As the capital of Nepal, the place is filled by amazing villages, shrines, old temples and historic districts. Explore the livelihood of beautiful animals and Durbar Square’s monuments, and engage with other mountain trekkers in the Thamel District. Discover the majestic work by local artists specialized in paper prints and carpets on your shopping tour. (Be informed that some photos below are taken before the earthquake in 2015. Many of the architectures are actually damaged and re-construction is still in progress. Wish for a full recovery soon.)
POKHARA, NEPAL – OCTOBER 28, 2015 : People board a small airplane flying from Pokhara to Kathmandu. (Nick Fox / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – JUNE 2013: Patan Durbar Square (kagemusha / Shutterstock)
Kathmandu, Nepal – November 3, 2013: The Durbar Square on November 3, 2013 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Kathmandu Durbar Square was almost completely destroyed in the massive earthquake of 25 April, 2015. (Alenq / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – April 2012 : View of the Patan Durbar Square. It is one of the 3 royal cities in the Kathmandu, was destroyed after the earthquake of 2015 (Liudmila Kotvitckaia / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – MARCH 02: Unidentified pilgrims at the Boudhanath stupa on March 02, 2014, Kathmandu, Nepal (saiko3p / Shutterstock)
NEPAL, BHAKTAPUR – NOVEMBER, 2014: Temples, shops, restaurants and other buildings on Bhaktapur Durbar square before earthquake in April 2014 (tikiri / Shutterstock)
Sitting monkey on swayambhunath stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal (Copyright: HamsterMan)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – OCTOBER 28, 2015 : Old woman wearing traditional costume prays in front of a buddhist temple in Kathmandu, Nepal (Nick Fox / Shutterstock)
Bhaktapur, Nepal. Aug.31-2010 Nepalese girl (Marianoblanco / Shutterstock)
BHAKTAPUR, NEPAL – APRIL 01: An unidentified Nepalese craftswoman at work in Bhaktapur, Nepal on April 01, 2010. Bhaktapur is located about 20 km east of Kathmandu (Zzvet / Shutterstock)
Kathmandu, Nepal – September 18, 2012: Hindu women in traditional red sari celebrating the Haritalika Teej festival on the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal (eAlisa / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – FEBRUARY 27, 2016: Locals use prayer wheels at Swayambhunath temple. (Pat Nomad / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – October 25: Unidentified Nepali women dance in Kathmandu during Teej festival October 25, 2015 in Kathmandu. (FotoPospichal / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU – OCT 25: Nepalese people pay visit to Vishnu Hindu temple on 25 October in Kathmandu, Nepal. In Nepal 80.6 percent of the total population is Hindu. Buddhism comes second with 10 percent. (Hung Chung Chih / Shutterstock)
Colorful wooden masks and handicrafts on sale at shop in the Thamel District of Kathmandu, Nepal. (Copyright: R.M. Nunes)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – SEPT 10, 2015 : Nepali life in Thamel street on September 10, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. (KorradolYamsatthm / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – NOVEMBER 3, 2013:: Unidentified local people having a haircut at the barber shop in the streets of Kathmandu (gaborbasch / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – MAY 8: Nepalese schoolgirls walking on the street in Bhaktapur, Nepal, on January 8, 2010. Bhaktapur is located about 20 km east of Kathmandu. (Zzvet / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – OCTOBER 29 : Nepalese people walking at beside road at Thamel market on October 29, 2013 in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Anirut Thailand / Shutterstock)
Kathmandu, Nepal- Nepalese young girl hands together to do namaste on April 18, 2014 (Soultkd / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – FEB 02: Unidentified woman seling lamps to pilgrims at the Boudhanath stupa on February 02, 2014, Kathmandu, Nepal. (CRSHELARE / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – OCTOBER 29 : Traveler thai women people looking and select bread in shop for buy at thamel market on October 29, 2013 in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Anirut Thailand / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – SEPT 10, 2015 : Cow lying on the street in front of gas station on SEPT 10, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Cow is the God’s vehicles. Hindu people respect cow like god. (KorradolYamsatthm / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU,NEPAL-JUNE 08 ,2015 ,Kathmandu Durbar Square was repaired, maintained by the staff of the military and private sectors.after earthquake (Norrawat Ritamphan / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU,NEPAL -5 JAN : Undentified man use mobile in tourist attraction Patan Durbar Square in napel on January 5,2016 (November27 / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – SEPT 19: Swayambhunath Stupa on September 19,2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. This is famous place in Nepal. (KorradolYamsatthm / Shutterstock)
Kathesimbu Stupa is Buddhist stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Copyright: KorradolYamsatthm)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – DEC 18, 2015: Unidentified nepalese small boy sit and enjoy near Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal., Boudhanath is one of the largest ancient stupa in the world (Panom / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – DEC 18, 2015: Unidentified pilgrim prayer near Boudhanath Stupa in early morning at Kathmandu, Nepal., Boudhanath is one of the largest ancient stupa in the world. (Panom / Shutterstock)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – APRIL 29, 2015: Nepali residents take part in a candle lighting ceremony for those lost in the earthquake on a street in Kathmandu, Nepal (think4photop / Shutterstock)
Kathmandu, Nepal – Heart of the Himalayas
By Rama Tiwari
In the early 1850s, the English traveler, Francis Egerton, visited Nepal and described the city of Kathmandu as he saw it then: “A picturesque and quaint looking temple and a cluster of wide-eaved houses, profusely adorned with carved woodwork, form a pretty foreground. In the plain below is a broad river, on the opposite bank of which stands the town, with its numberless Chinese-looking temples, the brass work with which they are ornamented glittering in the sun.”
