Around the Ring Road
There are several interesting sights just outside the Kathmandu Ring Rd, all accessible by public transport or by rented bike or motorcycle, and all easy day trips from the capital. Pashupatinath and Bodhnath rank amongst Nepal's most famous religious sites and both escaped the worst of the earthquake's destructive force.
The Valley Fringe
Beyond Bhaktapur the landscape starts to rise, revealing views north to the rugged mountain wall of the Himalaya, which is rarely visible from the bottom of the valley. Technically, most towns are outside the valley, on the roads to Langtang or the Tibetan border, but it is easy to visit these places on day trips or overnight stays from Kathmandu.
Nepal’s most important Hindu temple stands on the banks of the holy Bagmati River, surrounded by a bustling market of religious stalls selling marigolds, prasad (offerings), incense, rudraksha beads, conch shells, pictures of Hindu deities and temples, tika powder in rainbow colours, glass lingams, models of Mt Meru and other essential religious paraphernalia.
Dhulikhel is one of the more popular places from which to observe the high Himalaya. From the edge of the ridge, a stunning panorama of peaks unfolds, from Langtang Lirung in the east, through Dorje Lakpa to the huge bulk of Gauri Shankar and nearby Melungtse (7181m) and as far as Numbur (5945m) in the east.
Just 5km southwest of Kathmandu, the sleepy town of Kirtipur has a wonderful sense of faded grandeur thanks to the impressive medieval temples dotted around its backstreets. When Prithvi Narayan Shah stormed into the valley in 1768, he made a priority of capturing Kirtipur to provide a base for his crushing attacks on the Malla kingdoms.
Tucked away in a side valley off the Arniko Hwy, about 7km south of Banepa, Panauti sits at the sacred confluence of the Roshi Khola and Pungamati Khola. A third ‘invisible river’ called the Padmabati is said to join the other two rivers at Panauti, making this a particularly sacred spot.
Beyond the Valley
The following destinations lie outside the Kathmandu Valley on the roads north to Syabrubesi and Kodari, on the Tibetan border, but both routes saw severe damage in the 2015 earthquake. The roads were open at the time of research, but further landslides are a possibility so check that things are open before travelling on these routes.
About 19km south of Kathmandu, Pharping is a thriving Newari town whose ancient Buddhist pilgrimage sites have been taken over by large numbers of Tibetans. A circuit of its religious sites makes for a compelling day out from Kathmandu. Pharping lies on the road to Dakshinkali and it’s easy to visit both villages in a day by bus or bicycle.