Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is the country’s only large city, its political, commercial and cultural hub. Like many Asian cities, it is rapidly developing and struggling with the pressures that urbanisation brings but the old city with its narrow winding streets, medieval temples and palaces remains a fascinating showcase of a rich culture, art and tradition.
Though the main inhabitants are the Newars, Nepal’s master craftsmen who also controlled the trade route between India and Tibet, Kathmandu is a melting pot of peoples and religions. The natural place to begin sightseeing is Durbar Square where it’s easy to spend hours exploring the Old Royal Palace, temples decorated with erotic carvings and the 12th century Kasthamandap rest house from which the city takes its name. The surrounding lively lanes are great places for people watching and shopping for religious paraphernalia before heading to the small hillock on the western edge of the city and the ancient Buddhist stupa at Swayambhunath, an area home to hundreds of Tibetans in exile, as well as rhesus macaques, leading to its nickname, the Monkey Temple.
There is a good choice of accommodation in the city but generally standards are not as high as in many other capitals. Even some of the four and five star hotels could benefit from some updating and power shortages are common to all, but vastly superior to those faced by homeowners and businesses.