Kathmandu Pictures Guide, Nepal

Kathmandu city seen from Swayanbanuth pagoda, Nepal

The view  from Swayanbanuth ‘Monkey’ temple, Kathmandu pictures. 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!

Kathmandu’s Main Attractions

Bodnath Stupa

• Swayambunath (Monkey) Temple

• Durbar Square (all three! )

• Kumari House of the Living God

Pashupatinath Temple

• Garden of Dreams

A gold Shiva gnawing on a human leg bone, Kathmandu, Nepal

A gold Shiva gnawing on a human leg bone.

If you are an ultra-hygenic, quiet-life sort of person then Kathmandu may not be your idea of Shangri-La. Like much of India/China it is crowded, noisy, polluted and frequently very dirty; gentle tourists can expect to get hassled a lot by vendors, guides and occasional beggars.

Swayambhunath Temple

spinning prayer wheels around Swayanbanuth Temple, Nepal

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.

Durbar Square, Kathmandu

Kathmandu street children near Durbar Square, Nepal

Nara Devi, the main road approaching Durbar Square, the heart of the old city.

This is both the historic and spiritual heart of Kathmandu, packed with incredible old buildings, statues, fountains, fascinating people and attractive little shops, though the ‘guides’ insisting on offering overpriced services are tiresome and need to be rejected very firmly if you are to get any peace. If you like this area then you also must visit two other Durbar Squares, one in Bhaktapur and the other in Patan, but both an easy day trip from Kathmandu.

Kumari, the Living Goddess

Kumari Gar, the house of the Living Goddess, Kathmandu, Nepal

Kumari Gar, the house of the Living Goddess, built in 1757 but pretty clearly renovated since then.

The Kumari is a young girl who is believed to be the incarnation of the demon-slaying Hindu goddess Durga. Dating back at least to the Middle Ages, the cult of the Kumari is popular among both Hindus and Nepalese Buddhists.
During the selection process for the Kumari Devi, Buddhist girls aged from three to five are gathered and Elders approve those with signs of divinity.

The small group are then left in a darkened room with severed buffalo heads and dancing men wearing demon masks. The girl who shows no fear is likely to be the incarnation of Durga. In the final test, the girl must be able to pick out the clothing of her predecessor.

Once discovered, the Kumari moves into the Kumari Ghar beside Durbar Squarein Kathmandu and is worshipped as a living goddess. Her needs and those of her caretakers are paid in full by the Nepalese government and she spends most of her time studying and performing religious rituals. She only leaves the temple a few times a year during festivals and her feet must never touch the ground. More

General Kathmandu Pictures

The Old Palace in central Kathmandu, Nepal

The Old Palace in central Kathmandu.

A tailor working on a temple terrace, Kathmandu, Nepal

A tailor hard at work in his ancient shop.

A traffic jam in new Kathmandu, Nepal

Just to keep it real, here’s a shot of Kathmandu outside the old town and outside the best season too. Photo by sundar1.

A dog sleeping on carved stone stairs in Kathmandu, Nepal

Dog Day Afternoon in Durbar Square.

A lady praying at a Ganesh shrine, Kathmandu, Nepal

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.