Kathmandu tours and excursions
Four Season Travel & Tours can arrange bespoke city tours by car, bicycle, rickshaw or on foot with 24 hours notice. A typical full-day city tour includes Old Kathmandu (Durbar Square), Bodhnath, Swayambhunath, Patan and the Tibetan enclave at Jawalakhel. As an alternative to the standard 'see the sights' tour, specialist tour agency Social Journeys offers market walks, cultural tours and cooking and pottery courses.Tel: +977 1 552 6894; +977 1 441 2508.
On the northern slopes of the Kathmandu Valley, Budhanilkantha is thronged by Hindu devotees, who come to pay their respects to an enormous black stone statue of the deity Vishnu, reclining on a bed of snakes in a sacred pool. The platform surrounding the holy tank is alive with flickering butter lamps, incense smoke and flying tikka powder adding to the spiritual mood, yet surprisingly few travellers make it out this way.
The 2015 earthquake took its toll on the medieval cities of the Kathmandu Valley, but sleepy Panauti, 36km (22 miles) escaped with only minor cracks and slipped tiles. Locals credit the solid bedrock underneath the town for its famous resistance to earthquakes. Whatever the truth, this remains one of the best preserved medieval towns in Nepal, with tiered Newari temples and Rana-era mansions dotting its atmospheric, brick-lined back streets.
Like Patan and Kathmandu, Bhaktapur existed as an independent city state until the Kathmandu Valley was unified by Prithvi Narayan Shah in the 18th century. The 2015 earthquake caused devastation across the city, but many of Bhaktapur's most important temples and palaces survived. A huge reconstruction effort is now under way, but it is still possible to wander the brick-lined back streets, discovering hidden courtyards, pottery workshops and towering temples bursting out of immaculately preserved medieval squares. Bhaktapur is just 14km (8.5 miles) east of the capital and buses leave every 10 minutes from Bagh Bazaar, just east of Kathmandu's Ratna Park bus stand.