A site on a hill overlooking the city with a large stupa and other Buddhist and Hindu iconography. One of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the country, this temple is also enlisted in the world heritage sites. Swayambhu means “self-created” or “self-existed”. Located within walking distance (3km) to the west of Thamel in Kathmandu on a hillock, the temple can be reached by climbing 365 stairs that go straight up and might be slippery if raining. Swayambhunath is more commonly known to tourists as “The Monkey Temple” due to the large number of monkeys’ in habitation there.
The history and religious importance of this temple in Nepal is great. There are a lot of histories that might or might not be true. However, it is believed that the temple spontaneously made its way up the hill from water. The peace and power of prayers can be felt in this area. The major attraction of the temple is a large white dome with a golden spire and prayer flags at the top. The top of the dome has eyebrows and eyes painted on which can be inspected all over the Kathmandu valley. These eyes are believed to represent the peace and compassion of Lord Buddha who has been watching out the whole valley and the world.
During the recent earthquake of 2015 in Nepal, the stupa was not harmed at all. It looks the same stupa from history that carried great appreciation and importance. However, the Anantapur shrine and the monastery at the back of the stupa were damaged badly. Since, this area contains a lot of shrines, you still have a lot to explore and admire. There are plenty of places to eat on the outskirts of the temple with numerous monasteries and large prayer wheels.
How to get to Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)
If you are confused on how to get there, the following tip might help you to grab a good day ahead.
The monkey temple is about 60min-90min walk from Thamel in Kathmandu. If not too hot it’s a pleasant walk with a few small side streets and stores along the way. There’s another temple nearby (Swayambhu Mandir – beside ring road), along with a very small museum of natural history so you could turn this into a full day out.
It’s about 10-15 minutes from Thamel in non-rush hour. Taxi’s will try to overcharge, set the price before getting in with a friendly bargain. Average price is about 150 rupee.