A riotous blend of vibrant bazaars, ancient palaces and all-seeing eyes painted on sacred stupas 

Set in the foothills of the Himalayas, Nepal’s enigmatic capital Kathmandu is famous for its ancient monuments, pagoda-style temples and ornate stupas piercing the sky. Here is where colourful markets line the streets and chic boutiques are housed in old palaces. And handcarts piled high with tasty treats jostle their way through throngs of people, rickshaws and scooters. Surprises lie around every corner, as tucked-away courtyards come into view – offering a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle that is Kathmandu.

Things to do

Italian, Indian, Russian, Tibetan, Nepalese... Kathmandu is an eclectic melting pot of different cuisines. Take in the sights and tantalising aromas drifting through Asan Tole’s alleyways, displaying everything from dried fish to yak tails. Pick up traditional Nepali snacks like momo – juicy,       leaf-shaped dumplings filled with savoury meat or vegetables. Sink into a comforting bowl of spicy thukpa or dal bhat lentil soup. At ceremonies and festivals, try a rich custardy curd called juju dhau, a staple dessert served in clay pots. Or simply relax in a cosy café with a traditional butter tea or refreshing glass of lassi.

In the 9th century, Kathmandu established a vital trading route between Tibet and India. Roll on to the late 1960s, and it became a legendary destination along the hippie trail. Across the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal’s two main religions – Hindu and Buddhism – come together in beautifully preserved World Heritage sites. And despite Nepal’s devastating earthquake of 2015, the ancient Pashupatinath Temple complex on the banks of the Bagmati River survived unharmed, along with the Changu Narayan temple in Bhakrapur with its elaborate wood and stone carvings.

From Thamel’s lively bars, theatres and nightclubs to the serene splendour of Durbar Square. The murmur of monks chanting mantras while spinning prayer wheels at the Boudhanath stupa. Kathmandu’s culture and traditions revolve around music, art and spirituality. You’re never far from the ‘eyes of Buddha’ gazing down from stupa towers and vibrant street murals around Naxall. And if you’re visiting during the sacred month of Gunla in August, don’t miss the joyous celebrations and feasting that mark the end of the centuries-old Newari festival. 

Top Tip from SLH

Legend has it that the monkeys you see jumping around the Swayambhunath temple complex today evolved from the head lice of the Buddhist deity, Manjushri.