political, commercial and cultural hub of Nepal is the first stop
for the majority of visitors to the country. Once a separate kingdom
in itself, it contains three fabled cities - Kathmandu,
Patan and Bhaktapur.
Out of ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites, seven cultural heritage
sites are in Kathmandu Valley.
The history of the Valley begins with the Buddhist
saint Manjushree who slashed a passage through the surrounding hills
to drain out the primordial waters and make it inhabitable. Over
the centuries, a refined urban civilization emerged, built on a
unique synthesis of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Dynasties came and went. Trade and the arts flourished.
Its deeply religious Newar inhabitants built fabulous cities and
artistic temples that attracted devout pilgrims as well as rampaging
invaders. In the late 18th century, following the founding of modern
Nepal within more or less the present boundaries, Kathmandu was
made the capital. Kathmandu, the largest city in Nepal is situated
at an altitude of 1,350m.
(population 1,096,865 - 2001 census)
Durbar Square. This
complex of palaces, courtyards and temples like Hanumandhoka Palace,
Kumari Ghar (Abode of the Living Goddess), Taleju temple, built
between the 12th and 18th centuries, used to be the seat of the
ancient Malla Kings of Kathmandu. An intriguing piece here is the
17h -century stone inscription set into the wall of the palace with
writings in 15 languages. The Durbar Square, protected as a UNESCO
World Heritage Site, is the social, religious and urban focal point
of the city. Even to date, all the major state and social ceremonies,
including the solemnization of coronations are performed in one
of the courtyards in this complex. There are also museums inside
the palace building. There is an entrance fee of Rs. 250 for foreign
visitors. Your ticket to the Square entitles you to visit all the
A colorful and enlightening walk that gives you a feel of Kathmandu
starts at Rani Pokhari, the large pond at Jamal beside the clock
tower (Ghanta Ghar). The first stretch of the diagonal street leading
southwest from here is called Kamalachhi. It is lined with bicycles
and garment stores and brings you to the stone-paved market square
of Ason, where the Annapurna temple presides over the motley of
spice, grain and oil shops. Keep on walking and you come to Kel
Tole after passing shops overflowing with brass utensils. Further
on is the junction of Indrachowk with the temple of Akash Bhairav
occupying one side. Your next stop after threading your way through
the street lined with cloth shops is the stone-paved plaza of Makhan,
where the Taleju temple towers over a row of handicraft shops. Walk
on through Durbar Square to the intersection of Maru where you are
surrounded by temples of all shapes and sizes.
Heritage Walk. A
walk through selected historic sites seldom visited. This revitalizing
walk starts at Teku, south of old Kathmandu, leading on to Wonder
Narayan, a 17th century temple dedicated to Lord Bishnu. Strolling
through Hyumat Tole, you will arrive at Kusah Bahi, a Buddhist courtyard
built in 1754. The next stop is the Narayan Dewal, another Bishnu
temple (built in 1865) with a small Ganesh temple at the entrance.
Walk on to Tukan Baha, built in the 14th century as a replica of
the Swayambhu stupa. Admire the Ram temple at the Ramchandra Dewal
before reaching Jaisi Dewal, a huge Shiva temple built in 1688.
Saunter down to Kohiti to study the Buddhist and Hindu sculptures
in this sunken water fountain. Walk through Chikan Mugal and stop
by at the Atko Narayan Dewal, an important Bishnu temple built in
1857, before visiting the namesake of the city, the Kasthamandap
pavilion. After a further five-minute walk, reach the final destination,
the Bhimsen Dewal, built in 1655 and dedicated to the main deity
of local traders.
Swayambhu Stupa watches
over the Valley from the top of a hillock on its western side just
three kilometers west of the city center. The stupa is one of the
holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal and its establishment is linked
to the creation of the Kathmandu Valley out of a primordial lake.
