The valley is the political commercial and cultural hub of Nepal and is famous for its’ natural beauty and history. It is situated at an altitude of 1336m above sea level and covers an area of 218sq.miles.The rich tapestry of the cultural heritage of Nepal is synthesized in the Kathmandu valley, the home of the ancient and sophisticated Newari culture. The Newars are the original residents of the valley and the pioneers of the splendid civilization of its three cities-Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur.The valley of Kathmandu is covered with hundreds of Hindu and Buddhist divinities. At every turn, one encounters beautiful pagodas, intricately carved wooden windows, huge stones images and inconspicuous shrines. For in Nepal, the practice of religious puja is a part of everyday life. Teeming with images of gods and goddesses, crowded with temples and shrines, the city streets and country roads of Kathmandu valley seem like a museum; a museum without walls, where Kathmandu valley is filled with temples having struts decorated with intricate design.
Legend has said that Kathmandu valley was believed to be a big water basin (lake) (Nagdaha) and Manjushree is said to have slashed a hill, which is currently known as Chobbar, to drain the water to give us Kathmandu valley, as we know it. Today it is no longer an expansive body of water but a vast lake of architectural and cultural wonders.
Place to see in Kathmandu valley
Kathmandu durbar square (world heritage site):
The Kathmandu durbar square is an overwhelming frenzy of art and architecture duly recognized by UNNESCO as a world heritage site. This particular area best known as Kathmandu Durbar Square lies in the heart of the city. It is the historic seat of royalty. Clustered around the central Durbar Square is the old Royal Palace (Hanuman Dhoka), which serves as a museum that records the life of the past rulers of Nepal, many interesting temples dedicated to different Hindu gods and goddess, the Kumari temple (House of the Living Goddess) and the Kasthamandap (House of Wood), built perhaps in the 12th century, a wonderful example of craftsmanship made from a single tree & from which Kathmandu derived its present name. The medieval palace complex is erected in different styles at the right hand side of the kumari temple. This palace complex is locally known as the Basantapur Durbar or Hanuman Dhoka (Nautale Durbar) and the street is called Basantapur after it. This historical monument was built in the beginning of King Prithvi Narayan Sha after capturing the Kathmandu valley in 1768 A.D. the massive pagoda structure houses the tutelary deity of the Malla kings. The palace building is a labyrinth of stone paved quadrangles. The coronation ceremony is still performed in the main courtyard, the Nyasal chowk.the palace facade is a tapestry on intricately-carver windows, shaded by gently sloping roofs of shining brown tiles.
Some of the important monuments to be seen here are:
It is the house like pavilion located at the left hand side of the huge courtyard known as Basantapur. It was built in the 17th century Kumari temple, an example of the highly developed Nepalese temple craftsmanship. This residence of Living goddess, Kumari, is located in the surrounding area of Hanuman Dhoka Palace: The building has profusely carved wooden balconies and window screens. The Kumari- the living Goddess, acknowledges the greetings from her balcony window. In Kathmandu valley, there are temples built in different style such as pagoda style, stupa style, summit style and Muslim style. In this style, a courtyard surrounded on all four sides by residential buildings. In this shrine, you will see no image inside because it is the home of the living goddess, a young girl who reigns as goddess kumari until she reached puberty. However if she likes, she can appear at the window of the second floor on the opposite of the main gate.
It is situated near the Kumari temple. It is said to have built by King Laxmi Narsingha Malla in the beginning of the sixteenth century. It is said to be constructed from the wood of a single tree. The city of Kathmandu derives its name from this temple.
A five- minute walk from Kasthamandap is the Shiva temple of Jaishi Dewal which is famous for its erotic carvings. It is still one of the main routes of the chariot festival of Indra Jatra and other festivals.
The tallest of all structures built by King Mahendra Malla in 1549 A.D.
