Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, is set in a valley surrounded by the Himalayan mountains. At the heart of the old city’s mazelike alleys is Durbar Square, which becomes frenetic during Indra Jatra, a religious festival featuring masked dances. Many of the city’s historic sites were damaged or destroyed by a 2015 earthquake. Durbar Square’s palace, Hanuman Dhoka, and Kasthamandap, a wooden Hindu temple, are being rebuilt.
The square’s Maju Deval, a pagoda known for its steep stairs, is also being rebuilt. The city’s other notable religious sites being rebuilt include Swayambhunath, a Buddhist temple known as the “Monkey Temple” for its main inhabitants, and Boudhanath, a massive Buddhist stupa. Pashupatinath, a Hindu temple dating to the 1400s, survived the earthquake. South of the Bagmati River is the city of Patan, renowned for metalsmithing and other crafts, and home to the Patan Museum, housing Hindu, Buddhist, and Tantric artifacts. Regional food specialties are momos (dumplings), dal bhat (lentils, rice, and vegetables) and Newari buffalo dishes.
This endlessly fascinating, sometimes infuriating city has enough sights to keep you busy for a week, but be sure to leave its backpacker comforts and explore the ‘real Nepal’ before your time runs out.
Some of the famous festivals of Kathmandu:
Kathmandu and Dubar Square is the center for many of Nepal’s festivals. Note that many businesses are closed for all of these holidays and often a few days before and after. Dasain, in particular, tends to shut down much of the city for October.
Dashain (Dasain), the most important of Nepal’s religious festivals takes place over fifteen days, between September and October each year. Dashain celebrates all of the manifestations of the goddess Durga, it is marked by animal sacrifices and feasting. It serves to renew family and community ties. Due to many residents of Kathmandu returning home to their villages during Dashain, the city takes on a more peaceful atmosphere.
Tihar, Festival of Lights is a five-day festival which takes place each year on the fifteenth day of Kartika, around the end of October/start of November, celebrated by all Hindus with ritual house-cleaning, lanterns, candles, and fireworks. The Nepali version tends to be more picturesque and less explosive than those celebrated in India.
Holi is celebrated in March with splashes of water and colored powder that is both good luck and very messy.
Bikram Sambat’s New Year’s (April) A day of pilgrimages (often from Kathmandu to the holy Bagmati river that separates it from Patan)
Teej, the most important women’s festival, is celebrated in September with married women dressed in their red marriage saris visiting male relatives and unmarried women and girls staying up all night to celebrate and pray for their future husbands.
Indra Jatra Harvest festival held in Kathmandu’s Dubar Square for 8 days each September. The Goddess Kumari is paraded in her sacred chariot.
Himalayan Blues Festival is one of the most acclaimed music festivals in Kathmandu. It takes place in the months of October–November in Kathmandu. It boasts of having the best venues like the Garden of Dreams and Patan Museum. It also happens in many bars and different hotel venues. It features musicians from all around the world.
Most high-grade Temples in the Kathmandu City are all down here:
The sheer number of temples located in Kathmandu and the surrounding valley has earned it the nickname City of Temples. You could easily spend your entire Kathmandu trip hopping from one temple to the next. To help narrow it down, here are five you definitely shouldn’t miss.
Swayambhunath Temple, situated southwest of Kathmandu, is instantly recognizable by its golden spires with ominous-looking eyes painted on them. This Buddhist temple, nicknamed the Monkey Temple for its large population of resident monkeys, affords spectacular views of the city lying in the valley below.
Take an early morning or evening stroll around the inspiring white dome buzzing with energy; observe the devout passersby, light a butter lamp and send a prayer where you wish, look around for souvenirs, or observe all from a nearby rooftop restaurant, coffee in hand. Situated 8 km to the east of downtown Kathmandu, Boudhanath, is one of the most imposing landmarks in Kathmandu, visible as soon as you land at the Tribhuvan International Airport. It is the largest stupa in the Kathmandu Valley. The 36-meter-high stupa of Boudhanath is one of the largest stupas in South Asia. With countless monasteries surrounding it, Boudhanath is the center of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. Built-in the shape of a mandala designed to replicate the Gyangtse of Tibet, the stupa was renovated by Licchhavi rulers in the 8th century. The location of the stupa is interesting as it once lay on the ancient trade route to Tibet and it was here that Tibetan merchants rested and offered prayers for centuries. On each side are a pair of the all-seeing-eyes of the Buddha symbolizing awareness. The canopy has 13 stages. At ground level, there is a brick wall with 147 niches and 108 images of the meditational Buddha inset behind copper prayer wheels.
Off the main tourist circuit, Budhanilkantha Temple centers around a 16-foot (5-meter) statue of the reclining Hindu god Vishnu in the middle of a pool of water. You’ll likely find more local devotees than tourists at this holiest of Hindu temples in Nepal, and at a busy period, visitors are treated to a glimpse of day-to-day worship at this traditional temple.
