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Nepal - Things to do in Nepal

UNESCO Heritage Sites

Seven World heritages sites located in the Kathmandu valley are found within radius of 20 kms. Easy access from one to another makes people visiting a site go for rest others. Swayambhu, Bouddhanath, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Changunarayan, Pashupatinath, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square and Lumbini are placed in Cultural World Heritage Sites. While Chitwan National Park and Sagarmatha National Park are placed in Natural World Heritage Sites.

World Heritage Sites (Cultural):

World Heritage Sites (Natural):

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square is in the heart of old city Kathmandu in Basantapur. The complex was residence to Nepal's family before the construction of the Narayanhiti Palace. The founding of the Palace dates back to Licchavi times. With considerable renovations by Malla rulers and later the Ranas, construction was accomplished progressively over many centuries.

There are around 50 temples in the vicinity including the temple of titular deity, Taleju Bhawani. The Durbar is divided into two courtyards, the outer comprising Kasthamandap, Kumari Ghar, and Shiva-Parvati Temple, and the inner consisting of Hanuman Dhoka and the main palace. It also houses two museums. Important ceremonies, including the coronation of the Nepali monarch, are held in the Kathmandu Durbar Square. Most parts of the palace premise are open for tourists throughout the week during office hours.

Some important monuments to see in this area are:

  • The Taleju Temple is the tallest of all structures, built by King Mahendra Malla in 1549 AD.
  • The Jagannath Temple, built in 16th century is known for the fascinating erotic figures carved in the wooden struts.
  • The Kala Bhairav, one of the largest 17th century stone statue in Kathmandu, represents terrifying aspect of Lord Shiva.
  • Swet-Bhairav - the temple opens once in a year during Indra Jatra Festival.
  • The 17th century Kumari Temple (the temple of living goddess) is an example of highly developed Nepali craftmanship.
  • Kasthamandap, from which Kathmandu derives its name, is said to be built from the timber of a single tree.
  • Nautalle Durbar ..........
  • Pancha-mukhi Hanuman Temple ..........
  • Chasin Dega ...........
Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square is located in the center of Bhaktapur. The Square is one of the most charming architectural showpieces of the Valley as it highlights some of the finest medieval arts of Nepal. The main items of interest in Bhaktapur Durbar Square are the Lion Gate, the Golden Gate and the statues of kings on stone monoliths. The Golden Gate was erected by King Ranjit Malla as the entrance to the main courtyard of the Fifty-five Windowed Palace.

The Palace of Fifty-five Windows was built during the reign of King Yakshya Malla in A.D. 1427 and was remodelled by King Bhupatindra Malla in the seventeeth century. The art gallery of Bhaktapur Durbar Square contains ancient paintings belonging to the Hindu and Buddhist traditions of various periods. This gallery is open everyday except Tuesday.

Some important monuments to see in this area are:

  • Golden Gate: This is the main entrance to the famous 55-window palace, built by Ranjit Malla in 7th century A.D.
  • 55 window palace: This is the main structure of the entire Durbar Square, which is a magnificient edifice built by Yakshya Malla and renovated by Bhupatendra Malla.
  • Nyatapola: This is the most famous pagoda of Nepal, which was built in 1702A.D. by Bhupatendra Malla. This temple was dedicated to Siddhi-Laxmi, the tantric mother goddess of supreme power. Nyatapola in Newari means a five tiered symbolizing five basic elements - water, earth, fire, wind and sky.
  • Pashupati Temple: According to a folklore, a Bhaktapur King who was a great devotee of Lord Pashupati, had a dream in which Lord Shiva told him to build a temple for him so that he could move into it. He obeyed this command and thus the temple came into existence.

Patan Durbar Square
Patan Durbar Square complex, situated in the center of Patan city, houses the residence of the former family of Patan. The Square and its surroundings provide very good example of ancient Newari architecture. The palace has three main courtyards the central and the oldest is Mul Chowk. To the west of the complex are a dozen free standing temples of various sizes and styles. Krishna Temple, Bhimsen Temple, the Golden Temple of Hiranya Varna Mahavira and Sundari Chowk mark the architectural excellence of its era. The Sundari Chowk with the sunken bath of Tusha Hiti, contains exquisite woodcarvings, stone, and metal sculpture. Patan Durbar Square also houses a temple of Taleju Bhawani.

