A surprise visit to Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley

I never thought that I would travel to Nepal anytime soon … to be honest, it never crossed my mind! It’s not that I had no interest in visiting this small Himalayan country, it’s just that I had always perceived it as a destination for hardcore adventurers – the kind that are keen to take on serious physical challenges and conquer the world’s highest mountains.

Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo by Jean-Marie Hullot)
Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo by Jean-Marie Hullot, CC BY 2.0)

So, big was my surprise when I was invited to attend a conference in Kathmandu Valley in May and discovered that there is so much to do for ‘normal’ travellers like me. And, it was right up my alley: a small and very safe country, rich in history and culture, beautiful architecture, great food, wonderful friendly people and very affordable!

Surprise visit to Nepal's Kathmandu Valley. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)

Wedged between India and China, Nepal is at an interesting crossroad of two cultures and religions (most notably Hinduism and Buddhism). From the conversations I’ve had with locals, it seems that this small country is sometimes bullied by its much more powerful neighbours; yet it remains proudly independent and very hospitable towards visitors from near and far. I also learned that Nepal is the birthplace of Buddha – in Lumbini, southern Nepal, to be precise. (I first learned this fact from a sticker on a taxi in front of mine, as I made my way from the airport to my budget hotel in Kathmandu peak hour traffic. ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’).

Surprise visit to Nepal's Kathmandu Valley. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)

During my three-day weekend before the conference, I tried to see as much as possible of Kathmandu Valley. I ended up visiting the three historic kingdoms of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan – all of which I can highly recommend.

Surprise visit to Nepal's Kathmandu Valley. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Kathmandu Durbar Square.

(Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)

Candle offerings in a Buddhist Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Credit: Grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Candle offerings in a Buddhist Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Kathmandu Valley was once ruled by the Malla Dynasty for more than 600 years (from 1201 to 1769). By 1482, however, the kingdom was divided among the three sons of Yaksha Malla and pretty soon these three kingdoms (Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan) became highly competitive. They wanted to outdo each other with everything, including art and architecture, which resulted in a legacy of wonderful exotic craftsmanship and palaces that tourists can still visit today.

Patan in Kathmandu Valley. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Patan Durbar Square in Kathmandu Valley.
The intricate wood carvings in Patan are exquisite. (credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
The intricate wood carvings in Patan are exquisite.

Though much was damaged during the major earthquake in 2015, renovations (supported and funded by many organisations and countries) are in full swing and it did not affect my sightseeing experience at all. In just a few days, I managed to visit six of the seven amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the valley: Kathmandu Durbar (royal palace) Square, Bhaktapur Durbar (royal palace) Square, Patan Durbar (royal palace) Square, Swayambhunath (Kathmandu’s oldest and most important Buddhist temple, a.k.a. the Monkey Temple), Pashupatinath (Hindu Temple and cremation site) and Boudhanath (the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet).

The Golden Gate in Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu Valley. (www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
The Golden Gate in Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu Valley.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square in Kathmandu Valley. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Bhaktapur Durbar Square in Kathmandu Valley.
Posing next to a statue of a wrestler at the Nyatapola Temple in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Posing next to a statue of a wrestler at the Nyatapola Temple in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley.

I was able to do all of this, because I had such a fantastic tour guide. Booking a tour guide was the best decision ever, as there is no way I would have been able to see so much on my own in just a few days.  Manorath Sangraula was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Nepal. I learned so many things: from Nepalese architecture and history to language and religion. All that newfound knowledge made my short visit to Kathmandu Valley so much richer! And, just for the record, he has no idea that I am singing his praises in this blog post 😉

Swayambhunath, Kathmandu's oldest and most important Buddhist temple, also known as 'The Monkey Temple'. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Swayambhunath, Kathmandu’s oldest and most important Buddhist temple, also known as ‘The Monkey Temple’.
One of the many monkeys at Swayambhunath.(Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
One of the many monkeys at Swayambhunath.
Pashupatinath, a Hindu temple and cremation site in Kathmandu. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Pashupatinath, a Hindu temple and cremation site in Kathmandu.

