Century. It is a testament to its spiritual significance for many religions in the region. It is also often called the Monkey Temple as it is home to several primates, and every visitor will be met with curious eyes. There is much to explore at Swayambhunath Stupa, including a library, museum, Tibetan prayer wheel, and Buddha sculptures.
The temple of Swayambhunath Stupa has a rich history dating back to the 5th Century. The structure gets its name from 'Swayambhu,' which means self-created in Sanskrit, and it was believed to have come out of Manjusri's long hair. It is a pilgrimage site for many religions. Likewise, the temple has been a symbol of Kathmandu throughout its 16 centuries. Over this time, it has been occupied by many different civilizations and hordes of visitors. These marvelers have worn down the 350 steps that you must climb to reach the summit of this holy place. Up here, you will encounter several of the temple's resident monkeys—considered holy and protectors of the temple. Explore other impressive attractions, including the five carved Pancha Buddhas, the 12-foot tall Tibetan prayer wheel, and the immense stupa.
Visit Kopan Monastery
Kopan Monastery stands out from many of the historic temples around Kathmandu due to its lack of history, having opened in 1970, but let us not be disheartened by this fact; this serene and overall beautiful site makes up for it in beauty and hands-on activities. The mesmerizing grounds of the monastery remain inviting to visitors, leading them to its many offerings, such as the giant Bodhi tree, the Chenrezig temple, and the Thousand Buddha Stupa, complemented by an array of prayer flags, wheels, and sculptures framed in manicured gardens.
If seeking a more in-depth experience, visitors may arrive at the monastery before 10 am to participate in the morning meditation led by a western teacher. For that more adventurous and hearty disposition, the monastery can be reached, however challenging, by foot, with a 5-mile (8km) hike from Thamel to the gates.
Adventurers seeking even more in-depth experience with the monastery can participate in the morning meditation led by a western teacher before 10 am. And there are two ways to get here; visitors can take the more comfortable option and arrive via public transportation on a local taxi or bus or take the long stroll up a 5-mile (8km) hike from Thamel to the entrance gates.
The fascinating features of the stupa are its two giant eyes and spectacular presence that draw one in from its hilltop location, overlooking a few elevated platforms that provide stunning views when visitors take their gaze off the monument. The entire image is topped off with gold plating and colorful prayer flags that give further life to the scene. Taking roughly twenty minutes over a foot from the Pashupatinath Temple, Boudhanath is the central point of Tibetan Buddhism and culture. It is also Nepal's largest and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Despite the day's spiritual purpose, the most beautiful sight is when the sun dips and Tibetans fill the air with their harmonic chanting of the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum and the slow spinning of prayer wheels against the fading light. This is the best time to visit Boudhanath, as it's peaceful, and one can avoid the tour groups in the morning and afternoon. For foreign visitors, the entrance fee is a reasonable 250 rupees. In addition to the stupa and prayer rituals, guests will not want to miss the nearby gompas (monasteries) adorned with vibrant murals, such as Tamang Gompa, which sits in front of the stupa and offers a spectacular view from the upper floors.
Historic Durbar Squares
Kathmandu Durbar Square is steeped in centuries of history and is renowned for its grandeur and opulence. It is a symbol of the Kathmandu Valley's royal past. Throughout its long history, the square has been home to the palaces of the Malla and Shah kings. The Royal Palace was initially located at Dattaraya Square before it was moved to Durbar Square. Visitors to the square can explore the various architectural gems. This includes the iconic Dancing Shiva statue, multiple carvings, and embellished palaces, which showcase the creative talent of the Newar people for generations.