Some important monuments to see in this area are:
  • The golden gate and golden windows of the old palace
  • The famous Krishna Temple with 21 golden pinnacles.
  • The bath with many carving on the stone.
  • The Taleju Temple.
  • The temple of Bhimsen with a magnificient golden balcony over looking the square.
  • Char-narayan temple, which is among finest examples of unique craftmanship oo wood.
  • Chyasi Dega
  • Manga Hiti
  • Mul-Chowk
Swyambunath Stupa
Swoyambhu literally means 'Self-Existent One.' Swoyambhunath is believed to have been established more than 2,500 years ago. An inscription dated 460 A.D. states that the construction was carried out by King Manadeva. By the thirteenth century Swoyambhunath had developed into an important Buddhist learning site.

The history of Kathmandu Valley is said to have started with the beginning of Swoyambhu. The largest image of the Sakyamuni Buddha in Nepal is in a monastery next to the stupa. Behind the hilltop is a temple dedicated to Manjusri of Saraswati - the goddess of learning. Statues and shrines of Buddhist and Hindu deities dot the stupa complex.

Large numbers of Buddhists and Hindus alike visit Swoyambhunath. Swoyambhu is perhaps the best place to observe the religious harmony in Nepal. The stupa is atop a hill, and requires considerable walk. There is also a road that leads almost to the base of the statue.

Some important monuments to see in this area are:

  • Swoyambhunath seen on hill-top from east
  • The huge gold plated Vajra set in the east side of the stupa.
  • Buddha statue at the backside of Swoyambhu
  • The temple dedicated to Harati, the goddess of all children. It is said that she was an ogress before Lord Buddha converted her to be the caretaker of all children, who is now worshipped.
  • The Dewa Dharma Monastery, noted for a bronze icon of Buddha and traditional Tibetan paintings.

Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath is one of the four most important religious sites in Asia for Shiva devotees. Pashupatinath, dedicated to Shiva the Destroyer, is the holiest Hindu pilgrimage destination in Nepal. Although the Pashupatinath Temple was only built in the fifth century and later renovated by Malla kings, the holy site is said to have existed from the beginning of the millennium.

A gold-plated roof, four silver doors, and wood carvings of the finest quality decorate the pagoda temple of Pashupatinath. Temples dedicated to several other Hindu and Buddhist deities surround the temple of Pashupatinath. Nearby is the temple of Guheshwori dedicated to Shiva's consort Sati Devi. Behind the temple is the River Bagmati. On the banks of Bagmati are raised platforms used as cremation sites for Hindus. Only Hindus are allowed inside the Pashupatinath courtyard.

Some important monuments to see in this area are:
  • Gorakhnath
  • Rajrajeswari
  • Pancha-Dewal
  • Bankali
  • Arya-Ghat
  • Birupakchhya

Pashupatinath is the other popular name of Shiva. Shiva in the form of Rudra was imagined by the early Aryans and later was worshipped in the form of a Linga, a Phallus, a vertical piece of stone placed in an upward position on a round pedestal. The Indus Valley civilisation in Pakistan has shown that the peo- ple there worshipped Shiva in the form of a Linga in about the 3rd century BC. Besides south Asia, archaeological excavations in some ancient cities of Europe have revealed that the linga-worship cult ex- isted there too.

Pashupatinath, in a limited sense, literally means the Lord of the Animals. But animal is also a term that denotes the animal like instincts in human beings. Capable of destroying instantly every evil force either with his trident or the third eye, when it comes to his devotees, the Lord Pashupatinath destroys their igno- rance. Be it an issue of material gain or release from the cycle of mortal existence he is the height of compassion, generosity, as well as consciousness.

Shiva has been worshipped in Nepal from the beginning of the Neolithic civilisation in the Kathmandu Valley, with scientific archaeological studies and findings around the temple proving that the god Pashupatinath was worshipped here from about the beginning of the Christian era. From about the 7th century onwards it became the first and foremost temple of Nepal, with kings, aristocrats and the rich offering a great deal of wealth and land in trust to the god, making it one of the richest temples in Nepal. Many temples and stat- ues around the temple were added making it a big complex rather than just a temple. The main God or the Linga of Pashupatinath is carved on a blackish stone, with four faces engraved on four sides of the Linga.

