Reasons to Visit Kathmandu Nepal
Nepal is part of glorious holiday destinations the world has to offer, packed with lush forests and ice capped mountains. You may be wondering if Kathmandu and the rest of this beautiful part of the world is safe to travel to following the April 25 2015 earthquake that measured in at over 7.8 magnitude on the richter scale. It’s well known that Nepal was shaken up pretty badly during the enormous quake and the following aftershock on May 12th, which also damaged so much of the area.
Traveling to Kathmandu, Nepal following the 2015 earthquake – is it safe?
The great news is that visiting Kathmandu post earthquake is not only still an interesting experience, but it’s also one of the most important holiday excursions you could make. One of the greatest ways you could actually help Nepal out is by going to visit the region. Tourism is a very important resource to the Nepalese Economy, and the 2015 earthquake brought the area to a standstill. Tens of thousands of Nepalese rely on the income that the local tourism industry provides. The earthquake took many lives, devastated so many monuments, structures, and destroyed Nepalese livelihoods, and the revival of Kathmandu’s tourism industry is key in recovering from the destruction. Safety precautions have been made, some areas have been cordoned off as being viewable only from a safe distance, and safety hard hats are worn on tours around areas where damage has occurred to structures.
One of the most important reasons to visit Kathmandu: tourism helps rebuild!
The majority of the tour offices, shops and the hotels throughout the Kathmandu Valley have since been reopened, and many of them never suffered any structural damage. Airports have long since resumed flights in and out of the region, and communications are back up. Life has returned to a state of normalcy and is awaiting the return of
visitors to Kathmandu. Nepal has reopened most of its UNESCO World Heritage groups of structures and monuments in Kathmandu Valley as of June 15th, 2015, now requiring travelers to the area to don helmets for their guided tours for an added safety measure inside and around the buildings. Trekking routes are being reopened, and the whole area is ready to welcome visitors to this magnificent location once again.
Kathmandu – city in the mountains
The city of Kathmandu rests in central Nepal at an elevation of about fourteen hundred metres or four and a half thousand feet, in the bowl of the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu is characterized by its mountain setting, being circled by four major mountains: Nagarjun, Shivapuri, Phulchoki and Chandragiri. The beautiful Kathmandu Valley is one part of three different districts: Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur. The Kathmandu region is home to Nepal’s highest population density, with about one twelfth of Nepal’s population residing there.
In the past, the Kathmandu Valley area and its adjoining regions were once referred to as Nepal Mandala and up until the 15th century, the city of Bhaktapur relinquished its status as capital when the two other cities of Kathmandu and Lalitpur were established as capitals. Pending the Rana and Shah eras, British historians regarded the valley itself as being “Nepal Proper”. In recent times, modern Kathmandu is not only the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, but also known as the headquarters of the Central Development Region of Nepal. The Central Region is made up of three different zones: Bagmati, Narayani, and Janakpur, with Kathmandu being located in the Bagmati Zone.
Kathmandu has a vibrant and rich history that spans almost two thousand years, as proven from the inscriptions discovered in the valley. Cultural and religious celebrations make up an important part of the lives of local people residing in the city of Kathmandu. Most of Kathmandu’s residents practice Hinduism, and many others practice Buddhism as well as multiple other religious beliefs, making Kathmandu quite a cultural hub of Nepal. Nepali is the most commonly spoken language in the city, however the English language is understood by most of Kathmandu’s educated locals.
Getting into and around Kathmandu – tips for the traveller to Nepal:
Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport is Nepal’s only international airport, and it’s also the largest of Nepal’s airports. It’s situated five and a half kilometers east of Thamel, one of the most frequented tourist neighborhoods of Kathmandu making it an easy destination to get to and from if you’re staying in the city.
Kathmandu’s international airport lacks direct flights from most of Europe, Africa, North and South America and Australasia, however the city is still extremely well connected and it usually only takes one change of flight to reach this destination. Dozens of airlines service Kathmandu, and plane is the most popular way to reach this city.
There are a few tips for those flying into Kathmandu. Domestic flights within Nepal are almost always delayed, and regardless of whether you’re traveling domestic or international you’ll need to be mindful of your luggage. Never travel with valuables in your checked baggage, as bags coming and going from the airport are vulnerable to theft. Don’t lock your bags, as they will be forced open. Be cautious when collecting your bags, for you may suddenly find yourself indebted to the service of a bag collector whether you asked for their help or not – if you’re planning on carrying your bags yourself insist that you do not need the service or you’ll be expected to pay their fee. Try not to exchange your money at the airport if possible, as they don’t have the best rates and charge fees.
When getting around Kathmandu, it’s important to know that there are no trains, and you can only hire cars with drivers. There are hotel transfer transportation options from the airport to your hotels if you pre-arrange the ride. There are prepaid taxi options to Thamel, in which you give your driver your prepaid receipt once you arrive to your destination, and be aware that there isn’t a tipping custom for drivers in Kathmandu. Regular taxi service exists in the city, but requires some haggling for prices. A tip if you’re catching a taxi from the airport is to go to the end of the parking lot and catch a taxi from there, where the driver doesn’t have to pay an airport entrance fee. Local bus services also cater to the Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport and the rest of the city.
Top reasons to see the city of Kathmandu!
