For many, stepping off a plane into Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu is a pupil-dilating experience, a riot of sights, sounds and smells that can quickly lead to sensory overload. Whether you’re barrelling through the traffic-jammed alleyways of the old town in a rickshaw, marvelling at the medieval temples or dodging trekking touts in the backpacker district of Thamel, Kathmandu can be an intoxicating, amazing and exhausting place. This endlessly fascinating, sometimes infuriating city has enough sights to keep you busy for a week, but be sure to leave its backpacker comforts and explore the ‘real Nepal’ before your time runs out.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
This complex of palaces, courtyards and temples, built between the 12th and 18th centuries, used to be the seat of the ancient Malla kings of Kathmandu. An intriguing piece here is the 17th- century stone inscription set into the wall of the palace with writings in 15 languages. The Durbar Square is the social, religious and urban focal point of the city. There are also three museums inside the palace building.
Swayambhunath Stupa – The Monkey Temple
This spectacular monument watches over the valley from the top of a hillock on its western side. The huge stupa is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal and its establishment is linked to the creation of the Kathmandu Valley out of a primordial lake. Swoyambhu is also known as Samhengu and the Monkey temple because of the countless monkeys living at the premises.
It lies in the center of the old bazaar. It is dedicated to Goddess Bhagwati, yet another manifestation of Shakti. The park grounds offer a fine picnic and relaxing area.
Located in the southern flank of the Pokhara valley, Davis Fall is locally known as ‘Patale Chhango’. Here the stream flowing from Fewa Lake collapses and surges down the rock into a deep gorge, leaping through several potholes. This site is hugely popular with tourists and locals alike.
The revered Gupteshwor Cave is situated 2 kms from Pokhara airport. The entrance is right across from Davis fall and the cave is almost 3 kms long. It has some big hall-sized rooms and some passages where you have to crawl on all four. This cave holds special value to Hindus since a phallic symbol of Lord Shiva is preserved here in the condition it was discovered.
Phewa Lake and Barahi Temple
Enjoy boating on the beautiful Phewa Lake. Situated at an altitude of 800m above sea level, it is the second largest lake in Nepal. With the Barahi Island Temple in the middle of the lake, it is the most important religious monument in Pokhara. Built almost in the middle of Phewa Lake, this two-storeyed pagoda is dedicated to the female force Shakti. The reflection of Mt. Machhapuchhare and Annapurna can be seen in its serene water. Thick forest lies on the adjoining southern slopes of the lake.
Seti River Gorge
Carved by Seti-Gandaki, it is one of the natural wonders of Pokhara. K.I. Singh bridge at Bagar, Mahendrapool and Prithivi highway Bridge near bus park, provide a perfect view of the river’s dreadful rush and the deep gorge made by the turbulent flow of white water.
Tibetan Refugee Camp
The Tibetan village Tashiling in the south and the Tashi Palkhiel village in the north of Pokhara are renowned for the production and trade of woolen carpets and other handicrafts. The original Tibetan settlers in this region migrated to Nepal in the ‘50s.