The view over Kathmandu from Swayanbanuth ‘Monkey’ temple. Photo by Ester Inbar.
The Kathmandu Valley
The Kathmandu Valley’s three incredible ‘medieval’ towns are full of bizarre monuments, fantastically carved woodwork and pleasant, peculiar people. The three towns merge into one megopolis generally known as Kathmandu and are within an hour’s ride of each other.
Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan all offer incredible sights, much of it located in their Durbar Squares – all three have a Durbar Square!
Spinning prayer wheels around Swayambhunath Temple, high above Kathmandu.
A fascinating and popular Buddhist site, Swayambhunath requires a bit of effort to get to but the views over the Kathmandu Valley are exceptional, especially very early or late in the day. The climb up steps to reach the temple is a good workout if you approach from the east, with 365 steps. From the south its much shorter. Driving most of the way is also possible.
Beware showing the monkeys there anything that looks like food, they lack manners and will grab and run! But they do add a certain interest to an already beautiful location. There may be some tiresome vendors there but there are also some little shops selling spectacular local handicrafts.
General Kathmandu Pictures
The Old Palace in central Kathmandu.
A tailor hard at work in his ancient shop.
Just to keep it real, here’s a shot of Kathmandu outside the old town and outside the best season too. Photo by sundar1.
Dog Day Afternoon in Durbar Square.
A local woman makes a quick prayer to Ganesh the elephant god by pasting on some red gunk that has, over time, obliterated Ganesh’s features. Another moment in the life of Kathmandu.
Garden of Dreams
If you’re yearning for some peace and quiet in Katmandu then you could try the Garden of Dreams in the Thamel district, a neo classical ‘architectural landscape’ with pavilions, manicured planting areas and a sunken flower garden with a central pond. It’s a regular oasis in the city with high walls to keep out the noise and lovely ambient lighting at night. The attached café/restaurant is expensive so bring your own snacks and drinks!
Sights Outside Kathmandu
• Changu Narayan, an ancient temple on a high hilltop surrounded by forest a small village, also called Changu. The temple is in the Bhaktapur District about 8 miles east of Kathmandu.
• Kopan Monastery, a fully working Tibetan Buddhist monastery in a beautiful location not far from Bodnath stupa.
• Buddha Nilkantha Temple, mainly a giant stone image of lord Vishnu lying on a bed of coiled snakes in the middle of a pond. About half an hour out of town.
• DakshinKali Temple, 10 kms out of town it’s dedicated to the macabre goddess Kali, and features animal sacrifices twice a week. If you wish to see the shrine/sacrifices go very early or be prepared to queue.
Best Festivals in the Khatmandu Valley
Dates are based on the moving Nepalese lunar calendar, so vary year by year.
February-March, Losar, Tibet New Year, 1 day and a couple of days before.
February-March, Maha Shivarat, 1 day, especially wacky at Pashupatinath temple.
February-March, Holi/Fagu, a week of mad water and coloured powder-throwing.
March-April, Chait Dasain, 3 days of animal sacrifices.
April-May, Nawa Barsa, 5 days of wild events in Bhaktapur.
April-May, Rato Machendranath Jatra, pulling a monster chariot around Patan over days, if not weeks.
July-August, Gunhi Punhi, funny costume days in Bhaktapur.
August-September, Indra Jatra, a week of mad processions and masked dancing in Khatmandu.
September-October, Dasain, Nepal’s biggest festival, two weeks long and not as visually exciting as some though very gory.
October-November, Tihar, a 5 day festival of light; the third day is the most entertaining with candles and fireworks everywhere.
For some precise dates and more information see: Exotic Festivals