Unfortunately, the 2015 earthquake damaged many of the historic buildings and affected the condition of the square significantly. Visitors observe the remnants of the building's past glory daily and experience its unique atmosphere. Additionally, despite the damage, the square still offers a unique opportunity for visitors better to understand Nepal's rich cultural history and art. It was where the Malla and Shah kings of the 12th-18th centuries rose to power, and coronations and celebrations were held. Even today, the square remains a potent symbol of Nepal's glorious past and draws visitors worldwide to explore its many architectural gems. The complex has many impressive structures, such as the iconic Dancing Shiva statue, the Royal Palace, carvings, and elaborately decorated temples.
Chandragiri Hill Valley Views
Chandragiri Hill is a stunningly beautiful trip destination in the southwest of Kathmandu, Nepal's capital city. The day Cable Car tour is a great way to experience the area. The cable car ride will allow visitors to view the vast and picturesque landscape from a high vantage point. The tour is professionally guided and includes an experienced driver, so tourists have a safe and enjoyable experience. The Cable Car tour provides the participants with the experience of the incomparable sights and sounds of nature's beauty and serenity. Trekkers can take in the stunning views of the Kathmandu valley and many snow-capped mountains such as the Langtang range, Ganesh Himal, Manaslu, and Annapurna.
The beautiful environment of Chandragiri Hill, combined with the exciting activity of taking the cable car tour, gives visitors a unique and exciting experience they can take with them for years to come. The air of freedom and adventure experienced on the tour will leave a lasting impression on anyone who takes the journey up the hill to share the breathtaking view. The beauty and tranquillity of being on top of the world is truly a spectacular reward. The experience of an unforgettable day in the skies of Nepal is made even more impressive by the cable car system, which is run and maintained by trained professionals. Security protocols are also in place to ensure that everyone enjoying the view from above remains safe during their visit.
Ason Local Market
Ason Tole is renowned as the oldest market in Kathmandu Valley and has a history spanning more than six centuries. While four-wheelers cannot enter during the day, the market still receives many shoppers and business people daily. Many toured the area to experience the medieval and neoclassical architecture found there. Ason Tole is the perfect place for tourists to purchase souvenirs and everyday goods. The goods offered here are unique and rare and are available at relatively cheaper prices than in other areas.
The oldest existing structure in the market is a stone tap with the name of King Man Dev inscribed on it. This tap is an archaeologically significant find which proves the existence of the Ason Tole since the 6th century. Over the years, word of the market has spread, and even people from remote places come to it for their shopping needs. This speaks to its enduring popularity and utility.
Ason Tole is a vibrant and colorful marketplace tucked away in the heart of Kathmandu Valley, a hop, skip and jump away from the famous Kathmandu Durbar Square. It is the oldest marketplace in the valley, having existed since the 6th century. It was one of the largest markets in medieval and modern Nepal and still stands tall in its grandeur, attracting a collection of tourists, shoppers, and businessmen daily.
Though Thamel may be a small dot on the map of Kathmandu, it has evolved into the most acclaimed tourist destination in the city. It offers an immersive cultural experience that many travelers look to explore. From shopping at the typical narrow laneways to the bustling restaurant and bar scene, Thamel has it all. When exploring the famous Thamel district, visitors can buy all sorts of local crafts and goods. The soft Pashmina fabric, singing bowls, and fascinating Thangkas Nepalese paintings make beautiful souvenirs. It is also the place to find the best prices and bartering opportunities. During day and night, Thamel draws in various people, ranging from eager adventurers going on treks to Everest Base Camp to those just looking to let loose and enjoy the vibrant nightlife.
While no trekker should miss having their supplies mailed to Thamel, the best part of the district is not technically in the shopping district. Instead, the cultural experience of exploring Thamel is the most memorable. With its history and culture, Thamel is the ultimate destination to experience the heart of Kathmandu.
When evening comes to Thamel, the district comes alive with a unique atmosphere. With pulsing street music, late-night bars, and the endless sound of conversation, Thamel is the perfect place to experience nightlife in Kathmandu.
