Standing at an elevation of approximately 1,400 m above sea level, the Kathmandu Valley is a cultural and political hub of Nepal. The valley is surrounded by 4 major mountains viz. Phulchoki, Shivapuri, Chandragiri and Nagarjun. The valley comprises the 3 ancient cities of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, which were once independent states ruled by the Malla kings from 12th to 18th centuries. The valley has at least 130 important monuments, including several places of pilgrimage for the Hindus and the Buddhists. There are 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites within the valley.
Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal, which covers 395 sq. km. of area, the largest urban agglomerate of Nepal. The city derives its name from the Kasthamandap or ‘ House of Wood’ a pagoda-style temple near the Basantapur Durbar Square. The ancient name of the city is Kantipur and is also known as the home of thousand temples. It is the most important industrial and commercial centre in Nepal, serving as the headquarters of most companies, banking institutions and other organizations. The major economic hubs are New Road, Durbar Marg, Ason, Putalisadak etc., and the tourist hub is Thamel. Like any big city, Kathmandu has seen rapid expansion in the last decade, but despite the hustle & bustle of the metropolitan city, its people remain as delectably friendly as ever. Retaining its ancient traditions, the city is blessed by a Living Goddess – Kumari, and is enriched by endless ceremonial processions and events that take place every now and then with throngs of devotees seeking blessings.
Kathmandu Durbar Square (World Heritage Site)
Kathmandu Durbar Square is situated in the heart of the old Kathmandu city at Basantapur. The complex was the residence of Nepal’s royal family before the construction of the Narayanhiti Palace. The founding of the Palace dates back to Lichhavi times. With considerable renovations by Malla rulers and later the Ranas, construction was accomplished progressively over many centuries. It houses two museums; important ceremonies, including the coronation of the Nepali monarch, are held in here. Most parts of the palace premise are open for tourists throughout the week during office hours.
The Durbar Square includes the Hanuman Dhaka Royal Palace; the temple of titular deity, Taleju Bhawani; Kumari Ghar, the residence of the Living Goddess; Kasthamandap, which is said to have been built out of a single tree; Ashok Vinayak, locally called Maru Ganesh, a temple without a filial; and Kaal Bhairav, the God of Wrath.
Swoyambhunath Stupa (World Heritage Site)
Also known as the Monkey Temple, Swoyambhunath Stupa sits atop a hill around 3 km west of the city centre. It is among the oldest religious sites in Nepal. Although the site is considered Buddhist, the place is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus, which reflects the religious harmony in the country. The stupa consists of a dome at the base. Above the dome, there is a cubical structure present with eyes of Buddha looking out into the four cardinal directions. Besides the Swoyambhunath Stupa, the complex consists of a variety of shrines, temples and monasteries as well.
Bouddhanath Stupa (World Heritage Site)
The stupa of Bouddhanath is considered to be the largest one in the entire South Asian Region. Situated around 8 km north from the city centre, the stupa is a dome shaped eight-angled structure with the all-seeing eyes of Lord Buddha looking out into the four cardinal directions. It is built by the Lichhavi King Man Dev in the 5th century. The stupa is also said to entomb the remains of a Kasyap Sage, who is respected by both Buddhists and Hindus.
Pashupatinath Temple (World Heritage Site)
Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most significant Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world. It is situated around 5 km east of the city centre. The 2-tiered pagoda with golden roofs and silver doors houses the sacred linga, the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva. Although the temple was only built in the 5th century and later renovated by Malla kings, the holy site is said to have existed from the beginning of the millennium.
Budhanilkantha Temple is situated at the Shivapuri foothill, some 8 km to the north of Kathmandu. It is the largest and the most important Vishnu shrines in the valley. The main shrine consists of a giant granite image of Lord Vishnu reclining on a bed of coiled snakes in the middle of a pond. This exceptional artwork of Lichhavi sculptors dates back to 5th century and is the most beautiful among all the stone engravings within the Kathmandu Valley.
Thamel, located merely 8 km from the Tribhuvan International Airport, is the popular tourist destination in Kathmandu. It has been the centre of the tourist industry in Kathmandu for decades starting from the hippie moment. Thamel carters entirely to tourists with its scores of hotels, rows of restaurants and bars, pubs, clubs, foreign money exchange booths, cyber cafes, souvenir shops, book shops, music shops and numerous travel agents and guesthouses. From September 2011, Thamel was declared a full Wi-Fi Zone in Kathmandu.
