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Kathmandu Valley: Wonderland of myths and unique hospitality

Nepal in itself is a tiny little landlocked country but is renowned all over the world for its dazzling arrays of natural, cultural and historical diversities. Every now and then, you can hear people planning to do trekking in Nepal and explore the beautiful valleys, mountains, rivers, villages, forests and cities that lie within it. The abundant variety of exotic travel destinations is seemingly overwhelming for many first-time visitors, but they soon catch the Nepalese rhythm and find joy in every place they visit while staying here. However, if you ever make plans to visit Nepal, there is one particular city which stands out the most from others and will charm you explicitly in a matter of seconds. And that city is Kathmandu!

Historically, Kathmandu is one of the most dramatic, entrancing and artistic cities in the world with a very compelling yet conspicuous history that can fascinate every traveler who decides to visit this place. It is the capital city of Nepal and is also the most modernized, populated cities. But that won’tdownturn its rich, age-old religious history which shows some of its first inhabitants to be living here around 300 BCE. The name Kathmandu was initially thought to be derived from the word ‘Kasthamandap’ which generally means ‘wood covered shelter’. But if we dive in too deep, we can find out that the initial/historical name of Kathmandu was ‘Kantipur’ during the rule of Malla Dynasty.

Even though, Nepal lies along the southern slopes of the Himalayan mountain ranges, some may feel a bit by constraint by the amount of pollution present in Kathmandu city. But that usually is not very alarming as tourists staying in Kathmandu canenjoy their travel days here throughout the entire year due to its perfect weather and climate. Climatically, the entire Kathmandu city intakes a mild sub-tropical weather with dry winters. This in turn causes the summer temperatures to rise up to a maximum of 34 degree Celsius and winter temperatures usually don’t go down below 0 degree Celsius.Hence, you can assure yourself that staying in Kathmandu will not be bad for your vacation. And for your information, Kathmandu city covers an estimated land area of 50.7 square kilometers which is home to more than 1.4 million individuals.

At present,travelers and explorers alike can visit several historic, culturally robust palaces that are scattered all over the Kathmandu valley. Talking about its ancient palaces, Kathmandu valley  is blessed with Kathmandu Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square. Firstly, the Kathmandu Durbar Square is the nearest Durbar Square nearby Thamel area – the most popular touristic part of Kathmandu city. So, it can be reached easily by foot without the need of hiring a local taxi or any other transport vehicle. Then comes the Bhaktapur Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square which are both located in Bhaktapur &Patan respectively afar from the central area of Kathmandu. All of these durbar squares are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site and showcase the history, culture, norms and monarchy of previous decades.

Besides these palaces, you can also explore some other spectacular places of Kathmandu which are some of the prominent tourist attractions of Nepal. Kathmandu tourism sites include Swayambhunath – the monkey temple, Boudhanath – one of the largest Buddhist stupa in the world, Kopan Monastery – a spiritual yet enlightening place to learn about Buddhism and Garden of dreams – a neo classical historical garden close to Thamel area. Furthermore, you can visit all these touristic places of Kathmandu city in just about in a full day tour  if you really tighten your schedule. But, if you have plenty of days to spend time in Kathmandu, then take your time to explore every bit of these marvelous touristic legendary sites.

These places can make you want to visit Kathmandu but you must not forget about the enriching festivity that happens each year inside the city during various special occasions which are historically linked to on another. Yes, Dashain and Tihar are the first few festivals which normally come up to your mind when we talk about festivals in Kathmandu. Yes, you are right (in some sense) to think about those two festivals as they are the two biggest festival of Nepalese people. But that’s not something which is particularly limited to Kathmandu city only, as Dashain and Tihar is  celebrated all over Nepal with a joyous yet heartening feelings. But there are some festivals that are only celebrated in Kathmandu. Among those festivals Indra Jatra, MachindranathJatra, GhodeJatra and Gai Jatra are some of the most anticipated festivals of the local people who call Kathmandu city their home.