Indra Chowk is one of the most popular destinations for shopaholics and visitors looking for souvenirs in Kathmandu. During a morning stroll in the square, visitors will be amazed by the variety of wares, with shops full of beads, bangles, and colorful ornaments. Many market stalls feature a range of spices, textiles, fruit, and traditional Nepali foods.
The atmosphere in Indra Chowk comes alive with the buzz of people and activity, offering a heritage walk experience even if visitors do not buy anything. In Hindu mythology, the square is named after Indra, Lord of Heaven, and contains two primary temples. The Seto Machindranath Temple and Akash Bhairab Temple have unique features and are guarded by gilded statues. During the Yenya Festival in September, the living goddess Kumari blesses the head of Akash Bhairab, and worshippers from across the nation come to visit, bringing gifts of food, flowers, and money.
The temples in Indra Chowk are also an important part of the experience. The Seto Machindranath Temple, in particular, has unique features and is a great spot to see during your stroll. The Akash Bhairab Temple is an exceptional experience, as it is said to house the spirit of the first king of Nepal, King Yalambar. The 13-foot tall head of the deity is removed during the Yenya Festival and blessed by the living goddess Kumari, while worshippers from all over Nepal flock in with gifts.
Bishal Bazar is one of Nepal's oldest and most trusted shopping centers. Located on New Road, it has more than 300 shops offering a variety of international and national brand mobile phones, clothing, gadgets, books, groceries, sports, and kids' equipment. It is trendy for its jewelry and gems, making it a tourist favorite destination. In recent years, competition has increased due to the launch of other shopping malls; however, Bishal Bazar has managed to stay ahead by providing customers with various quality items at reasonable prices.
If you are looking for a one-stop destination for shopping in Kathmandu, then Bhatbhateni supermarket is the right place. With six stores across Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Pokhara, this leading supermarket offers a wide range of quality products that attract hundreds of customers daily. It began as a single store in BhatBhateni, and over the years, it has consistently kept up with customers' needs.
People Plaza is another famous shopping center in Kathmandu. Located in Khichapokhari, it houses over 300 retail shops that offer products at very affordable prices. This mall is particularly renowned for its product categorization on separate floors, a feature that sets it apart from the other shopping malls in the city.
Last, Durbar Marg, known as King's Way, is renowned for its luxury hotels, restaurants, and shopping stores. It offers international cuisine, global brand outlets, expensive boutiques, travel agencies, and premium real estate. It attracts many visitors from around the world who enjoy its shopping and dining facilities.
Garden of Dreams
Thamel is the bustling center of Kathmandu and is known for its energy and dynamic atmosphere. But just steps away from the chaotic hustle and bustle, we find the Garden of Dreams, an urban oasis and beautiful haven away from the busy markets. This neoclassical garden was first designed by scholar and horticulture enthusiast Kaiser Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana in 1920. Over a century later, it has been beautifully restored with the help of the Austrian government and is now a must-stop location for any visitor's Kathmandu itinerary.
The Garden of Dreams statues, fountains, and pavilions reflect the grandeur of England's estates, while carefully curated trees and pathways offer a peaceful respite. It is open daily to the public between 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Visitors can take advantage of the lawn mats to chill out in the green oasis. Here, time slows down, and visitors can relax in the tranquil atmosphere of the Garden of Dreams. It is the perfect spot for a picnic lunch or the ideal starting point for a hike toward nearby Durbar Square.
Visitors can take in breathtakingly beautiful statues, fountains, and pavilions that reflect the grandeur of England estates. As we walk through the neoclassical garden, the carefully curated trees and pathways create an atmosphere of peace that soothes and quiets the soul.
The Narayanhiti Palace Museum is an impressive historic structure located in the capital of Kathmandu, Nepal. Reflective of the country's diversity, each palace room is named after one of the country's 75 districts. Visitors are welcomed into the palace by the grand reception hall, followed by banquet halls and royal bedrooms. The most remarkable room of all is the throne room. It features a majestic 14.5-m (48-ft) chandelier and ornate decorations, including stuffed animal heads, paintings, and historical photographs of the royal family.
