Kathmandu's Thamel district is more known for it's shopping, night life and trekking stores than its temples. But, it does have plenty of heritage to discover. Very few tourists get to see and experience this cultural side of Thamel due to its commercial development. With this free independent walk you can pass an hour or two many people never knew existed.
Thamel dates back 1000 years when it was a Newari Buddhist district known as Tabitha. This area had Bikramashila Mahabihar (Bhagwan Bahal)monastery as its central focus point. The Bahal still exists today.
There are many other heritage walks in my books that are far more detailed. Kathmandu city guidebook, Kathmandy Valley guidebook and my complete Nepal guidebook all contain easy and fun hertiage walks I created.
However if you really want to get the most out of heritage in the Kathmandu Valley then I suggest you get my dedicated and indepth book on heritage walks- Kathmandu Valley Heritage Walks - with over 28 original heriage walks it's simply the best you can get.
Did you know?
In 2017/2018 vehicular traffic was banned along two roads in Thamel! It makes this heritage walk even better, easier and more pleasant to do any day of the week.
We start our Thamel Heritage walk from Tri Devi Marg. To find this easily located The Garden of Dreams, The Real North Face Stores and across the road Fire & Ice Pizza. This is Tri Devi Marg!
If facing Fire & Ice Pizza turn left and walk down the road a little, just to your right you will find some metal gates leading to the Tri Devi temples. Use the map below to make your way there. Or get detailed maps of all the heritage walks in the Kathmandu Valley from my guidebooks which you can print or use offline on your phone of tablet.
On this page is the full Thamel heritage walk which can easily join up with other heritage walks you can do for free by yourself. Do please find full details on all locations on the following pages:
Heritage walk guide:
Tri Devi is one of the most passed by yet lesser known temple areas in Kathmandu. The large courtyard houses three temples dedicated to the goddesses Dakshinkali, Manakamana and Jawalamai.
Sadly the gates to Tri Devi are often locked. If you really want to get inside try Saturday mid-morning when worshippers often come.
The temples in Tri Devi were renovated in 2015/2016 and are in very good condition. Above many are wooden roof struts with typical Newari erotic carvings.
From Tri Devi Marg continue up along the main road passed Fire & Ice towards the first of Thamel's main junctions. Take a right along a street (Amrit Marg) that has a slow incline up.
Continue up this street being mindful of the traffic along this part of the way. You'll pass many of Thamels trekking agencies and shops along the way. This walk can take about 3 minutes. You are walking towards Bhagwan Bahal, which all locals should know. Again use the map below.
Bikramashila Mahabihar is more commonly known as Bhagwan Bahal. It is said to be over 1,000 years old. Though it is believed to have been rebuilt and renovated on many occasions over this period. There is a temple to Ajima beside the Bahal but the deity shrine is long gone.
Inside, Bhagwan Bahal is said to contain the manuscript Swayambhu Puran, one of the oldest manuscripts narrating the story of the Kathmandu Valley. Bhagwan Bahal has a close relationship with the Kathmandu Kumari who visits here once a year. Opposite the monastery are small small shrines usually surrounded by motorcycles.
If facing Bhagwan Bahal take a right and continue on passed the next junction due north.
At the junction due north of Bhagwan Bahal there's a small ganesh shrine lodged into the steps below a pavement. Continue due to north as the road crooks to the right a little. You'll come to another junction with a road leading to the right however along the main road to the left is a small shrine with a roof.
This unassuming shrine is dedicated to Ganesh. Though the bland concrete building might not be so interesting step up close to it and you'll notice the deity statue is below street level.
The statue of Ganesh here is very detailed and well worth a closer look through the metal fence.
Continue north along this quieter stretch of Thamel. You'll soon come to another small junction with a tiny open lane going to the left while the main road goes north. Take the street to the left.
The small street opens up and to your right is a huge and impressive Hiti known as Ghairi Dhara.
A hiti is a natural water source that's been developed into a public fountain. Today it is still in use, though damaged in the 2015 earthquake.
Like centuries ago it is still used for both water collection by locals and for washing of clothes.
Continue walking along this road passing through several guesthouses and local buildings until you get to the main busy road known as Thamel Marg. Take a right here and walk to the end until you get to a very busy intersection on the northern border of Thamel. Take a left here and walk on the pavement until you get to a fenced in area housing some shrines to your left.
Inside this fenced in area is small park of shrines. The most outstanding is the red Ganesh shrine to the left. However it's the main Shiva shrine straight ahead that is the central focus.
If the main door is open then it's well worth stepping inside this compound as the shrines inside are very well preserved and looked after. Again, Saturday mornings are best for open gates!
Retrace your steps back through to the junction you came out of after visiting Ghairi Dhara (Hiti). Continue on down this busy main street (Thamel Marg).
After some minutes walking down Thamel Marg you'll come to a brass roofed single story temple called Bhagwait Mandir. It's one of the most famous temples in Thamel.
