The gateway to the Himalayas, Kathmandu has been attracting travellers, adventurers, and the downright curious for millennia.
A buzzing city of one million inhabitants, the capital of Nepal is also the core of the Kathmandu Valley, and is a sometimes shocking but always exhilarating cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells. Once the launch pad of the famed ‘hippy trail’, the city has emerged as one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Asia, and offers travellers the full range of experiences from budget to luxury, bizarre to spiritual. Much of the historic heart of the city, around Durbar Square, has been retained and protected, offering a rare and fascinating glimpse into the daily life of the Nepalese, where it seems that around every corner there is a new and enlightening experience.
This is the magical time to see the Boudhanath Stupa, one of the most venerated sites in Tibetan Buddhism. Each morning, hundreds of worshippers come to pay their respects, walking the more than 100 metre circumference several times.
Head to Durbar Square in the heart of ‘old town’, and get lost in the tangle of streets. ‘Durbar’ means princely reception, and this was once the home of Nepal’s royal family. This UNESCO protected area is made up of three loosely linked squares.
Amongst the buildings, take time to seek out the Tibetan Singing Bowl and Healing Centre. Inside, a ‘healer’ uses ancient methods to cure you of ills by placing a brass bowl over the afflicted area and hitting it with a small wooden mallet.
On the edge of Durbar Square is Kumari Ghar, where the Kumari Devi lives, a young girl revered as a ‘living goddess’. You may catch a glimpse of her, or you can wait for three days in September when her followers carry her daily to the square.
To the south of Durbar Square is the open Basantapur Square area, off which runs Freak Street. An overhang from Kathmandu’s days as a stop on the so-called ‘hippy trail’, this area is still home to small hotels, cafés and restaurants.
A trip to Kathmandu is not complete without a venture into the famed Thamel area. Lined with shops selling everything from pashminas, to yaks’ wool blankets, traditional Nepalese clothing and trekking gear; this is a shopper’s paradise.
Escape by heading to Garden of Dreams, an oasis of calm just off Thamel. Like a little slice of England in the heart of Kathmandu, the beautifully manicured classical Edwardian gardens have a restaurant that is the perfect pit stop.
Reinvigorated, take advantage of the cooler temperatures in the afternoon and take a taxi to Swayambhunath, an ancient temple and one of the holiest sites in Nepal. It is also known as the ‘Monkey Temple’ for its primate inhabitants.
After dodging the cheeky monkeys, take a taxi to Asan Tole, Nepal’s equivalent of Times Square, where six roads meet, and people converge to shop, meet and mingle. You can come here any time of the day and see something different.
Dinner, and no culinary experience in Kathmandu is complete without a visit to the Krishnarpan Restaurant in the heritage Dwarika’s Hotel. It offers a range of meals from six to 22 courses and includes Nepalese favourites such as momos.
Kathmandu, Nepal> Book Now
Distance: 3,368 km
Flight Time: 4 hours, 40 mins
Frequency: 4 flights a day