Exploring Kathmandu – 4 Top Attractions

You don’t need to even step foot in Kathmandu to appreciate its visions of spirituality and intrigue. First captured as the home of Shangri-la by the novelist James Hilton, then epitomized in song by Cat Stevens, it seems the world cannot get enough of this place, the capital of Nepal. It’s such an inspirational place that you’ll have no trouble finding things to do, but to whet your appetite, here are a few ideas for exploration in Kathmandu.

Durbar Square. Photo credit - LavenderStreak & JudePics.

Durbar Square. Photo credit - LavenderStreak & JudePics.

Starting in Durbar Square

Durbar Square is where most tourists start their exploring in Kathmandu. Don’t be confused by the fact that three cities in Nepal have a Durbar Square – Durbar is a Nepali word for palace, so these were the courtyards in front of the royal palaces. Some of the oldest wooden buildings are here, and the square is a lively focal point with busy pedestrian traffic, selling, and tourists. The square is lined with quadrangles hiding courtyards and more temples.

Pashupatinath Temple, one of the holiest temple of Lord Shiva. Photo credit - 3dom.

Pashupatinath Temple, one of the holiest temple of Lord Shiva. Photo credit - 3dom.

Crossing the Bagmati to Patan

Once a separate city, today the Bagmati river is simply a geographic divide between Patan and Kathmandu, now a united city. It is hard to believe but Patan is packed with even more temples than Kathmandu, as well as several Buddhist monasteries – favorites include Kumbeshwar Temple, Banglamukhi Temple, or the Hiranya Varna Mahaa Vihar. Along the eastern part of Kathmandu you will find Pashupatinath Temple lined on the river banks, one of the most sacred among the temples of Lord Shiva. You’ll also find a lot of artists here, such as metal workers, and hence why they call Patan the city of artists.

Thamel District. Photo credit by - McKaySavage & s.o.m.o

Thamel District. Photo credit by - McKaySavage & s.o.m.o

Shopping & Partying in the Thamel District

The unique experiences continue over in Kathmandu’s Thamel district. These narrow streets are abuzz with pedestrians, motorcycles, cars, and bikes. Tourists and locals both pop into the various shops, restaurants, and bars that line both sides of each lane while cheesy 80s music blares out into the air. The fun continues here late into the night (with or without electric power) so it is the perfect place to come and let your hair down.

A pond at Bhaktapur's entrance (left) and intricate carvings throughout the village (right). Photo credit - TheDreamSky & Dey.

A pond at Bhaktapur's entrance (left) and intricate carvings throughout the village (right). Photo credit - TheDreamSky & Dey.

A Day Trip to Bhaktapur

Just east of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur is a gorgeous medieval village which historically was a very wealthy town given its strategic point along the India-Tibet trading route. With cars forbidden in the city center, you can step back and look over the gorgeous architecture, such as the famed Peacock window, while making the most of the ambience. Be also sure to get up and close and have a look at the wooden carving and all the pottery which seems to be scattered everywhere.

If You Go

Despite the remote location, it’s become relatively straightforward to reach Nepal. Direct air service is available throughout Asia, including cities like Hong Kong, Delhi, and Singapore. Most visitors can purchase a visa on arrival in the airport; you’ll need a passport photo but there are facilities available in the airport. Once you’re in, it’s easy to get around – consider a rickshaw in cities to get from one end of the city to another, or an organized tour to take you further afield.

Nepal is very safe but keep an eye out for the dreaded power cuts, required because the country cannot produce enough electricity to meet demands. This means you might have to travel on streets without streetlights. Although you’ll more likely trip than be pick-pocketed, take precautions never the less – its a rising problem that you should be aware of.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Experiences.