The old city of Kathmandu is located on a bluff at the confluence of the Bagmati and Vishnumati Rivers – an easily defended site with rich soil and a plentiful water supply.
Kathmandu’s number one tourist attraction swarms with life. Though a few of the square’s 50-plus monuments date from the 12th century, most are from the time of the Malla Kings. Probably the most famous building here is the Kumari Bahal, a building richly decorated with beautiful woodcarvings, which is home to the Royal Kumari, the Living Goddess, a manifestation of the great goddess Durga. Nearby the former Royal Palace is a Malla Dynasty dwelling, once considerably more extensive than today. Within, the courtyard Nassal Chowk, originally hosted dramatic dance performances, now it is the coronation site of the Shah kings and contains some of the finest wood carvings you will see anywhere in the country.
The 14th century Jagannath Mandir is the oldest temple in the area. Its steps are carved with inscriptions in many languages. Nearby the Talaju Mandir is one of the largest and finest temples in the Valley. It is dedicated to the patron deity of the royal family, Taleju Bhawani, a wrathful form of Durga who once demanded human sacrifices.
Duly recognized as a world Heritage site by UNESCO this particular area best known as Kathmandu Durbar Square lies in the heart of this city. The Durbar Square, with its old palaces and temples, epitomizes the religious and cultural life of the people. It is here the Kings of Nepal are crowned and their coronations solemnized. Interesting things to see are:
– Taleju Temple built by King Mahendra Malla in 1549 A.D.
– Gigantic figure of Kal Bhairav, the God of Destruction.
– Basantapur Durbar or Nautalle Durbar
– Coronation Platform (Nasal Chok)
– The hall of Public Audience (Gaddi Baithak)
– The Big Bell
– Big Drums
– The Jagannath temple.
Kumari ( The Living Goddess):
Kumari, the only living Goddess in Nepal, resides in her abode at the Kumari Bahal located at the Kathmandu Durbar Square.
This great temple is just on the outskirts of Kathmandu. vNo one actually knows who built it. Many believe that the Lichavis constructed it while others believe that emperor Asoka had already visited it in the 3rd century. The Swayambhunath complex consists of a giant Stupa, a large ensemble of shrines and temples, and also includes a Tibetan monastery, a museum and a library. This site has two access points: a long stairway, claimed to have 365 steps, leading directly to the main platform of the temple, which is from the top of the hill to the east; and a car road around the hill from the south leading to the southwest entrance. The first sight on reaching the top of the stairway is the Vajra.
This is Nepal’s most sacred Hindu shrine and one of the subcontinent’s great Shiva sites. The supreme holiness of the site stems from the Shiva linga enshrined in its main temple. It expresses the very essence of Hinduism as pilgrims, priests, devotes, temples, ashrams, images, inscriptions and cremation ghats intermingle with the rituals of daily life, all sprawled along the banks of the sacred Bagmati River. The temple’s origins are obscure. An inscription here dates from 477 AD, but the shrine may have stood there for 1000 years before that.
This great stupa is one of Nepal’s most distinctive monuments and one of the most important Buddhist sites in Nepal. With a diameter of over 100 meters, it is amongst the largest stupas in the world. There are a number of legends accounting for the stupa’s construction, but it is generally believed to date from the 5th century. All stupas contain holy relics and Boudha is said to contain the remains of the past Buddha Kasyapa.
Boudha is a particular focus for Kathmandu’s Tibetan community and throughout the day there is a constant stream of people circling the stupa spinning prayer wheels and reciting mantras. Surrounding the stupa are six major monasteries and a host of smaller ones as well as cafes, restaurants and shops selling Tibetan carpets and Newari silverware.
This ancient city, once a kingdom itself, is situated across the Bagmati River to the south of Kathmandu. Approximately 80% of the inhabitants are Newars and they fiercely retain their identity which is different from that of Kathmandu. Patan’s origins are shrouded in mystery. It claims its place as capital of the Kiranti Dynasty and association with the great Indian emperor, Ashoka, who is credited with the building of the 4 grass-covered stupas surrounding the city. For many centuries, Patan’s importance was eclipsed by that of Kathmandu and by the 7th century it was one of the major Buddhist centers of Asia attracting pilgrims, scholars and monks from India, Tibet and China. Medieval Patan was the largest and most prosperous of the three Valley kingdoms. It was annexed to Kathmandu in the late 6th century and most of its magnificent architecture dates to the late Malla era (16th-18th centuries).
Patan Durbar Square
Patan’s Durbar Square offers the finest display of Newari urban architecture in Nepal. There are temples devoted to Shiva, Krishna, Ganesh and Vishnu all actively visited by residents and visitors. At the northern end of the square the ancient sunken water tap has been restored and is still in use with young girls filling huge jugs from the carved stone waterspouts. The courtyards of the Royal Palace with their ornamented windows, columned arcades, shrines and sunken royal bath are amongst the most beautiful in all of Kathmandu valley.
Old Patan comprises a small area with individual neighborhoods dedicated to metalworking, stone carving, and woodwork as well as some old temples. One of the grandest is the Kwa Bahal or ‘Golden Temple’, a lavish, gilt-roofed shrine – the main façade covered in gilt and silver, the whole temple is surrounded by images of real and mythical beasts, and scenes from Buddha’s life.
The Buddhist temple in terracotta structure made of clay bricks in which thousands of images of Lord Buddha are engraved.
Hiranaya Varna Mandir
This three storey golden pagoda of Lokeshwor(Lord Buddha) was built in the twelfth century.