Swayambhu is also known as Samhengu and is listed as a World Heritage
Site. It is also one of the oldest and glorious Buddhist shrines
in the world which is said to be two thousand years. The four sides
of the stupa is painted with the eyes of Lord Buddha and the temple
is also known as the watchful eyes of Buddha. Entrance fee Rs. 50
(SAARC nationals Rs. 30).
consists of a sprawling garden of stone water spouts, fish ponds,
and a replica of the statue of Budhanilkantha. Situated below Nagarjun
hill about 3 km northwest of the city center, Balaju is known for
its bank of 22 stone water spouts (hiti) carved in the shape of
sea-dragons during the 18th century. Devotees take ritual baths
under the gush of water in Balaju, also known as Lhuti. This is
also an ideal place for picnic and relaxation. There are many beautiful
folk songs focused on the Balaju Water Garden. Next to the garden
is an Olympic sized swimming pool open to the public.
is situated below Shivapuri hill at the northern end of the Valley.
It is about 9 km from the city center. The hub of the temple complex
is a pond in which lies a 5 meter (17 feet) long great stone figure
of Hindu god Bishnu reclining on the coils of a cosmic serpent.
The figure has been estimated to have been found buried in the ground
in its original state more than thousand years ago. It is also known
as Bhuijasi. Hindus throng to this sacred pilgrimage almost everyday
to perform puja but a great number of worshippers can be seen in
various festivals, especially on Haribodhini Ekadashi that falls
between October/November, the day believed that the sleeping Lord
Bishnu wakes up.
Stupa lies about 6 km east of downtown Kathmandu
and is the largest stupa in the Valley and one of the largest in
the world. It looms 36 meters high and presents one of the most
fascinating specimens of stupa design with hundreds of prayer wheels
and 108 small images of Buddha all around. Just like the Swayambhunath,
the stupa here is too has four sides with the watchful eyes of Lord
Buddha. All the Buddhist throng to this stupa to take part in the
sacred rituals during the Buddhist festivals.
a World Heritage Site is also known as Khasti. There are more than
45 Buddhist monasteries in the area. Many have schools that teach
young monks like those pictured here.
An information counter, run by the Bouddha Area
Preservation & Development Committee (Ph: 4471368) offers assistance
Changu Narayan Temple
is situated on a ridge overlooking the Valley, about 12 km to the
east of the city. It is dedicated to the Hindu God Bishnu –
the Preserver. One of the finest and oldest specimens of pagoda
architecture, the temple is embellished with exquisite wood and
stone carvings and is said to be the oldest pagoda style temple
in Nepal built sometime back in 323 A.D. The sacred complex is a
World Heritage Site and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding
at 125 meters.
Temple. One of the most sacred Hindu shrines in
the world, Pashupatinath lies 5 km east from the city center. The
richly-ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga, or phallic symbol,
of Lord Shiva as well as the noteworthy gold plated roofs and silver
coated doors. This is the abode of God Shiva and is the holiest
of all the Shiva shrines.
Religious pilgrims and sadhus, like the one pictured
here, travel all the way from the remote areas of India to visit
this sacred sight, especially during Shivaratri (the night of Shiva)
that falls between February/March. Even though these devotees have
denounced worldly possessions, each carries a Sadhu ID (identifications
card) to freely cross over the border between India and Nepal.
Chronicles indicate Pashupatinath’s existence
prior to 400 AD. Devotees can be seen taking ritual dips in the
holy Bagmati river flowing beside the temple, also a World Heritage
Site. The crematorium is just outside the temple and it is a dream
of almost every Hindu to be cremated by the side of Pashupati Aryaghat
after their death.
40, 378 - 2001 Census) a small town is situated on a ridge 6 km
southwest of Kathmandu. The ancient township established in 1099
is a natural fortress and has a proud and courageous history. It
was the first place to be attacked by Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1768.
The Chilamchu stupa and the temple of Bagh Bhairav are major sights
here. Kirtipur offers quaint streets lined with artistic houses
and temple squares and great views of Kathmandu Valley. The people
are known for their skill in building and weaving and other ancient
loom. The oldest educational institute, Tribhuvan University is
located in the bottom of the hill.