The palace tragedy lay in 2001 when the royal family met an untimely end in mysterious circumstances. Bullet holes mark the palace walls as a macabre reminder of the tragedy. Although cameras are not allowed inside, visitors can leave their belongings in lockers outside to make the tour more convenient. Additionally, the Narayanhiti Palace Museum provides special discounts for locals, with Nepali students receiving a 50 NPR entry fee and Nepali citizens paying 200 NPR. Foreigners, specifically from SAARC and China, pay 500 NPR, while those from other countries pay 1,000 NPR.
Shyambhu Buddhist Museum
The Swayambhunath Buddhist Museum is an archaeological museum that offers incomparable insights into Buddhism in Nepal. With artifacts, paintings, manuscripts, text, and a mixture of traditional Nepalese and Tibetan art, visitors can explore the breadth of this ancient faith. Perhaps the most stunning artifact within the museum is the collection of Tibetan-style Mandala paintings. It includes intricate geometric compositions that represent the cosmos. In addition to visual presentations, the museum also holds a vast array of ancient manuscripts. Manuscripts have handwritten Buddhist texts and prayer books offering an immersible look into the religion's teachings and beliefs.
The Swayambhunath Buddhist Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in exploring Buddhism's historical and spiritual inheritance in Nepal. The museum provides a fascinating look into this influential tradition with a passionate, knowledgeable team of staff and a wealth of original artifacts. Furthermore, entrance is entirely free, making Swayambhunath an easily accessible and inviting destination for those looking to learn more about the vibrant history of Buddhism.
Natural History Museum
Swayambhu Hill is a famous place in Kathmandu. It is notable for its religious importance and historical significance as the starting point for early plant hunting. Established and completed in 1975, the museum currently contains an impressive 50,000 specimen collection, making it an invaluable asset to the country's biodiversity. The Natural History Museum is closely located near the world heritage site of Swayambhunath. It also publishes a journal yearly with articles about plants and animals and their respective species. This provides information about the research done by the museum and enlightens the public about the knowledge stored within its walls. In 1802-3, Sir Buchanan Hamilton, a British resident of India, collected 27 species from Swayambhunath and gave them both Nepali and Newari names. Since then, however, many of these specimens have ceased to exist in the cliff face, demonstrating the importance of protecting local environments and native plants. The museum is located very close to the world heritage site of Swayambhunath. It helps raise awareness of biodiversity conservation through the yearly publication of a journal and the maintenance of a library filled with relevant books, articles, and studies. They focus on the display and cataloging of species and support their mission by publishing a yearly journal and sustaining a library with relevant books, articles, and studies.
Patan Durbar Square
Patan Durbar Square is a living reminder of the cultural achievements and artistic excellence of the Malla period. This distinctive courtyard, situated in the Lalitpur district and listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites, witnesses the evolution of a particular school of art, architecture, and craftsmanship. It has been a point of attraction for visitors from Local, national, and international vicinity by providing glimpses of the old Hindu kingdom and its enduring legacy.
The Malla kings have played an indispensable role in promoting art and culture in Nepal. They have built a range of monuments, palaces, and temples inspired by different architectural styles, such as Pagoda, Shikhara, and Stupa. Every building was exquisitely decorated with elaborate design details and carved carvings. The most outstanding example is Krishna Mandir, which can be found in Patan Durbar Square. This temple is renowned for its finest cravings and sculptures. It was built in a Shikhara style architecture by King Siddhi Narasingha Malla in the 17th century and has enshrined the Lord Krishna idols within it.
Foreign visitors are required to buy tickets for entry, which allows them to understand the culture and history in Patan, as well as the masterpieces and buildings of the Malla region. The magnificent courtyard, listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, bears testament to the evolution of the Malla era's particular school of art, craftsmanship, and architecture between the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.
