The Royal Botanical Gardens

The Royal Botanical Gardens

The Royal Botanical Gardens, found 18 kms south of Kathmandu in the foothills of Mount Phulchowki, are a site of outstanding beauty. Opened by King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev in 1962, the Botanical Gardens-the only in Nepal-now hold over 500 species of plant in 82 hectares. Highlights include the decorative Coronation Pond, visitor centre (with interesting exhibits on Nepal's flora), greenhouses, and collections of rhododendrons (Nepal's national flower), lilies, orchids, cacti and ferns. Spring and autumn are the peak flowering seasons and therefore the best times to visit.

The Godavari Spring, found 200 metres from the Botanical Gardens' main gate, is also well worth a look. This freshwater spring spouting ice-cold water from the Gadavari river is reputed to have been created when the Buddhist Mystic Padmasambhava struck a rock (in order to demonstrate that the ultimate truth is clear and will fulfill the people's thirst); unsurprisingly, the Spring is a popular Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage site.

Those with more energy will enjoy a hike to the top of Phulchowki (2715 m), the highest hill in the Kathmandu valley, to take in the views and a small Buddhist shrine at the summit.