Kathmandu © Thapa.laxman
Presided over by snowy mountains, the Kathmandu
Valley sits surrounded by verdant agricultural hills scattered with
traditional villages and brick houses. Rich in ancient holy temples
and shrines for both Buddhists and Hindus, the area reflects the
great wealth of culture and tradition in Nepal.
Most of Nepal's ethnic groups are represented in the
Valley, particularly in Kathmandu itself. But it is the Newars who
are the original inhabitants, responsible for much of the splendid
art and architecture in the cities.
The Kathmandu Valley is the cultural, political, and
commercial centre of Nepal and encompasses three cities: Kathmandu,
the capital; Patan, which has been enveloped by the growing
Kathmandu outskirts; and the medieval city of Bhaktapur.
For the unprepared visitor, the capital city of
Kathmandu can trigger a sensory overload. It's a heaving city of
intriguing but unpleasant smells, incessant noise and pollution,
and sights that etch themselves on the memory.
Cows wander the streets of the old city, while narrow
alleyways overflow with spices, vegetables, and handicraft shops.
Throngs of people thread their way along bustling cobblestone
streets lined with structures from an ancient architectural
heritage, leading onto open squares surrounded by temples.
The largest city in Nepal and the nation's historical
centre, Kathmandu throws together a blend of the country's varied
population and boasts a distinctive, age-old religious influence
visible in the daily life of its inhabitants.
Many people choose to stay outside Kathmandu in one
of the Valley towns or mountain resorts, restricting their visits
to day trips. Otherwise, they base themselves in the
tourist-orientated Thamel district of the city, offering modern
bakeries, smart hotels, and upmarket restaurants.