Kathmandu , Bhaktapur & Patan
The Kathmandu valley has three medieval towns , namely Kathmandu ( the capital city of Nepal ) , Patan and Bhaktapur . Most of the heritage sites in Nepal are in the Kathmandu valley, in these three cities. Within a periphery of 30 km , there are seven UNESCO declared world heritage sites , which are a great attraction for the tourists. Besides the world heritage sites, there are hundreds of masterpiece temples , stupas(Buddhist shrines ) and private houses in old quarter of the towns that are objects of great interest to the tourists. It is often said that the Kathmandu valley is an open museum of medieval arts and architecture .The oldest monument found in the valley is the Changunarayan temple near Bhaktapur which dates back to the 5th century .
The main tourist attractions in Kathmandu are the Kathmandu Durbar square Swoyambhunath stupa, Bouddhanath stupa and Pashupatinath temple.
Kathmandu Durbar square
The Kathmandu Durbar square , located on the heart of Kathmandu is the place to look for most of Kathmandu's temples, old palaces and interesting old quarter of the city. Here you will see several temples built from 13th to 17th centuries. The important monuments here include the courtyard of the living goddess Kumari, the Taleju temple, the Shiva Parvati temple, Maiju Deval, and the Bhairaba statue. The old palace there served as Royal palace for Nepalese kings for several centuries. On the western corner of the complex is a temple named Kastamandap, made with a single tree, the name Kathmandu is said to be derived from this very temple.
Equally interesting would be the colourful traditional market place with fruit and vegetable sellers and antique and painting shops. Kathmandu Durbar square is in a 15 minutes walking distance from the city centre and the main tourist hub of Thamel.
Swoyambhunath ( Monkey temple )
Two km west of the city centre lies the 2000yrs old Buddhist stupa of Swoyambhunath, perched on a hillock . Swoyambhunath commands a sweeping view of the Kathmandu valley. As there are lots of monkeys on the woods in this hill, this temple is often called "monkey temple" by the tourists .
It is a very profound spiritual centre for the Buddhists , active for almost two thousand years. Late afternoon, you will see several lamas worshipping and rolling the prayer wheels will be something you will really like to see. Lighting the butter lamps and the sunset from the stupa will be equally charming .
Bouddhanath is yet another Buddhist stupa , the biggest one in Nepal or the whole world, is much different than Swoyambhunath in its atmosphere. This 1500 yrs old stupa is said to be built by a Tibetan Lama . This place is very popular with Tibetan Lamas and refugees living in Kathmandu , hence it is often called "little Tibet ". Late afternoon you will see hundreds of Tibetans praying and circumambulating stupa, which is a very rare spectacle. It is a very spiritually charged place.
It is situated 5 kms east of Kathmandu on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River. The temple of lord Shiva, Pashupatinath, with a tiered golden roof & silver doors is famous for its superb architecture. Entrance to the temple precinct is forbidden to non-Hindus. The best view is from the terrace on the wooded hill across the river. The large gilded triple-roofed temple was built in 1696 AD though 300 years earlier there was a structure on this site. The Bagmati River is lined with dharmasalas and cremation ghats .There is usually a cremation in progress on one of the platforms by the river, regarded as holy as it flows into the sacred Ganges. There are many occasions when the faithful take ritual baths in the river. One of the most colorful is the women's festival of Teej when dressed in their finest red and gold saris hundreds of women, laughing and singing converge on Pashupatinath. Another great time to be here is the Festival of Shivaratri, the birthday of lord Shiva.
Patan is also known as Lalitpur or the "city of fine arts" This Buddhist City is said to have been founded by the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC. Patan is the source of arts and architecture in the valley, a great center both of the Newari Buddhist religion and of traditional arts & crafts with 136 bahals or courtyards and 55 major temples. Well known among these are the Krishna Mandir, Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, Kumbheshwar temple, Jagatnarayan temple & the Mahabouddha temple. Patan is enclosed within 4 Buddhist stupas set on the four-corners of the outer boundaries of this ancient city.
Bhaktapur , 14 km east of Kathmandu is a completely medieval world and a must in your itinerary. With its well preserved temples and monuments , the peasants and artisans, the town will take you in its spell. The whole town has almost no concrete buildings, life here is traditional and peaceful .This well preserved city is the home of medieval art & architecture and still retains its rich medieval aroma. A city of farmers, Bhaktapur is also known for it's pottery and weaving. Bhaktapur is the most charming and the best preserved of the valleys' three cities. The intricately carved temples, alleyways and timeless atmosphere of this place is simply intriguing. The major sightseeing places in Bhaktapur are The Durbar square , the Golden Gate, Palace of 55 windows, Bell of the barking dogs, 5 storied Nyatapole Temple, Bhairavanath Temple, Dattatrya Temple, Pujari Math etc .
Nearby Bhaktapur is the 5th century Changunarayan temple, the oldest monument in the Kathmandu valley . Bhaktapur and Changunarayan deserve a whole day for those interested in cultural treasures. Bhaktapur is en route to Nagarkot from Kathmandu .
18 kms east of Kathmandu and a 45 minutes walk up from Bhaktapur lies the beautiful temple of Changunarayan , at the end of a ridge.Changunarayan is the oldest temple in Kathmandu valley dating back 467 AD. The lavishly decorated two-tiered temple was rebuilt after a fire in 1702, testifies to the considerable talents of the Licchavi King Mandeva I, Nepals first great historical figure. The temple stands in a spacious courtyard, with priceless stone sculptures,and writings on copper plates and stone slabs from the 4th to 9th century A.D. (Licchavi period). Changunaryan is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO. There is a pleasant day hike from Nagarkot to Changunarayan.
Other Places to See