Nepal’s capital Kathmandu lies on 1400 meters above sea levels attracting many adventurers, nature, art and culture lovers. It is the gateway to the Nepalese Himalayas positioned in Kathmandu valley also known as the valley of the gods that boasts with 7 world heritage sites of which one is in Kathmandu itself – Kathmandu Durbar Square.
We arrived at the Kathmandu Airport after lunch on . We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel for 700Rps, and you can pay in Euros or USD. It was a bit of a sales pitch as they placed a travel guide with us in the taxi and offered to drop us off at a tour company.
We advise you to always carry cash, as we encountered only one store that accepted credit cards. Tourist shops accept both the local currency, the Nepalese rupee, or USD, with many currency exchange shops across the city.
On April 25, 2015 Nepal had a devastating earthquake, killing over 8,000 people and destroying many homes and historic sites across the country, including the Kathmandu valley.
Our tour guide said that Nepal hopes to rebuild their temples and monuments within five years, but with the current political issues internally and with India, this is not a realistic time table.
Things to do in Kathmandu, Nepal
Due to the scope of all the places we wanted to visit around Kathmandu along with the confusing street layout and short timeline, we chose to see the city in a different way than we normally do, with a tour.
We went through Top of the World Adventure, with the amazing agent Janardan Nepal. For three days of touring we paid $249 for both of us, a bit pricy but it allowed us to get everything done in our timeframe.
We were picked up at our hotel in the morning and headed to the Monkey Temple. It is a beautiful place and depending on the season and amount of fog, also a great view of the Kathmandu valley. Of course, the monkeys as well!
Also known as the “Monkey Temple”, Swayambhunath stupa is located on a small hill 3 kilometers west of Kathmandu in an area designated as the World Heritage Site with a great panoramic view of Kathmandu. The climb to stupa is rather steep but there is also a road and you can almost drive to the top. The base of the hill is almost entirely surrounded by prayer wheels. Other sites in the vicinity you might want to check out: Buddha statue on the west side of Swayambhu, The Sleeping Buddha, The Dewa Dharma Monastery, The temple dedicated to Harati, the goddess of all children.
The base of the complex was built up in 1998 as part of a tourism push by Nepal. There is a fountain were you can get a wish if you toss a coin into the pot in the middle. You walk up the hill past many small monuments and stupas to the temple on top. There is a small amount of earthquake damage, but still much to see. There is another entrance on the other side of the hill, with 365 steep and uneven steps to the top, if you so wish.
Entrance costs 200 Rps/person.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
The Kathmandu Durbar Square faced a massive amount of earthquake damage. Many of the temples were partially and wholly destroyed. That being said, there is still much to see.
Durbar Square also known as Hanuman Dhoka square is a central square in Kathmandu where kings were once crowned and from where they ruled. It has been designated a Unesco world heritage site in 1979. A number of 50 temples in the vicinity are spread among three loosely linked squares that actually make a Durbar square which is then divided into the inner and outer courtyard with the inner section being a home to Royal Palace.
The entrance fee to Durbar Square is NRs. 1000/person.
The Royal Palace of Malla kings is spread on more than 5 acres of land and although it was hit hard by 2015. earthquake is still very visited site. Most famous attributes of the palace are courtyards known as chowks. The palace used to count 35 courtyards, but 1934. earthquake reduced the number to today’s 10. There are also a few memorial museum galleries on the premises where you can get acquainted with art, culture, and history of the area and Nepal.
Open: 10.30 AM-4 PM Tue-Sat Feb-Oct, to 3 PM Tue-Sat Nov-Jan, to 2 PM Sun Ticket: free with Durbar Sq ticket
Basantapur Durbar Nine-storied palace, Basantpur Durbar also known as the Nautalle Durbar is one grandiose part of the Hanuman Dhoka Palace where one can enjoy exquisite wood craftsmanship and artisanry.
Open: Tues to Sat: 10 AM – 5 PM Ticket: 250 NRP
Kumari Ghar is a building on Durbar Square which is home to the living goddess of Kathmandu, the Kumari goddess. Kumari goddess is actually a young girl incarnating the spirit of a Hindu goddess Telaju until she gets her first period after which it is believed the goddess leaves her body and so the new Kumari is selected. You can only get inside the courtyard of Kumari Ghar, but actually seeing and photographing Kumari is not possible, although it is said how a glimpse of her brings good luck.
Ticket: Free with Durbar Sq ticket
Narayanhiti Palace Museum
In late 19th century, the Royal residence was moved from Hanuman Doka to Narayanhiti Palace. Californian architect Benjamin Polk designed the new palace on the site of the old one. The new palace was finished in 1969. counting 52 rooms all of which named after different districts of Nepal. It is in this palace where tragic Nepalese Royal Massacre in 2001. happened when Prince Dipendra had 10 members of his family killed during a reunion dinner of the royal family. Subsequently, after the 2006. revolution when Nepal was declared a republic country, then King Gyanendra was forced to leave the palace which was then turned into a public museum.