Visit the extraordinary Kathmandu Durbar Square
In Nepali, Durbar means “palace” and this is the site where the monarch was crowned and the place from where he ruled. UNESCO refers to Durbar Square as “the social, religious and urban focal point” of the Nepalese capital. Durbar Square has reopened to the public and despite the damages it has suffered, is ready for visitors once again. This ancient square is filled with various palaces and temples which suffered from the 2015 earthquake, including the current variation of the Kasthamandap or “Wooden house” that gives the city of Kathmandu its name. This square has been occupied since the construction of a palace around 1000 AD and is currently the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal.
The Durbar Square is especially interesting in the very early parts of the day, when a variety of merchants begin to set up their booths, and various devotees make their offerings at the number of shrines and temples in the square. Be prepared to pay an entrance fee for foreigners, of NPR 750. If you’re planning on staying in the area for more than one day, it’s worth it exchange your single-entry ticket at the Site Office, for a multiple-entry pass which will let you come and go as you please. Just bring your passport and one passport photo, and the whole process should only take a couple of minutes. The multiple-entry pass will then give you access to all of the open places in Durbar Square as well as the Hanuman Dhoka. Security perimeters have been put in place in the area and many of the buildings aren’t safe, but they are still able to be viewed.
There are over a dozen structures of note in this small area. They include:
- Maju Deval
- Narayan Temple
- Shiva-Parvati Temple
- Kumari Palace
- Bhagwati Temple
- Saraswati Temple
- Krishna Temple
- Sweta Bhairab Statue
- Kal Bhairab
- Indrapur Temple
- Vishnu temple
- Mahendreswar Temple
- Nasal Chowk Statues, temples and the Rana museum
Go Hiking in the Kathmandu Valley
Kathmandu attracts adventurers for a good reason. Not only being a main focus for mountain climbers seeking the extreme thrill of climbing the highest mountains in the planet, Kathmandu offers a variety of outdoor adventures.
Hop on a bus at the Bhaktapur Bus Terminal situated east of Ratna Park to Bhaktapur and from there another to Nagarkot in the Kathmandu Valley. You can also take a tourist bus directly from downtown Kathmandu to the hiking site for a higher price.
An example of the Kathmandu Valley trek is as follows:
Day 01: Kathmandu – Sundarijal – Chisapani, 5:30hrs. Arrive from Kathmandu to Sundarijal. The trail winds up through the forest to Chisopani Danda. If you’re lucky, it will be a clear day and the views of mountain from east to west with be terrific. There are good photo opportunities of the mountains and Kathmandu Valley.
Day 02: Chisapani – Nagarkot, 5 to 7:30hrs. A very interesting trail will bring you to the hill retreat of Nagarkot, resting on a ridge 28 kilometers east of Kathmandu. Breathtaking views of the Himalayas are possible from this site. Five of the world’s ten highest peaks, Everest, Lhotse, Choyu, Makalu and Manaslu can be seen.
Day 03: Nagarkot – Dhulikhel 6:00hrs. Following the trail up to the tower of Nagarkot, where there are magnificent views of mountain ranges including a view of Mt Everest and down into Kathmandu valley. The trail descends down through the rhododendron forest and villages to Dhulikhel.
Day 04: Dhulikhel -Namobuddha- Kathmandu. Take the trail passing by many villages to Namobuddha. In Namobuddha you will come across a Tibetan monastery, which is an interesting stop along the trail.
Study Meditation and Yoga in Nepal
Take a truly life changing course in meditation when you visit one of these Kathmandu meditation centres and learn from the masters:
- Pathik Foundation: Learn meditation, practice ancient yogic methods, study the practice of Collective Living for Higher Consciousness.
- Nepal Vipassana Centres: Learn Vipassana Meditation, which is a popular Buddhist Meditation, as taught by S. N. Goenka.
- Osho Tapoban Forest Retreat: Nagarjun Forest (Raniban).
There are many yoga courses offered in Kathmandu, some of them situated in serene and beautiful mountain retreats. Treat your mind and body to a Kathmandu yoga class:
- Bikram Yoga College of India: Offering daily hot yoga classes in the heart of Thamel by drop-in or monthly basis.
- Nepal Yoga Academy: Yoga teacher training in view of scenic Sankhu Valley near Kathmandu. A range of courses are offered, and the academy is Yoga Alliance certified.
- Nepal Yoga Retreat: A peaceful and energizing upscale yoga retreat, teaching classical yoga in the Kathmandu Valley.
- Patanjali Yoga Centre: Nepal’s first residential school of Yoga.
- Satyananda Yoga Centre: Kathmandu yoga camps featuring group and individual courses.
- Sadhana Bhumi Himalaya For Life Research: A yoga and naturopathy retreat centre featuring ancient traditional yoga, combined with modern yoga style set in a beautiful and inspiring natural environment.
Come see the newly repaired Boudhanath Stupa
Relatively minor damage was sustained by Boudhanath stupa after the 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, which severely cracked the spire.Travellers still arrive in large numbers to visit Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu, despite the recent quake. Situated about 11 km or almost 7 miles from the center and northeastern side of Kathmandu, the Boudhanath Stupa’s enormous mandala dominates the Kathmandu skyline and makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. As of 1979, Boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist must-see sites in the Kathmandu area.
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