Kirateshwar Mahadev Temple:
If you happen to be in Nepal during a full moon, plan to visit Kirateshwar Mahadev Temple, situated just outside the city center. On every full moon night, this temple on the western shore of the Bagmati River hosts a free classical music concert using traditional instruments like tabla, flute, and sitar. This temple is a legacy of the Kirant Dynasty of Nepal Valley. According to the gurus present here, Kirantis prayed and buried the dead at Kirateshwar. Although the architecture is simple, what’s interesting is the Nepali music concert that is held every full moon night. Enjoy your evening with some soothing music produced by classical instruments like tabla, flute, and sitar. Entry is free.
Located just east of Kathmandu on the banks of the Bagmati River, the Pashupatinath temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and is best known for its magnificent architecture. The two-story pagoda structure houses a sacred linga, or phallic symbol, of Shiva, making it one of the most important Hindu temples in Nepal and the most important Shaivite temple in the subcontinent. Pashupatinath is also the site of the most-used cremation spot in the Kathmandu Valley.
Now, let’s focus on some of the best places to travel in Kathmandu:
It’s time that you explore Kathmandu fair and square. Go for off-beaten tracks and trails and enjoy discovering Taudaha Lake. A small lake that’s located on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Taudaha represents ‘snake’ and ‘lake.’
The name comes from mythology, where it is believed that a Buddhist mythical character Manjushree had cut the hill to drain the water of this lake, which is why the lake is now smaller than it used to be. However, due to the draining of the lake, countless nagas, mythological creatures who were half snakes and half-humans were left homeless. And therefore, an underwater lake or Taudaha was built, where serpent king and the subjects lived. That’s why the lake is considered tranquil. This lake is perfect for birdwatchers, as several migratory species visit the place.
Location: Kathmandu District, Kirtipur.
A haven for tourists visiting Kathmandu, Thamel is a popular destination. The place has several hotels, shops, and restaurants that are particularly designed to cater to a discerning range of customers. The commercial location is an easy walk from central Kathmandu and there are several activities that you can enjoy at this place.all its attractions make it a place to visit in Kathmandu you cannot miss during your trip.
The streets are quite fascinating at Thamel. But be cautious of sellers who might want to rip you off. Otherwise, the place is good for buying anything from Tibetan Singing Bowls to Glass Pipes. Just remember to bargain a little as the prices can come down to 2/3rdof the quoted prices. Here, you can also enjoy shopping incense sticks, Kukri swords, outdoor outfits, and books. Over a hundred different eateries are located at this market. So, eat whatever cuisine you wish to try.
Location: Thamel, Kathmandu.
A prominent mountain peak in Nepal, Phulchowki surrounds the valley of Kathmandu. The mountain is called ‘Phul,’ to reflect flowers, the literal meaning. This place is a natural garden of flowers and everything bright-beautiful!
The Mountain is a bed of wild roses, along with iris, yellow jasmine, and several native flowers. Exploring it is fun and enchanting because of the grove of rhododendrons in various hues. The path or the trail towards the summit includes keeping able roads. The route takes you through the Buddhist shrine as well. If you have tried trekking or love hiking, then this is your place to visit in Kathmandu trip- it shouldn’t take more than four hours. The area is well known for its resorts as well. If you are looking for something peaceful or if you are searching for a short, easy day hike, then this is the place that should be listed in your itinerary.
Location: Royale, Nepal.
Asan, a shopper’s delight is one of the main marketplaces in central Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. The place is a historic bazaar which has been popular for decades. The section is known for its festival calendar and strategic location as well.
Streets at Asan converge in a square, which makes it a perpetual, bustling region. The colors here are vivid and bright, which makes it more enticing for travelers. A variety of merchandise and a diverse range of products are sold at this place, which makes it more exciting for travelers. Here, you can buy anything from spices to textiles, bullions, electronics, and food items. The market is home to several architectural sights as well.
Nepal holds a prominent place in Buddhist culture. The country has several monasteries, including Seto Gumba or the White Monastery. This is a natural beauty with the relevant religious importance. The white monastery is surrounded by a lush green valley and vivid terrain which makes it such a delight to watch and a must place you cannot miss visiting in Kathmandu.
The White Monastery gives heavenly pleasure and provides birds eye’s view of the Kathmandu Valley. One of the main highlights of this monastery is its white color as well as the serenity and calmness that it has to offer. The monastery has several murals, statues, and paintings that can provide in-depth information about Buddhism. The place is on off-beaten track but located close to the Swoyambhunath Stupa.
Timings: The place is open from morning to evening only on Saturdays.
Founded by Lama Thubten Yeshe, who died in 1984, Kopan monastery is a sacred Buddhist site in the world. Located on the hilltop north of Bodhnath, the monastery is a pleasant place where you can explore and study Buddhism.
The monastery is still looking for the reincarnation of Lama Yeshe. However, the young Spanish boy, who was declared to be reincarnated Lama no longer resides at the Kopan Monastery. He renounced his vows and now works in Ibiza as a cinematographer. But that’s not what’s intriguing about the monastery. The place is best known for its books on Buddhist psychology and philosophy. Kopan is a pleasant walk from Bodhnath and Gokarna Mahadev Temple.
