Kathmandu is an interesting city, one where you will never get the chance to get bored. The city offers scores of activities – sightseeing at cultural heritage sites, valley rim hiking, mountain biking, shopping, wall climbing, culinary tours etc. For story buffs this is a good place as the city abounds in legends and local folklore.
The most popular local legend is that of the city’s origin. Legend has it that Kathmandu was originally a lake surrounded by hills. A demigod named Manjushree drained the lake by slashing Chobhar Hill (located south-west of Kathmandu) with his divine sword and made the valley habitable for humans.
Here is a list of 10 things to do in Kathmandu that you must not miss out on.
1. Hike to Swoyambhu
Take a hike to the hill-top temple of Swoyambhunath Temple. The temple, which is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists is closely linked to the origin of the city. The first settlements in the valley were located at the base of this hill. Swoyambhunath is also known as Monkey Temple owing to a sizeable population of monkeys.
There is a white domed stupa with the eyes of the Amitava Buddha painted on four sides. His compassionate gaze watches over the valley. Enjoy a 360 degree of the whole city from the temple grounds.
2. Explore Patan
Patan, one of the three medieval kingdoms in the valley, is also known as Lalitpur or the ‘City of Artisans’. You will understand how the city got its name when you witness beautiful pieces of art on stone, metal and wood around the city and at the Patan Durbar Square. Patan also has some of the oldest Buddhist Viharas in the valley.
If you are interested in Buddhism do make it a point to visit some of these. Patan has a large population of wood carvers, stone engravers, silversmiths and sculptors. A visit to their workshop or studio to watch them at work, creating art out of ordinary objects, will make up for an enriching experience.
3. Stroll around Thamel & Shop at Ason
Thamel is a tourist hub. Lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, pubs, discotheques, hotels and travel agencies the place is abuzz with tourists, live music and hawkers doing business. If you crave some peace and quiet head to the ‘Garden of Dreams,’ a beautiful landscaped garden built by Kaisher Samsher Rana in 1920AD. Just grab a book and spend the whole day reading under a cupola or reclining on the grassy edge of the ornamental pond.
A hop and a skip away from Thamel lies Kathmandu’s oldest market, Ason Bazaar. The bazaar has been an important trading place for centuries. For traders trading along the old Tibet salt route Ason was an important pit-stop. Here the majority of the shop keepers are Newars. From tea, vegetables, wax, incense sticks to garments, footwear, utensils, Chinese electronic goods, dried buffalo meat etc. you will find everything worth a bargain here.
4. Go Biking, Hiking & Wall Climbing
If you feel the need to get away from the chaos of the city then head for the hills. Hire a mountain bike and go biking around the hills surrounding the valley or to the Newari villages skirting the city. The hills of Shivapuri, Nagarjuna, Pulchowki and Chandragiri and Newari settlements of Dhulikhel, Tokha, Kirtipur, Bungamati etc. offer excellent trails for biking and hiking adventures.
If you have a climbing trip lined up, then head to the nearest wall-climbing centre and practice your moves. Or you can head out to the nearby Nagarjuna or Shivapuri Hills and try some serious rock climbing.
5. Visit Bouddhanath Stupa
Bouddhanath Stupa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, needs no introduction. The iconic image of the huge white dome festooned with colourful prayer flags . Do the parikrama and Walk around the stupa with the other pilgrims who throng the stupa and light up a butter lamp and send a prayer.
There is a sizable Tibetan population living around the stupa and they have opened small eateries nearby. Hop into one such place and indulge yourself with Tibetan delicacies like Thenthuk, Laphing and Khapsi.
6. Hobnob with the dreadlocked sadhus at Pashupatinath Temple:
Pashupatinath Temple is one of the holiest shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva. Lying on the banks of the river Bagmati, the ghat(Aryaghat) of the temple is a Hindu cremation site. Though the inside of the temple is off limits for non-Hindus, visitors are allowed on the eastern side of the temple.
There are a number of sadhus (Hindu holy men) living on the adjoining hill. With their ash smeared faces, dreadlocks and colourful garbs, the sadhus offer amazing photo ops.
7. Visit Bhaktapur Durbar Square
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bhaktapur Durbar Square is one of the best-preserved durbar square in the valley. Large vehicles are not allowed inside the old city. The locals of Bhaktapur has contributed a lot to make this place clean, green and alive.
Make it a point to visit all the interesting buildings and temples at Dattareya square and Taumadhi Square. Also do remember to taste the local yoghurt served in clay containers knows as Ju:Ju Dhau.
8. Narayanhiti Palace Museum
Nepal is a young republic. For thousands of years, Nepal was ruled by different dynasties. The last rulers were the Shahs. It was during their reign that Nepal became a democratic republic. The palace of the Shah royals, Narayanhiti Durbar, has been converted into a museum.
Do make it a point to check out this former palace where you will get glimpse of how the last king of Nepal lived. Inside the complex is the site where the gruesome murders of the former king, King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah, and his family took place.
9. Visit the House of the Living Goddess
Kumari or the Living Goddess is believed to be reincarnation of Goddess Taleju. Kumari is a little girl selected from the priestly class of the Newari community who becomes a Living Goddess till she reaches puberty. Kumari Bahal or the House of the Living Goddess in Basantapur or The Durbar Square is the residence of the little goddess.
If you are lucky you may get to meet her and get her blessings. The Durbar Square is also a favourite spot for people watching. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the durbar square is located at the centre of the city. Ancient temples and a royal palace complex are some of the other attractions of the Durbar Square.
10. Sample Mo:Mos & other local treats
A trip to Kathmandu is incomplete without savouring Kathmandu’s most-loved snack. Mo:Mo, a dumpling prepared with flour and veggies or meat filling, is found in almost all the restaurants’ menus.
It is usually served with tomato pickle or soup. Try the different variants of mo:mos on offer- kothey, fried, Chilli etc. If you are curious about local food then check out Newari Khaja Ghars or local snack houses. They offer an array of mouthwatering local treats.Tickle your taste buds with tasty Newari snacks like Bara, Samaya Baji, Kachila.