Kathmandu is an ancient beautiful city in central Nepal at an elevation of 1400 meters. Kathmandu valley refers to the whole valley of 665 square kilometers consisting of three different districts: Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur. The three districts are the three different ancient kingdoms popularly known as Kantipur, Bhadgaun, and Patan respectively. All these cities are full of ancient architectural buildings, palaces, and monuments including 7 World Heritage Sites.
must-visit places in Kathmandu you should recognize. However, many of them were badly devastated in the 2015 earthquake and most of them are in the process of renovation. As the country’s only international airport (TIA) lies here, this valley is a gateway for the Himalayan expeditions including the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest.
Thus, it is the center for all kinds of tourists around the world. The valley offers dozens of amazing places, historical facts, mysterious cultures, and many more. This article will describe 10 Must Visit Places in Kathmandu both for the national and the international visitors.
Thamel is one of the beauty spots for tourists as it offers everything to its visitors. The bustling narrow alleys, lining up the vendors on both sides trying to catch you up to make you buy their stuff, the constant music from the music stores, colorful lights twinkling in each shop, etc. give the impression that the special function is being celebrated eternally.
Different ranked hotels from the luxurious to the lower budget and restaurants are available in Thamel for catering the guests. Some of the major hotels have managed separate heated swimming pools, spa areas, fitness areas, barbeques, and many more facilities besides serving Nepalese and international dishes.
It is also the commercial hub with hundreds of stores selling metal and wooden handicrafts, colorful jewelry, trekking gears, traditional Nepalese clothing, singing bowls, Thangkas, khukuri (a traditional Gurkha Knife), and many other eatables like lapse, chhurpi, titaura. Almost all the necessary items required for the Nepal trip including the gear for a mountain expedition, Himalayan trekking, and the souvenirs for your loved ones are easily found in Thamel.
Thamel is an amazing area for you to spend a few hours strolling around, especially in the evenings. The narrow but clean streets, the beautiful stores with colorful lights, the constant music from the bars and pubs really please you. In recent years, Thamel is getting popular for the nightlife the whole Thamel remains alive till the crack of dawn. More importantly, the Thamel area is declared a vehicle-free area since 2017.
2. Swyambhunath (Monkey Temple)
Swyambhunath also popularly known as Monkey Temple is one of the must-visit destinations situated at the northwest of the valley. It is the great symbol of religious tolerance making the spot an important holy pilgrimage site both for Hindus and Buddhists. The Tibetan monasteries, museums, and libraries have recently been added offering the chance of learning more facts to its visitors.
According to mythology, the Kathmandu valley once was an enormous lake on which a large lotus grew. Manjushree, a Bodhisattva thought of making the valley suitable for human settlement, cut the gorge at Chovar draining out the valley. Later the giant lotus transformed into the Swayambhu hill and the flower became the Stupa.
An eternal flame existed naturally on the top of the hill from which the name “Swyambhu” was fixed meaning to “self-create” and over the eternal flame, the stupa was built. Another myth regarding the monkeys is also very interesting. Manjushree was supposed to have short hair but once he let it grow long and had some lice on his head.
The head refers to the hill and the long hair refers to the jungle around the hill whereas the lice are the monkeys in the jungle. The large pair of eyes have been painted on each of the four sides of the main stupa that represent wisdom and compassion. Those eyes are also believed to be wisely looking over the valley.
Bhaktapur is one of the wonderful ancient cities full of awe-inspiring medieval unique architectural temples, palaces, and monuments. The entire complex of the Bhaktapur site has been categorized into four sections: Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square, Pottery Square, and Dattatreya Square out of which the Durbar Square has been enlisted in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
This city is the home of countless temples and ancient structural arts looking like a massive display of traditional Newari architecture believed to be constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries. You see anything here is an amazing piece of art. Unfortunately, many of the structures are badly damaged in the 2015 earthquake. Some of them are under renovation process. Whether all these monuments will be renovated in the traditional beautiful state is a major concern today.
55 Windows Palace, Golden Gate, Nyatpole Temple are other major attractions of Bhaktapur. 55 Windows Palace (Pachpanna Jhyale Durbar) is an iconic monument of love built by Jitamitra Malla for his fifty-five wives in the 18th century. The Golden Gate (Sun Dhoka) is filled with lavish and important artifacts having a holy pool called Naga Pokhari inside. This mysterious pool encircled by the cobras is believed to be used by the goddess Taleju for her ritual baths.
Another holy site of Bhaktapur, Nyatpole Temple built-in 1702 is well known for its structural strength as it got only minor damage in the 2015 earthquake. This temple is considered the tallest building in the valley and the tallest temple in the country. However, in recent days it might not be true as there are many other tall buildings in the valley. The Nyatpole Temple was built dedicated to Goddess Siddhi Lakshmi, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati.
4. Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath is the most sacred and oldest Hindu temple of Lord Shiva, one of the most important Hindu gods, on the bank of a holy river Bagmati in Kathmandu. Pashupatinath temple is also one of the four most important Hindu religious sites in Asia. The temple is believed to be built in the 5th century is mainly attracted by the devotees of a super-powerful god having a tough character wearing the garland of serpents, putting the pest of ashes over the body, and consuming poisonous drugs.
He is also considered as the ideal figure that the Hindu women and girls pray to find husbands similar to him. Pashupatinath temple is the classic destination for spiritual devotees having its temple filled with amazing architectural designs which were enlisted in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979. Since it is the first Hindu pilgrimage site, the non-Hindus are forbidden to enter the main temple but are allowed to enjoy every function in the temple premises.
Although the temple is open throughout the year for regular worshipping activities, you can observe special fairs, especially during the festivals like Mahashivaratri. The devotees from Nepal, India, and many other countries gather on the day of Mahashivaratri every year. The physical structure of the temple is in traditional pagoda style with silver and gold-coated four sides roof. The beautiful wood carvings can be seen around the temple.
