Walking Tour of Kathmandu, Nepal
Katmandu, Nepal, boasts seven (7) UNESCO World Heritage Sites within a 20 kilometer (13 mile) radius. Walking the city is an adventure, since the labyrinthine alleyways and courtyards make getting lost likely. Numerous temples, shrines and prayer wheels remind the visitor of the pervasive religious culture, and the colors and dress are uniquely Nepalese. The people are mild-mannered and friendly, always ready to help.
My walk begins in Durbar Square, where the Old Royal Palace (Hanuman Dhoka) sits. Begin your exploration of this important area at its southwestern end, where the street called Maru Tole enters the square. Here you will find the Kasthamandap, an ancient gathering hall, constructed of wood in the 12th century. It is now a temple. Nearby is a shrine to the god, Ganesh. Ashok Binayak is a very significant place for worshippers of this very popular deity. Close by are two Shiva Temples, the tall city landmark known as Maju Deval (climb to the top storey for great views of the city) is the more prominent while the other is used by vegetable-sellers.
Across from Kasthamadap is the Vishnu Temple, Trailokya Mohan Narayan. Just south of this temple, at the beginning of Basantapur Street, is Kumari Bahal, the House of the Living Goddess. The carved windows and balconies are particularly impressive.
As you work your way northward, along the elongated square, you will see another temple to Shiva, the Shiva-Parvati Temple, and Bhagwati Temple, with its golden roofs.
As the square narrows and become Makhan Tole, once Kathmandu’s main street, notice the Great Bell and a series of small temples, on the left. The most significant of these is the Krishna Temple, built in 1648.
Across the street is King Pratap Malla’s Column and more small temples. Of note are the Jagannath Temple, the oldest building in this part of the square, and Kala Bhairab, a statue of the scariest aspect of the god, Shiva. Further to the east is the entrance to the Royal Palace Complex, straddled by stone lions, ridden by Shiva and his wife, Parvati.
Next, wander the grounds of the palace, lingering in the Nasal Chowk, and exploring the many temples.
Exit the palace and continue north on Makhan Tole. The most imposing and important temple in the area is the Taleju Temple. Unfortunately, its access is strictly controlled and cannot be visited by Westerners.
On the left is the Garuda Statue, erected in the 10th century. Opposite it is the Tana Deval Temple. Further ahead, the street widens into Indra Chowk. The Akash Bhairab Temple is on your left, and, nearby, a brass shrine to the god, Ganesh.
Now, continue walking to the northeast, into Kel Tole, location of the famous Seto Machhendranath Temple, recognized by both Hindus and Buddhists. Also on this square is Lunchun Lunbun Ajina, a Tantric Buddhist temple.
Next, turn left from Kel Tole. After you pass Kilgal Tole, with its pagoda platform, turn left into the courtyard of Yitun Bahal. At the far end of this rectangular space is the Kichandra Bahal, one of the city’s oldest (1381). Note, especially, the demon (Guru Mapa) who devours bad children.
Then, exit this courtyard and head further west (left) to find the three-tiered Nara Devi Temple. It was one of only a few temples to survive the devastating 1934 earthquake without serious damage.
From this intersection, turn north to reach Bangemudha Square, named for the piece of wood in which coins have been nailed (this action is reputed to cure a toothache). The Ikha Narayan Temple, on the square, contains several remarkable images. On the northern side of the square is a small standing Buddha, which dates to the 5th or 6th century.
Further north, turn left at an alleyway guarded by a single, broken, stone lion. It leads to Nag Bahal, a temple with painted murals above the shrine. Nearby is Kathesimbhu Stupa, in whose courtyard you will find a miniature replica of Swayambhunath, the most important pilgrimage shrine in the entire Kathmandu Valley. Check out the other statues and stupas in the courtyard before proceeding.
Now, return to the main road and turn right, continuing beyond Bangemudha Square and the Nara Devi Temple (see above). As you walk south, note the Postage Stamp Window, on your left. It is incredibly intricate and unique (hence the stamp, issued in 1978), and sits next to a three-roofed pagoda.
Further south, on your right, is the Yatkha Bahal. Check out the supporting columns of the old building behind the stupa. Then, continue to walk southward until you reach Durbar Square, where the walking tour began.