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Quick Guide to Kathmandu

July 21st, 2010 by

Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal and a city rich in spiritual history and culture.

Kathmandu valley from Sacred hill-Swayambhunath-Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu and the Kathmandu Valley represents a vital pilgrimage for travelers from all walks of life and on all types of budgets. Here’s what you need to know before you visit.

The Weather in Kathmandu

Dwarika's Hotel, Kathmandu - info@dwarikas.com

The city of Kathmandu is 1,300 meters above sea level and, as such, temperatures vary greatly from one season to the next. Winter months can be harsh and at the height of summer months, conditions can get uncomfortable. Despite moderately cool temperatures, summer months in Kathmandu can be rainy and humid. On the upside, the amount of rain the area receives promotes the growth of a gorgeous, green countryside.

Lama Samteng and Katia walking in Nepal after leaving the GKDL Temple near Kathmandu.

Even though the summer months receive more rain on average, they seem to be most popular time for visitors. If you want to avoid tourists and pilgrims, consider spring and fall for your trip. Intrepid winter sports enthusiasts prefer to visit the Kathmandu Valley area at peak snowfall. All in all however, there no bad time of year to visit if you can withstand occasionally brusque weather.

Transportation throughout Kathmandu

Rickshaw Taxis,Durbar Square Kathmandu Nepal

There are two aspects of Kathmandu you may notice soon after your arrival. Most of the streets do not have names (or are unmarked) unless they are major roads, and very few of the sites have formal addresses. Most people will give you directions to the nearest intersection, square, or market and you’ll have to find your way from there.

Kathmandu taxi driver 79

Walking is one obvious option for getting around Kathmandu, but if you don’t know where you’re going you may prefer a rickshaw ride. All of the rickshaws in Kathmandu are bicycle-operated because the motorized variety has been banned. You’ll have to negotiate your rate with the rickshaw driver before you embark on your journey. If you’re not comfortable with a rickshaw, or you aren’t comfortable with your negotiation skills, opt for a taxi with a visible meter instead. There are several bus and hired car services throughout the city as well.

Shopping in Kathmandu

Shops selling copper containers

Those who love to souvenir-hunt will enjoy the endless variety of market vendors throughout the city. Some products prove more popular with tourists than others.

Fabric Shop, Kathmandu

Wholesale silver for one, is a hot commodity for many tourists to Kathmandu. The base wholesale price, available on the front page of the local “Himalayan” newspaper each day, is very reasonable. Jewelers from as far as Bangkok, and well beyond, often travel to the Nepali capital to buy pieces inlaid with semiprecious gemstones.

Just bear in mind that a purchase of new, cheap silver (or any precious metal or jewelry for that matter) is a quasi-political act and comes with certain consequences. Try to find out where and how the silver was mined and make the best responsible choice as a consumer.

Gift shop at Swayambhunath Stupa - Kathmandu, Nepal

Textile prices in Kathmandu are also very affordable, and local tailors work wonders. Choose from a wide variety of handwoven Nepali fabrics at reasonable rates and head to a nearby haberdasher for a custom-fit.

Sourvanair Shop in Kathmandu

In particular, look out for pashmina (cashmere) shawls or scarves, silks and wool carpets. There is no sales tax in Kathmandu, and no import duty tax on goods like electronics.

Durbar Square

Royal Palace at Patan Durbar Square near Kathmandu, Nepal

There are dozens of incredible temples, monuments, and historic landmarks throughout Kathmandu, but one of the most impressive sites is Durbar Square. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of seven that comprise the Kathmandu Valley inscription.

Taleju Mandir Temple; Kathmandu

Hindus and Buddhists only can visit Taleju Temple in Durbar Square, one of the most historic and magnificent worship sites in Nepal. Kumari Chowk is a remarkable Hindu temple dedicated to the veneration of a “living goddess”, represented during religious ceremonies by a young girl in a gilded cage. Saraswati Temple is known as the Temple of the Goddess of Knowledge. Suffice to say that each temple in Durbar Square fulfills a specific spiritual role and purpose.

There is quite a bit to see and do both in and around the city of Kathmandu. Ask the concierge at your Kathmandu hotel to direct you to any special events or festivals.

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