The golden spire of the 5th-century Swayambhu Stupa is adorned with a colourful fluttering of prayer flags; it crowns a hill overlooking the Kathmandu Valley and offers fantastic views over the city of Kathmandu. Swayambhunath is one of the most recognisable symbols in Nepal and the painted eyes of Buddha watch all those who ascend the worn stone steps. The Swayambhu Stupa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal, and is at the source of the Valley's mythical beginning. Legend has it that the history of the Valley began with the draining of an ancient lake by an Enlightened Being, when a lotus flower was transformed into the hill and the shining light became the stupa itself. Swarms of pilgrims and red-clad monks circle the complex, spinning the prayer wheels, while the scores of monkeys that give the temple its nickname, Monkey Temple, prance about in irreverent groups. Interestingly, the temple complex is scattered with shrines and statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities and the assortment of pilgrims from both faiths characterises the country's unique religious harmony. Visitors to this wonderful site should note that although they are often adorable and entertaining the monkeys can sometimes become aggressive if you have something they want.
Admission: NPR 50 if entering from the car park, but free if entering via the stairway