Did I get to see the snow-capped Himalayas? Unfortunately not! Though it is possible at certain times of the year to see the Himalayan mountain range from Kathmandu Valley (I’m told it’s a spectacular sight to behold!), the weather was too hazy when I visited. For people willing to splurge, though, there is the opportunity to do a scenic one-hour mountain flight ‘over’ Mount Everest from Kathmandu’s airport.

View of Himalayas from Kathmandu Airport. (Photo by Kamal Ratna Tuladhar - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.)
View of Himalayas from Kathmandu Airport. (Photo by Kamal Ratna Tuladhar, CC BY-SA 3.0)

I hope to return to Nepal one day to explore more of this beautiful country, see the Himalayas with my own eyes, and perhaps spot one of those elusive Royal Bengal tigers in Chitwan National Park…

 

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A surprise visit to Nepal's Kathmandu Valley (www.GrooveisintheHeart.co.za)

 

Linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday, and:

Weekend Travel Inspiration Linkup The Weekly Postcard Linkup Faraway Files Linkup

34 thoughts on “A surprise visit to Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley

  • September 25, 2017 at 2:12 am
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    Through the great photos and well written and informative account you’ve given, I’m glad I went along with you on this trip. Thanks for sharing these photos and this information with us.
    Edward Fagan recently posted…Abuse, Women And Self ImageMy Profile

    Reply
    • October 2, 2017 at 7:00 pm
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      Thanks, Edward! So glad you enjoyed your virtual visit 🙂

      Reply
  • August 17, 2017 at 8:25 am
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    I’m certainly not fit enough to hike in the Himalayas either so this sounds right up my alley! Wish I had the money to do the sightseeing trip by plane though 😀
    Vanessa recently posted…Welcome to StavangerMy Profile

    Reply
    • August 18, 2017 at 2:40 pm
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      Agreed. If I ever get the chance to return to Nepal, I think I might just do that sightseeing trip by plane 🙂

      Reply
  • August 16, 2017 at 11:41 pm
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    After returning from the mountains in Northern Norway, this makes my heart hum! So beautiful! I love the mix of culture and nature here. Thank you so much for sharing with #FarawayFiles, cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

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    • August 18, 2017 at 2:38 pm
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      Thanks, Erin! It is quite a contrast to your visit to Lofoten Islands 🙂 The world has so many wonderful places to explore…

      Reply
  • August 16, 2017 at 9:40 am
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    I have found Nepal to be sooo fascinating for such a long time now and would love to go! But I definitely need to learn more about the country, as I had no idea it was the birth place of Buddha! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    Reply
    • August 16, 2017 at 4:52 pm
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      It is a fascinating place to visit … and there is still so much more I’d like to see. I hope you’ll also get a chance to visit one day.

      Reply
  • August 15, 2017 at 9:55 am
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    Hi Birgit, by any chance, were you at the Himalayan Travel Mart conference in May? Because I went to Nepal in May as part of the HTM FAM and conference trip. I had also thought that Nepal was a destination for adventure travellers only but my perspective changed during that trip. I realised that there is more to adventure hiking in Nepal. I would love to return to Nepal again 🙂 #FarawayFiles.

    Reply
    • August 15, 2017 at 10:25 pm
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      Ha ha! Wow! How interesting that we both travelled to Nepal in May for conferences. (I was at a different conference, though, on climate change adaptation.) So glad you also enjoyed your trip… will look out for your Nepal blog posts.

      Reply
  • August 15, 2017 at 12:30 am
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    My husband and I have been playing with the idea of visiting Nepal. It is a fascinating country with a very rich history. You are really lucky to have visited Kathmandu. This place looks amazing! #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    • August 15, 2017 at 10:17 pm
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      Ah, you should really try to go – you won’t regret it! I was very lucky indeed 🙂 and would love to return one day!

