Introduction to Kathmandu
The 2,000-year-old city of Kathmandu can be a shock to the system for newcomers easily overwhelmed by streets bustling with crazy traffic, hawkers and all kinds of festivals as they try to take in some of the city’s spirituality, culture and (in parts) old-world charm.
Kathmandu is home to over one million people and is by far the largest metropolitan city in Nepal. Located at 1,400 metres above sea level, the political and cultural hub of Nepal is surrounded by the picturesque Shivapuri, Phulchowki, Nagarjun and Chandragiri mountains. Kathmandu is the world’s gateway to the scenic wonderment of the Himalayas, rich with treks, wildlife and hill tribe cultures, and the rest of Nepal.
Deeply enshrined by Hindu and Buddhist culture, the city sometimes referred to as the ‘Land of the Gods’ is home to an impressive list of religious monuments and shrines. It also boasts myriad festivals that see locals and pilgrims flock to streets on various occasions throughout the year to partake in religious acts from bloodletting sacrifices to colour powder fights all entwined in ancient, local traditions. Kathmandu has 2 sister cities that share the Kathmandu Valley and old-school character; the popular tourist hubs Patan, the ‘City of Artisans’, and Bhaktapur, the ‘City of Devotees’.
A powerful hub in the 1800s, Nepal closed its borders to foreigners until 1951 after it was forced to sign treaties by the British. Kathmandu became a popular tourist meeting place for hippies in search of their spirituality and new art in the 1960s, but these days you’re more likely to see different types of adventurers populating the pubs, bars and clubs of tourist areas like Thamel. There has been a decline in tourist numbers recently owing to recent political tension, but this intriguing city will continue to lure the adventurous in spirit.