Kathmandu, an Himalayan melting pot

23 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide

Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal, which is a landlocked country. It is flanked by India in the south, east, and west, while the north is fenced by China. Nepal is located in the cradle of the Himalayas and offers a rich bounty of natural beauty and adventurous terrain to travel enthusiasts. Home to one of the highest concentrations of high peaks, it is an enthralling cultural legacy, preserved since ancient times. Kathmandu, also known as the city of temples, is seasonally flocked by mountaineers, trekkers, and tourists from all over the world. Other than Himalayan mountains, the city is also the gateway to lowland jungles down south with magnificent wildlife.

Kathmandu is the cultural and political capital of Nepal, accommodating the  diverse Nepalese communities from throughout the nation. What separates the city from other towns in Nepal is its acceptance of modern development and civilized living while maintaining the original customs. The influx of tourists from the world has influenced the lifestyle of its inhabitants, however they continue to retain and value their ancient traditions. 

Visiting Kathmandu will hardly make you feel secluded because it is equipped with upscale hotels, restaurants, cottages, modern facilities, and amenities to offer a comfortable and in some cases even luxurious stay. The local population mostly follow Hinduism and Buddhism, which is why you will observe frequent colorful processions including masked dancers making their way through narrow lanes. It is said that these masked dancers are seemingly possessed by the spirits.

Kathmandu, view on a clear day

Kathmandu, view on a clear day

Kathmandu is said to be blessed by a living goddess who is, apparently, an incarnation of Goddess Teluja. Worshipped everyday by Buddhist and Hindu devotees, this Buddhist girl has garnered a lot of fame in Nepal for her divine presence within the masses.

Kathmandu is diverse and exceptionally classical with brilliant wooden architecture accompanied by artistic carvings and metal craft artifacts, which epitomizes the sheer talent of early Newar artisans. One of the most striking examples of Nepalese architecture is Durbar Square, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located at the center of the city. The Durbar Square comprises several temples, which appear like pagodas, and are exquisitely carved in metal and wood. It is interesting and pleasantly surprising that these places are home to sculpture and artifacts that date back to the 18th century.

In contrast, Freaky Street is one of the oldest streets in Kathmandu, which narrates tales of the 1960-70s’ hippie culture. Also known as Jhochhen Tole, it is located very close to Durbar Square. Although the street no longer possesses the same charm as old, it has many souvenirs shops, trekking agencies, guest houses, and restaurants for the tourists and trekkers.

KathmanduKathmandu

While a bit chaotic, the city offers an enjoyable getaway to tourists as well as for those seeking to cross the line and be more adventurous.

Thamel, which is a prominent tourist hub in Kathmandu, offers a plethora of options for hotels, homestays, money exchange centers, ATMs, massage parlours, meditation and yoga centers, live music pubs, especially catering to the international tourists. To serve worldwide foreign visitors the place also has one of the best upscale restaurants serving Italian, Chinese, intercontinental, Asian and Korean cuisines.

Kathmandu is also famous for the Pashupatinath temple as well as Swayaambhu, and Boudhanath stupas, which are World Heritage sites of Buddhist pilgrimage. Ranked as one of the top travel destinations in the world, Kathmandu is situated at 1,400 meters above sea level and has very pleasant weather almost throughout the year.

How to reach?

Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport is directly connected to major cities in India, China, rest of South Asia, South East Asia and West Asia and to the rest of the world by transiting through New Delhi, Istanbul, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong. It also has direct flights to Pokhara, which is another tourist and adventure hub in Nepal.   

View on the way to KathmanduBy bus you can reach Kathmandu from New Delhi and other major cities in North India. The main inter-city bus station is at Gongabu.

Where to stay?

Being an established tourist center, Kathmandu has a wide variety of lodging options, including upscale five-star international chains, boutique hotels, budget hotels, homestays and hostels. Price can vary significantly based on the time of the year and the type of accommodation you are seeking. While the standard of service is quite predictable, we recommend not to pick very cheap options, unless of course you are backpacking and are willing to take some surprises in your stride.

The interesting areas for international tourists to stay are: (a) Thamel, which is a prominent tourist hub with a plethora of options for hotels, homestays, meditation and yoga centers and live music pubs; (b) The old city of Bhaktapur, a historic town around 40 minutes from the city center; (c) Lazimpat, located close to Thamel and home to high end luxurious hotels; and (d) Patan, a beautiful part of Kathmandu and home to one of the famous Durbar squares.

View of Kathmandu

Where and what to shop?

Kathmandu is known for Pashminas, Thangka scrolls, singing bowls, khukuri (Knives), Jewelry, Handicraft, and local artifacts. These are available in a variety of shops in Thamel. Furthermore, Kathmandu, being a basecamp, is also known for cheap and second-hand trekking gear. Multiple shops trade in the same.

As far as eatables are concerned, Laapsi, Titaura, Chhurpi and Nepali tea are also popular.

Attractions

  • Visit Pashupatinath temple, tucked on the banks of the Bagmati river; experience the Hindu culture peculiar of Nepal and enjoy the wonderful precinct of this World Heritage Site
  • Experience the peaceful environs of Swayambhunath Stupa, after climbing the hillock, where it is located
  • Enjoy the area of Garden of Dreams in Kaisel Mahel comprising pavilions, amphitheater, urns, pergolas and vivid open spaces to stroll or chill
  • See the artistic and old artifacts at Tribhuvan Museum, which deem to be a rich collection of Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah
  • Narayanhiti Palace Museum, an erstwhile residence of the Nepalese monarch, displays crown jewels, and other previous royal objects of the then presiding kingdom
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