Our time in Nepal was spent mostly trekking in the Himalayas, however we did have a few days either side of the trek to spend in the capital city of Kathmandu. We knew we would be exhausted after the trek and would just want to relax so we made an effort to see a lot of sights before our trek. We booked a day tour with a private guide who took us around to four different locations in Kathmandu Valley.
First stop of the tour was Swayambhunath Stupa, which is also known as Monkey Temple. We had heard there were hundreds of monkeys and that they weren’t scared of humans at all, so we were pretty cautious whilst walking near them. We made sure not to take any food with us as they would smell it and try and get into our bags. We saw them being very cheeky and managed to steal a banana from a local lady selling them to tourists. The complex is very large and consists of many Buddhist and Hindu shrines and statues. Many locals visit the religious site every day. It sits up on a hill and has great views over the valley. Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Kathmandu.
Next up was a visit to Kathmandu Durbar Square. This is where Kathmandu’s royal families once lived and ruled from. A lot of the structures here were damaged or had collapsed from the earthquake in 2015 and we could still see the devastation, 4 years later. The 7.8 magnitude Gorkha earthquake damaged or destroyed over 600,000 structures and killed around 9,000 people. The rebuild effort is a huge task and is still continuing as they try to restore historic sites such as the old palaces. Although a few buildings were still covered in scaffolding, there was still plenty of historic buildings to explore and it was great.
Our next stop, Patan Durbar Square, was quite similar to our previous stop however it was all together and like one big complex full of temples and historic structures. Again, there was a big rebuild effort still happening but that did not take away from our experience. We were very glad to have a local guide explaining everything we were looking at; it wouldn’t have been the same if we just went there ourselves.
Pashupatinath Temple was the last stop of our day tour in Kathmandu and it was a real eye opener. The temple complex is one of the biggest in Nepal and is situated on both sides of the Bagmati River, which Hindus consider as holy. Along the banks of the river are raised platforms where they cremate Hindus. We had never witnessed a cremation before, so it was a completely new experience for us and there were multiple happening while we were there. It was fascinating to learn from our guide about the site and the religious beliefs.
It was a huge day, but I would recommend to others to book a day tour as we did. Apart from the tour, we spent the rest of our time wandering the streets of Thamel, shopping, eating and exploring.