Nepal is constitutionally a Hindu kingdom so non- Hindus cannot enter the temple, although Buddhists can. But no one is allowed to enter the inner sanctum except the Bhattas, the main priests who come from the south of India. The temple starts swarming with devotees around 4am every morning. However the top of the hill to the east of the temple is the ideal place for the non Hindu visitor to view the temple, its rich surroundings, and below on the edge of the Bagmati river the ghats where the dead are brought to be cremated Situated on the top of a small hill about 15 kilometers east of Kathmandu and only a few miles north of Bhaktapur, the temple of Changu Narayan is perhaps the best and oldest in the context of Nepa- lese art and architecture. Built around 239 A.D., it s not only the temple but the whole complex which is an open air museum - breathtaking and bewildering in character.

Bouddhanath Stupa
Bouddhanath is the center of Tibetan culture in Nepal. The 36-meter-high stupa of Bouddhanath is one of the largest stupas in South Asia. Bouddhanath Stupa was renovated by Licchavi rulers in the eighth century. The mandala design in Bouddhanath is a copy of the one in Gyangtse in Tibet.

The stupa is located in the area of ancient trade route to Tibet where Tibetan merchants rested and offered prayers for many centuries. When refugees entered Nepal from Tibet in the 1950s, many decided to live around Bouddhanath. Hence, a complete township has developed around Bouddhanath.

The stupa is said to entomb the remains of a Kasyap sage venerable both to Buddhists and Hindus. Smaller stupas are located at the base. Gompa monasteries, curio shops, and restaurants surround Bouddhanath.

Because of its location and size, it seems much larger than the Swayambunath Stupa, with the same hemi-spherical dome symbolizing the emptiness from which everything emanates. On top is the harmika painted on each side with the eyes of the Buddha symbolizing awareness, and above the spire with its 13 stages to the canopy. At ground level there is a brick wall with 147 niches and 108 images of the meditational buddha inset behind copper prayer wheels. Early morning and evening are the times to visit Bouddha to join the local residents in kora (walking the pilgrim's circuit, sometimes with Tibetan pilgrims on their hands and knees).

Changu Narayan
Changu Narayan is the temple of Vishnu, the Preserver, in the village of Changu in Bhaktapur. The origins of Changu Narayan goes back to the fourth century. A fifth century stone inscription in the temple proclaims it as one of the oldest shrines of the Kathmandu Valley. The temple is believed to be sixteen hundred years old. It is embellished by the best examples of stone, wood, and metal craft.

On the struts of the two-tiered Changu Narayan Temple, are the ten incarnations of Narayan. A sixth-century stone statue shows the cosmic form of Vishnu. Garuda, half man and half bird, is the steed of Vishnu, and his life-sized statue kneels before the temple.

Some important sculptures of Vishnu seen here are:

  • Vishwaroop: The sculpture represents Vishnu in his most universal form. It dates back to 8th century A.D.
  • Vishnu Vikranta - This stone image, dating back to the 8th century A.D., is one of the most poerful form of Vishnu. This is when he measured space with his feet.
  • Vishnu riding Garuda (the mythical bird) - this figure of Vishnu mounting Garuda dates back to the 10th century A.D.
  • Nar-Singha Vishnu - this form of Vishnu is seen in his half man and half lion form.

The stone inscription (dated 464 A.D.) placed in front of the Changu Narayan temple describes in detail the story of Dharmadeva a King of Nepal who died suddenly, with his young son succeeding him to the throne. The son later after a series of victories in war inscribed his victory on a stone pillar and placed it in front of the Changu Narayan temple. It is written in poetry and in an academic Sanskrit which is something like an encyclopedia of the then society, tradition and culture. It starts with an invocation to the Vishnu of Doladri proving that Changu Narayan or the Doladri Narayan is much older than the date on the in- scription of 464 A.D.

Situated on a beautiful hill the square two storeyed temple stands in the centre of a brickpaved courtyard, with the main structure raised on a three tier diminishing plinth, with doors on all four sides, although the western door is the main en- trance to the sanctum. The doors have pairs of carvings of animals such as li- ons, horses, griffins and elephants, with the main western door richly carved in brass, with a brass tympanum above the door. (one of the most beautiful pieces of brass work of medieval Nepal).

The roof is supported by 24 struts or brackets, which serve as decoration and to support the temple roof. They are beautifully carved and hung at a 45 de- gree angle. They represent the ten major incarnations of Vishnu and his various manifestations. Though a Vishnu temple the struts also depict Manjushree and Buddha. To the south some of the struts have as many as twenty arms, and carrying various attributions they represent the whole Hindu philosophy. The Buddhist community from the Kathmandu Valley also pay tribute to Changu Narayan as the Haribahana Lokeswar and Kileswar Shiva as Samantabhadra Lokeswar.

