Kathmandu is the largest and the most prominent of the three cities that constitute the valley. Also being the capital city it has more of the western influence than the rest but one can always go back into the past to see the Kathmandu in the bygone days. The cities medieval form is never too far away from reach. The artistic temples and shrines in the periphery of the ancient palaces and Durbar squares are the constant reminder of the history of this once ancient city.
The city is rightfully called the “the cultural Hodgepodge”, because it is home to people from all over Nepal of different caste and culture. As we move around Kathmandu we will clearly see how the old and the new has merged together in harmony to give Kathmandu as it is today. The city is still a mystery for many with its countless temples and narrow lanes where each temple has its own tale. Here the people and their culture are as fascinating as the temples and the palaces itself. Kathmandu in many ways represents the whole Nepal. This is not just a city but the living breathing heart of Nepal.
This full day tour takes you to some of the major cultural sites of Kathmandu. We begin this wonderful trip with an early morning drive to Swayambhunath where we get to see people of different caste and culture offering their prayers in solidarity. After a wonderful view of sunrise over the city, we return to the hotel for breakfast. After breakfast we walk through the streets leading to the Kathmandu Durbar Square area for a glimpse of the Kathmandu in the bygone days. Here we visit more than two dozen temples and shrines noted for their artistic and historical importance. We walk from here to New Road, the commercial area of Kathmandu and a shopper’s paradise. We then take a short bus ride to Nanglo Restaurant at Durbar Marg for a wonderful Nepali meal. We then drive to Pashupatinath, one of the holiest site of pilgrimage for Hindus all around the world. Here we get to see the sadhus or the followers of Lord Shiva either meditating or taking marijuana as an offering from God. We leave this colorful atmosphere to enter another site of religious importance, the Boudhanath stupa which is the largest stupa in Nepal. A site of pilgrimage to the Tibetan Buddhist all over the world, here we get chance to see people offering their prayers by lighting the traditional butter lamps. This place comes alive in the evening when there are lights everywhere that brightens up the spirit. We conclude this trip with a dinner at a traditional Nepali restaurant accompanied by Nepali folk dance and music.
If you want to visit Buddist monastry and Stupas then we have one more day program For detailsclick here.
Kathmandu Durbar Square: Located at the heart of the ancient city Kathmandu is the Kathmandu Durbar Square or the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square. This is a complex of beautiful temples and shrines which are embellished with intricately carved exteriors. Built mostly in Pagoda style most of them were built between 12th and 18th centuries. Until the early 20th century the Durbar Square was the king’s residence. This is a place where Nepal’s Kings are still crowned and their coronation solemnized. The erection of the statue of Hanuman at the entrance of the royal palace by King Pratap Malla in 1672A.D. became the reason for it to be called the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar. But due to the erection of a nine storied temple residence in 1771 by King Prithvi Narayan Shah , it was also called the Basantpur Durbar. The Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Royal Palace is listed as the world heritage site of UNESCO. Besides the temples and the shrines, one can see the true color of this historic place during the different festivals like Indra jatra, Machhindra-nath jatra, Dashain etc. when people of all caste and culture gather here to mark their century old traditions .
Treasures Of Durbar Square
Mahendreswor Temple: Dating back to 1561, this temple was built during the reign of Mahendra Malla and is dedicated to the Lord Shiva. This temple lies at the extreme north of Durbar Square.
Taleju Temple: This temple dedicated to Goddess Taleju is considered to be the royal deity of Malla kings. It was built in 1564 by King Mahendra Malla and stands 36.6m high. This is a very sacred temple which is open only once in a year during the Dashain festival.
Chasin Dega( Krishna Mandir): This temple was built by King Pratap Malla in 1649 in memory of his two dead queens. This temple dedicated to Krishna is architecturally interesting because of its octagonal shape.
Basantapur Durbar: Basantapur Durbar or the nine storied Durbar was built by King Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1771 along with three other towers named after three other ancient city of the valley: the Kirtipur tower, the Bhaktapur tower and the Lalitpur tower.