Open: Thu-Mon 11 AM – 5 PM, Tue-Wed Closed Ticket: 500 NPR
Claimed to be the oldest building in Kathmandu dating from 12th century and to have been made out of a single tree, it is also believed Kathmandu got its name after Kasthamandap temple. The name itself would translate as ‘wood-pavilion’ and as such the temple is a great example of Nepalese art and architecture where not even one metal nail or rivet was used in the construction or maintenance. Taking the photographs inside the temple is strictly prohibited.
A hindu temple on Durbar square with a three-tiered platform and two storeys are dating from 16th century and is famed for intricate erotic carvings on the roof struts.
Being touted as Durbar Square’s most magnificent temple, 35 m-high Taleju temple bearing a name of the titular deity (royal goddess) of Malla kings in the 14th century is unfortunately closed to the public. Still, one can enjoy and admire the view of the twelve stage plinth on which the temple stands.
Maju Deval Temple
Particularly atmospheric at dawn and dusk, this Shiva temple is one of the most popular meeting places in the city. It offers the great views over the Durbar square. Another temple with erotic carvings on its roof struts.
A nine storey (50.2m) tall tower with spiral staircase containing 113 steps at the center of Kathmandu originally built in 1832. On the 8th floor, there is a circular balcony with a panoramic view of the whole Kathmandu valley.
Ticket: 299 NPR
Garden Of Dreams
A neo-classical historical garden inspired by British Edwardian style as the green oasis in the center of Kathmandu.
Open: 9 AM – 10 PM Ticket: 100 NPR
A popular landmark, stone platform surrounding a tree from where important government pronouncements were formerly made first to the army.
The oldest Hindu temple and largest temple complex in Nepal with around 492 temples, 15 Shivalayas (shrines of Lord Shiva) and 12 Jyotirlinga (phallic shrines). It is located 3 km northwest of Kathmandu. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Pashupatinah temple stretches on both sides of Bagmati River where cremation of Hindus takes place. It is a great place where you can observe active worshipping and Hindu tradition in this part of the world.
Open: 4:00 AM – 7 PM Ticket: 1000 NPR
The National Museum
The National Museum is located on the way to Swayambhunath Hill with a display of ancient artifacts, firearms used in wars fought in this part of the world, murals, paintings and different objects from dynasties that ruled Nepal.
Open: From 10:30 AM to 3 PM, except on Tuesdays and govt. holidays. From 10:30 AM to 2 PM on Fridays. Ticket: NPR 200
Around 5 kilometers northeast of Kathmandu, in a town of Boudhanath is located Boudhanath Stupa (or Bodnath Stupa), the center of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu. It was probably built in the 14th century looking like a giant mandala, or diagram of the Buddhist cosmos.
Full of Buddhist symbolism, this stupa is perhaps most famous for numerous tied colorful praying flags tied fluttering in the wind.
Ticket: 250 NRP
Near Boudhanath is located a Tibetan Buddhist Kopan monastery most famed for courses and teaching western foreigners Buddhism. If you are not enrolled in course, you can visit the monastery only on Saturdays.
Bhaktapur Durbar Heritage Site
Listed as a world heritage site, Bhaktapur is praised as an outstanding open museum, an architectural masterpiece full of ancient sculptures, temples, shrines, courtyards and traditional houses. It is 10 km away from Kathmandu. Some of the attractions on this site include 55 Window Palace, Golden Gate, Lion’s Gate, Vatsala Temple. Nyatapola Temple, Bhairava Nath Temple and much more.
Ticket: 1500 NPR
Patan Durbar Square
Patan is the oldest of all three cities of Kathmandu valley located about 5 km south of Kathmandu and also a UNESCO world heritage site. Here you can enjoy a stunning view of a concentrated mass of temples charactarized by a Nepalese architectural and artistic elegance. Some of the major attractions of Patan Darbar Square are Patan Museum, Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, Golden Window, Mahabouddha Temple, Golden Temple, Krishna Temple, the four Ashoka Stupas and Patan Zoo.
Ticket: 500 NPR
We stayed at the Royal Penguin Boutique Hotel, located in the historic Thamel neighborhood. While it was a very nice hotel, at a reasonable price, there were several things that were problematic.
The hotel told us when we were checking out that Kathmandu has daily scheduled blackouts in different sections of the city, as production does not meet demands. The hotel notes that it has electricity 24/7, but this meant that when they were running on generators, only 1 outlet and 1 light in the room worked, and the AC/heater did not. This meant we spent most of each night without heat, but many blankets. This would not have been an issue if the hotel had been upfront and clear about this reality of life in Kathmandu.
One thing to note for planning your mornings in Nepal is that the Royal Penguin Boutique Hotel provides free breakfast made to order. We were not told how long each meal would take until 15 minutes after we ordered, so make sure to ask in advance if you are on a tight deadline.
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