Indra Jatra is usually celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists with major regards to Indra – Lord of Rain & the King of Heaven. Tourists can join in on the celebration as well with locals performing the classic yet amusing dance while wearing their iconic masks. If you want to dive further into the culture and religious beliefs of people living in Kathmandu, you must not forget about Kumari who is also known as the ‘Living Goddess’. Kumari is significant for many locals who believe that she is the manifestation of Taleju in Hindu religious traditions which dates back several hundreds of years ago. Furthermore, Kumari is also worshipped on the third day of Indra Jatra and many high-level officials including the President of Nepal attend the festival on the specific day. Including Indra Jatra, Kumari is also involved in other major festivals such asDurga Puja and Navaratri.

Let’s stop ourselves for a few instances and backtrack our way to Thamel. As I mentioned above Thamel is the central hub backpackers in Kathmandu as tourists from various corner of the world who arrive in Kathmandu will eventually find their way to Thamel area. The entire Thamel area is filled with touristic restaurants, bars, cafes, lounges and some of the best hotels of Kathmandu city where travelers can spend their free time while enjoying great food and drinks along with some pleasing acoustic musicin Purple Haze – a popular touristic club. Not just luxurious hotels but also budget & cheap hotels are also available in Thamel for budget travelers. You can even do some souvenir shopping and buy some pashmina shawls, handmade anticraft, paintings, jewelries, bracelets and cloth items. To do so, you can just leave your hotel rooms and head out for a stroll around the market areas of Thamel. And trust me when I say this, Thamel area is literally drowning with shops and markets filled with antiquities worth checking out.

I know some of you may prefer traveling to places which has a greater amount of natural presence and lets you watch the iconic Himalayas of Nepal. So, for those people, Kathmandu has places like Nagarkot which is a popular viewpoint for tourists who want to capture some great shots of the northern Himalayas. Situated at a high altitude of 2,175 meters above sea level, tourists can enjoy the sunrise and sunset views above the Himalayan skyline from the top of Nagarkot. Nagarkot is located 26.7 km from Kathmandu which normally doesn’t take more than 1 and half hour to reach via road. Besides that, you can even make your way to other places like Kakani and Balthali which are very similar to Nagarkot in terms of natural trails and lush green natural atmosphere.

And for hikers who simply don’t want to spend their remaining days by going on a short hike up through the nearby hills and villages, they can make plans to visit Sundarijal, Balthali and Champadevi. These places have pleasing hiking trails that do not exert too much physical pressure into your body and can be done in a short period of time. If that’s not enough, adventure enthusiast who want to go for bike riding in Kathmandu and feel the winds thrashing them upfront, can do that as well. Tourists can hire bikes around Thamel area and head out to explore the temples, monasteries, forests & picturesque villages in/near Kathmandu. Remember, you can always make a de-tour of all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Kathmandu valley on your bike as well, if you prefer doing that. So, in a touristic sense, both hiking and biking are possible in Kathmandu.

In addition to all of that, the capital city of Nepal is also the first entry point for all travelers who come to Nepal via flight as the one and only international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport is located here. Anyone who has ever thought off flying into Nepal for a memorable, remarkable trek to the Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Base Camp or go further to even scale the entire summit, will typically find themselves in Kathmandu city. And it is one of the biggest reasons behind Kathmandu having many 5-star International Hotels and 24 International Airlines Operating from Bangkok to Turkey and South Korea. So, if you are worrying about not getting accommodated with a top-notch hospitality services of reputed 5-star hotel then you are simply wrong as Kathmandu has it all (literally).

Last of all, Kathmandu city is a focal point for tourists who plan on traveling in Tibet. Some of the best access route to the ‘Roof of the world’ aka Tibet is available in Kathmandu as numerous tour operators in Kathmandu offer trip packages of Tibet. Yes, Tibet in geographical sense is a close neighbor of Nepal but as it has various restrictions imposed on other nations, Kathmandu becomes the best option for those wanting to visit Tibet. You can get a direct flight to Lhasa – the capital city of Tibet, from Kathmandu and even get Tibet Visa Facilities in order to enter into Tibet. And if that’s not enough, there are many cheap flights to Kathmandu for travelers who have strict budget planned for their travel to Kathmandu.

So, if you consider all these aforementioned points, then spending your coming New Year Holidays in Kathmandu may not seem so bad after all.