Swayambhunath Stupa “aka the Monkey Temple”, Kathmandu, Nepal
Located atop a forest hillside overlooking the Kathmandu Valley is one of the most ancient and revered religious sites in Kathmandu– Swayambhunath Stupa. The reknown stupa is over 2,000 years old and a pilgrimage site for many devout Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal.
Known more familiarly as The Monkey Temple, it is home to over a hundred resident monkeys which roam the area. Ever fantasized about having a pet monkey when you were a child? However, cute these monkeys are (especially the babies!), they are wild. They are adorable tricksters and they will attempt to steal anything you leave hanging from your bag.
A pilgrimage of 365 stairs to the top
To take the pilgrimage, climb the 365 stairs to the summit. Along the climb, you’ll find buddha statues, prayer wheels and flags and many vendors selling religious artwork and jewelry.
Alternatively for the lazy, you can take a taxi to the top backside of the stupa. There is a standing buddha wishing fountain where you can toss a rupee into buddha’s begging bowl for your chance at getting your wish granted. You’ll find many coin attempts decorate the bottom of the fountain.
Entering the stupa from either entrance, you must pay an admission cost if you are not Nepalese.
Summiting Swambhunath Stupa: What you’ll see
Entering the stupa grounds you can’t help but be blown away by its size.
The symbolic eyes painted on the stupas (which you will see repeated throughout Nepal) are a folk symbol of the Buddha’s all-seeing eyes.
The dot between Buddha’s eyes represent the mystical third eye. The question mark looking symbol (in the area of the nose) stands for the number one, which stands for unity.
Walk counter clockwise around the stupa, chant “Om mane padme om” (a chant for peace and compassion) and turn the 200 prayer wheels surrounding its domed base. Along your meditation prayer, you’ll find a few altars, and maybe a resident cow.
Towards the back near the gift shops, there’s a neighborhood of smaller attendant stupas.
A view of Kathmandu from the stupa
The best view of Kathmandu is from Swayambhunath Stupa. It’s a panoramic landscape of Kathmandu that is not to be missed. You may have to compete with locals to get your selfie shot, but it will be worthwhile.
Getting to Swayambhunath Stupa
The stupa is approximately a 10 minute taxi drive from downtown Thamil. You can hire a taxi to take you there or hire a car for the day and do day trips to major Kathmandu sites (i.e. Pashupatinath, Bodhnath Stupa, Kathmandu Valley, Patan).
Walking might take you around 45 minutes from Thamil. The walk won’t be everyone’s cup of tea as the road to the stupa steepens as you get closer. But you’ll pass through streets lined with local shops, hotels and neighborhoods, which can be pleasant for some.
Hotels near Swayambhunath Stupa
Hotel Vajra, Swayambhu. A tranquil, boutique resort hotel getaway resting above and away from the crazy hub-bub of Thamel. Offers a restaurant with a decent menu, airport pickup, a yoga room and a lovely garden. Close to Swayambhunath Stupa and a 5 minute ride from Thamel in a small suburb. Budget prices for a solid accommodation with friendly management.
Kantipur Temple House, Thamel. A charming eco friendly boutique hotel with eco-friendly practices in the hotel. No TV or A/C but a fan, morning yoga at 8AM, organic food restaurant. Located walking distance from Ratna Bus Park.
This is my favorite site in all of Kathmandu, as the stupa and its mountain height are impressive and
Entrance fee: 50 SARC countries, 200 Rs Foreigners
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