Dakshinkali and Chobhar.
The temple of Dakshinkali is dedicated to one of the most important
Hindu Goddess Kali and is one of the most popular places of worship
in Kathmandu. Located 22 km from the city center on the southern
rim of the Valley past Pharping village, the shrine is especially
crowded on Tuesdays and Saturdays when animal sacrifices are offered
to the deity. On the way back, stop at Chobhar, the famous gorge,
just 8 km south west of Kathmandu. The narrow gash in the hills
was made by Lord Manjushree to drain out the lake which once covered
the Valley. A majestic view of snow clad mountain can be viewed
from the hilltop close by.
(population 162,991 - 2001 estimate)
Square, like its counterpart in Kathmandu, is an
enchanting mélange of palace buildings, artistic courtyards
and graceful pagoda temples. Listed as a World Heritage Site, the
former royal palace complex is the center of Patan’s religious
and social life, and houses a museum containing an array of bronze
statues and religious objects. There is an entrance fee of Rs. 200
per foreign visitor. One remarkable monument here is a 17th century
temple dedicated to the Hindu God Krishna – Krishna Mandir
built entirely of stone with rare stone carvings on its walls depicting
the epic wars from Ramayana and Mahabharata.
is situated about a two-minute walk south of Durbar Square. It is
one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in Kathmandu Valley and reflects
the sophisticated architecture of the Malla period. A two-step platform
leads to the courtyard with a hall called Dalan. There is a shrine
dedicated to Shakyamuni right across the entrance.
also known as the Golden Temple, is a Buddhist monastery courtyard
dating to the 12th century. It is a five-minute walk west and north
from the northern end of Durbar Square. The monastery building is
embellished with exceptionally fine wood-carvings and repousse work.
Artistic images are scattered around the courtyard, and devotees
can be seen offering worship at the many shrines here. Entrance
can be reached by walking east from the southern end of Durbar Square
and then turning right at the sunken water taps. This Buddhist monument
is an excellent example of terra cotta art form which points to
the skill of Patan’s ancient craftsmen with a variety of building
styles. The 14th century monument’s obelisk-like design is
also unusual in a city of pagoda roofs..
is situated a few steps past Mahabouddha and is one of the best
known Buddhist places of worship in Patan. The stone-paved courtyard
is enclosed by a two-story building with gilded roofs. The wood-carvings
on the roof struts are especially attractive. The place is peppered
with sacred images and other small shrines.
these much frequented tourist attractions, there are other ancient
parts of Patan worth sight-seeing. Nakabahi, Nyakha Chuka, Nagbaha,
Swotha Square, Tumbaha, Walkhu Tole, Chyasa, Kapinche, Chapat, Subaha,
Bhinchhebaha, Dupat and Nugah make up a nice half-day walk around
the squares, temples and monuments of inner Patan.
The Central Zoo in
Jawalakhel is a pleasant diversion after a tour of the cultural
sights. The only zoo in Nepal, wasfirst established in 1932 by a
Rana Prime Minister as a private zoo and later opened to public
in 1956. It houses about 106 species of birds and over 665 different
animals and has 14 of the 38 endangered animals of Nepal. There
is also a pond where you can go boating. The zoo is open daily except
Mondays from 10 am to 5 pm. Entrance for foreign visitors costs
Rs. 60 (Rs. 25 for children under 10). Elephant ride costs Rs. 100
Tibetan Refugee Camp
was set up in 1960 under the initiative of International Red Cross
and the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC), known as Swiss Association
for Technical Assistance (SATA) then, in cooperation with His Majesty’s
Government of Nepal. Its main objective is to enable the Tibetan
refugees to do something productive and support themselves. The
carpet industry of Nepal is almost run by the Tibetan refugee families
and the carpet factories have been a great source of employment
for them to become self reliant economically. Apart from the carpet
industry, Tibetan refugees are also engaged into handicrafts and
there are many handicraft centers providing work opportunities to
the families of the refugees with its profits going for the education,
sanitation, healthcare of the Tibetans in the Refugee Camps including
the physically handicapped and senior Tibetans.