Location: Kopan Monastery, Nepal.
Timings: Open for tourists from morning to evening.
Explore Buddhism through the eyes of Khawalung Monastery. Founded by Vajra Master Jigme Dorje Rinpoche, the spiritual heir of Choying Wangpo Rinpoche, the monastery preserves, upholds and disseminates general Buddhist Teachings. this tourist place in Kathmandu is a haven for spiritual seekers.
The monastery has been detailed extensively in terms of its architecture, inspired by the Buddhist styles and structure. It is also a major sect of Vahrayana Buddhism and provides teachings about religion. At the moment, three teachers work at the elementary and training school, teaching rites and rituals to the next generation. Besides religious education, the place is known for basic and advanced courses as well. It even provides children with medical expenses, free food and clothing. The same is offered to all the monks residing here.
Location: Kapan, Nepal.
Timings: Open for tourists from morning to evening.
According to Tibetan Buddhism, the Shechen Monastery is one of the six mother monasteries of the Nyingma tradition. It was built in 1695 by Shechen Rabjam Tenpé Gyaltsen. It was heavily influential during the 18th and 19th centuries and that’s why the place during the Cultural Revolution. However, in the late 1950’s Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, one of the great luminaries of Tibetan Buddhism in the 20thcentury started transplanting its rich tradition to a new home i.e. Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery located near the great Stupa of Bodhnath, in the Kathmandu Valley.
This monastery serves as a school and residence to over 400 monks. The monastery is a fine example of Tibetan art, which took almost 10 years to complete. Frescoes covering the walls of the temple depict the great history of Tibetan Buddhism.
Location: Kathmandu, Nepal.
Timings: Everyday 24 hours open.
Kathmandu can get quite crowded during the holidays. But if you want someplace peaceful and quiet, then there’s a perfect spot for you. It is the Royal Botanical Gardens. The place is quaint and great for walking and picnic. However, you might want to avoid it on Fridays and Saturdays, as schoolkids often visit the place then. While the place was slightly damaged during the earthquake, repairs are going on and the place will be back to its glory.
One of the main highlights of this place is the visitor center, where you can experience an enormous variety of Nepal’s flora. The place includes a cactus house, orchid house, and a tropical house as well. In the middle of the center is the coronation pond, with a pillar. Add the Botanical Garden in the list of places to visit in Kathmandu, if you want to enjoy the beautiful nature in Nepal.
Location: Godavari, Kathmandu.
Garden of Dreams
The beautifully restored Swapna Baigicha, also known as Garden of Dreams is a popular tourist place in Kathmandu to visit offers respite and rejuvenation from the stresses of the world. It is one of the most stunning places in the world. The garden was built in the 1920s and has been brought back to life by the Austrian financed team. The stunningly restored garden has gorgeous and refined details.
Some of the main highlights of this place includes marble inscription from Omar Khayam’s Rubaiyat, beautiful fountains and ponds. The palace is home to a quirky ‘hidden garden’ as well. It also features three pavilions. The place is ideal for going out for a picnic or just to marvel at the human-nature interaction. The place is a must-visit for travelers.
Timings: Open from 9 am to 10 pm. Last entry is at 9 pm.
Price: Rs 120 depending on adults or children.
Langtang National Park
Explore starry nights, have a rendezvous with the wild and discover the joys of nature by visiting Langtang National Park. The fourth national park and the first Himalayan National Park in the country encompass 26 Village Committees. The stunningly beautiful park has borders with Tibet and follows the course of Bhote Kosi and Trisuli rivers.
With forests of pine and bamboo trees, this park captures attention instantly. It ascends through the pastures at the alpine meadows and it is right here where you will find outstanding mountain views. The flora and fauna of this place are just incredible, one of the reasons why it is perfect for hiking and camping trips. Langtang national park is also known as a great trekking place in Kathmandu. The place has decent tea houses and quite friendly locals who can help you through the course of your journey.
Location: Close to Kathmandu.
Timings: Open at all times.
A Top spot in tourist places in Kathmandu, travelers can enjoy Himalayan views and the panorama here. Nagarkot is well known for its stunning natural beauty and several hotels. The village is stacked up with hotels and accommodations, allowing you to view nature straight from the balcony. The views itself are breathtaking and it can get quite cold in here!
The sunrise view of the Mount Everest and other peaks gives this place a considerable edge. The major highlight of this place is the fact that 8 out of 13 Himalayan ranges in Nepal are visible from this place. The place is known for its views of the Kathmandu valley, Shivapuri National Park, Number Forest, Rolwaling range, Ganesh Himal, and Langtang range. The location is quite strategic. Once upon a time, this place served as the ancient fort for Kathmandu valley. Then, it was used to monitor other kingdoms. Today, it is a popular hill station, where you can stay and enjoy a blissful holiday.
Location: Nagarkot, Bhaktapur District.
Best Time To Visit: October to March.