Patan Durbar Square
One of the three medieval kingdoms in Kathmandu, Patan or Lalitpur is known as the ‘City of Artisans’. Patan Durbar Square, which houses a 16th century palace, temples and monasteries from the Malla era has been, designated a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. The intricate wooden carvings and design of the monuments and shrines dotting the palace square speaks volumes of the artistry and skill of the artisans in the Malla era. Krishna Temple, Bhimsen Temple, Patan Durbar (which now houses a museum), Hiranya Varna Mahavihar (Golden Temple), Viswanath Temple and Taleju Bhawani Temple are some of the gems of this old medieval city.
Basantapur Durbar Square
Basantapur or Kathmandu Durbar Square was an important seat of power from where the Malla Kings and later the Shah Kings ruled over the valley. Since the Malla era, the Basantapur Durbar Square has been an important centre for social and religious gatherings. The square houses the Hanuman Dhoka Palace (now a museum), Kumari Ghar(House of the Living Goddess), Taleju Bhawani Temple, Shiva Parvati temple etc. Iconic shrines like the Kashtamandap, Maiju Dewal, Chyasin Dega and Nau Talle Durbar were unfortunately destroyed (partially or completely) by the 2015 earthquake.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Bhaktapur is known as the ‘City of Devotees’. Established by the Malla Kings, the medieval city has some of the finest examples of Newari art and architecture. The detailed repoussé work on The Golden Gate, the intricate carvings on the wooden struts, pillars, doors and windows of temples and palaces, the iconic pagoda temples and the beautifully carved stone sculptures - all these marvels make Bhaktapur Durbar Square a living museum and a repository of Kathmandu’s rich history and culture. The old city of Bhaktapur is divided into three squares - the Durbar Square, Datteraya Square and Taumadhi square. Each square is dotted with ancient temples and monuments of historical significance. Though the 2015 earthquake damaged many of Bhaktapur’s ancient buildings, some grand structures still remain standing. The Golden Gate, Palace of 55 Windows, Dattareya Temple, Nyatapol Temple, the Royal Bath and the Bhairav Temple are some of the cultural gems of Bhaktapur.
Swayambhunath Stupa, located on top of a hill, overlooks the entire Kathmandu Valley. According to local legend, the temple’s origin is linked to the formation of the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu was once a huge lake and a Boddhisattva from Tibet while meditating, saw a burning light on a lotus floating on this lake. He drained the lake by cutting a small hill with his sword and built a temple at the site where the Swoyambhunath stupa now stands. The white dome of the stupa is topped by a four-sided golden base where Lord Buddha’s eyes are painted. A golden pinnacle, made up of 13 rings, rises up from the square base to the sky. The stupa is surrounded by a Buddhist monastery and Hindu temples, some of which dates back to the Licchavi era.
Boudhanath stupa is the largest Buddhist stupa in Nepal. Lying on the ancient Nepal- Tibet trade route, there are many legends associated with the origin of the stupa. One legend mentions Manadeva, a Licchavi King, building the stupa at the behest of Goddess Bajra Yogini of Sankhu. The base of the stupa is designed like a giant Buddhist mandala (cosmic world). Buddhists believe that the remains of Kasyapa Buddha (one of Lord Buddha’s incarnations) were interred beneath the stupa.108 images of Dhyani Amitabha Buddha surround the base of the stupa. Bouddhanath is an important centre of Tibetan Buddhism and the area around the stupa is inhabited by a large Tibetan population.
An important Hindu shrine, the Pashupatinath Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Though the temple dates back to the times of Licchavi King Supuspa Deva, the present structure was built during the Malla era. The temple has a two-tiered gilded pagoda roof and ornate doors covered with silver sheets. One of the holiest shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Hindu god is worshipped as Pashupati or the ‘protector of all living beings’ at the temple. Pashupatinath lies on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. The Hindu cremation site Aryaghat lies next to it. On the other side of the temple complex lie the Mrigasthali forest and other Hindu shrines.
Changu Narayan Temple
Changu Narayan Temple is the oldest temple in the Kathmandu Valley. The pagoda roofed temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu’s Narayan avatar. The temple is a repository of beautifully carved images of Lord Vishnu and other Hindu deities that dates back to the fourth and fifth centuries. A stone inscription inside the temple’s precinct dates back to 464 AD. Beautifully carved stone sculptors of Hindu deities, including Garuda (mythical half-man half-bird creature and the divine vehicle of Lord Vishnu) strategically placed near entrances heighten the grandeur of the ancient temple. Located a few minutes’ drive from central Kathmandu, the temple lies in a secluded wooded ridge. The 2015 earthquake wrought much damage to the temple complex. Changu Narayan Temple now stands supported by wooden beams while the surrounding shrines have been reduced to rubble.
Lying in the dusty Terai lowlands, Lumbini is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site. Archeological excavations carried out in Lumbini indicate that Lord Buddha was actually born in Lumbini. The Maya Devi Temple and the area surrounding the temple complex were granted a UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1997. Inside the Maya Devi Temple is a ‘marker-stone’ that marks the exact spot of Lord Buddha’s birth. Near the temple is the Pushkarini pond, where Lord Buddha received his first bath and a commemorative pillar built by Mauryan emperor Ashoka in 249 BC.
Chitwan National Park
The lush jungles of Chitwan were once the royal hunting grounds of Nepali royalty. To protect the dwindling wildlife population, 932 sq km of dense jungle area was designated as the Royal Chitwan National Park in 1973. Home to several endangered species of flora and fauna, the park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Royal Bengal tiger, Asiatic One-Horned rhinoceros, four-antlered antelopes, clouded leopards, sloth bears, elephants, striped hyenas, spotted eagle, Bengal florican, oriental darter, starred tortoise, gharials, rock python etc are some of the wild residents of the national park.
Sagarmatha National Park
Lying in the high Everest Region, Sagarmata National Park encompasses 124,400 hectares of mountain area including some of the world’s tallest peaks (Mount Everest, plus other peaks) in the world. The park is a cornucopia of high-altitude Himalayan flora and fauna, glaciers, Himalayan rivers and indigenous Sherpa culture.