The typical Newari town of Bungamati is an essential sight to behold on any tour of Kathmandu Valley. Located just 9 kilometers south of the city, it provides an excellent window into Nepal's indigenous Newar people's culture, crafts, and customs. A living museum of sorts, Bungamati retains much of its traditional flavor and is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
As one of Nepal's most important agricultural communities, Bungamati is home to the revered Rato Machindranath, the god of rain and patron of the Valley. Every year, thousands of visitors witness his grand procession from Patan to Bungamati for the annual festival.
Walking through Bungamati is an enchanting experience. The central square is home to several shikhara-style temples and traditional Newari houses, where locals can be seen handcrafting sculptures and masks. The harvest of special mustard oil—essential for Nepali cuisine and medicinal massage—is especially famous, with a heavy wooden beam slowly crushing the mustard seeds. Khokana is a unique village, proposed to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, representing a vernacular village and its mustard-oil industrial heritage. The heartwarming local hospitality and the simple beauty of the village grounds, with its traditional Nepal houses, chaityas, and temples, make for a captivating journey into a rural way of life.
Khokana is located 8km far south of Kathmandu. Its importance lies in that it was the first place in Nepal to have electricity. Khokana is also well-known for its mustard oil production, which is famous throughout the country. It has been nominated by UNESCO World Heritage Site for its vernacular village and mustard oil production. The town provides some of Nepal's finest organic mustard oil, which can be experienced through its traditional production process.
Khokana also features many unique cultural and historical features. These include the Rudrayani Temple, a three-tier structure and the most distinctive architectural part of the village. The temple is incredibly crowded during the Sikali Jatra, a local festival celebrated instead of Dashain. Jitapur Mandap is the rest house where most major religious activities occur, while De Pukhu is a rectangular pond where the rituals before sacrificing animals arise. Getting to Khokana is also relatively easy, and a 30-minute ride from Kathmandu's center is enough to reach the village.
The small, traditional, historical Newar village of Khokana is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Nepal. Khokana is well-known for its various cultural and historical features and its cultivation and production of renowned organic mustard oil. The famous Rudrayani Temple is prominently the most distinctive architectural feature of the village and is especially crowded during the Sikali Jatra. Other landmarks include:
- The Jitapur Mandap rest house.
- The De Pukhu rectangular pond.
- Four other historical ponds.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bhaktapur is one of the most incredible and worthwhile things to do in Kathmandu – even though it's technically outside the city. Of course, if you're lucky, fate may smile down at you, and the journey from the heart of Kathmandu will not take too long; though, it can easily take hours to make the mere 6-mile (10km) drive due to the infamous Kathmandu traffic.
This small-town gem is said to have been initially developed in the 12th century when King Ananda Malla made it into an autonomous city-state.
As you explore this quaint city, you'll quickly be captivated by the intricate and ancient architecture around each corner. In Tuchapai Tole, you'll be amazed to discover a glorious concentration of gilded woodwork across the city. Though these examples of craftsmanship are entrancing, you'll find the temples of Bhaktapur to be what truly stand out. Particular mention must go to the Nyatapola Temple - the tallest in Nepal, built at the beginning of the 18th century - and the Royal Palace in Bhaktapur Durbar Square, and the National Art Gallery. Pausing to walk brings you to the threshold of the Nyatapola Temple. The five-story temple was built at the beginning of the 18th century and is the tallest in Nepal – a delightful sight.
At the rim of Kathmandu Valley, Nagarkot village is an awe-inspiring picturesque paradise. Perched at an elevation of 2,175 m, the remarkable beauty of its greens and landscapes is captivating. There are plenty of options to make the most of your stay here, and taking the Nagarkot sunrise day tour is undoubtedly one of them. It takes an hour to reach the top of the village and witness the spectacular sunrise view. You can capture this beauty with a zoom lens and be assured of stunning images.
