Kathmandu is an intricate maze of narrow streets, great for exploring and observing the traditional cultures of Nepalese way of life. Formed from three ancient cities Kathmandu has always been a melting pot of ethnicities, and therefore boasts an unbelievably rich cultural heritage that has remained largely unchanged since the Middle Ages.
With its hidden temples, local markets and old workshops, the city begs to be explored while the surrounding valley holds wonderful scenery and day-trekking possibilities.
Kathmandu is the bustling capital and largest city in Nepal. Renowned for centuries by travellers, it is impossible not to be captivated by both the history and vibrancy of the city’s intricate narrow streets, carved wooden facades and ancient town squares. With seven UNESCO Word Heritage Sites, there is a wonderful diversity to exploring the city which is largely split between Buddhist and Hindu relics, sights of pilgrimage, Tibetan influences and the wonderfully optimistic legacy as the base of some of history’s greatest feats of adventure.
Formed from the joining of three ancient cities, each built around temple-filled town, or Durbar squares, the heart of the capital is Kathmandu Durbar Square. Here you will find pagodas and temples dating back 500 years, surrounded by markets and narrow streets all exhibiting the Newari architecture that the city has been built upon. A short walk from here through the Thamel district, home to Everest hopefuls since the 1900s, you will find Swayambhunath Stupa, known as the Monkey Temple. Here, 365 steps will lead you in the footsteps of Bhuddist and Hindu visitors up to the golden stupa, which offers panoramic view of Kathmandu city and the surrounding valley.
Perhaps the two most revered sites in Kathmandu are the pilgrimage sites of two of Asia’s largest religions. Pashupatinath Temple is an extensive collection of temples and holy centres of the Hindu learning along the banks of the sacred Bagmati River. Often compared with India’s Varanasi, the complex is part fort, part village and part sanctuary, mixing traditional pagoda style architecture of with the narrow streets that make for an essentially Nepalese scene. The nearby Boudhanath Stupa is one of the centres of Buddhism in the city. Linked to redemption, circling the huge golden stupa gives the opportunity to atone for ones sins.
Within easy distance and complimenting Kathmandu are the ancient cities of Patan and Bhaktapur, each offers an essential glimpse into the past and are often considered as better preserved examples of Nepal’s cultural heritage. Patan is known as the ‘City of Fine Arts’ and is again crowned by its impressive Durbar Square. Less busy and with far less traffic than Kathmandu, exploring the maze of side streets, bazaars and temples is a thrill in itself, especially as the views of the lower Himalayas can be seen surrounding the temples and rooftops on clear days. Bhaktapur offers the final Durbar Square of the city and has been a centre of cultural and religious enlightenment for centuries.
While many come for the obvious historical attractions, Kathmandu also makes a wonderful base for those wishing to explore some of Nepal’s exceptional mountain scenery. The surrounding Kathmandu Valley is the gateway to some wonderful day and half-day forays by foot or bike into the rural communities, while the hills provide a wonderful vantage point to view the white mountains of the Himalayas on clear days, with Mt Everest itself not beyond reach.