The day before we left Kathmandu, we visited 2 other important sites: Durbar Square & Swayambhunath Temple.
Swayambhunath, or more popularly known as the “Monkey Temple” is an ancient Buddhist temple on top of a hill west of Kathmandu.
How ancient is it?
It is believed that by the 13th century, Swayambhunath already exists as an important Buddhist centre in Kathmandu but that it was built around 460AD. The stairway was only added at a later time (17th century). Legend says Kathmandu valley was once a lake and that the hill on which Swayambhunath stands rose like a lotus leaf that rises from the muddy waters of a lake, making this place pretty special.
Swayambhunath is called “Monkey Temple” for a reason. There’s a large group of monkeys that live and play in and around the temple, to the delight and amusement of its visitors. We saw many of them during our visit. Some of them were chasing the other visitors (probably for food), some of them sliding down the banisters of the main stairway, some jumping off on to trees, while others were happily going about their business, eating bananas and observing the believers who went there to pray.
There’s a very long staircase (claimed to be 365 steps) that lead to the main platform of the temple on top of the hill where you can see the large round stupa, with its Buddha eyes wisely looking out over the entire valley. This elevated location offers spectacular views of Kathmandu and the valley. Around the temple there are shops, a buddhist museum, and café where we had a good afternoon tea.
Was it worth it?
In my view. Yes, absolutely. Although this is another Buddhist temple such as the one we’ve seen earlier, Boudhunath, we like it for 3 reasons:
1. the cute monkeys that are all over the temple
2. the spectacular views of the Kathmandu valley from the hill top
3. we had more opportunity here to observe the Buddhists worship and go about their ritual.
Good luck & Happy Travels!