Once the capital of the Valley, Bhaktapur is the most unchanged of the three cities. Retaining something of its medieval atmosphere, Bhaktapur embodies the essence of the Newari city. Despite frequent rebuilding as the result of earthquakes, the city’s architecture and organization remain an excellent example of town planning. Neighborhoods, roughly organized by caste, are centered on a main square with a public water source, temples and a Ganesh shrine. In the 12th century, the King of Banepa moved his capital here and it ruled a unified Valley for the next 3 centuries. It was the last of the cities to fall to Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1768 and since then its importance has diminished considerably.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Much of Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square was destroyed in the 1934 earthquake and appears much emptier than those of Kathmandu or Patan. Amongst its many attractions are substitute shrines for the four great Indian pilgrimage sites and the Golden Gate. This is the most famous piece of art in all Nepal, an exquisite monument of gilded metalwork constructed in 1753.
It is the neighborhood of the potter caste, where hundreds of clay vessels are set to dry in the sun before being fired in makeshift kilns. Families work in the open producing tiny oil lamps, teacups, bowls, vases and water jugs.
This square is more important to the locals and more intimately tied to daily life and festivals than Durbar Square. It is dominated by the 5-roofed, 30-meter high Nyatapola Temple, the tallest in Nepal.
This brick paved street and its offshoot alleys reveals the heart of Bhaktapur as life spills into the street – women do the laundry, children play, old men squat in doorways for a chat and shopkeepers sell all the necessities of daily life.
Outside the Valley
Situated in the Terai of southern Nepal, Lumbini is the place where Siddhartha Gautam, Buddha of this era, was born in 623 BC. This sacred place is marked by a stone pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka of India in 249 BC. It is listed as a World Heritage Site and is being developed as a place of pilgrimage and symbol of world peace. Many countries have built shrines and monasteries here reflecting the architectural traditions of their respective cultures. Near the Ashoka pillar is the Mayadevi Temple which houses a bas relief depicting the birth of Buddha. Recent excavations have turned up a stone bearing a “foot imprint”, indicating the exact place of birth. The Puskarni pond, where Queen Mayadevi, the Buddha’s mother, had taken a bath before giving birth to him lies to the south of the pillar.
The Lumbini Museum, located in the Cultural Zone, contains Mauryan and Kushana coins, religious manuscripts, terra-cotta fragments, and stone and metal sculptures. It also possesses an extensive collection of stamps from various countries depicting Lumbini and the Buddha.
Lumbini International Research Institute (LIRI), located opposite the Lumbini Museum, provides research facilities for the study of Buddhism and religion in general. Run jointly by the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) and the Reiyukai of Japan, LIRI contains some 12,000 books on religion, philosophy, art and architecture. Kapilvastu Museum is situated 27 km west of Lumbini in the village of Tilaurakot. The museum holds coins, pottery and toys dating between the seventh century BC and fourth century AD. The museum also has good collection of jewelry and other ornaments of that period.
Situated at 2300 meters, on the valley’s eastern rim, Nagarkot offers an excellent view of the Himalayas including Everest, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Makalu and Manaslu mountains. It also has sweeping panoramic view of the terraced hillsides typical of Nepal. It is a popular place for sunrise and sunset viewing.
Pokhara is a place of remarkable natural beauty. The enchanting city has several beautiful lakes and offers stunning panoramic views of Himalayan peaks. The serenity of the lakes and the magnificence of the Himalaya rising behind them create the ambience that has made Pokhara such a popular place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. Tourism focuses on the districts of Dam-side and Lakeside (or Pardi and Baidam, in Nepali, respectively). These two areas, packed with hotels and restaurants, are a few kilometers southwest of the main Pokhara bazaar.
Pokhara lies on a once vibrant trade route extending between India and Tibet. To this day, mule trains can be seen camped on the outskirts of the town, bringing goods to trade from remote regions of the Himalaya. This is the land of Magars and Gurungs, hardworking farmers and valorous warriors who have earned worldwide fame as Gurkha soldiers. The Thakalis, another important ethnic group here, are known for their entrepreneurial skill.
The climate of Pokhara is slightly warmer than Kathmandu with daytime temperature hovering around 15 degrees Celsius in winter and 35 degrees in summer. The monsoon season which lasts from mid-June to mid-September is very wet; in fact Pokhara records the highest rainfall in the country. Best time to visit is between October and April.
It is situated at an altitude of 784m above the sea level with an island temple at the middle of the lake. The reflection of Mt. Machhapuchhre and Annapurna can be seen in its serene water. Begnas and Rupa Lake- Begnas & Rupa lies in the northeast of Pokhara valley at the distances of 13 km from the main city. These lake are locates at the foothill of Begnas, mountain and are separated by the Pachabiya hill.
David’s waterfall locally known Patale Chhango in the southern bank of the Pokhara valley is where the stream flowing from Fewa Lake collapses and surges down the rock into a deep gage, leaping through several potholes.
Mahendra Cave lies north of the Pokhara valley. It is a large limestone cave, which is one of the few stalagmite stalactite caves found in Nepal.
Tibetan Village Tashiling in the south and Tashil Palkhel in the north of Pokhara Valley is the two Tibetan village, which is inhabitant by the Tibetan people who keeps themselves busy by producing and trading woolen carpets and other handicrafts.
This is the most important religious monument in Pokhara, Built almost in the middle of Fewa Lake, this two –stories pagoda is dedicated to the boar manifestation of Ajima, the protector’s deity representing the female force Shakti. Devotees can be seen especially on Saturday.
International Mountain Museum
This expansive museum is devoted to the mountains of Nepal, the mountaineers who climbed them and the people who call them home. Inside, you can see original gear from many of the first Himalayan ascents, as well as displays on the history, culture, geology, and flora and fauna of the Himalaya.