We’ll take small back streets and alleys as well as some larger roads for a full immersion in Kathmandu’s life on the street! This is much more exciting than being stuck in traffic in a van and you are much closer to the real-life of this vibrant city. First, we head to the hilltop shrine of Swoyambhunath Stupa, also known as the Monkey Temple. This Buddhist Stupa is said to be 2000 years old and is one of Nepal’s most important Buddhist sanctuaries. The oldest inscription discovered dates back to the 5th century and refers to the founding of a monastery. The Stupa which forms the main structure is composed of a solid hemisphere of brick and earth supporting a lofty conical spire capped by a pinnacle of copper gilt. Painted on the four-sided base of the spire are the all-seeing eyes of Lord Buddha. The whole hill is a mosaic of small Chaityas (memorials) and temples and it is one of the only places that you can see the Stupa, Pagoda, and Shikar style of temple. It is a sacred Buddhist place of worship, but it is also holy to Hindus and you can also find Hindu shrines here – a fine illustration of the religious tolerance found in Nepal.
We head across the Bagmati River to Patan for lunch inside the ancient Royal Palace before exploring the palace, temples, and bazaars of this stunningly preserved complex. Patan is also known as Lalitpur, the city of fine arts. According to legend the founding of Patan dates back to Pre-Christian times. As opposed to the Malla cities of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur that were mainly influenced by the Hindu religion, Patan was for many years a major Buddhist city. It is believed that it was founded in the third century B.C. by the famous Buddhist emperor, Ashoka, who visited the town while on a pilgrimage from Northern India and built four stupas that enclosed the center of the old town. This would make it the oldest continuing Buddhist town in the world.
We finish the day by heading out on our bikes to Shiva’s birthplace, Pashupatinath. This is such a holy site for Hindus that it is said every Hindu should make a pilgrimage here once in their lifetime and is also the main cremation site for Hindus of the Kathmandu Valley. Situated 5 km east of Kathmandu City, Pashupatinath temple is one of the holiest temples in the Hindu religion and was first mentioned in 365AD. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, one of the three main gods in Hinduism, as his birthplace. Situated on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River, the main temple is built in pagoda style with a gilt roof and richly carved silver doors. Non-Hindu visitors are only permitted to view the temple from the east bank of the Bagmati River, as entrance into the temple is strictly forbidden to all non-Hindus. Pashupatinath is the main cremation site for Hindus in the Kathmandu Valley, with cremation ghats lining the Bagmati River below the temple. It is such an important pilgrimage site that any Hindu should visit it once in their life and there is a constant stream of sadhus coming and going from Nepal and India.
Boy at Golden Temple © Mads Guldager