There are many other temples and sub-temples in the Pashupati area for both Hindu and Buddhists devotees revealing the fact of Nepal that this country is a secular country with a high degree of Religious Tolerance. This also reflects the unity of diversity which is the essence of Nepal.
Pashupatinath is also a popular cremation site for Hindu people. Having cremation in Pashupati is believed to be easier to enter the gate of heaven so, many dead bodies from far and wide are brought here. If you want your soul not to be trapped at the purgatory, ask your relatives to do the final rites at the Pasupatinath area.
About 30 kilometers east of Kathmandu, there is an amazing place called Nagarkot, probably only the nearest viewpoint from where you can experience the stunning views of Mt. Everest, Annapurna, Ganesh Himal, Manaslu, Langtang, and many more. Besides mountain views, you can also enjoy the panoramic views of Kathmandu valley and the Shivapuri National Park from Nagarkot.
Nagarkot also carries historic significance. The Nagarkot hill was an ancient fort of the Kathmandu valley to monitor the external activities of other neighboring kingdoms. Later, the royal family made it a summer retreat center as it is one of the cool and beautiful places at an elevation of 2195 meters.
Nagarkot offers the best paragliding with stunning Everest views. Spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit Nagarkot, especially on clear days. The excellent views from the hotel room give you the impression of paradise. Please contact Himalayan-Masters for a life-changing experience with high-quality service at an affordable cost.
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6. Boudhanath Stupa
Boudhanath or sometimes also called Bodnath Stupa is one of the largest stupas in the world. It lies on the ancient trade route from Tibet to enter the Kathmandu valley. The history shows some of the facts that Boudhanath was built in the 4th century when many of the Tibetans were entering Nepal.
The area where Boudhanath Stupa is there today was the entry point for the valley. Many refugees especially the Tibetans started residing around Boudha exercising Tibetan Buddhism. Till today Boudhanath Stupa is taken to be the most important center for Tibetan culture and Tibetan Buddhism.
7. Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square also called Basantapur Durbar Kshyatra is one of three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu valley that has also been enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage List. These amazing palaces are believed to be built in the Licchavi period in the 3rd and 4th centuries. However, the regular and extensive renovations have fully changed the structural designs of the palace.
The great innovations took place in the Malla period. Many Malla kings ruled Kantipur (Kathmandu) from the same palace for many decades. After the successful victory over the valley in 1769, king Prithivi Narayan Shah too preferred Kathmandu Durbar Square for his palace as the Royal Palace till 1896. Thereafter the royal palace shifted to Narayanhiti Palace.
Alike Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu Durbar Square is also an important destination for tourists who wish to explore ancient art and architecture, especially the exotic and erotic carvings.
8.The Garden of Dreams (Swopna Bagaicha)
Garden of Dreams is one of the neoclassical sophisticated gardens with lots of historical facts offering an oasis of peace and tranquility amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. It is situated at the entrance of the tourist hub, Thamel.
Late Field Marshal Kaiser Sumsher Rana created this amazing place in 1920 which is also popular as The Garden of Six Seasons. It was particularly made for Kaiser Sumsher as his private garden was designed beautifully in Edwardian style. Kishor Narshingh, a famous architect designed and supervised the construction of this garden and is also the designer of Singh Durbar in1907.
The giant six Pavilions erected around symbolize the six seasons of Nepal. These pavilions have added beauty to the garden’s architectural framework helping to make great arrangements of flowers, trees, and other vegetation.
The garden remained ignored since the death of Kaiser Sumsher. In 2000, with the initiation of the Austrian government in coordination with the Ministry of Education, Nepal started renovating the garden and finally finished in 2007 in half of this original area. Today the garden of Dreams has become one of the attractive tourist landmarks where the visitors can enjoy nature along with historical and architectural facts. A number of private and corporate functions, receptions, cultural programs, and concerts are organized in the Garden of Dream.
9. Narayanhiti Palace (Museum)
Narayanhiti Palace, currently the museum is a newly created tourist destination in the heart of Kathmandu that is located next to Thamel. This palace was the residence and principal workplace of the royal family for a long time. Killings and bloodshed for capturing power are not strange in the royal family of Nepal. But the massacre of 1 June 2001 became really noteworthy event that led to the end of the Shah Dynasty.
The dreadful massacre of 2001 took away the lives of king Birendra, his wife Aishwarya, all his family members and relatives. Prince Dipendra was charged for killings and suicide but the fact is yet to know. The way Gyanendra Shah became the king and the attitude he displayed for the multiparty system raised a kind of hatred towards him. Finally, the seven-party alliances mixed up in the revolution that was in progress by the Maoists and jointly started the revolution.
As a result, king Gyanendra Shah left the Narayanhiti Palace on 11 June 2008. The new government after the revolution led by Prachanda declared Narayanhiti palace as the Museum in October 2018. The royal crown, Jewelries, important documents, the materials used by the royal members, and many other properties are kept in the display.
10. Ason/Indrachowk/Mangal Bazaar
Ason, Indrachowk, and Mangal Bazaar are the famous marketplaces in Kathmandu and Lalitpur districts. The narrow streets full of vendors, shops, small vehicles, and the crowd of people are just common in these places.
All kinds of Nepali foods, utensils, clothes, fresh vegetables, fruits, children’s toys, electric equipment, cosmetics, etc. are displayed on the street for sale. The vendors’ constant shouts for advertising their product, customers’ bargain with the shopkeepers, beeping sound of the motorbikes and taxis, some crazy people walking carelessly pushing the strangers are common to happen there.
People reaching these places for the first time might think there is a great fair going on but in fact, these are the eternal crowd.