The unrivaled beauty of the Nagarkot sunrise view strengthens its purpose as the most sought-after tourist attraction. As a single holidaymaker, on a family vacation, or on your honeymoon, this tour is worth reserving for a memorable experience and collecting some precious memories. You can also use your time here to capture the heavenly landscapes' beauty. With a zoom lens, you can also capture the majestic shape of Mount Everest, located on the northeastern side.
When you have achieved the divine solace of this place, you can satisfy your appetite with the delicious breakfast served in the village. To fully experience the tour and enable the experience to remain a lasting memory, it is necessary to have a blissful end.
Changu Narayan is a stunning example of ancient Hindu architecture. It is a two-story pagoda-style temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Surviving destruction in 1702 and 2015, the temple is the oldest Hindu temple still in use in the historical Kathmandu Valley. After being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, Changu Narayan has received increasing attention, becoming a popular pilgrimage site for Hindus worldwide. The temple provides an excellent view of the Kathmandu Valley's cultural and religious history.
Initially constructed in an elaborately carved pagoda shape, the six-sided temple boasts two and displays intricately crafted statues with stories that take you back in time. Visitors can find statues of Vishnu in his various incarnations and carvings representing 10 images of Vishnu and Tantric goddesses.
In 1702, a fire swept through the temple complex, destroying many works. But even then, the temple was quickly rebuilt and today stands as a powerful symbol of resilience. In 2015, the Gorkha Earthquake damaged 753 temples, shrines, and monasteries across Nepal, including Changu Narayan. While the temple suffered heavy damage, restoration projects began immediately, and the temple reopened in the same year.
Today, the temple remains a famous pilgrimage site for Hindus worldwide. It incorporates modern and ancient traditions and offers a unique window into the Hindu faith and culture.
As the largest stone statue in Nepal, the 16-foot reclining stone Vishnu statue of Budhanilkantha is thought to have been carved in the fifth century. Intricate details remain intact due to the excellent condition of the statue, which lies beneath an orange canopy with native carved snakes and drapes in orange marigold garlands. It is believed that the pond in which Vishnu lies represents the cosmos, adding to Budhanilkantha’s spiritual significance. This great site is a great spot to stop and explore while on the way to the Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park, as many hiking tours will include a time to the temple.
The name Budhanilkantha has nothing to do with the Buddha but is derived from the Nepali phrase meaning “old blue-throated Vishnu.” It is a Hindu site, so non-Hindus must avoid touching the figure. Fortunately, there is no entry fee associated with visiting the area. Plus, being just five miles from central Kathmandu, public transportation or even a taxi from the Thamel area makes the temple easy to access. Not only is it free to visit, but it’s also a great place to make a detour on the way to the Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park. The serene and spiritual atmosphere combined with the architectural precision of the fifth-century carving provides visitors with a timeless and unforgettable experience. With its proximity to Kathmandu and all its accessible transportation options, this is an unmissable and magical stop.
The sacred Hindu temple of Dakshinkali is nestled 14 miles south of Kathmandu. This temple is famous for one thing—devotees bring male goats and roosters to be sacrificed biweekly to honor the Hindu goddess Kali. Kali’s name refers to the color black, and she is often referred to as the Dark Mother. Beliefs of the Hindu faith dictate that to appease Kali and gain her favor; devotees must offer these animals as sacrifices.
Though individuals can view these events at Dakshinkali Temple without entering the temple building, it is essential to remember that non-Hindus are not allowed inside. Furthermore, those easily put off by the sight of blood might want to avoid the temple altogether. Nonetheless, those interested in observing traditional Nepali life and culture will find visiting the Dakshinkali Temple a fascinating and memorable experience.
