Pilgrims from Nepal and India flock to Pashupatinath Temple, the holiest Hindu site in Nepal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and is on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. Pashupatinath is also where many Hindu Nepalis come to die and be cremated.
Pashupatinath is a must-visit sight in Kathmandu. The temple architecture mainly dates back to the 17th century, though parts are older. Most of the temple lies along the western banks of the Bagmati River, but you can cross to the other side for views back to the temple and cremation ghats (steps), and climb the hill to a forested area where there are many smaller stone temples. Most travelers visit on sightseeing tours of Kathmandu.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Nepalis can enter for free, but other nationals need a ticket.
- While photography is allowed, be respectful of the fact that many of the people are grieving and attending a funeral.
- Be prepared to see open-air cremations. Bodies are wrapped in cloth and placed upon a burning pyre of logs.
- Only Hindus are allowed into the main temples, but anyone can enter the broader temple complex.
- The Bagmati River is sacred to practicing Hindus, and you will see people bathing in the water. However, this is not recommended, as it’s extremely polluted.
- The colorful sadhus (holy men) will ask you to photograph them, but they expect to be paid a few rupees.
How to Get There
The easiest way to reach Pashupatinath is via taxi. All drivers know where it is. Alternatively, you can walk between Boudhanath and Pashupatinath; it’s an easy walk that takes about a half-hour and saves the time you might waste in traffic.
When to Get There
Pashupatinath is always busy with worshippers and mourners. It plays host to a number of important Hindu festivals throughout the year. The most famous is Shivaratri, in February and March, when sadhus from across India and Nepal flock to the festival. It can get uncomfortably crowded then, but it’s definitely a colorful sight.
Hike to the Source of the Bagmati River
The Bagmati River that runs through Pashupatinath originates at Baghdwar, in the Shivapuri National Park to the north of Kathmandu. Hiking there is a pleasant day trip. Start from Budhanilkantha and hike up through the park. On clear days, there are good views of Kathmandu to the south and the Langtang Range to the north.