Kathmandu is the capital and largest municipality of Nepal. It also hosts the headquarters of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Wikipedia
Local time: Friday 12:57 PM
Weather: 75°F (24°C), Wind S at 3 mph (5 km/h), 78% Humidity
Hotels: 3-star averaging $35, 5-star averaging $153. View hotels
Population: 1.003 million (2011) UNdata
Top 15 places for visiting:
1. Boudhanath Stupa
The Boudhanath stupa is one of the holiest and most recognisable sites in Kathmandu.
Assigned UNESCO world heritage status in 1979, Boudhanath (aka the Boudha, Chorten Chempo and Khasa Caityais) has a diameter of 120 metres, making it the largest temple in Nepal.
The stupa is built on an octagonal base, is surrounded by prayer wheels, and has colourful prayer flags draped from its 36-metre central spire.
Boudhanath is rich in symbolism: it has five statues of Dhyani Buddhas, representing the five elements (earth, fire, water, air and ether); nine levels, representing Mount Meru (the mythical peak at the centre of the Buddhist cosmos); and 13 rings from its base to its apex (representing the steps to enlightenment or Nirvana).
Boudhanath is the religious centre of Nepal’s Tibetan/Buddhist community, and is surrounded by around 50 monasteries and shops settling Tibetan artefacts. About 15% of the population are Buddhists.
Look out for Tibetan monks, with shaven heads and maroon robes, and pilgrims spinning prayer wheels and buying yak butter and tsampa (roasted barley flour). Be careful to observe Tibetan custom by walking around the stupa in a clockwise direction.
There has been a stupa on this site since Tibetan king Songsten Gampo converted to Buddhism in around 600 AD.
2. Everest Region
The 1,500 mile long Himalaya range contains every one of the world’s fourteen 8000 metre peaks.
3. Annapurna Region
The Annapurna region is accessed from tranquil Pokhara, and is famous for the Annapurna range and the sacred Fish Tail mountain.
The 10-day Annapurna Sanctuary trek is the region’s most popular activity. The sanctuary is an oval shaped glacial plateau reached via a narrow pass between the peaks of Hiunchuli (6,441 m) and Machapuchare (6,993 m, aka ‘Fish Tail’, regarded as sacred and therefore unclimbed).
Annapurna base camp (4130 metres) is the highest point, providing stunning 360 degrees views of the Annapurna range, the glaciers running from it, and the near-vertical south face of Annapurna I (8091 metres).
The alernative Annapurnra Circuit trek, taking 12-19 days with a maximum elevation of 5416 metres at the Thorung La pass, circumnavegates the Annapurna range. The scenery includes close-up views of Manaslu, Langtang Himal, Annapurna I, II, III and IV and Gangapurna.
For those who don’t have the energy, why not visit the Rum Doodle bar in the Thamel region of Kathmandu. This is where successful Everest expeditions are celebrated (with the conquering mountaineers—including Sir Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner—leaving their autographs on the bar’s walls).
4. Durbar Square
Even though the Nepali royal family moved from the Hanuman Dhoka palace about a century ago, Durbar (Palace) Square remains the tourist heart of Kathmandu.
Most visitors are surprised by the sheer number of temples surrounding the square, and the two adjoining squares, some dating back to the 12th century.
The jewels in the crown are the Hanuman Dhoka itself (the complex of royal palaces), the magnificent Taleju Temple (built in 1564 by Mahendra Malla, standing on a 12-stage plinth, and reaching 35 metres in height), and the Kumari Bahal (an intricately carved three-storey structure built in 1757 in which the ‘living godess’, a young girl selected from the Kathmandu valley, still lives).
Other must-sees are the Kasthamandap (aka the ‘Pavillion of wood’, the building after which Kathmandu was named and which, legend has it, was constructed using a single sal tree) and the Maju Deval (a triple-roofed Shiva temple dating from 1690, built by the mother of Bhaktapur’s king Bhupatindra Malla)
5. A day trip to Bhaktapur
Bhaktapur, a small town about 10 kilometres from Kathmandu, is famous for its many varied temples.
