Kathmandu, Nepal

Photo: Dwarika's Hotel
Photo: Dwarika’s Hotel

You’ve finally arrived in Nepal. You’ve been traveling for 48 or 72 hours. Okay, maybe not that long. But it certainly feels that way. After multiple flights, your legs are stiff, your back aches, and you’re on the verge of dehydration. Plus, your body has no idea what time it is. After planning this trip for months, you’re a mess by the time you reach Kathmandu.

Whether you’ve come to Nepal to climb one of the world’s highest mountains, tour sacred historic sites, or study Buddhism, Kathmandu will no doubt be your first stop. But upon first sight, the city is not the peaceful oasis you pictured. Like many cities, the capital of Nepal is full of pollution and barely moving traffic. Rickshaws squeeze into tight spaces and then dart up narrow streets that look to be pedestrian only. Horns honk, bells ring, and what must be obscenities–given the hand gestures–are yelled. Definitely not zen.

So it’s with trepidation that you enter Dwarika’s Hotel. But friendly smiles and seemingly quiet spaces immediately put your mind at ease. The buildings’ terra cotta designs are modeled upon the palaces of Newar kings and filled with artifacts from the 13th century onward. The calm courtyard is full of trees, shrines, and a pagoda, which you later learn is a library and a reading room. The pool is a replica of 12th century Nepali royal baths. And your room has custom-designed furniture, handwoven linens, and views of the mountains. Your heart rate is returning to normal.

Photo: Dwarika's Hotel
Photo: Dwarika’s Hotel

Fearing a nap will knock you out for the next 14 hours, you opt for an early dinner at Krishnarpan to attempt to stay up longer than the sun. The traditional six-course meal begins with an offering on a small leaf-shaped plate as a sign of gratitude. You are then asked to take off your shoes and wash your hands before dining. Your meal may feature kidney bean curry, grilled oyster mushrooms, minced meat dumplings, and cinnamon yogurt, plus rice wine. And then after a quick nightcap by the pool, it’s impossible to keep your eyes open any longer.

Feeling refreshed when you wake up the next morning, you join the yoga class at the spa. Normally you would book a treatment, but having emerged from your travel funk, you’re ready to explore. Start at Swayambhu, one of the most sacred temples in the country. It has views over the city, and monkeys are everywhere. Get lost within the labyrinth of alleys at Asan, a traditional bazaar. Explore Durbar Square, the heart of Kathmandu. The ancient square is surrounded by temples, palaces, and lots of tourists. And visit Pashupatinath, the Hindu temple along the Bagmati River.

By the end of the day, you’re haggling, giving offerings, and saying “namaste” like a pro. You’re ready to go to Boudhanath, explore the rest of the Kathmandu Valley, and plan an epic hike. It just took you a little while to get acclimated.

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