Kal Bhairab: This is a huge stone image of Shiva in his destructive manifestation. Said to have found in a field north of the city, this image was put there by King Pratap Malla later. It is said that the Government used it as a place for people to swear the truth. No wonder why the present Hanuman Dhoka jail is situated just opposite to it.
Built in the 12th century this temple is believed to have been built by a single tree. This three storied temple is dedicated to Gorakhnath and at each of the four corners is the image of Ganesh.It is known locally as Maru Sattal and has an open ground floor.
Kumari Ghar: Built in 1757 by King Jaya Prakash Malla, this is a three storied quadrangle temple which is the home of Kumari or the living goddess, believed to be the reincarnation of goddess Taleju. This is a splendidly wood carved temple of which the third storey is particularly attractive with its fine bay windows where the Kumari appears from time to time accompanied by the guardian priestess , to see and to be seen.
Gaddi Baithak: This part of the palace was built in the European style by Chandra Shamsher in 1907 AD during the reign of KIng Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah. This impressive white neoclassical building forms the eastern part of the palace.
Maju Dega: Built in the late 17th century this temple dominates the skyline of the square with its 9 step brick base. The temple’s windows, struts, pillars are beautifully carved and has the images of several hindu deities both inside and outside.
Shiva-Parbati: Built during the reign of King Rana Bahadur Shah, this small shrine is built on a three step brick platform. The most significant thing being the figure of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parbati looking out from the open central window on the 1st floor.
Besides this there are still numerous sites to see. The above mentioned few don’t even form a small percentage of what this complex is composed of.
Pashupatinath Temple: Located on the right bank of the holy Bagmati about 5km. east of Kathmandu lies one of the most venerated places of pilgrimage for all the Hindus all over the world, “the pashupatinath temple” or the temple of the lord protector of animals. Also known as the “golden roofed temple” this temple was built by King Bhupal Singh Malla in 1694 and is dedicated to Lord Shiva- the destroyer as well as the creator of lives. The river banks are the cremation grounds and across the river there is a hill where there are stepped paths leading to the temple of Guhyeshwari, the shrine of Shiva’s Shakti in the manifestation of Kali. Not just the temple but the area surrounding the temple is even more fascinating with yogis dressed like Shiva can be seen either meditating or enjoying marijuana. The temple precincts contains shops selling goods of every kinds. you will enjoy shopping in its colorful atmosphere.
Bodhnath or Boudha : It is the largest stupa in all of Nepal and an important pilgrimage site, which holds a great significance for the Tibetan Buddhists like the Mecca for the Muslims. This is directly opposite to Swayambhunath from the orientation of the old Royal palace. Quite different in its structure, the base of the shrine is in the shape of ‘Mandala’ representing the universe.The monument has a wide flight of steps leading to its base. In a stupa the cubicbase symbolizes the Earth, the white washed mound symbolizes water, the central tower represents fire, the crescent above air and finally the flame on top ‘ether’. The 13 steps between the mound and the pinnacle represents the 13 stages one has to go to attain perfect knowledge or ‘Bodhi’. Hence it is named Bodhnath. Along the stupa’s base is a ring of 108 small inset images of Buddha Amitabha. There are several other smaller stupas around it. The most striking of this simple stupa is the eyes which are painted in red white and blue.
Swayambhunath: This 2500yrs old monument is one of the seven world Heritage site situated on a hill west of Kathmandu. Revered by Buddhist as well as Hindus world over, this monument is a wonder of its kind. Also known as monkey temple because of the countless monkeys that roam here freely searching for food and an occasional mischief. A steep stair of 365 steps lead to the stupa whose 4 sides have four pairs of painted eyes of Buddha. Each pair of eye has a mysterious third eye in the middle, the symbol of true wisdom and an incomplete question mark which is the symbol of unity. The mound represents the four elements- earth, fire, air and water and the 13 gilded rings of spire symbolizes 13 degrees of knowledge leading to ‘ Nirvana’ symbolized by the umbrella at the top. Around the stupa there are rows of prayer wheels that should be turned in clockwise manner. Each morning people flock here to pray and its a wonderful sight to see people praying, the wheels in motion, the songs sung in the name of God and the lighting of the butter lamps. Not forgetting the panoramic view of the entire valley and the beautiful sunrise and sunset which is truly breathtaking. No matter where you go the omni sighted stare of compassion and wisdom of the eyes of Buddha will always follow you.
