What to do in Kathmandu

Kathmandu, the hub of Nepal, is a city where most visitors at least pass through and many spend a few nights. It is also the best place to organize tours and trips to other parts of Nepal. It is a living, breathing—almost seething—city with people and traffic everywhere. Cars, bikes, and rickshaws all jockey for position, and getting around is a lot of fun. This thrilling metropolitan area is alive with exotic sights and sounds guaranteed to captivate the whole family.

The most atmospheric part of the city to explore by foot is the old town, with its narrow lanes. The heart of the action is on and around Durbar Square, which is actually—despite the name—not one but three interlinked squares. Here, grand old buildings stand side by side with ornate temples in an urbanscape as dramatic and unique as the country's mountains. This is the place to spend most of your time soaking in the atmosphere, visiting the sights, and tingling the children's taste buds with the spicy local cuisine—though milder food is also offered.

Nepalese culture is fascinating, with many religions woven into the rich fabric of local society. There are museums and temples galore where you can explore the culture, as well as vibrant markets full of local handicrafts that the children can snare as souvenirs. The nightlife scene is quite tame, but there are bright cultural shows with music and dance that will appeal to younger travelers.

Kathmandu is an ideal base for exploring the rest of the Kathmandu Valley, which has been recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Two highlights for families are Swayambhunath Stupa, with its remarkable temples, and Patan, an ancient Buddhist city with a fascinating splash of traditional Newari culture.

A wealth of adventure sports awaits in the valley. You don't need to spend weeks hiking to Everest Base Camp when you can enjoy a much shorter, once-in-a-lifetime experience hiking or mountain biking with the kids among mind-blowing scenery.

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