For any interested travelers, getting to the temple is relatively easy. Buses run to Dakshinkali from both Old Bus Park and Ratna Park of Kathmandu’s city center, and the two-hour trip is undoubtedly worthwhile. Twice a week, the Dakshinkali Temple in the Kathmandu Valley comes to life as people flock to witness the biweekly sacrificial offerings to the Goddess Kali. Some brave souls even participate in this ancient Hindu tradition of killing and butchering animals. No entry fee exists, but anyone nauseous about blood may want to avoid this temple. For those eager to learn more about the culture and customs of traditional Nepalese, a visit to the Dakshinkali Temple should be at the top of their must-see list.
Balaju Park, also known as Baisdhara Park, is a delightful haven nestled in Bypass, Balaju, at the foot of the majestic Raniban. Its 22 waterspouts are the source of the park's name, and visitors come from near and far to witness this picturesque park. While strolling here, you will find lush gardens, tall trees, small ponds, monuments, and statues such as the enormous resting Lord Vishnu on the water. It provided a forever entertaining activity with wildlife like monkeys, fish, and turtles living here. Before the 2015 earthquake, this park was even more exquisite as it featured a swimming pool. This was regarded as the oldest in Kathmandu and provided a unique experience to visitors as they paid to enter. The fee structure varied between students and regular visitors.
King Mahendra established the Godawari Botanical garden in 1962. It is a popular destination for nature lovers and wildlife observers due to its unique biodiversity and stunning natural setting. Visitors to The Godawari can access the area by taking a public bus from Lagankhel in Patan or hiring a taxi from a reputable local tourism company for the day. Taking a taxi, however, is much more costly but provides greater flexibility for sightseeing, as the driver can be called upon for stops along the way.
Once at the Godawari, beauty, and serenity abound. In addition, visitors can explore the enclosed National Botanical Garden, where they will discover rare and exotic species of orchids and many other plant life that thrives there.
The Godawari is also home to the elusive Spiny Babbler, a rare species of bird that was thought to have been extinct for about 104 years. Rediscovered in the Godawari, the Spiny Babbler has made a miraculous return, making the Godawari Botanical Garden one of Nepal's best bird-watching spots. Its lush gardens, exciting wildlife species, and convenient access make it a must-see tourist spot for anyone visiting the Kathmandu Valley. It was even the birthplace of the Spiny Babbler, a rare species of bird that was thought to have been extinct for over 104 years.
Old Freak Street is a small street located near Durbar Square in Kathmandu, Nepal, and was given its name during the 1960s. In this era, marijuana was legal in the country, so the area became the center of the hippie movement. It attracted visitors from all over the world who could take advantage of the government-run hashish shops located along the streets. One of the main attractions was its art and architecture, enhanced by the influx of creative hippies. Additionally, the production and sale of hashish were outlawed, and the area slowly changed from its former state of bohemian vibes to more traditional markets and restaurants.
Today, Old Freak Street, also known as Jhhonchen Tole, is still a popular spot in Kathmandu, although it looks drastically different from its 1960s incarnation. Access to the palace of the living goddess Kumari, Kumari Ghar, is also available, providing a glimpse into another side of Nepalese history. Freak Street provides a unique experience where one can appreciate the history and culture of Kathmandu.
Old Freak Street is an exciting place to explore due to its long history. It was once the center of the hippie trail, the only area in Nepal where visitors could legally purchase hashish. During this period, the streets were lined with creative hippies adding their flavor of art and culture to Kathmandu.
Taudaha is a beautiful lake nestled in the middle of Kathmandu, Nepal. It is a gem of a place for all bird watchers because of its diverse range of bird species. Over one hundred different species have been discovered there so far! Standing alongside one of the city's busiest roads and amidst heavy settlement, this place and its feathered inhabitants have remained untouched and unharmed. There is a large hoarding board with the mention and pictures of the numerous avian species spotted in the area so far.