(population 74,200 – 2002 estimation)
Square. As you walk in, you cannot but be overcome
by a feeling of inner harmony. Such is the art and architecture
and the special layout here. The Palace of 55 Windows built during
the period of King Bhupatindra Malla in 1754 situated to the left
as you enter through the city gate, inspires admiration. The National
Art Gallery is also housed inside. The palace entrance, the Golden
Gate known as Sunko Dhoka in Nepali is a masterpiece in repousse
art. In front of the palace building is a medley of temples of various
designs. Amongst the three Durbar Squares in the Valley, the Durbar
Square in Bhaktapur is the best preserved one. There is an entrance
fee of Rs. 30 for SAARC nationals and Rs. 500 for other foreign
lies to the east of Durbar Square reached by a narrow brick-paved
lane. The towering five-roofed Nyatapol temple presides over the
square. The monument gracefully soars into the sky atop a five-story
plinth. The stairway leading up to the temple is flanked by stone
figures of deities and mythical beasts, each 10 times more powerful
than the one immediately below.
takes its name from the Dattatreya temple dedicated to a three-headed
combination of the Hindu deities Brahma, Bishnu and Shiva. If you
want to experience the feel of the traditional urban layout of Bhaktapur,
Dattatreya Square is it. Set in a maze of streets lined with richly
ornamented houses, the square is famed for its many ornate Hindu
monasteries known as Math. The National Woodworking Museum is also
housed here and the Brass and Bronze Museum is across the street.
The oldest structure in Bhaktapur was raised during the reign of
the last Malla King, Yaksha Malla who ruled the Valley before it
was divided into three Kingdoms amongst his three heirs.
A two-minute walk south of Durbar Square brings you to Bolachhen,
also known as Potter’s Square because of the many potters
seen here moulding wet clay into different kinds of earthen ware.
It has a display of fresh pottery left out to dry in the open square.
This place can be approached from Taumadhi Square. The elephant-headed
Lord Ganesh is the patron of potters, thus the Jeth Ganesh temple
in the square.
a pond dating back to the Lichhavi period, is better known as Ta-Pukhu,
meaning big pond. Though situated right at the bus stop, it provides
a serene atmosphere with its sashaying fish and the stone images
of different Hindu and Buddhist Gods.
Surya Binayak is
one of Kathmandu’s most popular pilgrimage spots, 12 kilometers
east of the center. It has been positioned in such a way to catch
the first rays of the sun in the morning. Situated in a thick forest
to the south of Bhaktapur, it is a 20-minute walk from the trolley
bus terminal. The temple, dedicated to the Hindu deity Ganesh (the
Elephant headed God) is crowded with devotees especially on Tuesdays
and Saturdays. It is also one of the favorite picnic spots offering
elegant views of Bhaktapur and other attractive landscapes.
Thimi (population 48,000) is a farming town situated
8 km east of Kathmandu on the way to Bhaktapur. Exquisite temples
and other religious shrines dot its streets. It is known for its
artistic masks and earthen pots, often seen spread out on the streets
to dry in the sun. It can be called a traditional pottery locality
with almost 80% of the population still involved in pottery. Handspun
cotton cloth is another Thimi specialty.
Sight-seeing can be done on foot in the city core
areas; for outlying spots, hire a car or take the bus. Travel agencies
in Kathmandu offer a variety of half-day and full-day guided tours.
The following combinations of tourist sites make for a pleasant
half-day of sight-seeing:
Kathmandu Durbar Square and Swayambhu
Kathmandu and Patan Durbar Squares
Kathmandu Durbar Square and Pashupatinath
Pashupatinath, Bouddhanath and Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Pashupatinath, Bouddhanath, Changu Narayan
Balaju and Budhanilkantha
Kirtipur, Chobhar and Dakshinkali
topics viewed by visitors