Welcome to Kathmandu
Nepal's chaotic and colorful capital is set in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley, surrounded by the jagged, snowy peaks of the Himalaya. You'll want to explore Kathmandu's old city center, a crowded warren of small shops and cobblestone alleyways, by foot or rickshaw—the streets are too narrow for most cars. Crumbling buildings open onto courtyards where chilies, rice, and laundry dry in the sun, and around nearly every corner you'll find temples, shrouded in incense smoke and bedecked with marigolds. Learn more about the region's dominant religions by touring Buddhist Bouddhanath Stupa and the impressive Pashupatinath Hindu temple complex (note, however, that only Hindus are allowed inside its gates). A 2015 earthquake devastated some of Kathmandu's historic sites, including UNESCO-listed Durbar Square, a former royal residence that dates to the 16th century, but many others were unharmed. Popular short excursions from Kathmandu include Shivapuri National Park, the medieval village of Bhaktapur, and the former hill station of Nagarkot. And of course, Kathmandu is the main hub for trekking in the Himalaya. Trekking tours can be arranged to suit almost any budget, ability, and available time. Consider a guided trek in the Annapurna Sanctuary or, if you’re short on time, book a helicopter flight to get a glimpse of Everest. Safari tours to Chitwan National Park can also be organized from Kathmandu. The former royal hunting ground is now a protected ecosystem of marshes, jungle, and grasslands, home to more than 400 animal species, including Bengal tigers and rhinos.