At a glance: Perfect for those who prefer a more modern home stay and want to discover the rich cultural heritage of the capital city (Kathmandu Valley) and it’s surrounding area
Kathmandu is the vibrant capital city of Nepal. Here modern internet cafes and organic restaurants are nestled between medieval palaces and temples. The area was originally split into 3 separate city-states. The cities of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. It is home to 7 UNESCO world heritage sites such as Patan Durbar Square, Swayambhunath Stupa and Pashupatinath Temple. The pace of life in Kathmandu is fast by Nepali standards, with bustling narrow streets filled with rickshaws swerving around tiny shrines and ancient courtyards. It takes a little getting used to when you arrive, but once you’re settled in it’s a hugely rewarding location. Here you will be fully immersed in modern Nepali life.
A placement in Kathmandu or the suburb of Lalitpur gives you the flexibility to travel to lots of different places. The airport has regular domestic flights to many outlying regions and there are buses to all areas of Nepal. This allows you to spend time during your stay, exploring the full range of Nepal’s mountain, hill and jungle regions.
Your accommodation in Kathmandu will be more modern than in our other locations; you will be in a house with flushing, western-style toilets and continual running water. Some of the placements have hot showers as well.
Several of VSN’s own projects are based in Pepsi-Cola Town Planning and many of our volunteers make this their base. It is an oasis of green space and clear air just outside of the hustle and bustle of the city centre. A 30-minute ride from Kathmandu’s centre, 30 minutes from Bhaktapur, and with its own range of services in the area. It offers a good balance of rural and urban. Our volunteers are regulars at the local bar, called simply ‘The Hut’, and easily make friends walking around the neighbourhood. Here people want to chat, practise their English, or just invite you for a game of football. Many of our volunteers use their free time to explore the ancient sites of the valley, hike to villages, ride bikes or just enjoy the city life.
The village of Duwakot lies in the hills just above the medieval city of Bhaktapur. Although only a short bus ride from Kathmandu, the rice terraces, peaceful fields and slower pace will make you feel a million miles away. The village also lies about a 2-hour walk from Nagarkot; one of the valley’s prime sites for sunrise viewing of the mountains. We offer the chance to volunteer in the local government school. There is also the chance to work in the health post or construction. Your homestay will be basic with a flushing squat toilet and a cold shower.
Thimi, lies in the centre of the valley between Patan, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. It used to serve as a bulwark between Bhaktapur and Patan, Kathmandu during the late Malla period. There were often battles among the three kingdoms of the valley.
Its most well-known temple is the 16th-century, Balkumari Temple, dedicated to one of Bhairab’s Shaktis. You can see the goddess’ peacock vehicle on a column in front of the temple, as well as each corner of the temple. It’s the focus for the Balkumari Jatra, a festival where Thimi welcomes the new year (around mid-April) with riotous scenes as the 32 khats (palanquins) whirl around the temple.
Boudhanath Stupa is the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It is the centre of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu and rich in Buddhist symbolism. The stupa is located in the town of Boudha, on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu.
Boudhanath is built-in the 14th centuryafter the Mughal invasions; there are various interesting legends regarding the reasons for its construction. After the arrival of thousands of Tibetans following the 1959 Chinese invasion, the temple has become one of the most important centres of Tibetan Buddhism. Today it remains an important place of pilgrimage and meditation, as well as a popular tourist site.
From above, Boudanath Stupa looks like a giant mandala, or diagram of the Buddhist cosmos. And as in all Tibetan mandalas, four of the Dhyani Buddhas mark the cardinal points, with the fifth, Vairocana, enshrined in the centre. The five Buddhas also personify the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether).
Bungamati is a cultural village it is the typical Newari village that lies 10 km south of Kathmandu city. Geographically, it is very close to the city but socially and culturally it is a very traditional village. The ancient village came into existence as early as the 7th century. It used to be an autonomous province in Kathmandu Valley. Regardless of the rapid changes in the lifestyle of the urban population, the Bungamati locals have remained largely untouched by modern life.