The very mention of Nepal invokes visions of high snow capped mountains and diverse cultures. Long before westerners were able to scale the sacred peaks, the Nepalis had established temples, monasteries, palaces and complex townships to rival the technologies of the world. Within a short radius of Kathmandu, UNESCO has designated 7 World Heritage Sites. This is a country of intriguing mixtures of ethnic diversity, nature, architecture, arts and cultures. If you have limited time and you wish to familiarize yourself with Kathmandu and its offerings, a sight seeing tour would be the answer.
Major Sightseeing places in and around Kathmandu Valley
The Kathmandu valley has a traditional as well as a modern setting. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, the valley consists of three cities of historic, cultural and political importance - Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The valley is at 1136 m. above sea level.
Inside Kathmandu Valley
Kathmandu valley is situated at an elevation of 1336 meters / 4400 feet above sea level and is proud of its magnificent location. It is surrounded all around by lush green rolling hills with beautiful sights of the Himalayan panorama on the north.The city contains more architectural marvels in a square mile than any other city in the world endowed with very ancient, unique, unrivalled art and culture. The Kathmandu city and twin medieval cities Bhaktapur and Lalitpur make up the Kathmandu Valley.
Places of interest in Kathmandu:
Kathmandu Durbar Square (World Heritage Site):
Kathmandu Durbar Square is one of the most important sights in the valley. It is full of Ancient historic palaces, courtyards, carvings, colourful life and many others. The nine-storied Basantapur Durbar (palace) built by the head artists of the then three separate kingdoms (Kantipur, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Kirtipur), Kumari Ghar - a 17th century artistic building dedicated to Kumari -the Living Goddess, Nasal Chowk - The ceremonial courtyard of the monarchs are just a few highlights here.
Swayambhu Stupa (World Heritage Site):
Just about 2 kilometers to the west of the Kathmandu Durbar Square perched on top of a hill is the majestic stupa of Swayambhunath. The route meanders through the alleys of old Kathmandu to Swayambhunath - The stupa was built between 460 and 1200 AD. Its establishment is linked to the creation of the Kathmandu Valley and it is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal. The views of the valley from the hilltop are great.
Bouddhanath Stupa (World Heritage Site):
Bouddhanath stupa is one of the largest and oldest stupas in the world. It lies about 6 kilometers to the east of downtown and is very close to the temple of Pashupatinath - the most revered Hindu pilgrimage site in Nepal.
Pashupatinath Temple (World Heritage Site):
One of the holiest Hindu shrines in the world, the temple of Pashupatinath is 5km to the east of the city center. The fabulous pagoda houses the lingam (phallic symbol) of Lord Shiva. The complex contains many other temples as well as the holy Bagmati River, which flows through this complex and is the place where many cremations take place every day.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square (World Heritage Site):
Bhaktapur, literally meaning "city of devotees" is about 14 kilometers east of kathmandu. The Durbar Square is a living museum of ancient art and architecture. The elegant 15th century Palace of 55 windows, artistic courtyards, the Golden Gate, the five-roofed Nyatapol temple soaring gracefully into the sky from atop a five-storied base and many others fascinate the travelers. Thimi - a typical Newar village famous for pottery is another highlight and a perfect combination.
Patan Durbar square (World Heritage Site):
Patan is one of the ancient cities about five kilometers southeast of kathmandu. Also known as "the city of artists" and "the city of beauty", it is full of Buddhist monuments and Hindu temples with fine gateways, guardian deities and beautiful carvings. The Krishna Temple (an octagonal granite edifice dedicated to lord Krishna), Kumbheswar Temple (one of the premier places that celebrates Janai Poornima - the Sacred Thread Festival), the Golden Temple / Hiranya Varna Mahabihar - "Eternity Itself", the Patan Museum, Patan Industrial Estate (specializing in cottage industry hand loom and handicrafts), the Tibetan Refugee Centre and the Central Zoo (the only zoo in Nepal) allure all the travelers to Patan.