x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Ask the Expert: Kathmandu in 48 hours

The Nepalese capital has not less than seven Unesco World Heritage Sites, but with proper planning, it's possible to see most of the important attractions on a two-day stopover.

I will be stopping next month in Kathmandu for two days en route to India, and want to take in as much as possible, especially places of historical interest. Is this a good time to go? What's the best way to get around the city?

The gateway to tourism in Nepal, Kathmandu is a visitor's delight, as long as you're ready for the throngs of insistent touts and chaotic streets, all made more bearable by the sight of the Himalayas towering majestically in the background.

The best time to visit Kathmandu is March to April, when the weather is cool, sunny and clear, so your timing is just right.

The Nepalese capital, with its warren of streets and alleys, is best explored on foot or by cycle. Rentals are cheap - it costs about 600 rupees (Dh28) per day for a decent (imported) mountain bike (remember to check the brakes, tyres and the locking system before you put down your deposit). Public transport is a cheap alternative but an incredibly crowded affair, best avoided if you're carrying valuables and don't want to be relieved of them.

There's plenty to see in the city - the country boasts a rich 2,000-year-old history and not less than seven Unesco World Heritage Sites - so a two-day stopover might not be enough. But plan your time well and you should be able to squeeze in some of the top attractions. One of these is Durbar Square, a grand complex right in the heart of the city and full of the royal palaces of the Malla and Shah kings, plus pagodas, temples and courtyards.

Another important World Heritage Site is the Swayambhunath Stupa, the most important Buddhist site in Nepal. Perched on Padmachala hill, about 175m above the valley, visitors have to climb a steep flight of 400 stairs to get to the top. The stupa is surrounded by rows of prayer wheels, which are turned by devotees as they slowly circle the immense shrine.

Don't miss Bodhnath; the World Heritage Site is about 11km from Kathmandu and famous for its stupa of the same name, which lies on the ancient trade route between Kathmandu and Tibet. The town itself feels like a little Tibet, with shops, restaurants and a scattering of more than 50 Tibetan gompas, or monasteries.

About 35km east of Kathmandu lies Bhaktapur, the capital of the valley between the 14th and 16th centuries. The town, which has its own equally rich Durbar Square, is a World Heritage Site, and the centre of traditional handicrafts such as weaving and pottery and a good place to shop for souvenirs of your trip.

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