The most impressive is the five-storey Nyatapola Temple on Taumadhi Tole (pictured), the tallest temple in Nepal built in 1702 during the reign of King Bhupatindra Malla.
Bhaktapur, which became an independent city-state under King Ananda Malla in the 12th century, also has its own Durbar Square (replete with a number of temples, including one featuring erotic cows, camels and elephants!).
The northern section of the square is home to the Royal Palace, with visitors able to access the Golden Gate, intricately carved and set into a bright red gatehouse, and the National Art Gallery, with an extensive collection of Tantric cloth paintings.
But the town also has a timeless air, with visitors able to see grain laid out to dry in the sun, potters at work in Potters’ square, locals weaving baskets, drying laundry or collecting water, and children playing.
Keep an eye out for exquisite architecture as you wander the streets: many buildings feature intricately carved woodwork (such asthe famous Peacock window, on an alley leading south-east from the Tachupal Tole).
No cars are allowed inside the Bhaktapur town centre and, as a result, it is quiet by comparison to the country’s capital. As a result, many travellers prefer to stay in Bhaktapur and take day trips to Kathmandu.
6. The Pashupatinath Temple
Built in 1696 on the orders of King Bhupendra Malla, Pashupatinath is Nepal’s most important Hindu temple.
Constructed in the pagoda style of architecture, Pashupatinath stands on the banks of the Bagmati river, has a distinctive gilded rooftop, intricately carved rafters (featuring members of Shiva’s family) and four silver-plated main doors surrounded by statues of deities.
Pashupatinath reaches a maximum height of 24 metres, and is presided over by piests called Bhattas and achief priest called Mool Bhatt or Raval. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple, though a glimpse of Shiva’s bull, Nandi, can be caught from outside the western entrance.
There is nonetheless much to see. The temple’s exterior and its surrounding buildings are worth a look. Sadhus (Hindu holy men) watch the world go by. Traders hawk marigolds, incense and conch shells. And the riverbanks of the Bagmati river are a popular place for cremations.
Whilst the ‘ghats’ in front of the temple were reserved for the cremation of royalty, four other ghats to the south of the nearby bridges are in regular use. There is often a cremation in progress, with a shrouded body lifted on top of a log fire with surprisingly little ceremony. Cremations are followed by ritual bathing in the river.
7. Narayanhiti Palace Museum
The Narayanhiti Palace Museum (aka Narayanhiti Durbar) served as the primary residence of Nepal’s monarchy for over a century until 2008.
It was here that, in June 2001, King Birendra, Queen Aiswarya and six other royals were shot dead by Crown Prince Dipendra before Dipendra turned his weapon on himself; the apparent motive was revenge, after the King and Queen refused to approve the Prince’s marriage intentions.
Birenda’s replacement, King Gyanendra, was deeply unpopular, and Nepalis voted to abolish the monarchy in 2008. The new parliament promptly gave Gyanendra 15 days to vacate the Palace. The opening of the Palace Museum by Nepal’s prime minister in February 2009 was a highly symbolic event.
The Palace comprises 52 rooms (19 are open to the public) and occupies 74 acres. It was designed by American architect Benjamin Pol in the style of a contemporary pagoda. The Museum showcases the belongings of former royalty, such as pictures of Queen Elizabeth II taken when the Windsors were on friendly terms with the Shah dynasty.
Visitors comment on the Palace’s chintzy decor, including extensive gold-plating, numerous chandeliers and a large tiger-skin rug. The Museum’s extensive grounds are open to visitors; look out for fruit bats and 20 foot-tall bamboo.
One morbid feature is of note: the Museum’s buildings and grounds identify the places in which members of the royal family perished during the 2001 massacre (including the place on a small footbridge where Dipendra shot himself). One of the most interesting things to do in Kathmandu.
8. Chitwan National Park
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