      Reply
  • August 14, 2017 at 2:15 pm
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    Like you, I never really thought about Nepal as a travel destination beyond the Himalayas. It’s great to know that there’s so much else to see there! Nepal’s had a tough couple of years but glad to know that it’s still traveller-friendly. Hope the rebuilding is going well!

    Reply
    • August 14, 2017 at 5:25 pm
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      It’s amazing how resilient the Nepali people are. And they are so proud of their country and heritage. A great destination for travellers – and tourism is something that the country needs no more than ever to help rebuild their economy after the big earthquake. Hope you also get the opportunity to visit one day!

      Reply
  • August 14, 2017 at 10:42 am
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    Wow, what an opportunity! I’m no mountain climber or anything, but I definitely want to get to Nepal. It’s good to know they have recovered and rebuilt after the devastating earthquake. Thanks for linking up, #wkendtravelinspiration
    Jim ~ ReflectionsEnroute recently posted…The Titanic Experience in BelfastMy Profile

    Reply
    • August 14, 2017 at 5:16 pm
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      Yes, it’s incredible to see how hard people have worked to rebuild Kathmandu after the terrible earthquake. In between the beautiful buildings there are still some ruins… and often big photos/posters of what a building looked like before the quake. But most of the main tourist attractions that I visited have already been restored.

      Reply
  • August 13, 2017 at 2:45 am
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    Unexpected tours are the best and it sounds like you are so glad you went on this one. My daughter spent a few weeks in Nepal a couple of years ago doing mission work and then touring. They did the flight over the mountains and LOVED it. Maybe if you go back with more time to spare it would be good to do. #wkendtravelinspiration

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    • August 14, 2017 at 5:12 pm
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      Oh wow! Your daughter was so lucky. Yes, I hope to visit again one day at a more leisurely pace and then I would love to do the flight over the mountains!

      Reply
  • August 12, 2017 at 10:33 pm
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    You know I have been hearing a lot about Nepal lately. Like you I never really thought about visiting, but I may have to reconsider. The temples look really impressive and I would love to see the snow-capped mountains. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.
    Anisa recently posted…Why I Loved the Moorish Castle and You Will Too!My Profile

    Reply
    • August 14, 2017 at 5:10 pm
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      I also hope to see the snow-capped mountains one day 🙂 They say it’s an incredible sight! Thanks for the visit, Anisa.

      Reply
  • August 12, 2017 at 5:36 pm
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    I loved my trip to Kathmandu. All the palaces are so beautiful and I loved seeing all the colourful flags fluttering at the top of the stupa. Getting a tour guide sounds like a wonderful idea, particularly if you’re not able to stay there for too long. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) recently posted…Faraway Files #41My Profile

    Reply
    • August 12, 2017 at 8:38 pm
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      Thanks, Clare! So glad you also had the opportunity to visit this wonderful country 🙂

      Reply
  • August 11, 2017 at 9:38 pm
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    How exciting Birgit and what an experience. You made so much of the opportunity. This tour guide sounds fantastic and I am passing that info on to a friend who is traavelling to Nepal later in the year. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

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    • August 12, 2017 at 8:35 pm
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      Yes! I really managed to see so much in a short time. Your friend won’t regret using this tour guide. Felt like doing sightseeing with a good friend 🙂

      Reply
    • August 11, 2017 at 4:02 pm
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      I was very lucky! There is so much to see that I would definitely like to return to Nepal one day. Hope you get to do so too 🙂

      Reply
    • August 11, 2017 at 4:00 pm
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      Absolutely! Thanks to the great tour guide I got to see so much. It is a wonderful country to visit… hope you’ll also get a chance to travel there soon, Bryna.

      Reply
  • August 10, 2017 at 4:09 pm
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    Thank you for sharing! Nepal looks amazing!

    Reply
  • August 9, 2017 at 9:45 am
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    Truly “awesome”! Thank you!

    Reply

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