Arrive in Kathmandu and you'll discover that the 4,600-foot elevation of Nepal's capital city in the Himalayas isn't the only thing that takes some getting used to. Outside the doors of Kathmandu hotels you'll enter a heady world of palaces and temples, shrines and stupas; barreling rickshaws; and bustling bazaars. With these treasures and an incredible landscape, finding cheap flights to Kathmandu is the easy part; deciding what to do and where to go first might be more of a challenge.
Get an overview of Kathmandu's centuries-old culture at the National Museum of Nepal. Its three buildings—an art gallery, natural history museum, and a gallery dedicated to Buddhist art—showcase murals and paintings, medieval weaponry, and ancient gold coins, among many artifacts. Durbar Square, a complex of 50 temples, courtyards, and the Hanuman Dhoka royal palace, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take in its ornate traditional architecture—in particular the splendid 16th century Jagannath Temple and nine-story palace, Nautalle Durbar. Another visual spectacle is Swayambhunath Temple. The painted eyes of Buddha watch over Kathmandu from the temple's golden spire, while troops of monkeys commandeer its sacred grounds. Concierges at higher-end hotels in Kathmandu can arrange excursions, such as rickshaw rides through the old city and trekking adventures into the Himalayas.
Throughout Kathmandu are Chinese, Indian, and local restaurants to suit all budgets, and you can find western and international cuisines in parts of town frequented by tourists, such as Durbarmarg, Jhamsikhel, and the "backpacker district" of Thamel. If you find yourself at the Bazaar of Asan in central Kathmandu, look for food vendors selling momo dumplings, Nepal's most popular fast food snack. Traditional Himalayan meals are served in establishments from holes in the wall to upmarket restaurants in heritage buildings. Some feature folk dancing and other cultural shows.
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