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Kathmandu, Nepal

Bodhnath stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal
Durbar Square, Patan, Nepal Ornate window in Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal
Above: Bodhnath stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Bodhnath stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Durbar Square, Patan, Nepal
  • Ornate window in Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu has been welcoming tourists for over 60 years, with most people coming to try to climb Everest in the beginning.

In the 50’s there was just one hotel in Kathmandu, but these days you could probably spend a few months in the city and stay in a different hotel every day.

Kathmandu has been long been on various Himalayan trade routes and first came to prominence in the 9th Century. Originally known as Kantipur, its present name came from Kasthamandap (Pavilion of wood) that was constructed as a rest-house along the main Tibet – India trade route in the late 12th Century; this pavilion still stands in the city centre today. Since then the city has been ruled by Malla kings, political families and powerful dynasties. The city today is an eclectic mix of people and architecture, demonstrating all the people and goods that were brought along its important trade routes. Walking around the city, it is easy to get lost in a distant medieval world, the narrow, uneven streets that lead to wood taverns and cramped shops, fruit and vegetable traders on the side, fires burning from roadside tea shops and blind barbers on the street corners. Hinduism has a plethora of Gods dedicated to everything imaginable. You will find stupas at every crossing, temples stuck behind cigarette shops and even a statue to the God of toothache. Thamel, as the main tourist part of the city is easy to walk around and here you will find everything you need for your time in Nepal and more. Trekking stores are ubiquitous, as are small local tour operators, hotels and restaurants. On any night you will find tens of bars playing live western music. You can get any number of counterfeit goods, and the tiger balm and hashish sellers always seem to follow you around.

Away from the tourist area of Thamel the city remains cloaked in excitement and mystery, dark secrets and bright celebrations. It is a city that often mixes Oriental architecture with the beliefs of the sub-continent. When you arrive in Kathmandu you are thrown headlong into the hustle and bustle of this wonderful city. As you wander the streets your senses will be assaulted on all levels by an endless cacophony of noise with cars tooting, rickshaws ringing, cows wandering and people chanting in the temples.

Kathmandu is most peoples first real taste of Nepal with all international flights landing at the city’s Tribhumvan airport. From there, it is only a short 20 minute car ride into Thamel (the heart of Kathmandu and indeed Nepal’s tourist industry).

There are many options for eating in Kathmandu – You can take your pick from a vast array of international cuisine or sample some of the local Nepali or Newari food at one of the many traditional restaurants. Thamel also has some very good bakeries, excellent choices for Yak cheese sandwiches or western style cakes.

Some of the best things to do in Kathmandu are:

  • Visit Swaymabuh Temple ( a steep climb that offers unparalleled views of the Kathmandu Valley.
  • Take a trip to the impressive Bodhnath Stupa.
  • Take in a meditation course at one of the many Tibetan Buddhist schools and centres.
  • Walk from the centre of Thamel to Durbar Square and call in on a living Goddess.
  • Drive to Nagarkot and trek back down to the town.
  • Take a scenic mountain flight and view Everest from up in the clouds.
  • Visit nearby Patan and Bhaktapur.

When leaving Kathmandu by air travellers should note that there is a departure tax of UK£13 payable.

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