There is so much to see in Nepal but in 7-9 days one must consider what is within reach. Considering time of the year and weather, some things might not go to plan. I really wanted to do the base camp for Mount Everest but with limited time.
Nepal is a landlocked country in Southern Asia, between the Tibet autonomous region of China and India. It contains 8 of the world’s 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest – the world’s tallest – on the border with Tibet, and Lumbini, the birth place of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Visitors to Nepal generally associate the nation with snow-capped mountain peaks. Whilst there are over 90 peaks which lie above 7000m (22,966 ft), approximately one-third of the country is low-lying and subtropical.
Though my plans are ambitious, it is always a good thing to have some idea of what to see, and what not to miss. This is the plan:
Arrive in Kathmandu – the largest city and capital of Nepal and the namesake of the Kathmandu Valley. Once thought to be the fabled and inaccessible Shangri-La, Kathmandu is a hub for independent travellers as well as a growing vacation spot catering to all budgets. Spend the first day adjusting to the new environment before major sight seeing.
- Kathmandu Durbar Square
This ancient square is crowded with palaces and temples, including the current incarnation of the Kasthamandap or “Wooden house” that gives the city its name. The square has been occupied since the construction of a palace around 1000AD. This site is the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal.
The Square is particularly fascinating in the very early morning as all the various merchants set up their wares and when many devotees make their offerings at the various shrines and temples. In Nepali, Durbar means “palace” and this is where the monarch was crowned and from where he ruled.
- Freak Street – Historic street where western hippies seeking enlightenment would stay. Now just a few restaurants and hotels.
- Swayambhu – Monkey Temple – A site on a hill overlooking the city with a large stupa and other Buddhist and Hindu iconography. One of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the country. There are 350 steps to the top. Aside from the views over the city and the ancient carvings in every available space, it’s crowded with monkeys mingling with the visitors. The base of the hill is a 30 minute walk from Thamel, or take a taxi or rickshaw. This is one of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley.
- Thamel Chowk – a tourist neighborhood with many restaurants and shops
- Narayanhiti Palace Museum – This is the former Royal palace which was turned partly into a Museum and partly into the Foreign Ministry after the abolition of the monarchy in 2009. Now you can visit the splendid Halls of the main building of the palace. Giant fruit bats hanging from the tall trees and 20 foot-tall bamboo around the otherwise modern (and still well secured) former palace are a sight, especially around sunset when the bats depart en masse.
- Garden of Dreams / Kaiser Mahal – Relax in this beautiful and peaceful walled garden close to Thamel and the former Royal Palace. Currently has two pavilions depicting two of the six annual seasons in the Hindu calendar.
Patan is a one of the largest cities in Nepal and is located just across the Bagmati river from Kathmandu. Confusingly, it is also known as Lalitpur, both names deriving from the Sanskrit “Lalitapattan”. Like its larger neighbour, Patan also boasts a Durbar Square full of temples, statues, and palaces and, in addition, has the must-see attraction of Patan Museum.
Bhaktapur is an ancient city and is renowned for its elegant art, fabulous culture, colorful festivals, traditional dances and indigenous lifestyle of Newari community. It is just 12 kilometers east of Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, but gives the feeling of prehistoric times given the ambiance of traditional homes, lifestyles and environment. The city was founded in 12th century by King Anand Dev Malla. Bhaktapur was the capital city of the Greater Malla Kingdom in the Kathmandu Valley till the 15th century AD. Unfortunately, the city has been severely damaged by the 7.9 Magnitude Earthquake on 25th of April, 2015 whose epicenter was about 90 kms NW of Bhaktapur. Many buildings and historical temples, including some in the Bhaktapur Durbar Square collapsed.
The stunningly preserved micro-city of Bhaktapur offers a taste of what Kathmandu was like before the modern world arrived. As a World Heritage site listed by the UNESCO, Bhaktapur has been heavily restored since a 1934 earthquake severely damaged the city. But the city has again been heavily damaged recently by the 7.9 Magnitude Gorkha Earthquake on 25 April, 2015.
Nagarkot is 32 km NE of Kathmandu on the northern fringe of the Kathmandu Valley, famous for its Himalayan views- the Himalayan peaks at sunrise are a magnificent sight to behold. Nagarkot is surrounded by thickly forested hills of pine trees. It is a rustic resort high on the northern fringe of the Kathmandu valley. It is an outstanding hilltop that offers great views of Himalayas, breathtaking mountain scenery and the most impressive views of sunrise and sunset.
Nagarkot commands one of the broadest views of the Himalayas in the Kathmandu valley (8 Himalayan ranges of Nepal out of 13 from here). The ranges include Annapurna range, Manaslu range, Ganesh himal range, Langtang range, Jugal range, Rolwaling range, Mahalangur range (Everest range) and Numbur range with views of the Kathmandu valley and Shivapuri National Park.
Return to Kathmandu – day of travel, rest, enjoy, pamper
- Pashupatinath – At the holy riverbank of Pashupatinath, the Hindu dead are cremated in the open, An important Hindu temple to Shiva in the form of Lord of Animals. See monkeys, cremation, sadhus and meditation caves. Morning or sunset are great times to go.
- Boudha Stupa in Boudha. One of the most sacred sites for Tibetan Buddhism. This huge stupa is one of the largest in the world. It is located to the north-east of Dwarikas’ Hotel and just to the north of the airport area. This is another World Heritage Site.
Kathmandu, and visit anything I might have missed earlier in the week, since so much was planned. It is always a good idea to plan empty days in case plans don’t go as expected.
Return flight home.