Nepal has always been synonymous with the Himalayas in my mind. The very thought of Himalayas gives fresh energy to the soul, and I was no exception. Just a few years back, I planned this short four-day trip to Kathmandu; the capital of Nepal and its largest metropolis. Though after this trip, I have visited Kathmandu almost ten times. But as you say, the first time is always "the first time," and my first trip to Kathmandu brings back some beautiful memories.
I took a two hours flight from Delhi and reached Kathmandu in almost no time. While we were still airborne, the pilot of our plane continuously gave us narrations of the Himalayan peaks through which we were passing. The view of the snow-clad mountain peaks was simply spectacular, and I was already charmed.
I had this long-time desire to visit Kathmandu to get an understanding of the culture, tradition, and uniqueness of Nepal. I landed at the Tribhuwan International Airport, a small cozy airport in Kathmandu, on a cold February morning but received a lot of warmth starting from the airport staff itself. As soon as I stepped out of the airport, I could see the beautiful valley I had only read about in books and travel portals. It was "the Kathmandu Valley." Luckily, there were taxis readily available.
The air was relatively fresh, and there was a definite chill in the air.
The chauffeur who drove me to my hotel could speak Nepali, Hindi, and little English, so I did not feel as if the language was a barrier during my conversation. The chauffeur gave me hands-on information on Kathmandu. The city is 4600ft above sea level. Eight rivers dissect Kathmandu. The main river of the valley is the Bagmati river, and it has its tributaries out of which Bishnumati, Dhobi Khola, Manohara Khola, Hanumante Khola, and Tukucha Khola flow. He shared that the population of Kathmandu is just over one million, and the city has over 87 percent literacy rate. I was sure there would be a lot of knowledge that I would carry back home.
He shared that the weather remains pleasant almost throughout the year, and I believed it because I was experiencing it myself.
As I checked into my hotel, I experienced great warmth at the front desk. The architecture of the hotel was done up in a typical "Newari style;" a unique and peculiar style of Nepal. I checked into my room, freshened up, and was ready to step out to fill my empty stomach.
There are plenty of food options in Kathmandu the possibilities are so many that I almost got confused. I must confess Kathmandu is one city that can serve food to everyone’s taste. I spoke to some local people who guided me to a place where I could have the special Nepali momos, popularly known as dumplings in the rest of the world. I learned that momos are almost a staple diet in Nepal. I had one of the best momos ever at the famous Bakery Café. They were juicy and delicious. I wanted to have more and more of it. The Bakery Café had its own uniqueness as most of the staff of this café were differently-abled and gave a different vibe to the place. Each member serving was perfect at not just taking food orders but also serving the order with a smile. I fell in love with the place.
I came back to my hotel to rest for more energy for the coming days. By now, I had spoken with a lot of local people. They gave me an idea of "what to explore," "what to eat," and "for what to shop" in my four-day trip. So, here I was ready to go in my short four days visit. I recommend the following when in Kathmandu to everyone henceforth especially for a 4-5 days trip this itinerary is just perfect
What to See in 4 or 5 Days (Tourism)
I started my exploration with divine blessings. A revered historic Hindu temple, this temple is almost like a mecca for Hindus across the world. It is a temple of ‘Lord Shiva’ and is located on the banks of the river Bagmati and the eastern part of Kathmandu Valley. Pashupatinath Temple has a unique ‘Pagoda architecture.’ The temple complex was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List. This ancient temple dates back its existence to 400 B.C. The main idol has faces in four directions. The temple resides on a square base platform with a height of 23 meters 7cm from base to pinnacle. One unique feature of this temple is that only four priests can touch the idol and carry out the daily rituals. There are many temples in the main temple complex, and the entire temple complex is a witness to the belief systems of people. The complex is always charged up because of continuous chanting of mantras by the visitors. There is some divine power in this complex that charges you, and I experienced a similar feeling. One can offer prayers and get a special pooja organized through the priest to take the blessings of Lord Pashupati.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
From Pashupati Nath temple, I took a taxi that took me to another famous site in Kathmandu called Durbar Square. There is a minimal entry ticket to see the place if one is a tourist. Durbar Square is a beautiful complex and is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture is done up in a typical Newar Style. It was also known as the Hanuman Dhoka Palace complex, which was the Nepalese royal residence. It was a place where important ceremonies like the coronation of the Nepalese Monarchy took place once upon a time. The site is beautifully decorated with carved wooden windows and is home to the King Tribhuwan Memorial Museum. There are less than ten quadrangles in the square, and only a few portions of the palace are open to the public, and I was happy even to explore a little. The museum gives you an excellent historical overview of the area. Many artificial jewelry peddlers sell jewelry here. It is advisable to bargain with them to get the best price.
