Ancient history, royalty and spirituality are all a part of the cultural mix. The Kathmandu Valley is the primary centre of history, architecture and culture, and several monuments date as far back as 500 BC.
Despite its small size, Nepal has over 125 different ethnic groups, and a treasure-trove of myth, folklore and religious beliefs, particularly Buddhism and Hinduism.
Historically, the Hindus in Nepal are primarily worshippers of Lord Shiva, the god of death and rebirth in the Hindu Trinity. The first point of call for his followers is the vast Pashupatinath temple complex, which sprawls out on the banks of the Bagmati river, on the outskirts of Kathmandu.
A UNESCO Cultural Heritage sight, the shimmering gilded roof and dramatic façade are worth seeing, especially during the Mahashivratri Festival, dedicated to Shiva.
Both Kathmandu and Patan are known for their majestic Durbar Squares. Commissioned by the Malla and Shah dynasties, they are dominated by grand palaces and magnificent temples.
The intricate design and motifs were created by the Newari craftsmen, and even today, Patan is an important centre of the arts and crafts.
Across the river from Kathmandu, the Swayambhunath and Boudhnath stupas are worth visiting. Swayambhuanth, in particular, is mesmerising as four pairs of ‘all-seeing’ eyes that are painted on the central pillar stare back at you from a great height. With their gilded roofs and eye-catching architecture, these Buddhist monuments are captivating city landmarks.
Bakhtpur is a cradle of ancient temple architecture, as well as artisans who continue age-old art and crafts traditions.
As you roam the streets you will find a number of women wearing traditional Newari costume, elaborate jewellery, and celebrating traditional festivals.
Once you leave the Kathmandu Valley and head south, Pokhara’s bustling centre is a blend of cosmopolitan and local influences. It’s the people here who make the place — the city is a melting pot of ethnic groups, whose roots are in Mongolia, Burma and Tibet, and made their way into this valley many centuries ago. A visit to the World Peace Pagoda is worth it for the fantastic views and incredible architecture, while the Gurkha Museum offers terrific insight into the legendary heroism of these soldiers and warriors.
But to really get a sense of Pokhara’s atmosphere, we recommend sitting back and relaxing with a steaming cup of tea at a local café and watch the world go by.
Lively and charismatic, with a blend of cosmopolitan and local influences, the easygoing vibe quickly seeps into your soul.
Nepalese festivals are high spirited and fun celebrations. Folk dances, music and costumes are on full display during festivals like Tihar or Mahashivratri. The Nepalese people are full of fun and the central squares in places like Patan and Bakhtpur really come to life during festive events. If you’re culture-curious or are looking for some spectacular photography, then ask your Encounters Asia specialist on the best time to visit so that you catch these amazing celebrations.