Kathmandu | काठमाडौं महानगरपालिका

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Kathmandu

Kathmandu (map), officially the Kathmandu Metropolitan City is the capital and most populous city of Nepal. It is located in the Kathmandu Valley, a large valley in the high plateaus in central Nepal.

In 2013, Kathmandu was ranked third among the top ten upcoming travel destinations in the world by TripAdvisor, and ranked first in Asia. The city is considered the gateway to the Nepalese Himalayas and is home to several World Heritage Sites: the *Durbar Square, *Swayambhunath, *Boudhanath and *Pashupatinath.

The ancient trade route between India and Tibet that passed through Kathmandu enabled a fusion of artistic and architectural traditions from other cultures to be amalgamated with local art and architecture.

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If you fly in, be sure to pick up a free Kathmandu Valley map at the airport. The first thing some visitors notice about Kathmandu is the general lack of house numbers and street names except for major roads such as Tri Devi & Ring Road (loops around the city). In the tourist district of Thamel, the Kathmandu Guest House (map) & Hot Breads bakery (map) are two main landmarks.

It is possible to get around Kathmandu by foot, but some may not always find the walking pleasant. It’s worth considering, however, whether any form of public transport would be easier or more convenient than walking when you consider the crowds, the narrow streets and lanes, the traffic and everything you might want to see.

Bhaktapur (map) – a UNESCO World Heritage site noted for its temples, and the wood, metal and stone carvings. Has festivals and celebrations nearly each month during the year; does not allow motorized vehicles inside the city.

*Boudhanath (also known as Boudha, map) is 7 km east/northeast of Kathmandu. It is home to one of the largest Buddhist stupas (map) in the world, built during the 5th century AD. Nowadays, the stupa is the most popular site for Buddhists in Nepal, and throughout the day pilgrims can be seen circumambulating the structure chanting mantras. It is especially spectacular at night when adorned with butter lamps. Remember to walk around the stupa in a clockwise direction and also to spin the prayer wheels clockwise.

*Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple, map). A site on a hill overlooking the city with a large stupa and other Buddhist and Hindu iconography. One of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the country. There are 350 steps to the top: the back route is less steep but the views on the way up are not as nice. Aside from the views over the city and the ancient carvings in every available space, it’s crowded with monkeys mingling with the visitors. This is one of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley.

Kathmandu *Durbar Square area (map). This ancient square, which is under reconstruction as of Jan 2019, is crowded with palaces and temples, including the current incarnation of the Kasthamandap or “Wooden house” that gives the city its name. The square has been occupied since the construction of a palace around 1000 CE. This site is the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal.

*Hanuman Dhoka is a complex of structures with the royal palace of the Malla kings and of the Shah dynasty. It is spread over five acres. The eastern wing, with ten courtyards, is the oldest part, dating to the mid-16th century.

Kumari Ghar (map) is a palace in the centre of the Kathmandu city, next to the Durbar square where a royal Kumari selected from several Kumaris resides. Kumari, or Kumari Devi, is the tradition of worshipping young pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi in South Asian countries.

The *Pashupatinath Temple (map) is a famous 5th century Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located on the banks of the Bagmati River, the Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu. This temple complex was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites’s list in 1979.

The *National Museum (map) is in the western part of Kathmandu, near the Swayambhunath stupa in a historical building constructed in the early 19th century by General Bhimsen Thapa. It is the most important museum in the country, housing an extensive collection of weapons, art and antiquities of historic and cultural importance.

The entrance fee for foreigners is Rs1000 (but nobody checks at night). If you plan to be in the area for more than one day, it’s worth being directed to the Site Office where you can exchange your single-entry ticket with a multiple-entry pass allowing you to wander in and out as you wish. You will need your passport and one passport photo.

There are dozens of tourist restaurants clustered in Thamel serving everything from Middle Eastern to Mexican food. Indian and Nepali dishes are always the most authentic and economically priced.

Public transport

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 BUS >   Sajha Yatayat

 AIRPORTS >   Tribhuvan International Airport, Ring Road (located 5.5 km east of the popular tourist area of *Thamel (map))

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