Did you know there are other beautiful places to visit near Swayambhunath? And within a walking distance. Some of the best places to visit near Swayambhunath are discussed below.
Most of us already know about the Swayambhunath Stupa or “The Monkey Temple”. It is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites of Nepal and a major tourist (domestic and international) place of Kathmandu Valley which is rich in cultural, religious, historical as well as architectural values.
1. Swayambhunath Stupa
Swayambhunath or Swoyambhu, is an old religious shrine on top of a hill inside Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.
According to Tibetan language, the meaning of Swayambhu is ‘Sublime Trees’, for different varieties of trees found in Kathmandu. Whereas ‘Nepal Bhasa’ has a different meaning i.e. ‘Self-Sprung’.
Swayambhunath is the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage for Newar Buddhists, but for Tibetan, it is the second after the Boudhanath stupa.
The holy place consists of different stupas and temples, some from the Lichhavi period. Beside this, some newly built monuments are Tibetan Monastery, Museum, Library and Many more.
The main stupa has Buddha’s eyes and eyebrows painted on top of it. Between the eyes lies a number 1 (In Devanagari Script) as a nose.
Based on the Swayambhu Purana , It’s said that once upon a time the entire valley was filled with an enormous lake, out of which grew a lotus.
As we know, the meaning of Swayambhu is ‘Self-Created’, which came from eternal self-existent flame, over which the stupa was built.
Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning, had a vision of lotus at Swayambhu and used to worship it.
While he was there, he thought that the valley could be a good settlement and to make the site more accessible to human pilgrimage, he cut a gorge at Chovar.
The water from the lake drained and later it was built as Kathmandu Valley.
The Lotus was Transformed into a hill and the flower became the stupa.
Around Swayambhu, you can find a lot of monkeys (holy monkeys). According to the myth, the same as above, while Manjushri was growing a hill for Swayambhu, he was supposed to keep his hair short. But it became long and lice were grown. And the head lice later transformed into these monkeys.
Thus, Swayambhunath is also called ‘Monkey Temple’.
Some important monuments to see in Swayambhunath
- The huge gold plated Vajra ‘thunderbolt’ set in the east side of the stupa
- Buddha statue on the west side of Swayambhu
- The Sleeping Buddha
- The Dewa Dharma Monastery, noted for a bronze icon of Buddha and traditional Tibetan paintings
- The temple is dedicated to Harati, the goddess of all children. It is said that she was an ogress before Lord Buddha converted her to be the caretaker of all children.
2. Single Tree Hill
This place is located on the opposite hill of Swayambhunath Temple. You can go either on a bike/scooter (15 mins ride) or on foot (walk for 30 – 45 mins).
This hill has one big tree at the top, thus got the name “Single Tree”.
From here, you can see the whole Kathmandu valley and Swoyambhunath Stupa in the east. And in the west you can see White Gumba Monastery, Nagarjuna homestay and surrounding hills.
This place is perfect to see the sunrise and sunset as well.
If you wish to see the Sunrise then reach this place at 5:30 A.M. in the morning. The orange sun in the horizon above the buildings of Kathmandu valley looks really mesmerizing.
And if you want to see the sunset then reach this place by 5:00 P.M. in the evening.
Along with the Single Tree, there’s a small Ganesh temple where locals come to pray and worship everyday.
There’s also a small cafe where you can drink local tea and coffee.
And the place is really famous as a morning walk destination. But these days, it’s getting more popular among the youngsters as a dating spot.
This place gets filled by youths the whole day throughout the year.
So, if you’re looking for a romantic place or a place to see the whole Kathmandu valley and Swayambhunath stupa from higher altitude, then this place is for you.
3. Chaitya Gumba (View Tower)
This is another beautiful place to see the 270° view of Kathmandu valley, White Gumba Monastery and Jamacho hill. It is also a religious place for Buddhists and has a stupa along with a view tower on its side.
This place lies a little above the previous Single Tree Hill. You’ll have to walk another half hour from Single Tree Hill.
The trail to this Gumba or View tower is more steep than that of Single Tree Hill. But it is at a higher altitude than Single Tree.
So you’ll get a better view from here than from Single Tree. And it is also less crowded than Single Tree. (But after COVID-19 or Corona lock down more people are visiting here)
The steep stairs might be the reason for less people to visit. But now a roadway has been constructed recently (though it’s not usable right now).
After the completion of this road people can directly come to the view tower on their own vehicle.
When we first found out about this place, the tower was left under construction and literally nobody came to this place.
So, it became our best place to come for a morning walk and do stretching and some exercises.
But now, the tower is also being constructed and soon they will also be charging tickets to climb the tower.
So, we might be kicked out of the place soon. Now, time for us to find a new location for a morning walk.
4. Ichangu Narayan Temple
On the rural but pleasant side of Kathmandu valley at the southern base of Jamacho, lies one of the several important temples dedicated to lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Narayan, the ‘eternal man’.
And the temple is called “Ichangu Narayan ”, not to be confused with Changunarayan Temple of Bhaktapur.
According to the myths, Narayan Temple occupies each of the four cardinal points of Kathmandu valley.
And the Ichangu Narayan temple lies around 3 km northwest of Swayambhunath temple, on the way to white gumba.
The temple was built in around 1200 A.D. in a two-tiered Pagoda Style. The courtyard is filled with ancient statues of Garuda and other Vaishnavite symbols.
