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Kathmandu Travel Guide

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Durbar Square, Kathmandu © Services International

Presided over by snow-covered mountains, the Kathmandu Valley is surrounded by verdant agricultural hills scattered with traditional villages and brick houses, rich in ancient holy temples and shrines used by both Buddhist and Hindu worshippers, reflecting a great wealth of culture and tradition. 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 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 is a heaving city of both intriguing and unpleasant smells, incessant noise and pollution, and sights that etch themselves on the memory. Cows wander the streets of the old city, stepping between steaming piles of rubbish and hooting taxis, and 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, which lead onto open squares surrounded by temples of all shapes and sizes. 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.

Fascinating as this city is many people choose to stay outside Kathmandu in one of the Valley towns or mountain resorts and restrict their visits to day trips; or they base themselves in the tourist-orientated Thamel district of the city that offers modern bakeries, smart hotels and upmarket restaurants, along with pushy handicraft and cannabis sellers.

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