on October 28, 2011
Durbar Square and Thamel are the main stops of most visitors in Kathmandu; Boudhanath – one of the world’s largest stuppas is also a must. Then, Patan, Bhaktapur and Nagarkot are also often visited by travelers waiting for their treks or flights. However, after all these are covered, there are still quite a few attractions surrounding Kathmandu. Here are the main ones:SwayambhunathAs Boudhanath, Swayambhunath is a large stuppa with the observant and colorful eyes of the Buddha drawn on it. However, this one is placed atop a hill and allows seeing large parts of the Kathmandu Valley. The site is known also as the Monkey Temple and includes secondary structures, like a library, a gompa (a Mahayana Buddhist temple) and a pilgrims’ rest house. The temple to Saraswati – the goddess of learning – is nearby. This is a good visit to those planning a trek, as it offers a 3D view of the area, easing thus the acquaintance with the terrain for those arriving with a good map. It is possible to walk there from Thamel (thirty minutes); a trip by riksha will take probably the same amount of time.PashupatinathBetween Kathmandu and Patan is Pashupatinath, a temple sitting on the Kathmandu bank of the Bagmati River. This is one of the most revered Hindu temples in the world; cremations are performed here routinely. Non-Hindus cannot enter it, but the site can be enjoyed from the bridge connecting the towns and from the Patan side of the river. The temple is dedicated to Shiva – the creator and destroyer – thus linga-shaped fertility statues can be spotted everywhere.This visit is important also for another reason: it allows enjoying the Newar architectural heritage. Until the unification of Nepal in 1768, Newar was the predominant culture in the Kathmandu Valley. They are best known for they architecture in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, where they built the respective Durbar squares. They built using brick, wood and tiles, and are said to have invented the pagoda. Real or not, their ornamental windows feature exquisite carvings. While enjoying them pay attention to the monkeys walking along them and on the roofs above them. They may jump on any bit of food, even if it is being eaten by a hungry traveler. If you carry food around, do not show it. Moreover, do not offer food to the monkeys; they may attack in an attempt to get more once the feast is over.Sadhus – holy men dressed in saffron robes and capable of performing very unusual acts - abound in Kathmandu, but Pashupatinath is obviously their favorite temple. Unlike elsewhere, they won’t approach travelers here (to be exact, non-Hindu travelers can’t approach them). The site is better reached by foot from Thamel. The serpentine streets connecting both sides are especially delightful, offering hidden temples, and an insight into local life.DakshinkaliLocated 20 kilometers from downtown Kathmandu, Dakshinkali is a temple dedicated to Kali. On Tuesday and Saturdays live sacrifices are performed; the event is definitely not recommended for vegetarians. The temple is crossed along the way to Pokhara and it can be accessed via taxi, or the buses that leave from the Martyr’s Gate, by Kathmandu’s post office. Though the selection of the departing gate seems a bit morbid, it oddly fits the event.BudhanianthaThis temple features a large image of Vishnu reclining on a bed of huge coiled snakes, usually known as the Sleeping Vishnu. The site can be reached with a rented bike or a taxi. Definitively this is the less touristy attraction in this list, and thus very worth of attention.
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