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Things To Do In Kathmandu
Kathmandu derives its name from Kasthamandap, or ‘Wooden Shelter;’ the Pahari name for the structure located in Durbar Square of Kathmandu. Being the capital of Nepal, it is highly improbable that you can vacation in this country without ending up in Kathmandu or passing through it first. And when you do, make sure it isn’t an ephemeral stopover. Because there is so much to delve into in this ingenuous city. You will find yourself wanting to stay here for longer and longer periods of time. Whether you’re looking to explore the geographical wonders of the valley, or simply stick around in the city area to shop and eat, there is something for everyone here. Read on to find out what your options are for the top things to do in the city of Kathmandu.
Visit Temples and Monasteries
The primary religion in Kathmandu is Hinduism, which means you can get to explore numerous temples all around the city. These temples aren’t just the abode for the devoted, but also a depiction of Kathmandu’s connection with its rich ancient heritage. Most of the temples are shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, like the Kirateshwar Temple and the Budhanilkanth Temple; but others like The Guhyeshwari Temple, the Jagannath Temple, and the Dakshinkali Temple are splendid structures devoted to other deities, and definitely worth a visit.
The second most common religion, and Nepal also being the birthplace of it, is Buddhism. So be prepared to find impressive monks and monasteries in every corner of the city. A large number of these monasteries are located around the Boudhanath, which has given it the nickname of ‘Mini Tibet of Nepal’. Notable among them are the Kopan monastery, the Namobuddha monastery, and the Schechen monastery.
Being the most commercial city in Nepal makes Kathmandu a major shopping destination for tourists and locals alike. Ranging from traditional handicrafts to trendy fashion wear and accessories, you are bound to find a good bargain on anything you might want to pick out for yourself or a loved one back home. For all your sports gear and equipment needs, you are not required to bring in anything with you before entering the country. Kathmandu features a number of sports shops like Sonam Gear and Holyland Hiking Shop for all your outdoor requirements.
If you are looking to bring back some traditional handicrafts with you, make a stopover at Sagarmatha Bazaar for Thangka painting fabrics, Thamel for singing bowls, khukuri (Gurkha knife), gemstones and beaded jewellery, and One Tree Stop for paper flags and Buddha statues. Babar Mahal is a brilliant spot for purchasing traditional Nepalese clothing, and Aroma Garden to buy alluring scents in the form of incense sticks, aromatic spices, Himalayan soaps and essential oils.
A quintessential Nepalese shopping spree would be incomplete without the acquisition of some authentic Pashmina. Pashmina woolens are made from goat hair; greater the quantity of goat hair, higher the price. Pashmina weaving is native to Nepal, which means shopping for them here would get you great value for money compared to purchasing them anywhere else in the world.
Kathmandu is home to some of the best museums in the country, and if you are a history buff, don’t forget to check out these museums. The Narayanhiti Palace Museum has a dark and compelling history, whose original residents were massacred in the building premises. Once Nepal was declared a secular, democratic Republic, the palace was turned into a museum and became an integral part Kathmandu’s tourist culture.
Another is the National Museum, located near the Swayambhunath Stupa and is the most important museum in Nepal. It houses a large collection of ancient artefacts, weaponry, sculptures and works of art that depict the rich cultural and historic importance of the country. Then there is Natural History Museum, which is one of the oldest ones around. It showcases thousands of preserved specimens of insects, birds and animals suspended in glass jars, some extinct species, and also some bizarre scenes like an eight-legged goat embryo, a two-headed snake and a four-legged chick. The Tribhuvan, Mahendra and Birendra Museums are named after their namesake kings, and depict interesting exhibits that were a part of their lives like their bedroom and study, their boxing gloves and walking sticks etc.
Looking to wind down a little from the hurried life of a tourist with a limited itinerary? The Casino Royale is an upscale gambling centre for betting buffs with more than thirty gaming machines, along with two restaurants, a bar and a hotel with over a 100 rooms. Casino Shangri-La is one of the more famous ones in the city, with complimentary food and drinks along with high stake games, which is sure to make your gambling experience an unforgettable one. The best part is that apart from featuring exciting games, most casinos in the city are open 24/7, and feature exotic cuisines and entertainment programs to suit all kinds of tastes.
Walking Through Old Kathmandu
A visit to Kathmandu is incomplete without taking a stroll through the old town area, an impressive intermingling of alleys and streets and shops and temples. This is one area you will definitely need a map for. The primary building block of the old city is the ‘bahal’, a group of buildings joined perpendicularly to each other around a central courtyard. Explore Makhan Tole’s busy streets that spill onto Indra Chowk, where you will find a variety of shopping options for beads and bangles, and blankets and clothes.
Mount Everest Flight
If you are interested in taking a closer look at the tallest peak in the world but don’t really think climbing is your area of expertise, take a flight to Everest where you will get to observe the mountain range from a breathtaking viewpoint, and feel yourself diminish in size as you absorb the true magnificence of Everest. The flight lasts about an hour and is accompanied by a narration by the pilot who will also showcase other snow-capped peaks in the area. Flights offering such features are Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines, and they operate from Kathmandu airport.
If you are a vegetarian, Kathmandu will prove to be a food heaven for you. The staple food for the entire country is Dal Bhat, which means rice and lentils usually accompanied with curried vegetables.
Nepal is home to many indigenous communities, however, the Newari people and their cuisine is native to the Kathmandu Valley, and features an unmistakable influence from Tibet and Chinese cuisine. Yomari is a sweet bun made from rice flour dough, and traditionally made during the Newari festival Yomari Punhi that marks the end of the rice harvest. Juju Dhau, or ‘King Curd’, is a yoghurt snack made from buffalo milk and is found in street stalls all over the city. Sel Roti is also a popular snack and is made from deep frying puffy dough, best eaten with yoghurt or vegetables. Some of the foods from Newari cuisine also include dishes with western influences like Chatamari (similar to pizza), Swo (resembles Scottish haggis), Yanghu Yi Hau (like white pudding from the UK), and Choee that tastes like salami.
No matter what time of the year you visit Kathmandu, you are sure to run into some festival being celebrated; it’s no wonder Kathmandu is known as the ‘City of Festivals’. Since the Nepalese New Year is based on the Hindu calendar, most of the festivals usually do not have a fixed date of being celebrated. A lot of them are based on the lunar calendar, while a lot of others are spread out over several days.
Ultimately, every month celebrates at least one festival, but the most prominent ones worth waiting around for are Seto Machhendranath in March/April, Bisket Jatra in April, Indra Jatra in September, and Dashain and Tihar in October.