Situated on a beautiful hill the square two storeyed temple stands in the centre of a brickpaved courtyard, with the main structure raised on a three tier diminish- ing plinth, with doors on all four sides, although the western door is the main en- trance to the sanctum. The doors have pairs of carvings of animals such as li- ons, horses, griffins and elephants, with the main western door richly carved in brass, with a brass tympanum above the door. (one of the most beautiful pieces of brass work of medieval Nepal).

The courtyard has many other temples such as that of Kileswar Shiva, Chinnamasta Devi and other figures like that of Garuda from the 5th century; Vishnu mounted on Garuda from the 7th/ 8th centuries; Vishnu surrounded by Laxmi and Garuda from the 10th/11th centuries; and the cosmic universal form of Vishnu shown to Arjuna in the great battle of Mahabharata; plus other multiheaded and multiarmed Vishnu.

From the temple one can see the beautiful Manohara river flowing like a serpent through green fields, and to the north on a clear day one can see many Himalayan peaks. A whole day is needed to study and enjoy Changu Narayan, just 15 kilometers from Kathmandu city

Lumbini - Birth Place of Lord Buddha
Lumbini associated with the birth of Lord Buddha is of extreme archeological importance and also a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site. It is said that Prince Siddhartha Gautam, who later became Buddha the Englightened One, was born in the gardens of Nepal's Lumbini in 623 B.C. The main shrines of Lumbini are the newly restored Mayadevi Temple, the Ashokan Pillar behind the temple and the Lake Shakya Puskarini where Mayadevi is said to have bathed before delivering the little Buddha into the world.

Several other places near Lumbini are linked with stories connected to Buddha and Buddhism. Lumbini is about 300 kilometers southwest of Kathmandu. Bus and flights to Bhairawa which is about 22 kilometers from Lumbini, are available from major cities. From Bhairawa transport services to Lumbini are easily available. Food and accommodation facilities are available in Lumbini and Bhairawa.

Some important monuments to see in this area are:
  • The Lumbini Garden - This is the site marked by a certain stone pillar erected by the Indian Emperpr Ashoka at about 245B.C. The most important discovery in this place is a stone marked to suggest the exact birthplace of Buddha.
  • Mayadevi Temple - This temple dedicated to the mother of lord Buddha, Maya Devi, was excavated a few years ago. Many sculptures and carving in which the figures and designs are only slightly projecting from their background are seen here.
  • Tara Foundation
  • World Peace Pagoda


Lumbini has many new monasteries occupied by different nations. Some important ones are:

  • China Temple
  • Thai Monastery
  • Burmese (Myanmar) Temple


Besides these, there are others like the Nepal Buddha Temple and the Dharmaswami Buddhist monastery. Other countries like Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, etc are also contributing to build more temples and monasteries.

Lumbini also has a museum and a research center for Buddhism. At present the Lumbini Development Trust is implementing a master plan to develop Lumbini designed, by Prof. K. Tange of japan.

Chitwan National Park
The Chitwan National Park, Nepal's first national park lies at the foot of the Himalayas in the Inner Terai lowlands of Chitwan. Covering an area of 932 sq. kilometers the park extends over decidhuhh uous forest foothills and river floodplains. The park is rich in its variety of vegetation and wildlife. The park provides one of the last habitats for endangered species like the Asiatic one-horned rhinoceros and the Bengal tiger. Chitwan National Park was officially established in 1973 and included as Natural Heritage Site in 1984.
Sagarmatha National Park
The Sagarmatha National Park with its rugged mountains, glaciers, valleys and crowned by the highest peak on earth Mt. Everest at 8,848 meters lies in Northeast Nepal. The 1,148 sq. kilometers of Sagarmatha National Park extends across the region's river areas and the famous Sherpas' homefront Khumbu. Forests of rhododendron, birch, blue pine, juniper and silver fir are found up to an altitude of 4,000 meters. Rare species of animals like the snow leopard, pandas, lynx are seen in the region. Rare bird varieties like snow cock, snow pegion and different species of pheasant are also to be seen here. The park was declared a Natural Heritage Site in 1979.
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