Volunteer in the Kathmandu Valley and experience life in the ancient cultural heart of Nepal
At a glance: Perfect for those who prefer a more modern homestay and want to discover the rich cultural heritage of the capital city and it’s surrounding area
Kathmandu is the vibrant capital city of Nepal, where modern internet cafes and organic restaurants are nestled between medieval palaces and temples. Originally split into 3 separate city-states – Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur – the modern amalgamated city 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 the culture shock when you get off the plane, but once you’re settled in it’s a hugely rewarding location in which to be fully immersed in modern Nepali life.
A placement in Kathmandu or the suburb of Lalitpur also gives you the flexibility to travel to lots of different places within Nepal. The airport has regular domestic flights to many outlying regions, and buses to all areas of Nepal start in the capital. This allows you to spend time during your stay exploring the full range of Nepal’s mountain, hill and terai (jungle) regions.
Your accommodation in Kathmandu will be more developed than in our other sites;you will most likely be in a modern 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 main hustle and bustle of the city center. An easy 30-minute bus ride from Kathmandu’s center, just 40 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 neighborhood where people want to chat, practice their English, or just invite them for a game of football. Many of our volunteers based here use their free time to explore the ancient sites of the valley, hike to near-by villages, ride bikes or just take in 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 or in one of the areas orphanages. 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, is situated in the center of the valley between Patan, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. Because of its position it serves as a bulwark between Bhaktapur and Patan, Kathmandu during the late malla period when there were often battles among the three kingdoms of the valley. Several legends surround the name “THIMI” and it’s meaning. Legend says that because the people of Thimi so successfully defended Bhaktapur, the kings of Bhaktapur called them “CHHEMI” meaning “Capable people”- thus praising them for their loyal constant support. Gradually the name of the settlement became Thimi.
Its most well-known temple is 16th-century Balkumari Temple, dedicated to one of Bhairab’s shaktis. The goddess’ peacock vehicle is depicted 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 while red powder is hurled at them.
A passage on the south side of the square leads to Thimi’s potters’ square, which is full of kilns made from straw covered with ash. However, pottery-making here has been affected by the 2015 earthquake, which destroyed several homes around the square.
One kilometre north of Thimi is the village of Bode, with its 17th-century Mahalakshmi Temple, with a small image of Narayan reclining on his snake bed just behind. The village is famous for its annual tongue-piercing festival, during which one lucky volunteer pierces his tongue with a 13-inch spike. The festival is believed to protect the village from natural disasters and takes place just after Bisket Jatra in mid-April;
Bouddha (Northern end of Kathmandu city):
Boudhanath Stupa (or Bodnath Stupa) is the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It is the center 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.
Boudnath was probably built in the 14th century after the Mughal invasions; various interesting legends are told 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 centers of Tibetan Buddhism. Today it remains an important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists and local Nepalis, as well as a popular tourist site.
From above, Bodnath 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 center (in the white hemisphere of the stupa). The five Buddhas also personify the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), which are represented in the stupa’s architecture.
Bungamati, Lalitpur (Southern end of Kathmandu city):
Bungmati is a cultural village it is the typical Newari village which lies 10 km south from Kathmandu city. Geographically, it is very close to the city but socially and culturally it is very traditional village which is isolated from the modern life. The ancient village came into existence as early in the 7th century. It used to be an autonomous province in Kathmandu Valley. Regardless of the rapid changes in lifestyle of the urban population and the globalized way of living, the Bungamati locals have remained largely untouched by modern life.
This village is the summer house of the Red Machendranath, the rain god. The beautiful temple of Red Machendranath built in Shikhar style is situated in the middle of the village.
Bungmati is famous for the traditional woodcarving and farming. The village is known for the number of master woodcarvers and sculpture producers.