Kathmandu has been “off limits” to most foreigners for many years since then, and it was only in 1951 that tourists were permitted to visit Nepal. Set in the small Kathmandu Valley and surrounded by high mountains, Kathmandu is a medieval metropolis with superb artistic and architectural traditions that have miraculously survived the centuries.
The old town of Kathmandu is a masterpiece of urban planning created by the Newar people.
Most traditional buildings are built of red brick and dark wood. Courtyards and plazas abound on all sides, so that even though the streets are narrow and the population many, there is a feeling of space and harmony. The windows and doors of traditional houses are decorated with lavish carvings of varied designs.
Kathmandu’s royal palace is a massive structure with thick mud walls, shady porticoes and 55 courtyards. It is decorated with huge quantities of gilded copper.
The temples of Kathmandu are everywhere. Small shrines are found in courtyards (chowks), squares and back lanes, and are part of the everyday life.
Dozens of mandirs (temples) are scattered around Durbar Square, including the pagoda-like Jagannath Mandir built in the sixteenth century.
West of the city on a hill with commanding views of the city is the Buddhist stupa (mound-like sacred structure) named Swayambhu (or Swayambhunath). This is the most ancient and sacred Buddhist shrine in Kathmandu.
On top of the mound is a cube with the celebrated “eyes of the Buddha” looking in all four directions, and the whole building is surmounted by a golden spire. Swayambhu is occasionally known as the Monkey Temple, due to the hundreds of monkeys that roam the temple confines. Nepal’s most important and sacred Hindu temple is Pashupatinath. It is dramatically located on the banks of the Bagmati River on the eastern side of Kathmandu. The temple is built as a pagoda, with some of the roofs clad with copper overlaid with gold.
Pashupatinath is regarded as the important Shiva (Pashupati) temple in the world and Hindu pilgrims come there from all over the world, including from every corner of Nepal and India. The temple complex is an amazing scene to behold with pilgrims, semi-naked sadhus (holy men), ritual bathing in the river, and cremation ghats.
Not far from Pashupatinath is Bodnath, the most important Tibetan Buddhist monument outside Tibet. Bodnath is the largest stupa in Nepal and is the religious center for Nepal’s large community of Tibetans.
Kathmandu’s heritage is much more than its architecture. The visitor will enjoy the festivals, the handicrafts and treks to the nearby Himalayan foothills. Kathmandu will richly reward the visitor who is willing to stay for more than a day or two, and who tries to explore the city and the culture a little more and to meet and mix with the local people. With the massive changes brought to Kathmandu with the arrival of mass tourism, democracy, globalization, and new technologies, much traditional life and many customs are disappearing in Kathmandu, especially among the younger generation.
Modern Kathmandu does have its share of problems, including poverty and pollution.
But for the visitor who wants to see and experience a city and a culture that is quite different from the typical city in their home country, Kathmandu is still is a remarkable and unforgettable place in the heart of the Himalayas.
Rama Tiwari is founder and proprietor of the bookstore and publishing business, Pilgrims Book House, of Varanasi, India and Kathmandu, Nepal. For further reading on Kathmandu and Nepal, visit http://www.pilgrimsbooks.com/guidebooks_nepal.html Please also visit Rama’s Squidoo lens, Kathmandu, which features some fascinating videos on Kathmandu.