Kathmandu is the world-famous capital of Nepal and, honestly, it can be a little scary at first!How to describe it? It’s chaotic and bustling, cultural and historic, beautiful and colorful.. And, of course,polluted! 1.7 million of people live in Kathmandu and the craziness of this city can be overwelming: the sound of car horns, the dust, the crowdy streets, but in the end it’s hard not to love it.
The city is nestled in a valley and surrounded by Himalayan peaks, Kathmandu is as spiritual as urban, a stupa or a temple is around every corner. You just need to walk and find the beauty that this city hides.
We’re going to share with you the best things to do in Kathmandu, let’s the journey begin!
WALK THE FULL CIRCLE AROUND BOUDHANATH STUPA
The Boudhanath is the largest Stupa in Asia. With countless monasteries around it, Boudha is the center of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. This 36-meter-high stupa it’s stunning to see in person and it is for sure the most beautiful one in Nepal.
Take a stroll around this white dome, observe the devotes light butter lamps and praying. Don’t forget to walk around stupa clockwise only.
Watching prayer flags waving in the wind in Boudhanath was really magical and we didn’t want to leave this extraordinary place.
GET LOST IN THAMEL
Are you ready to visit the beating heart of Kathmandu? Thamel needs to be experienced, so go gets lost in its chaos. It’s a maze of alleways filled with shops, hotels, pubs, cafes.. with all these colors, noises and chaos you can easily feel overwhelmed.
If you can stand the crowds you should stop at Asan Tole too. This six- spooked junction is the busiest place in the city, filled with vegetables and spices vendors, crowds and A LOT of traffic.
OBSERVE A CEREMONY IN PASHUPATINATH
Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most sacred Hindu temples in Asia dedicated to Lord Shiva.
This temple is famous for its open air cremations which take place along the river. You can watch the whole hindu ritual from the beginning, with the preparation of the body, until the end when the body is set on fire; it slowly burns for over 2 hours. This is actually a very moving and beautiful ceremony; a great experience to contemplate impermanence of life. This is for sure one of the most incredible things that we’ve witnessed in Nepal.
If you do not want to see cremation Pashupatinath is a beautiful place to visit as well, but please be aware that tourists will only be allowed to visit certain areas and temples.
It is also very common to meet Sadhus here, they are religious ascetic who are trying to acquire liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth by meditating. Some sadhus are open to being photographed, just ask and they normally say yes and ask for a tip.
MEET THE MONKEYS IN SWAYAMBHUNATH
This is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Kathmandu and it is also called Monkey Temple because of .. Well, monkeys. Be careful of them, they seem cute and friendly but they can be aggressive.
You have to climb the 365 stairs to reach the top but once you get there you’ll find a breathtaking stupa and a spectacular view of the Kathmandu Valley.
Representing Buddha’s mind, visit a stupa is considered to be the same as meeting Buddha in person, so you’ll feel a lot of energy here. The mystical atmosphere is highlighted by devotees who make a ritual circumnavigation of the stupa, recite mantras and spin the prayer wheels. Everything happens with a fragrance of incense in the air.
WATCH THE DAILY RITUAL AT BUDHANILAKANTHA TEMPLE
First of all, we didn’t expect so much from this place. In Budhanilkantha you can feel a real and strong mystical air. This place lies off the main traveller circuit, so most visitors are local devotees. You’ll immediatly notice the 5 meters long sleeping Vishnu statue reclining on a bed of snakes in the middle of a small pond. It is considered the largest stone carving in Nepal and it was made out of a single block of black basalt.
The statue is beautiful but the magic happens early in the morning. The best part of visiting Budhanilkantha is to attend the Hindu daily rituals, every morning Vishnu is cleaned and dressed by young Hindu priests. Flowers, incense, bells.. The ritual is very emotional and intense.
VISIT THE DURBAR SQUARE
If you’re travelling through Nepal, visiting the 3 Durbar Squares is a must! Let’s talk about the Kathmandu one.. Even if you know nothing about this city history you’ll be mezmerized by the beauty of this square. Temples, pagodas, palaces and intricate designs will make you lose track of time. Entry cost: 1000 Nepalese Rupees.
AND, JUST WANDER
Our favorite part of visiting Kathmandu was wandering without any destinations. You’ll find temples, little stupas, markets, squares. So just walk and discover this city, you’ll find beauty around every corner.