Helambu RouteThe Helambu region inhabited by the Sherpas is situated in the upper part of the Malechmi Khola valley. It takes three days to reach this region walking north-east over a wooded mountain ridge from Kathmandu. The seven day walk is circular with the first day's section being repeated at the end of the walk. The sudden contrast between the lower and upper lying regions and their characteristic cultures is striking. Accommodation can be found in lodges, village guest houses or with Sherpa families.The starting point and final destination of this circular walk is Sundarijal at the eastern end of the Kathmandu Valley which can be reached from Kathmandu by bus or taxi.
GosainkundBy itself the Gosainkund route is a four day excursion from Kathmandu which can be combined with the Langtang or Helambu routes
. A combination of mountain walks has proven favorable in facilitating acclimatisation. Until recently there was no accommodation on this route but now there are some basic guest houses and huts available for pilgrims. It is advisable to carry some provisions.From Dhunche or Syabru it is a high climb to Sing Gompa which is combined with a cheese factory and a lodge. A recognisable path leads through rhododendron woods to Laurebina (3901 m (12,798 ft)), a summer settlement, which consists of some shepherds' accommodation and a lodge. There is a good view of the mountains from here. After crossing the mountain ridge Lake Saraswati comes into sight. Like the other lakes it is dedicated to a divinity. It is possible to spend the night in Sing Gompa and the huts by Lake Gosainkund.A summit north of the lake enjoys wonderful views. The path to Tharepati climbs and passes other holy lakes. It is about an hour to the Laurebina Pass at 4609 m (15,121 ft). Beyond the pass in Gopte (3430 m (11,253 ft)) a crude shelter is available in which to spend the night. Finally the route descends into a valley and climbs up again to a mountain ridge where it merges in Tharepati with the Helambu trek.
Swayambhunath, sitting high upon a hilltop, is one of the most important shrines in the Kathmandu Valley. The Swayambhu Stupa, with painted eyes on top, is a regularly photographed image in Nepal.
Boudha rests on the old trade route to Tibet. It has long been a religious center for the Tibetan community in Nepal. It is home to the largest stupa in Nepal, and numerous other important buildings.
Budha Nilkantha in Narayanthan is among the oldest temples in the valley. Dedicated to Vishnu, the temple contains the ancient shrine of Jalashayana Narayan, a 6m long black stone sculpture.
Pashupatinath is the primary Hindu shrine in Nepal and among the most important Shiva temples on the Indian subcontinent.
The shrine to Ichangu Narayan ("Vishnu of the west") is situated in delightful surroundings at the tip of a mountain ridge overlooking the Ichangu Valley about 5 km (3 mi.) north-west of Kathmandu; it is reached by a dirt road. Ichangu Narayan is one of the four principal Narayan temples in the Kathmandu Valley. The cult site was probably already in use by the Newaris long before conversion to Hinduism. The present two-tiered pagoda dates from the 18th c., replacing an earlier temple built in 1512 after a famine.A small shrine to Bhagwati located above Ichangu Narayan offers a delightful view across the Ichangu Valley.
One of the tourist attractions in Pharping is the Vajra Yogini Temple, containing the shrine of Vajra Yogini on the upper floor.
DamanThe village of Daman lies on the Tribhuvan Highway mid way between Hetauda and Kathmandu. The 2322 m (7620ft)-high ridge affords the most spectacular view in all Nepal of the Himalayan chain with peaks from Dhaulagiri to Sargamatha (Everest) visible through the telescope on the viewing tower.
Sundarijal, meaning "beautiful water", is situated about 5 km (3 mi.) beyond the Gokarna Mahadev Temple. Its crystal-clear streams and waterfalls in a forested setting make it popular for outings.Despite being one of the main sources of the Bagmati River Sundarijal's mighty, roaring falls dwindle to a miserable trickle in the dry season. In April in particular there is nothing much to see.A small cave at the foot of the hillside has long been used for the worship of various mother goddesses. There is a 13th c. relief and also a little shrine dedicated to Shiva.Sundarijal is the starting-point for hill walkers setting off up the delightful route to the 2400 m (7877 ft) Burang Banjyang Pass. The Helambu and Gosainkund trek also begins here.
Beneath a huge pipal tree in the playground of the Shridhumrabarah Primary School on the way to Budha Nilkantha is a little open shrine to Varaha, an incarnation of Vishnu in the shape of a boar. What makes the shrine of such great interest is its devotional image, a 5th c. stone sculpture of the god. The snake at his feet symbolizes the underworld while the small female figure of Prithvi seated on his arm personifies mother earth. The statue conveys an impression of unusual strength and vitality.
Nagarkot, approximately 30 km (18 miles) from Kathmandu is a hill town offering great views of the Himalayas. It is a cool retreat from the sometimes hot temperatures in Kathmandu. There are also hiking trails in this area, including a trail from Nagarkot to Bhaktapur.
ThankotThankot, about 10 km (6 mi.) west of Kathmandu, was the last village in the valley on the old trade route over the Chandragiri Pass to India. Its principal temple, built in 1690 and dedicated to Mahalakshmi, occupies a charming site at the foot of a hill, framed by noble trees.
In common with many other villages Thankot's annual festival is held in honor of Mahalakshmi. Bronze idols of the goddess and her companion Ganesh are borne in procession to the sunken square in front of the Mahalakshmi Temple. There the palanquins circle round and round the big tree in the center of the square. The pace, slow at first, quickens with the increasing tempo of the music until finally reaching a crescendo in a wild, ecstatic dance. Every now and then the procession leaves the square to visit other temples. When all is over, gods, litter-bearers and onlookers alike are red with tika powder dispensed in handfuls by the men. Animal sacrifices are offered to Mahalakshmi and also to Bhairava who of course demands his share. The two deities are charged with watching over the next year's harvest.