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Things to Do in Kathmandu

Nepal's chaotic and colorful capital is set in the bowl-shaped Katmandu Valley, surrounded by the jagged, snowy peaks of the Himalaya. You'll want to explore Katmandu's old city center, a crowded warren of small shops and cobblestone alleyways, by foot or rickshaw—the streets are too narrow for most cars. Crumbling buildings open onto courtyards where chilies, rice, and laundry dry in the sun, and around nearly every corner you'll find temples, shrouded in incense smoke and bedecked with marigolds. Learn more about the region's dominant religions by touring Buddhist Bouddhanath Stupa and the impressive Pashupatinath Hindu temple complex (note, however, that only Hindus are allowed inside its gates). A 2015 earthquake devastated some of Katmandu's historic sites, including UNESCO-listed Durbar Square, a former royal residence that dates to the 16th century, but many others were unharmed. Popular short excursions from Katmandu include Shivapuri National Park, the medieval village of Bhaktapur, and the former hill station of Nagarkot. And of course, Kathmandu is the main hub for trekking in the Himalaya. Trekking tours can be arranged to suit almost any budget, ability, and available time. Consider a guided trek in the Annapurna Sanctuary or, if you’re short on time, book a helicopter flight to get a glimpse of Everest. Safari tours to Chitwan National Park can also be organized from Katmandu. The former royal hunting ground is now a protected ecosystem of marshes, jungle, and grasslands, home to more than 400 animal species, including Bengal tigers and rhinos.
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Kathmandu Durbar Square (Basantapur)
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585 Tours and Activities

Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, one of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Nepalese capital, was once the location where kings were crowned, and today remains the heart of the city. The square dates back to the 11th century, when the Hanuman Dhoka Palace was constructed, and remained the abode of the Nepalese monarchy until the 19th century.

The temples and palaces that still surround the bustling Durbar Square demonstrate the intricacy of Newar architecture, characterized by carved wooden windows and fine brickwork. The structures of the palace complex now house the King Tribhuwan Memorial Museum, the Mahendra Museum and the bizarre Kumari Chowk, a gilded palace where a young girl lives who is worshiped as the human incarnation of the goddess Durga. You can sometimes catch a glimpse of the current Kumari through her palace windows. During the Indra Jatra festival each September, the Kumari is paraded in her chariot through the square.

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Boudhanath (Boudha Stupa)
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Experts disagree on just how old Bodhnath Stupa is, but this site of Buddhist worship is undeniably one of the largest stupas in the world and the most popular site in Nepal. The oldest structure likely dates back to the fifth century AD, and local legend tells of a woman who tricked the king at the time into giving her a large plot of land to build a shrine to the Buddha.

It’s unclear whether the Bodhnath Stupa houses a holy Buddhist relic as most such stupas do, but locals will tell you it has a small piece of bone that the Buddha once carried. Whatever the case my be, pilgrims still come here to walk clockwise around the stupa and spin the dozens of prayer wheels lining the brick wall that surrounds the structure.

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Thamel
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Asan Market
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The Asan Tole Market, also known as Ason Tole or Asan Bazaar, has always been one of Kathmandu’s most strategically well-placed marketplaces. In ancient times, famous trade routes converged here and merchants traveling from India to Tibet would stop at the bazaar for rest and trading. Today, it is produce that is carried from all over the valley to the bazaar. In accordance with the square’s importance of food, the temple of Annapurna Ajima, the goddess of prosperity and abundance presides over the neighborhood. In the form of a filled grain bowl, she looks on from her ornamented pagoda over the market stalls loaded with fresh vegetables, grain, rice, lentils, peas, spices, teas, oils, incense and daily consumer goods. Merchants belonging to the Newari communities worship here and wish for luck in business, good fortune and wealth and both Hindus and Buddhists visit to pay their respects to the goddess.

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Budhanilkantha
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The five-meter-long and thus biggest stone statue in Nepal, Budhanilkantha, portrays a sleeping Vishnu, floating like a gigantic astronaut on a bed of snakes in the middle of a big pool of water depicting the cosmic ocean. The incredibly well preserved carving is made out of black stone and is thought to be 1500 years old. Located in the village of the same name, the holy site is a popular spot for Hindus to practice puja, a prayer ritual to worship the gods. The daily ceremony entails priests – they are the only ones allowed to approach Vishnu’s divine head - washing the face and the feet of the sculpture with water and afterwards, applying a mixture of ghee, milk, yoghurt, honey and sugar on the same spots.

Later, since only Hindus are allowed to get close the statue, believers worship at its feet and leave offerings of food and flower petals. All other visitors have to be content with viewing the resting Vishnu from the sidelines.

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More Things to Do in Kathmandu

Hanuman Dhoka

Hanuman Dhoka

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12 Tours and Activities
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Dakshinkali Temple

Dakshinkali Temple

11 Tours and Activities
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Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur

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Bhaktapur is the third largest city in Nepal, and along with Kathmandu and Patan, makes up the three holy cities in the Kathmandu Valley. The city was founded during the 12th century AD by King Anand Dev Malla and remains well-preserved and free of motor traffic to this day, giving it a sense of timelessness and peace in bustling Kathmandu.

Its distance from Kathmandu, about seven-and-a-half miles (12 kilometers) east, and the small entrance fee to enter the city tends to keep the crowds away from this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once inside the city, you’ll be able to walk the cobbled streets filled with more temples by area than both Kathmandu or Patan. Many of the most interesting structures, including the 55-windowed palace that used to serve as the royal seat of Nepal, are centered on the Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

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Namche Bazaar

Namche Bazaar

96 Tours and Activities
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Changu Narayan

Changu Narayan

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Changu Narayan Temple, located within easy reach of the town of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley, has a history as a sacred site dating all the way back to the third century AD, though the double roofed temple that stands in honor of the god Vishnu today was erected after a fire in 1702. Some of the statuary contained within the temple date back to the fourth through ninth centuries. The ancient temple honors Vishnu as Narayana, or the First Being. The wooden roof supports that are visible on the temple’s exterior depict several other deities from the Tantric school, and the stone sculptures surrounding the building depict various other avatars of Vishnu as well as of local kings and queens. The traditional Nepali-style architecture includes intricately gilded windows and four gates, each guarded by a pair of stone animals. Only Hindus are allowed inside the main temple when it's open, but there are plenty of sights to enjoy in the courtyards surrounding the main structure.
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Sagarmatha National Park

Sagarmatha National Park

31 Tours and Activities
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Patan (Lalitpur)

Patan (Lalitpur)

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Nagarkot

Nagarkot

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Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park

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Chitwan National Park is situated in a plain at the foot of the Himalayas, right on the border to India. The area in which the park is located is called Terai and has not only the highest precipitation levels, but is also the warmest and most forested part of Nepal. Once, Terai was sparsely populated, hard to reach and dominated by thick forests, swamps and swarms of mosquitoes. Wild animals lived here and the malaria risk was omnipresent. Still, it was the favorite hunting ground for Nepal’s wealthy as well as monarchs from abroad and they arrived in droves from Kathmandu to hunt rhinos, elephants, bears, tigers and leopards when they were still plentiful here.

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