Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal is a fascinating mix of traditional and cosmopolitan times and living. This multilayered city is home to several ethnic groups and may be described in many ways- holy city, hippy paradise, tourist destination are just some of them. It has been a prominent stopover in the ancient trade route between India and China for as long as a thousand years.
Kathmandu valley is placed at an altitude of 1,200 to 1,500 m with an area of 570 sq km.
The cityscape is scattered with old monasteries and temples and modern structures, narrow lanes and hip shopping areas, bustling market places and serene suburbs. The urbanization has taken its toll on the natural settings the country is generally known for, so a sampling of Kathmandu alone is likely to leave you dissatisfied as far as natural beauty is concerned.
Kathmandu is nevertheless an inevitable gateway for anyone visiting the country. It is the biggest city in Nepal and houses the embassies and other government establishment you need. So it would be a good idea to make the most of your stay in the city. You might also consider staying at places in the vicinity of the city like Bhaktapur or Boudha, Nagarkot or Dhulikhel. You will be still able to make day trips to the city for your work and the sightseeing. This way you can be in more scenic surroundings and also save on boarding costs.
The weather pattern is pretty similar to that of the hilly terrains of neighbouring India, with mid-June to September being the rainy season. It rains heavily during this time. October-November and February- March are the most comfortable months. It is hot and dusty in the summer months of May and June.
Places of Interest in and around Kathmandu
Pashupatinath is a temple dedicated to Lord Siva and an important Hindu pilgrimage centre. It is a smaller version of Varanasi in India, with its cremation ghats, ritual baths and sadhus. The temple is situated on the banks of river Bagmati.
Patan, as the ancient city is called, is on the southern bank of the river Bagmati. This part of the city is known for its Buddhist monuments and Hindu temples. These structures showcase the traditional architecture with their fine bronze gateways, guardian deities and wonderful carvings. There are many craftsmen and metal workers here. Patan is one of the three ancient city-kingdoms of the Kathmandu valley.
Bhimsen Tower in Old Town is a watch tower that looks like a minaret. This landmark, also called Sundhara, was built by a Rana prime minister. This towering structure was part of Kathmandu’s first European style palace. It was damaged in an earthquake in 1934.
Freak Street is the city’s most famous street due to its associations with the hippy movement of the 1960s and 70s. The locals used to call it Jochne before it became famous as Freak Street.
The Old Royal Palace in Durbar Square is in the old town and is a magnificent specimen of traditional architecture of the region. This building complex was also damaged in the 1934 earthquake but it nevertheless remains a must see. The royal family does not live here any more.
Kathmandu has an international airport.However there aren’t too many direct flights to Kathmandu. The latest information is that there are direct flights from Frankfurt, Bangkok and Dhaka. Travelers from other places have to change planes or even airlines in India.However there is good connectivity in the domestic sector, the most popular route being Pokhara- Kathmandu.
Many important cities in northern India have bus services to Kathmandu. There are also tour operators in the Kathmandu- Lhasa (Tibet) sector. There are several bus services and tourist minibuses from the city available to places like Pokhara, Terai and Chitwan.
Kathmandu has a wide variety of hotels that fit every budget. Apart from four/ five star hotels like Hotel Everest and Hotel Yak&Yati, the other end of the spectrum offers budget hotels like Dwarika’s Hotel and Nirvana Garden.