The top of Swayambhunath Temple in Kathmandu at dawn.

“Kathmandu is a great city to live in with lots of life,” says WT Trip Leader Devendra Basnet. “There is something going on at all times—never a dull moment, as they say. I have lived here for the most of the last 30 years, but I’m still discovering wonderful new places to explore.”

Devendra took a break from guiding trips in Nepal, Tibet, and India to share some of his favorite places, events, and good eats in his hometown.

WT: What’s an unusual spot in Kathmandu that you recommend travelers visit?

DB: One of the most poignant sights is the cremation ghats on the banks of the Bhagmati river at Pashupatinath Temple. Most Westerners are spellbound when they see the Hindu cremation process and all the rituals associated with it.

WT: What about festivals? Are there any that visitors should make a special effort to see?

DB: Kathmandu is city of religious festivals, if there ever was one. I think that one of the best-kept secrets is the famous Bisket Festival in Bhaktapur town, which takes place just before the Nepalese New Year (mid-April). During this festival, the most spectacular sight is when thousands of people line up to pull a giant wooden chariot with a multi-roofed Nepalese pagoda-style temple featuring the image of Lord Bhairab. Everyone parades through the streets of Bhaktapur City while vying with each other to drag the chariot into their own neighborhood. It is a chaotic-yet-exuberant festival that has ancient roots.

WT: Where is the best place in the city for travelers to find special souvenirs and what should they buy there?

DB: There are many neighborhoods (Thamel for instance) where one can shop for trinkets as well as good quality arts and crafts. Perhaps one of the best buys in Kathmandu is the Thanka  (Buddhist religious scroll painting). Excellent Thanka shops, galleries, and painting schools abound, but one of my favorites is the Lumbini Buddhist Art Gallery. It’s located in Basantapur Durbar Square (Old Palace Square), not far from the Temple of the Living Goddess.

WT:  Is there a local dish that travelers should be sure to try ? 

DB: Momos come to mind immediately. These are meat- or vegetable-filled dumplings adapted from the Tibetan dish of the same name. Momos are normally steamed but can also be fried, and they come with a variety of fillings.

WT: Where can you find a quiet corner to relax in Kathmandu?

DB: One of my favorites is the Garden of Dreams, located in the heart of the city in a refurbished garden that is attached to an old Rana Palace (Keser Mahal). It is a calm and secluded oasis away from the vibrant hustle and bustle of Kathmandu’s streets. Have a bite to eat at the cafe here and then head out again to find your own adventure.

–Photo by Brian McGilloway

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