It was already my third day in Kathmandu, and I decided to visit Swayambhunath. It is on top of a hill in the valley and is an amazing ancient religious place. Swayambhunath is a sacred Buddhist Pilgrimage site. One has to walk uphill, and there are stairs that go uphill. The climb initially looked like a daunting task, but once I reached the top, I was truly mesmerized. The complex had a stupa, a large number of shrines and temples with a few of them dating back to the Licchavi period. A Tibetan monastery, museum, and library are also housed within the complex. One very striking point that I witnessed was that the stupa has Buddha's eyes and eyebrows painted on between them. The number one (in Devanagari script) that was painted in the fashion of a nose. I stood there and looked at the eyes, and each time I did, I got a feeling that through these eyes, some divine power was looking at me and probably blessing me. I came out of the monastery and looked at the view from the top. What I saw was a spectacular panoramic view of the valley. I could have stood there for hours to look around the beauty of the place. I felt so positive and on top of the world. There are many shops in the area, and I picked up some small Buddhist souvenirs. However, I realized that I would have been better off had I bargained a little more.
Some of the Must do Activities that I loved
Helicopter Ride to Mount Everest
Once in a lifetime kind of activity is this mountain flight, almost everyone recommended it, so I decided to embark upon it. The helicopter took flight from Kathmandu airport and flew swiftly alongside the Himalayas. It gave me an eye-level view of snow-capped peaks before bringing me back in just one hour. It even became static in the air next to the Grand Everest. The tour allowed me to see Mount Everest from such a close vantage point that it looked like I was in some magical land with snow-clad peaks all around. This close encounter with Everest is highly recommended. At the end of this ride, I even received a certificate, acknowledging my visit to Mount Everest. This short helicopter ride is one of the closest encounters a person can have with the Grand Everest.
With plenty of shopping opportunities to buy original Nepalese products, some organic and handmade, Thamel is a paradise for all tourists. Almost every evening, I ventured out to this wonderful place to fill my appetite for shopping. Cashmere shawls, stoles, scarfs, and other woolen products in all sizes and shapes. Thamel is also a popular place for nightlife and is always packed with tourists throughout the day. When is Kathmandu, one should not miss Thamel.
Most five star hotels in Kathmandu have an in-house Casino which operates day and night. These casinos are open to tourists to try their luck and make some money. Dance performances are going on in these casinos and they are a great source of entertainment for people who want to multiply their money while having fun together.
What to Eat When in Kathmandu?
Most cafes, pubs, and restaurants in Kathmandu offer great and peculiar taste which generally one can’t find anywhere outside Nepal. Kathmandu offers a true treat to any food connoisseur. A few most popular dishes are momos (especially chicken and mutton), simple Nepali Thali, Newari Thali (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian), potato chutney, and sel roti. Kathmandu offers a very cosmopolitan life and therefore is home to many restaurants that provide continental, Italian, Indian, and Mexican food. Some cafes even offer firewood pizza, which I bet you can’t find anywhere to match in taste.
My four days in Kathmandu went by so quickly that before I could even relax completely after arriving home, I was ready to fly back from Kathmandu. When I was about to leave from Kathmandu airport, I knew this place is going to call me back again very soon.