Inside Bhagwati Mandir is a shrine to the goddess Bhagwati. The temple is open on Saturday mornings and most evenings around 6pm.
Continue south until you get to another small junction with a street to the left which has a rather steep incline to it. Turn onto this street.
There are two small unassuming temples to the left here. The first is dedicated to Hanuman.
Both shrines are usually open with locals keeping an eye out for them. The Hanuman shrine is difficult to make out and is often confused with Vishnu.
The second shrine is clearly Ganesh. Meanwhile there is also a small Shiva shrine here.
Retrace your steps back to the Thamel Marg and continue on down the street until just before you get to Narshing Chowk.
Just before Narshing Chowk is a large open compound filled with new looking shrines and statues. This is Chhwasal Ajima Stan which is actually dedicated to the goddess Ajima.
This compound is a great place to familiarise yourself with the Hindu gods as there are many of them places along the courtyard walls here.
If you really want to see a small shrine the next section leads you to one. However, the chances are you'll be walking by it at some stage anyway, so it's up to you if you want to brave the main Thamel area now or later. Continue south to the Ganesh shrine below or ...
Take the street to your right after Chhwasal Ajima Sthan leading to Hot Breads bakery. Take a left there and continue on down the sloping street until you get to a small red fence about a foot off the ground to the right.
This small unassuming red fenced in area is unique in Kathmandu. It contains a shrine to the Kumari. It's very rare to come across such a shrine and the fact that it is barely identifiable makes it a little under whelming.
Do note how the road is shaped around the fence signifying that even with all the road widening and damage it's caused throughout the Kathmandu Valley no one dares to come close to the Kumari shrine!
You can now double back to Narshing Chowk and take a right heading south. It's a quite a few minutes before we come across our next shrine which is a little hidden.
Just before J.P. Road is a small lane called Ashok Gully to your right in among some Thangka stores. This narrow little lane turns sharply to the right until it comes to a newly created wall.
This newly renovated stupa is said to date back well over 1000 years and is dedicated to the Indian Emperor Ashoka.
There's not much actual written history to this stupa though and many doubt it's actual age. It was damaged by the 2015 earthquake then in 2016 a local business sponsored its renovation.
Double back to the main road you came down and take a left back onto Thamel Marg. Continue due south until you get to a small stupa to your right up on a pavement of sorts.
There's not much here other than a small Buddhist stupa surrounded by shops. However it does have a small pavement off the road which can give you a rest.
Behind the stupa is a fenced in shrine dedicated to Ganesh. It's usually locked but you can still get a good look inside.
Directly opposite the shrine is a small lane way leading to our next destination.
As you walk down this lane way look out to your left for the entrance to Maitripur Mahabihar. One of Thamels oldest monasteries.
Inside this well persevered courtyard are several shrines. The most prominent is one that looks like a large white Shiva Lingam. Behind the doors in front of it is a statue to the Buddha.
Walk back out to the main road and take a right. Continue down the road looking out for a tiny entrance way sandwiched between some local shops to the right. If you reached a large busy junction known as Thahiti Chowk then you went to far. Go back and search out the small shrine which is our last in Thamel.
Virtually hidden between stores at the bottom of Thamel Marg to the right is this tiny little courtyard housing a small shrine dedicated to the goddess Bhagwati.
Though unassuming on the outside step up close to the gated shrine and look in as the main shrine to Bhagwati is one of the most colorfully decorated in all Kathmandu!
End of the Thamel Heritage walk.
This concludes our Thamel Heritage walk. If you'd like to extend your heritage walk then take a right outside the Bhagwati temple and you'll enter into Thahiti Chowk where our old city heritage walk begins!
Map of heritage walk in Thamel starting from Tri Devi temples to Thahiti Chowk showing all the heritage sites in Thamel.
It's okay to get lost! Kathmandu's old city is filled with small narrow market streets that are both fascinating and difficult to navigate. Always ask local vendors if you need directions.
Ignore the tour guides: Most of the tour guides hang out in Thamel and will claim to know everything. The sad trueth is they don't. There is no heritage training for guides. Most simply know about where some of the shrines are but not the details. While you are free to hire one there's no real need. It's better to ask a local shopkeeper for directions than a guide who will charge you money, tell you less than this guide and probably want to sell you something else.
Bring water with you. There are plenty of shops selling bottled water along the way, but they can get crowded. Brining your own water saves time.
Start your heritage walk early! Traffic and congestion in Kathmandu is a problem. Early in the morning the markets are opening and there's less traffic so you'll get the most out of your walk. Better yet, go on a Saturday morning which is when it's quietest.
More free Kathmandu Heritage walking guides:
Lastly, do consider buying my guidebooks to either Kathmandu city, Kathmandu valley or better yet my complete Nepal guidebook which contains many other heritage walks and are written in much greater detail with much better maps!
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