Garden of Dreams
The Garden of Dreams, a neoclassical historical garden, is situated at the eastern entrance of Thamel, within the Kaiser Mahal Complex. The garden was famous as the garden of 6 seasons which was created by late Field Marshal Kaiser Sumsher Rana (1892-1964) in early 1920. After completion of this garden, it was considered as one of the most sophisticated private gardens of that time. Within the garden walls, there is an exquisite ensemble of pavilions, fountains, decorative garden furniture and European inspired features such as verandas, pergolas, balustrades, urns and birdhouses.
Ason is a ceremonial, market and residential square in central Kathmandu. At Ason, there are 6 roads radiating in all directions. The 3-storied pagoda style Annapurna Temple of Annapurna, the Goddess of Grains, presides over the ever-lively bazaar. Once the center of old Kathmandu, Ason is still an important shopping center and one of the busiest marketplaces with shops selling all kinds of goods such as groceries, vegetables, spices, and other ingredients needed for worshiping Gods and other ritual works.
Also known as Bhimsen Stambha, it is a 9-storeyed 61.88 m tall tower at the centre of Sundhara, Kathmandu. It was built in 1832 by then Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa. The tower has a spiral staircase containing 213 steps. The 8th floor holds a circular balcony for observers, which provides a panoramic view of the whole Kathmandu Valley.
The National Museum, located at a short distance from the Swoyambhunath Stupa, is a popular attraction of Kathmandu. Being about a century old, the museum stands both as a tourist destination and historical symbol of Nepal. It is the largest museum of the country which plays an important role in nationwide archaeological works and development of museums. The main attractions are a collection of historical artworks (sculptures and paintings) and a historical display of weapons used in the wars in 18-19th century. The museum has separate galleries dedicated to statues, paintings, murals, coins and weapons.
Natural History Museum
The National History Museum is situated 3 km west of the downtown Kathmandu on the lap of Swoyambhunath Stupa. The museum is the only one of its kind in Nepal, which contains about 1400 species of butterflies, fish, birds, mammals and plants from across the country. Visitors can get detailed information about bio-diversity and flora and fauna of Nepal from the museum. The museum remains open everyday, except Saturday, Sunday and other government holidays.
Narayanhiti Palace Museum
The Narayanhiti Palace Museum, the former Royal Palace of Shah Kings of Nepal, is located at the north-central part of Kathmandu near the tourists hub Thamel. It is designed to be a contemporary pagoda with sprawling, park-like grounds all fully enclosed with walls and guarded gates. The current Narayanhiti Palace was built in 1970, replacing the original 1915 building, which has been destroyed in an earthquake. The palace was converted into a public museum after the declaration of republic Nepal in 2008.
Situated around 8 km south-west of Kathmandu, Kirtipur is an ancient Nerwari township. It consists of many temples, monasteries and churches as well. The temple of Bagh Bhairav, Chilamchu Stupa, Uma Maheshwor Temple, Shree Kirti Vihar are the major attractions here. Besides, Kirtipur is also a popular area due to the presence of Tribhuvan University, Nepal’s premier seat of education.
The ancient name of Pharping is Shikharapur. It is an ancient renowned city situated in the southern part of Kathmandu, some 18 km from the city centre. According to the legend, it was an established state at the time when Kathmandu Valley was a lake. Religious temples like Dakshinkali, Asura Cave, Gorakhnath, Sheh Narayan Temple, Gopaleshwor, Bajrayogini, numerous monasteries and Chandra Jyoti Griha (Nepal’s first and Asia’s second Hydro Power Station) have made the place holistic and famous for tourism as well.
Lalitpur is situated on a plateau just across the holy Bagmati River, in the southeastern part of Kathmandu Valley. Covering an area of 385 sq. km., it is one of the 3 districts in the Kathmandu Valley, along with Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. Patan is the district headquarters and is best known for its cultural heritage, particularly its tradition of arts and crafts; it is called the city of festival and feast, fine ancient art, making of metal and the stone carving statue.
Patan Durbar Square (World Heritage Site)
The 8-sided Krishna Temple is Nepali’s finest piece of stone architecture. King Siddhi Narsingh Malla, a passionate devotee of Krishna, built this temple in the 17th century when he dreamed Krishna and Radha being union at this spot. The style of this multi-stage Shikhara temple is Indian, although its design is of a type rare in both India and Nepal. The temple as a whole is most notable architecturally for the excellence of its carving in stone, and it bears no relation to multi-roofed Nepalese temples in brick and wood.
To the east of Patan Durbar Square is Mahabouddha, an exceptional Buddhist monument, made of clay bricks with thousands of images of Lord Buddha engraved, is an excellent example of terracotta art form. The terracotta structure is one of the 14th century Nepalese architectural masterpieces.
