5 tips for Kathmandu

Kathmandu Skyline
© Richie Chan | Dreamstime.com

When you get off the plane in Kathmandu, you land in a completely different world.

The air pollution is high. In fact, it is the third highest in the world. In addition, Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world… So it’s no wonder that it takes a little time to find your way around the colorful chaos of the city, to get used to the endless traffic chaos and to find your bearings again in the maze of alleys.

For some Kathmandu can be quite a culture shock, for others it is pure magic! Because Kathmandu is unique, fascinating and overwhelming at the same time.

Tip 1: Boudhanath Stupa

Boudhanath Stupa is one of the 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Kathmandu Valley and is one of the most famous sights in the country.  Boudhanath surrounds a mystical and spiritual atmosphere that captivates every traveler.

Boudhanath Stupa – or simply Boudha – is a Buddhist temple complex in the eastern part of Kathmandu. It is located about 8km from Thamel city center and is one of the most imposing landmarks of the capital. With its 36m height, this stupa is one of the largest structures of its kind in the world.

The large Buddha eyes look in all four directions into the distance and symbolize knowledge. The Tibetan community in Nepal has also settled in this part of the city. Well over 50 gombas (Tibetan monasteries) have already been established there.

Boudhanath Stupa is considered a haven of peace from the hectic capital. Although the stupa is located directly on a main road, this place is surrounded by a calmness accompanied by the mantras of praying pilgrims. The best time to visit is in the morning or evening. Then you will witness many devotees doing their religious practices and lighting butter candles. Please behave respectfully during these important moments for pilgrims.

Tip 2: Swayambhunath

Different paths lead to the temple complex with the Buddhist stupa. The Grand Staircase is the main access. The temple complex is also called the Monkey Temple. The stupa of Swayambhunath is one of the landmarks of Kathmandu. An age of more than 2,000 years makes the stupa one of the oldest shrines in the Kathmandu Valley and is located on a fabled mountain about two kilometers west of Kathmandu.

Nicknamed one of the holiest sites in the Kathmandu Valley, it is home to a large population of wild monkeys that inhabit the site. Because the temple complex is a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists, they have long lost their shyness towards humans. If they smell food, the visitors are not immune to being stolen by the monkeys.

The temples of Swayambhutha are, together with Borobodur on the island of Java, the oldest Buddhist temples in the world. The interior of the temple is estimated to be up to 2,500 years old. A temple is believed to have been built in the 5th century during the reign of King Manadeva. The oldest surviving inscriptions date from the first third of the 13th century. However, this complex was destroyed by Muslims around 1450. Most of the complex visible today is from the subsequent reconstruction.

Tip 3: Kathmandu Durbar Square

Durbar Square is the name given to the square in front of the old royal palace of Kathmandu, which houses more than 50 temples and pagodas in a very small space. Today, Durbar Square has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is one of the most important sights of Kathmandu due to its central location in the old city. Due to the numerous buildings worth seeing, and the history associated with them, a tour accompanied by a guide is highly recommended.

This way, the most interesting buildings can be explored and you will also learn more about the origin of the place and the cultural significance for the local people. Once there were three royal squares in the Kathmandu Valley, where Nepal’s capital Kathmandu is located, and Durbar Square in Kathmandu is one of them. All the royal squares in the centrally located Kathmandu Valley, just like the famous Durbar Square in Kathmandu, have been named World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Durbar Square has thus developed around the royal palace in the state capital and still forms the absolute highlight for all guests of the city.

Tip 4: Garden of Dreams

The Garden of Dreams is a small garden complex, very close to Thamel. The garden complex was built in the 1920s by Field Marshal “Emperor Shamser” next to his palace. He had seen several English mansions with magnificent gardens on his travels and was inspired by them. Therefore, the garden looks surprisingly European. The garden was neglected to the point of decay for a long time. As a result, the garden was restored within six years (finished in 2007).  Unfortunately, from the original 1.6 hectares and six pavilions, only 0.5 hectares and three pavilions remained. The Nepalese take their girlfriends and wives out here and the beautiful photo locations are intensively used by tourists.

The complex is like a small quiet oasis in the middle of the urban jungle of Kathmandu. You can escape the street noise and dust for a moment and come to rest in the café or on one of the numerous benches.

Tip 5: Pashupatinath Temple

The most important Hindu shrine Pashupatinath is located about five kilometers east of downtown Kathmandu. The pilgrims sometimes travel from very far. The area around the temple is also freely accessible to tourists, but only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple. The temple is dedicated to Shiva in his incarnation as “Lord of the Animals”. The dead are cremated on the banks of the narrow Bagmati River, which is right next to Pashupatinath.

Even in pre-Christian times, a sacred site existed at the location of the Pashupatinath temple. The first temple was built in the 5th century. Under the Malla dynasty around 1696 it received its present appearance. The temple was built in the form of a pagoda, which has two roof levels with gilded copper. Silver plates cover the four entrance gates. The main entrance is the western gate, where there is a large bull with its rear end facing outward. The central sanctuary is a fertility symbol of the god, representing the union of man and woman.

Foreign visitors, who are denied access to the temple, can find a scaled-down representation of the shrine at souvenir shops. However, they can get a glimpse of it at the Pancha Deval in the southeast of the complex. There is a reduced copy of the sanctuary. The background: The original may only be touched by four priests. All other believers scatter flowers over the copy and can also touch it briefly.