Monday, July 15, 2024
CultureHistory & Historical LandmarksNepal

Kathmandu Could Become the Next Hot LGBTQ+ Destination

Although Nepal isn’t the first place that comes to mind when pondering gay-friendly destinations, things are beginning to change for the better. In fact, Nepal recently became the first South Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. The capital of Kathmandu is now positively gay-friendly and the country in general is an attractive proposition for LGBTQ+ tourists. The Nepalese people are known for their hospitality and tourism is integral to the country’s infrastructure, so queer visitors will undoubtedly feel welcome. Considering all that Nepal has to offer, this breakthrough is great news for LGBTQ+ travelers. Kathmandu is poised to be the next hot LGBTQ+ destination. Find out why it’s a particularly appealing place for queer culture vultures and adventurous outdoor enthusiasts.

Uncover a Treasure Trove of Culture

There is an abundance of amazing things to see and do in Kathmandu from witnessing mystical rituals in ancient temples to shopping for singing bowls in the bustling streets. Sit atop a temple and watch the world go by or sample Tibetan momos in one of the many cafes. There’s a surprise around every corner whether it’s a delightful hidden courtyard or a whitewashed stupa – a dome-shaped structure erected as a Buddhist shrine – festooned with prayer flags. Although some of the city is still recovering from the devastating earthquake of 2015, intoxicating Kathmandu remains a feast for the senses.   

Experience Gay Life in Kathmandu

(Photo Credit: gorkhe1980 / Shutterstock)
(Photo Credit: gorkhe1980 / Shutterstock)

Most of Kathmandu’s LGBTQ+ scene revolves around the bars and clubs in Thamel, the city’s main tourist area. While Pink Tiffany, which was the concept of transgender model and activist, Meghna Lama, is the only exclusively LGBTQ+ venue, many of Thamel’s venues are gay-friendly. Fire is a straight club that hosts a gay night every Friday and although not specifically queer, Purple Haze attracts a diverse and inclusive crowd. 

Kathmandu organized its first Pride in 2019 when hundreds of people took to the streets waving rainbow flags. Now an ongoing event, it takes place on the second Saturday of June annually. 

Hang Out with Monkeys at Swayambhunath

Otherwise known as the Monkey Temple for its sizeable macaque population, Swayambhunath is a hilltop Buddhist complex of plazas, shrines, and statues. At its heart is a beautiful stupa which overlooks the Kathmandu Valley. Pilgrims spin prayer wheels as they walk around the base of the stupa and the scent of incense wafts in the air. It’s a steep 350 steps to the summit, but well worth it to observe the fascinating spiritual rituals and panoramic city views. 

Escape the Chaos in The Garden of Dreams

An oasis of calm in the heart of Kathmandu, the Garden of Dreams is a perfect escape from the buzz of the city. The neo-classical landscaped garden with its fountains, pavilions, and flower displays offers a tranquil haven in which to take a stroll or sit and read a book. Free mats are provided for those who feel like lounging on the lawns – it’s the perfect place to revitalize before hitting the streets of the city.

Visit Boudhanath – An Iconic Buddhist Monument 

Magnificent Boudhanath is the largest stupa in the world and draws Buddhists from all over Asia and beyond. The massive white stupa has a gold tower at its pinnacle embellished with Buddha’s all-seeing eyes and colorful prayer flags flutter in the breeze. Boudhanath is a striking sight, particularly when set against a deep blue sky. Surrounded by monasteries, cafes, and shops selling Buddhist paraphernalia, novice monks scurry between lessons. Take a seat at Nani’s Kitchen, one of the many rooftop restaurants, and enjoy the sights and sounds of one of the great spiritual monuments in the world.  

Embark on a Pilgrimage to Pashupatinath 

Monkey God at Pashupatinath (Photo Credit: Teresa Adams)
Monkey God at Pashupatinath (Photo Credit: Teresa Adams)

Pashupatinath is a Hindu temple consisting of over five hundred shrines, pagodas, and ashrams situated on the banks of the Bagmati River. Wandering holy men known as sadhus offer blessings to pilgrims or practice remarkable yoga positions. Public cremations take place next to the sacred river and a scattering of tourists watch on wide-eyed from the other side as funeral pyres are set aflame. As the sun sets, Brahmin priests perform a ceremony known as aarti involving chants, bells, and the lighting of oil lamps. A visit to Pashupatinath is a unique experience, both shocking and spellbinding simultaneously.

Explore Three Cities in One

In ancient times, Kathmandu Valley consisted of three cities, each with its own royal palace and square. Each of the cities has a wealth of Newari architecture, shrines, statues, and courtyards to explore.

Kathmandu Durbar Square is a mere 15-minute stroll from Thamel. There are pagodas and temples aplenty and the palace is home to the revered living Goddess, Kumari Ghar, who makes occasional appearances on the balcony. 

Bhaktapur has some stunning examples of Newari architecture. The National Art Museum is an essential stop with some excellent Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and paintings on display.

Patan is known for its wood carvings and handicrafts which can be found in the narrow streets located off the square. The palace houses the Patan Museum which focuses on the history of Nepal’s religious arts.

Get a Glimpse into the Past at Nepal’s Former Royal Palace

Narayanhiti Palace Museum (Photo Credit: Richie Chan / Shutterstock)
Narayanhiti Palace Museum (Photo Credit: Richie Chan / Shutterstock)

The Royal Palace was the tragic scene of the 2001 Nepalese Royal Family massacre. Crown Prince Dipendra murdered nine relatives including his parents and siblings before turning the gun on himself. Bullet holes are still visible on the wall. Now known as Narayanhiti Palace Museum, a visit offers a glimpse of what life was like for the royal family before their demise. The ‘60s-style building has an eclectic collection of artifacts from taxidermy to the King’s old VCR player. Wander through the throne room with its gigantic chandelier and peek at the guest wing where many of the world’s heads of state stayed. 

Pack Your Hiking Boots

It would be amiss to visit Kathmandu without experiencing the majestic mountains of Nepal. Not only is Nepal home to the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest but an additional seven out of 10 of the highest mountains on the planet. There are LGBTQ+ tour or trekking operators that are based in Kathmandu and/or specialize in arranging hiking treks, such as Pink Mountain Travels & Excursions and Out Adventures. So put on your hiking boots and set out to explore some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.

Sue King

Sue is a travel writer who is based in Brighton, England when not traveling. She has written articles for a variety of websites and magazines. She has visited or lived in over fifty countries and her favorite destinations to date are Mexico and India. She does, however, love to return to her hometown of Brighton by the sea.

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