Patan, the second city among the three,” The city with a thousand golden roofs” indeed lives up to its name. Located 5km southwest of Kathmandu, Lalitpur or Lalita pura, “the beautiful city” is an intricate web of temples of all age, shape and size not to mention it is one of the oldest Buddhist cities in the world. The city is a living museum of art and culture. That is the reason why it is known as the city of fine arts.
This full day tour takes you to the major cultural sites of Patan city. We begin this trip with an early morning drive to Patan, where we visit the Patan Durbar Square and the Royal palace complex along with other famous cultural sites important historically as well as culturally. Then after breakfast we drive to Kirtipur for a closer look into this small Newar town that still holds its medieval grandeur. From Kirtipur, we drive to the medieval twin settlements of Bungamati and Khokhana. In Bungamati we visit the temple of Rato Machhendranath, the God of rain and plenty. Through its terraced rice fields and clumps of trees we enter Khokhana which is famous for its mustard oil manufacturing. Leaving this medieval atmosphere we drive to the famous Hindu pilgrimage site of Dakshinkali dedicated to Goddess Kali, the road leading to this place is very picturesque. Once we reach there we would witness different Hindu traditions. Sacrifices that are carried out every Tuesdays and Saturdays reflect the Hindu beliefs and customs. This trip ends with a dinner at a traditional Nepali restaurant accompanied by Nepali folk dance and music.
Treasures Of Patan
Patan Durbar Square: Situated in the heart of this ancient city is Patan Durbar Square which is a complex of ancient palaces, temples and shrines noted for their intricate carvings. The Patan Durbar Square consists of three main courtyards or Chowks, the Mul Chowk, the Sundari Chowk and the Keshar Narayan Chowk. In the center of the Sundari Chowk is a masterpiece of stone architecture,’ Tusha Hiti ‘ or the royal bath. The Patan Durbar Square was listed in the UNESCO world heritage monument list in 1979. It is perhaps the most spectacular example of Newari architecture in any urban context.
Krishna Mandir: Built in 1637 AD, this temple of Lord Krishna is supposed to be the first specimen of Shikhara style architecture in Nepal. It is the only temple in Nepal having 21 spires and is completely made of stone. The first and second stories are made up of a line of pavilions in smooth black stone. A slender Shikhara arises from the second floor. On the horizontal beams, episodes of great Indian epics, the Ramayan and the Mahabharat are depicted with explanation in Newari.
Mahaboudha: Mahaboudha or the ‘ temple of the thousand Buddhas ‘ lies east from the Patan Durbar Square and is considered one of the 14th century Nepalese architectural masterpieces. This Buddhist temple is made up of clay bricks where thousands of images of Lord Buddha are engraved.
Kumbheshwor Temple: It is the oldest existing temple in Patan. Built during the reign of King Jayashiti Malla, this is the only 5 tiered temple in Nepal besides the Nyatapola in Bhaktapur. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, there are two clear water ponds in its platform and a piece of grassy land adjoining its precinct believed to be the grazing ground of bull Nandi of Lord Shiva. A fair is held each year here on the day of Janai Poornima in August.
Hiranya Varna Mahavir: Famous as the ‘ golden temple ‘, this three story golden pagoda of Lokeshwor or Lord Buddha was built in the 12th century by King Bhaskar Verma. Inside the upper story of the pagoda are the golden images of Lord Buddha and a large prayer wheel.
Rudra Varna Mahavir: This unique Buddhist monastery contains an amazing collection of images and statues in metal, stone and wood. The kings in the ancient times are believed to be crowned here. Many of the treasures offered by the visitors can be seen here even today.