According to legend, when the Buddhist monk Manjushree created a gorge and cut through the hills, the waters of Kathmandu valley drained and left behind 3 small lakes, one of them being Taudaha. Thus, the area is also known as Manjushree Park and is a tourist spot. The lake supposedly served as a temporary home for numerous snakes and nagas displaced due to this alteration. To appease the Naga King, Karkotak, a palace was created for him underwater, and in exchange, he promised to guard the lake and its residents from harm. Thus, no fishing or swimming activities are typically allowed in Taudaha. Getting to the lake is also very convenient. It takes about an hour from the Tribhuvan International Airport and 35 minutes from Thamel. Public transport from the old bus station is available regularly and will take you to Dakshinkali. Taudaha lies halfway along the route.
The White Monastery, also known as Seto Gumba or White Gumba, is an important cultural site in Nepal. Located at the top of Druk Amitabh Mountain, in the Nagarjun municipality of Kathmandu District, it lies outside the ring road north of the Swoyambhu Nath temple. Seto Gumba provides a peaceful and tranquil retreat surrounded by lush green valleys and stunning views of the Kathmandu Valley.
The architecture and beauty of the White Gumba alone make it a worthwhile experience. It is the second best spot to view the sunrise and sunset after Nagarkot, and on a clear day, the distant mountain range can be seen.
Getting to Seto Gumba is not difficult; however, public vehicles cannot access the site. It can be reached from two locations – Sitapaila or Halchowk – a 20-30 minute drive away. The beauty of the White Gumba is beyond words, and it is quite easy to reach here, but public vehicles are not allowed. While most visitors come by car or ride a bike, some even take the challenge and hike up to the monastery. Furthermore, the roads leading to White Gumba are steep and dangerous and should not be taken on a scooter. The entry cost to the White Gumba is relatively inexpensive as it is only 40 Rupees per person. Bikes must also pay an additional 10 Rupees fee to park outside the monastery.
Kirtipur is a district located close to Kathmandu and is known for its impressive medieval temples, serenity, and faded grandeur. An essential part of its history is the infamous storming of the town by Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1768. He ordered the noses and lips cut off all the males residing in the city except those who could play wind instruments. This sad part of Kirtipur's history certainly adds a sense of mystery. It's no wonder that tourists visit this place to explore this part of the past.
Still standing despite the 2015 earthquake, the temples provide a sense of modernity and faith intertwined. The red brick temples and winding alleyways are a reminder of a time long gone and yet a reminder of a vital part of the region's culture. Wandering through the narrow cobbled streets of Kirtipur and discovering the secrets of long ago makes it a must-visit destination.
The unique combination of history and beauty makes Kirtipur a place every tourist should visit. The sense of faded grandeur, serenity, sleepiness, and multiple panoramic views, gives the place a truly fantastic atmosphere. Exploring this place is an unforgettable experience, and it is no wonder that tourists often return to explore Kirtipur's secrets once more.
Travelers can glimpse from Dhulikhel to over 20,000 feet in elevation to witness Langtang Lirung (23,710ft/7227m), Dorje Lakpa (22,854ft/6966m), Gauri Shankar (23,405ft/7134m), and Melungtse (23,560ft/7181m). It is possible to visit Dhulikhel as part of a two-night itinerary, with a day trip to the centuries-old stupa at the nearby Namo Buddha temple, a 7-mile (12km) drive or three-hour walk to the south.
Unlike many other tourist destinations in Nepal, Dhulikhel is a real Newari town with an active and vibrant culture of craftsmen, artisans, and spiritual sites. The Kailashnath Mahadev Statue is the tallest Shiva statue in the world and is over 140 feet tall. It is located in Sanga, a short distance away from Dhulikhel. Two other popular sites in Dhulikhel are the Kali Temple and Vishnu Temple. The Kali Temple, also known as Hajaar Sidhi, is located atop a thousand steps and can be seen far away. The Bhagwati Shiva Temple is the last temple of interest to explore in Dhulikhel. As with the other places of worship, this one is also dedicated to a manifestation of the Hindu goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. It is Newari-style and stands on the town's highest point, making it one of the tallest temples in the area. Additionally, the temple features three roofs, along with a giant trident at the front.