Kathmandu can be a real contrast in noise levels and atmosphere particularly after the peace of the Himalayas. The chaos of Thamel and even traffic on the streets can be a shock to the system for those who have enjoyed the beautiful mountain scenery and welcoming Sherpas. If you have a few hours to spare in Nepal’s capital before catching a flight and are not keen on a shopping spree or rushed sightseeing tour, here are five of the best things to do with your time. Just chill out and enjoy this intriguing city.

Spin the Prayer Wheels at Swayambhunath

Located on top of a hill just west of Kathmandu the massive Buddhist temple at Swayambhunath is one of Nepal’s most instantly recognisable landmarks. There are some wonderful views across Kathmandu from the temple and one of the best times to go is early evening when the city appears illuminated by the setting sun. The stupa with the eye of the Buddha is magnificent and a stroll around the complex, perhaps spinning prayer wheels and listening to the chants of monks is a great way to pass time in Kathmandu.

Relax in the Garden of Dreams

For a complete contrast to the sounds of Thamel and the pace of the activity holidays in Nepal, spend a relaxing afternoon in the Garden of Dreams. Although it is in the centre of Kathmandu it really is a different world to the crowded streets and chaos on the roads. In fact it really feels like a hidden oasis when you first wander into the walled complex. There are fountains and ponds, beautifully landscaped gardens with tropical plants and good places to eat. So take a book and chill out in a tranquil garden for an afternoon.

Walk around Durbar Square

The architecture is magnificent in the heart of old Kathmandu and a walk around this historic part of the city is an excellent way to appreciate the buildings and statues. This is where the old kings were crowned and it is one of the best places in the city to get a feel for the atmosphere and culture of Kathmandu and its historic past. Watching the world go by in Durbar Square whilst marvelling at the intricate carvings and ornate windows is a wonderful way to spend a few hours and enjoy the very special characteristics of the area. From stray cows to street dentists and carvers there are plenty of sights to marvel at in this fascinating part of Kathmandu.

Get a massage in Thamel

Apart from getting a shower after a week in the mountains on one of the many walking holidays in Nepal, one of the nicest ways to wind down and relax those muscles is to book a massage. Thamel has a number of excellent places to go and to suit most budgets. For a bit of pampering after a strenuous trek a massage hits the spot and is a great way to spend a lazy afternoon.

Look out over the rooftops

One of the best ways to enjoy a meal or just a drink is to find a rooftop restaurant and a good seat with a view. Thamel is a great place to start with a wide range of places to eat and drink and with all manner of cuisine. Why not watch the sun go down with a drink and some delicious food and reflect on your trek in the Himalayas and the wonderful country that is Nepal.

Rachael Rowe is a travel writer ( his website http://travelblog.voyagevietnam.co )  who enjoys walking holidays in  Asia and the Himalayas.

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