How does one truly describe Kathmandu? Is it really as holy and special as they say it is or is it just another destination waiting to be explored? For thousands of visitors stepping off the plane at the Kathmandu International Airport, the city is a bombardment of sights, smells and sounds that often tend to lead to a sensory overload.
Whether you’re rushing through those chockablock lanes in a rickshaw or dodging touts in Thamel, Kathmandu takes time getting used to. Scary as it sounds, give this destination some time. Like all major travel magnets in the Indian subcontinent, you realize that the city is truly an exotic wonder that tends to be captivating, intoxicating and breathtaking, all at once. Here are a few destinations for sightseeing and top things to do in Kathmandu that you must add to your itinerary while visiting the capital of the himalayas:
The iconic Pashupatinath Temple is located along the Bagmati River. Famous as the oldest Hindu temple in the country, it dates all the way back to the 5th century and is one of the largest temples in Nepal. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is known for its stunning architecture and its long-standing status as a symbol of faith and religion.
As scary as it may sound, the Pashupatinath temple is also where 75% of Kathmandu Valley’s funerals take place. In Nepal, funerals are public events so it is quite an interesting and daunting sight to see a public burning of a dead body, with both the family standing next to, and then tourists taking photos also.
Boudha Stupa, or Bodhanath Stupa, is the largest stupa in Nepal. It is extremely integral to the Tibetan culture and one of the holiest Buddhist monuments world wide. The stupa was built in the 14th century in Boudha and has remained a very important pilgrim destination ever since. When seen from above, the stupa resembles a humongous mandala, a diagram of the Buddhist cosmos. The stupa’s architecture also represents the five Buddhas that personify the five elements – earth, air, fire, water and ether. Other symbolic numbers such as the 13 rings at the base to symbolize the path to enlightenment and the nine levels to represent Mt. Meru can also be seen here.
Garden of Dreams
The Garden of Dreams, also known as the Swapan Bagaicha, is one of the most beautiful and serene enclaves in Kathmandu. Located within walking distance from Thamel, Garden of Dreams is where you get to re-discover magic. Hidden cuddling spots aside, the place presents stunning floral displays and an oasis of peace that lets you get away from the hustle-bustle of the city. Think of the Garden of Dreams as the Garden of Eden and Central Park all rolled into one, just smaller. Some of its biggest attractions include the original gate, ponds, fountains and a hidden garden. Oh, and wait for it, there’s WiFi as well!!! This is a great place to spend an afternoon enjoying a book, some food and a cup of coffee, in pleasant and quiet surroundings.
The Monkey Temple is an ancient Buddhist temple and stupa and a popular UNESCO World Heritage Site that provides one of the best experiences that the city of Kathmandu has on offer. The temple is a beautiful interpretation of Buddhist and Hindu cultures. Its compound is dominated by a gleaming white stupa which has been topped by a gilded spire and the place is always full of monkeys. A trip to the Monkey Temple is intoxicating to say the least. Ancient carvings dominate the architecture while the smell of butter lamps and incense hangs in the atmosphere. Things look even more mystical during the evenings as local devotees spin prayer wheels and the sun sets beyond the horizon to offer one of the most beautiful sunset views in the valley. Do expect to see lots of monkeys also – they see Monkey Temple as their home in Kathmandu.
Relaxation Day at the Hotel Hyatt Pool in Boudha
The Hyatt Regency Kathmandu is one of the top resorts in the country. Spread over 37 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, the resort has been built in a traditional Newari style. Each of its 280 rooms enjoys views of the surrounding mountains, lush gardens or the nearby Bodhanath stupa. Guests can also enjoy the fitness center facilities which includes a health and beauty spa, two outdoor swimming pools, outdoor and indoor whirlpools, jogging track and tennis courts. Out of the two outdoor pools, one pool is for kids while the other is strictly for adults, and then there’s also a jacuzzi. The adult pool measures 25m in length and is one of the largest L-shaped pools in the country. If you’re searching for an excuse to enjoy a full relaxation day while in Kathmandu, you really don’t need anything else than visiting hotel Hyatt. On Saturdays and Sundays they have brunch and pool at a good price. Highly recommended.
Round of Golf at Gokarna Forest Resort
The Gokarna Forest Resort is located within the Gokarna Protected Forest, a part of the area that served as the royal hunting grounds for the kings of Nepal. While the serene and peaceful environment makes the resort an ideal place for relaxation, a game of golf is perhaps the best way of enjoying the spectacular beauty that the Gokarna Forest Resort has on offer. The 6755-yard golf course has been designed by Gleneagles Golf Developments and is considered to be one of the top venues for golf enthusiasts in Asia. Inspired by the mysteries of this forbidden valley, this masterpiece is an 18-hole course that boasts of being the only bentgrass greens in Southeast Asia. And while you’re enjoying a game of golf, you can always expect a spotted deer or those pestering monkeys to keep you company. Other things to do include jungle paintball, forest walks, spa treatments, horse rides, cycling, cart tours and bird watching. Don’t forget to check out the Harmony Spa, a therapeutic spa that combines modern luxury with breathtaking natural beauty, and offers features such as a gym, steam room, Jacuzzi, sauna, an indoor swimming pool and a beauty treatment center.
There are so many things to see and do in Kathmandu that you can easily spend days in the city without having a moment’s respite. From beautiful architecture and ancient temples to delightful natural beauty and majestic mountain views, a trip to Kathmandu is always special. The 2015 earthquake may have caused a lot of damage and destruction and hurt tourism in Nepal, but things are becoming normal and tourists are starting to flock to the country in droves to see the local culture at its beautiful best.