Since the Chinese sent thousands of troops to enforce their claim on Tibet in the 1950s, dozens of new monasteries have been constructed at Bodhnath by refugees. All welcome visitors but many close their doors in the middle of the day. Most places have prayer sessions around 5am and 3pm.
Minor backstreet monasteries worth tracking down are Samtenling Gompa, which is damaged but under restoration, Sakya Tharig Gompa, Pal Dilyak Gompa and Pal Nye Gompa. There’s little to choose between them, so follow the sounds of booming trumpets and crashing cymbals to see which are open.
On a hilltop north of Bodhnath, Kopan Monastery was founded by Lama Thubten Yeshe, who died in 1984, leading to a worldwide search for his reincarnation. A young Spanish boy, Osel Torres, was declared to be the reincarnated lama, providing the inspiration for Bernardo Bertolucci’s film Little Buddha. Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche no longer resides at Kopan (he recently renounced his vows to become a cinematographer in Ibiza!), but visitors are welcome to explore the monastery. Accommodation is available and many people come here to study Buddhist psychology and philosophy.
You can visit Kopan on the pleasant walk between Bodhnath and the Gokarna Mahadev Temple or even from Nagi Gompa in Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park. A taxi here from Kathmandu costs around Rs 600, or Rs 300 from Bodhnath.