The 2015 earthquake in Nepal has caused some damage to the temples. Now they’re fixed but the premises are being reconstructed now.
How to reach Ichangu Narayan Temple?
On a Public Vehicle
You can get a local micro bus from the opposite of Swayambhunath and the fare is around 25 Nepali Rupees (may give discount to students).
The vehicle may not take you to the exact premises of the temple. So you might also have to walk for around 15-20 mins.
On a Taxi/Reserved Vehicle
There will be lots of Taxis available at Swayambhunath temple. You can ask for the driver and they will take you there. The fare is expensive as compared to the public vehicle and may vary. So don’t hesitate to bargain a bit.
(They may charge you around 200-500 to reach there.)
Note: The road is not metallic or black topped, so you can expect a bumpy ride.
5. White Gumba
White Gumba (Seto Gumba) or Druk Amitabh Mountain is another beautiful place to be near Kathmandu valley. It lies north of Swayambhunath stupa. And primarily, the nuns from various parts of the world like Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh, Lahaul, etc. come here to meditate and practice buddhism.
It is not that far from the crowded city but the environment is really clean and fresh as compared to the valley. From the top the view of the Kathmandu Valley is really beautiful. You can see the panoramic view of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, also surrounding hills like Chandragiri, Nagarjun, etc.
You can enjoy both Sunrise as well as Sunset from here. And the Monastery (Gumba) itself is rich in Tibetan art, architecture and Buddhist culture.
It used to be open to the public once a week. But after the devastating earthquake of 2015, it’s been closed and is not open till date.
It’s under construction and new buildings are being constructed. So I hope it will re open and we get the chance to visit there again.
6. Nagarjun Homestays
This place was a real surprise for us. Though we visited White Gumba many times, we never knew that there was a homestay so near Kathmandu valley.
One day, while we were bored, we decided to go White Gumba as it’s not so far from our house.
After reaching there, we roamed around and had tea since the White Gumba monastery was closed since the great Earthquake of 2016.
So we decided to explore a nearby village. So we went a little up towards the nearby village from White Gumba. And then we parked the bike and started walking on the narrow path of the village.
The paths and the small houses built with stones gave us the vibe of Mustang Village (Like the village from Kabaddi Movie).
After walking for about 15 mins, we reached to the top of the hill. At the top, there was a flat surface with grass.
It was heavenly. Cool breeze of wind, hills filled with yellow marigold flowers, nuns from the monastery, locals working in the field and surrounding hills was really mesmerizing.
Though it was so close from the Kathmandu valley, it was the total opposite of a hustling and bustling capital city. Here, it is peaceful, fresh and romantic.
After spending some quality time there, we went to a nearby tea shop and had some foods to eat.
Why should you come here?
There are very few homestays but many hotels to eat and drink. You can hangout with your friends in a peaceful and organic environment.
You will get to eat local made foods like Sukuti Chiura (beaten rice), Chowmein, fried peas, Sadeko Peanuts, Sadeko Soybean (Bhatmas), etc. And you can drink soft drinks like coca cola, fanta, sprite or beers, chhyang, tongba and local wine.
So, if you want to enjoy a rural/fresh environment on a budget, then this place is best for you.
We came home late at night from there. But now, it’s become one of our nearest and favorite places to be in Kathmandu near Swayambhunath.
The sunset from here is really magical. In the evening, you can see beautiful orange sun setting behind the hills of Chandragiri from here. And the sky lit up with golden light from the setting sun is really amazing.
7. Tropical Rest
It is a restaurant on the way to White Gumba from Swayambhu before reaching Single Tree.
After your hike to any of the places above or just hang out with your friends, this can be a perfect spot for you. (Due to COVID-19 or Corona Lock Down, it’s closed for now)
So some of the reasons for me to recommend this places are as follows
- As its name says “Tropical Rest”, it gives you the vibe of Tropical region. And it’s built pretty creatively, for example instead of concrete it has a steel roof, and the front part is thatched (made) with straw (dried plant). And the internal part of the roof is decorated with bamboo baskets.
The back part of the restaurant has a hammock (clever) instead of normal furniture.
And the front part has the furniture made of Bamboo which is really cool and feels eco friendly.
The walls are decorated pretty cleverly and creatively.Some part has wallpapers and decorated with arts and pictures. Some walls have real artistic things.
- Beautiful view of Swayambhunath Temple and Kathmandu valley can be seen from the balcony of the restaurant.
- And the price for foods or drinks is affordable (comparatively cheaper) than other similar restaurants in Kathmandu.
Though the restaurant is amazing, some of the things have disappointed me.
- Food was not so good compared to other similar restaurants in Kathmandu. I’ve visited many times and tried almost every dish there, and they lack something as compared to others. Hope they will fix it soon.
But still I visit the place with friends to chill out and have a couple of beers (but not food).
- Since it’s on the main road, people visiting around here go to this place to have snacks and have good times with their peeps. So, it can get crowded sometimes and might have to stand and wait till some group gets out and you get to sit.
There are some other restaurants nearby like Queen Bee, Khasta Vista (recently opened 100 mts ahead of Single Tree towards Chaitya Gumba), etc. which seems really nice but I haven’t visited there yet.
I’ll be visiting soon and will add a review of them as well.
But if you’ve visited those places, please feel free to comment below.
And also if I’ve missed any places near Swayambhunath Temple that you love, then please comment below and let me know. I’d love to visit those places.