Rudra Varna Mahavihar
Also known as Uku Bahal, this Buddhist monastery is situated a few steps past Mahaboudha and contains an amazing collection of wood, bronze and stone statues. The stone-paved courtyard is enclosed by a 2-storied building with gilded roofs. The kings in ancient times were crowned in this monastery.
Hiranya Varna Mahavihar (Golden Temple)
Hiranya Varna or Suwarna Mahavihar, popularly known as the Golden Temple among tourists, built in the 12th century by King Bhaskar Verma, is located just north of Durbar Square. This Buddhist monastery, a 3-storeyed golden pagoda of Lokeshwor (Lord Buddha), is embellished with exceptionally fine wood carvings and other artistic images are scattered around the courtyard. Inside the upper storey of the pagoda, there are the golden image of Lord Buddha, wall carvings and a large prayer wheel.
The 5-storied pagoda of Kumbheshwor is one of the oldest temples of Patan. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was originally constructed in 1392 as a 2-tiered shrine by Jayasthiti Malla, but later in the 17th century Srinivas Malla added the upper 3 tiers of the temple. Hence, this is one of the only two 5-storeyed temples (the other is Nyatapola in Bhaktapur) in Nepal. The 2 ponds here are believed to contain water that comes directly from a holy lake north of the Kathmandu Valley called Gosainkunda. On the festive day of Janai Purnima, thousands of devotees of Lord Shiva come to worship the embossed silver sheath worn by the temple’s sacred Linga (phallic symbol), which is placed in a special pavilion in the middle of the tank in the hub of the temple.
Jagat Narayan Temple
On the bank of Bagmati River, peacefully located in a huge courtyard, is a beautiful shikhara-style terracotta temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu popularly known as Jagat Narayan. The temple was built in the 19th century by Jagat Sumsher who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Some of the structures located in the temple complex include an attractive metal statue of Garuda mounted on a stone monolith and several images of Ganesh and Hanuman.
The Ashokan Stupas
In 250 BC, the Indian Emperor Ashoka built 4 stupas at the 4 corners of Patan, which are situated in Pulchowk, Lagankhel, Ibahi and Teta respectively. These stupas give evidence to the city’s ancient religious importance.
Tibetan Refugee Camp
The camp was established in 1960 AD under the initiative of the International Red Cross and the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC), in cooperation with His Majesty’s Government of Nepal. There are many souvenir shops that sell handwoven woolen carpets and handicrafts such as prayer wheels, an assortment of belt buckles, wooden bowls and jewelry. The camp also houses a stupa and a number of shrines.
Established as a private zoo in 1932 by the late Rana Prime Minister Juddha Samser, it came under the ownership of the Government of Nepal after the political changes of 1950. It is the only zoo in Nepal, located at Jawalakhel. The Central Zoo, with an area of about 0.06 sq. km., provides shelter for a total of 870 individual mammal, bird, fish and reptile of 109 species. It also serves as a recreational center for the visitors. The zoo exclusively serves as a historical cultural site for diverse groups of people.
Patan Industrial Estate
Situated at Lagankhel near Saatdobato, it is known for handicrafts such as wood carvings, metal crafts, hand woven woolen carpets and thanka paintings. There is a shopping arcade where handicrafts are on exhibition.
Perched on a spur of land overlooking the Bagmati River, Bungamati is a classic Newar village dating from the 16th century. The village is situated about 10 km south of Kathmandu. It is the birthplace of Rato Machhindranath, regarded as the patron of the valley. Besides the Machhindranath Temple, Karya Binayak Temple is another major attraction of the village, which is dedicated to Lord Ganesh and is one of the most important temples in Nepal. The village life goes on much as it has for centuries; people draw water from wells, dry chilly, corn, rice and millet, children running around everywhere.
It is a traditional and tiny Newar village 8 km south of Kathmandu, which has its own history and has retained its tradition and culture. It is a living museum and recalls medieval times. The farming community of Newars who live here are mostly dependent on agriculture and much of their daily activities take place outside of their dwellings. The village houses chaityas and a 3-tiered Shekali Mai Temple. The mustard-oil seed industry has become the living heritage of the village.