Temple of Machhendranath and Minnath: The pagoda of red Machhendranath built in 1408 AD is situated in Tabahal. For six months, the deity is taken to its other shrine in Bungamati. The temple of Minnath is situated in Tangal on the way to Tabahal.
The Ashokan Stupas: There are four stupas popularly believed to have been built in 250 BC by Emperor Ashoka. These four stupas are situated in Pulchowk, Lagankhel, Ebahi and in Teta. These stupas are evidence of the city’s ancient religious importance.
Patan Museum: This museum inside the Durbar square specializes in bronze statues and other religious objects. It is considered to be one of the best museums in Asia. Opens daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and the entrance fee for foreigners is Rs.120 and for SAARC nationals Rs. 30. It is closed for 3 days during Dashain and 3 days in Tihar.
The Zoo: Situated at Jawalakhel, the zoo has many species of birds, animals and reptiles and also one can take an elephant ride for a stroll around the zoo. There is a beautiful pond built in the 17th century.
Godavari: Situated 10km south east of Patan is the scenic little village of Godavari, which is famous for its Royal Botanical Garden which is the only botanical garden in whole Nepal. Set amidst the dense forest at the foothills of Pulchowki hill, this place is also a very good picnic spot and to have a quiet time away from the chaos of the city life.
Bajra Barahi: Situated 10km south of Patan near the village of Chapagaon in a small wooded park is the temple of Bajra Barahi or the shakti in the form of she-boar. A visit to Tika Bhairav and Lele from here is worth while.
Budhanilkantha: 5 miles (8km) north of Kathmandu lies the sacred abode of Lord Vishnu. This massive 15ft. long statue of reclining Vishnu on a bed of serpents in a pool is something worth visiting. There are many legends associated with the origin of the statue of but none as popular as the legend of the farmer who while ploughing his field hit something hard and after carefully digging out found this huge image statue buried in the ground. This happens to be the only temple in Nepal which is forbidden for the Kings of Nepal to visit because of a curse according to which if they do so they are destined to die. Laying at the foothill of Shivpuri this temple is situated on a very beautiful and rustic surrounding that is sure to appeal the taste of people who visit it.
Changu Narayan: Changu Narayan, a world heritage site, is considered the oldest of all the temples in the valley and here is the oldest stone inscription dating back to the 6th century referring to the victories of King Man Deva. Located approx. 15 miles (24km) east of the city is one of the oldest specimen of pagoda architecture, a masterpiece with exquisite stone and wood carvings. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu or the Narayan as often called, Changu Narayan is a must for its historical importance. The oldest piece found here is a sculpture of Garuda, the mythical bird and the mount of Lord Vishnu dating back to the 5th century AD. From up here one can get a view over the surrounding countryside.
Kirtipur: It is a small medieval Newar town on top of a hill 6 miles (10km) south of Kathmandu. Formerly a fortress, Kirtipur has quite a proud as well as cruel history regarding King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Great, who attempted and as well as failed to conquer it three times in a row and at last succeeded. After his victory he ordered that the nose and the lips of the male inhabitants of Kirtipur should be chopped of as part of his revenge. Besides its amazing past, it still preserves the traditions and the medieval glory in its houses and temples. Also a great view of the surrounding can be seen from up here.
Daskshinkali or the ‘ Kali of the west ‘, is a temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali. Located approx. 22km from the city center this place of pilgrimage is highly revered by the Hindus. The road leading to it is very picturesque passing through the Chhobar gorge, which is supposed to be created by the axe of Lord Manjushree for making a place to drain out the water from the valley which once was submerged. The road passes through the small village of Pharping with its temples and pristine ponds full of fishes. A few hundred yards further in a shadowy grove Dakshinkali where on Tuesdays and Saturdays animal sacrifices are carried out as an offer to the deity. This temple is situated in a very beautiful surrounding with a lush pine forest and green meadows often used for picnicking by the local people.