Godavari is located around 10 km from Patan at the foothills of Phulchoki Hill. Many outdoor enthusiasts flock here to enjoy the breathtaking views and beautiful landscapes. It is one of the popular hiking destinations in Nepal for its rich wildlife and natural splendor. The Botanical Garden in Godavari attracts many local residents and visitors over the weekends. The garden is an extravaganza of plants, trees, ferns, flowers and orchids. Godavari is also famous for its breathtaking butterflies, which can be seen gliding peacefully amongst the beauty and splendor of the garden.
Also known as Bhadgaun or Khwopa (in Newari Language), Bhaktapur is an ancient Newar town in the east corner of the Kathmandu Valley, which was founded in the 12th century by King Ananda Dev Malla. Covering an area of 119 sq. km., the city is world renowned for its elegant art, fabulous culture, colorful festivals, traditional dances and indigenous lifestyle of different people of different religion. For its majestic monuments, temples and the native typical Newari lifestyle best known for their long history of craftsmanship, the ancient city is also variously known as the ‘City of Culture’, ‘Living Heritage’, ‘Nepal’s Cultural Gem’ and ‘An Open Museum’. Given such unequaled opulence in ancient art and culture, Bhaktapur is more like an open museum, and the ambiance here is such that it instantly transports visitors back by centuries.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square (World Heritage Site)
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is a conglomeration of pagoda and shikhara-style temples grouped around a 55-window palace of brick and wood. The square is one of the most charming architectural showpieces of the valley as it highlights the ancient arts of Nepal. The main square of the city contains innumerable temples and other marvelous architectural showpieces like the Lion Gate, the statue of King Bhupatindra Malla, the Picture Gallery, the Golden Gate, the Batsala Temple and the Bell of Barking Dogs. Fascinating part of this square is the 15th century Palace of 55 Windows, which was built during the region of King Yakshya Malla and was remodeled by King Bhupatindra Malla in the 17th century.
This 5-storied pagoda was built by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1702 A.D. Dedicated to a tantric goddess, the steps leading up to the temple are flanked by stone sculptures of deities and mythical beasts, each 10 times more powerful than the one immediately below. This is one of the tallest Pagoda-style temples in Kathmandu Valley and is famous for its massive structure and subtle workmanship.
Dedicated to Lord Bhairab – the God of Terror, this temple is renowned for its artistic grandeur and stands adjacent to the famous Nyatapola Temple. The temple was first built by King Jagat Jyoti Malla as a 1-storeyed pagoda but later changed into a 3-storeyed temple by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1718 A.D.
Consecrated by King Yakshya Malla in 1427 A.D., this temple was subsequently repaired and renovated by King Vishwa Malla in 1458 A.D. The temple is dedicated to a 3-headed combination of the Hindu deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. According to popular belief, the temple was built out of the trunk of a single tree.
Bolachhen, also known as Potter’s Square, is just a 2-minute walk south of Durbar Square. The place can be approached from Taumadhi Square or along the western road into town from Lion’s Gate as well. Pottery is what this square is all about; the southern side of the square is lined with clay stores and potters’ wheels, and the square is often filled with hundreds of pots drying in the sun.
Bronze and Brass Museum
The museum is housed in a 15th century Math opposite the Pujari Math in Bhaktapur. It has some excellent examples of traditional metalwork, including ceremonial lamps and ritual vessels from around the valley.
The Woodcarving Museum is housed in a 19th century building, known as Pujari Math, especially built for the priests of those periods. This museum, situated in Dattatreya Square, displays an array of wooden objects which also portray the changing social outlook of Bhaktapur.
Changu Narayan Temple (World Heritage Site)
The ancient temple of Changu Narayan is located on a high hilltop that is also known as Changu or Dolagiri. The temple is a pagoda-style Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu in his incarnation as Narayan. It is believed to be the most ancient shrines of the Kathmandu Valley. The origin of the temple goes back to the 4th century. All of the stone carvings in the temple courtyard were done between the 5th and 13th century, which makes this one of the single-greatest concentrations of ancient art in Nepal.
Kailashnath Mahadev Statue
It is a Shiva statue situated in Sanga, the border of Bhaktapur and Kavrepalanchok districts in Nepal. This is the world’s tallest statue of Lord Shiva till date. It is 143 ft high and is situated 20 km from Kathmandu. The construction of this statue started in 2004 and was completed in 2011. The statue is made of copper, cement, zinc and steel. Kamal Jain was responsible for the building of this structure.
Doleshwor Mahadev Temple
Doleshwor Mahadev is a temple of Lord Shiva and is located at Jangam Math in Sipadol, Bhaktapur. It is considered as the head part of Kedarnath based on the surprising links between Kedarnath and Doleshwor. The Sculptures of Shiva found in both shrines are 4,000 years old.