Swoyambhunath, Monkey Temple (World Heritage Site):
The Swoyambhu Stupa crowns a hillock is three kilometers to the west of Kathmandu. A huge white dome surrounded by 13 spires, the stupa is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Nepal and the world’s most enchanting, magnificent site. It is duly recognized by UNNESCO as a world heritage site. It is said to be 2000 years old and legends has said its origins are linked to the founding of the Kathmandu valley by draining the water of the lake by Bodhisattva Manjushree. Swoyambhu manifested in the lake as a brilliant light emanating from a lotus and Manjushree let the water out by slashing a passage through the surrounding hills to facilitate paying homage to Swoyambhu, thus making the valley inhabitable.
Bouddhanath: (World Heritage Site):
Bouddhanath is the world’s biggest stupa situated about two kilometers to the North of Pashupatinath temple. This massive stupa is known by the name of Buddhanath, the god of wisdom. It is duly recognized by UNNESCO as a world heritage site. It is difficult to assign a period to it as some believe that it was built during the reign of either Shiva Deva or Anshu Verma in 7th century A.D. the design is much like the Swoyambhu Stupa, except that the latter consists of receding squares instead of circles. This historical peace stupa attracts Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world.
Pashupatinath Temple (World heritage site)
It is one of the holiest Hindu shrines in the world recognized by UNNESCO as a world heritage site. The temple of Pashupatinath is the focus of pilgrims from all over Nepal and India. The temple is dedicated to lord Shiva and is built in the familiar pagoda style. Its’ chronicles indicate the temples existence prior to 400 A.D. It is located 5km.east of the city centre. This holy place hosts a beautiful collection of temples and shrines. All the recently deceased are brought to Pashupatinath for cremation. Only Hindus are permitted to go inside the temple.
Temple of Sweta Machchhendranath is located at Machchhendra Bahal between Indra Chowk and Asan. It is a pagoda of significant creative beauty. Also called as Janmadyo or Machchhendra the deity.
Akash Bhairav Temple:
A three storey temple in the main market street, called Indra Chowk, the picture of Akash Bhairav is displayed outside for a week during Indra Jatra, the festival of Indra – the God of Rain.
The small, but very significant temple of Ashok Vinayak is located behind the Kasthamandap -also known as Kathmandu Ganesh.
This is a grand impressive palace built in the classical style. It was the private residence of Rana Prime Ministers. Now it is the Secretariat of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal.
Kaisar Library: Situated inside the building of Ministry of Education, Kaisar library is a huge centre of rare and important books and manuscripts. It is open for the public except Saturdays and other government holidays.
Balaju Water Garden:
It is located about 5kms North-west of Kathmandu, featuring fountains with 22 crocodile headed water spouts dating from the mid 18th century. There is also a swimming pool inside the park.
About two kilometers west of Kathmandu, the National Museum has an amazing collection of weapons, artifacts from ancient, medieval and current Nepal. Its’ archaeological and historical displays are worth seeing. The museum is closed on Tuesday and government holidays.
Natural History Museum:
It is located 3kms west of Kathmandu city, behind the well-known Swayambhunath hillock. This museum has a unique collection of butterflies, fish, reptiles, birds, mammals, plants and a variety of fossils collected from Nepal. Photography is not allowed inside the museum.
Close to Pashupatinath lies another historic and holy temple of Guheswari. Only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple.
Sankhu is a typical Newari town with various fine old buildings and temples. Beyond the village up along a flight of stoned stairs, Bajra yogini is an historical temple with a beautiful view of the local areas.
It is famous for its scenic beauty. There are beautiful waterfalls, contaracts and rock formations. It is an ideal place for picnic, requiring a short walk after the road and also it is starting point of Chisapani Nagarkot, a wonderful short hike. This romantic place is located 13kms.north east of Kathmandu city at the foothills of surrounding valley.
This lovely Royal Game sanctuary also known as Gokarna Safari Park. It is about 10kms.north east of Kathmandu. It is situated on the bank of the Bagmati River. You can view many wild animals in the sanctuary such as spotted deer from an elephant back. On the northern side of Gokarna on the way to sundarijal is a pagoda of Gokarneshwor Mahadev, which stands on one of the sides of the Bagmati gorge.
It is located nine kilometers south of Kathmandu. This place is famous for its gorge. All the water of the valley drains through it. A legend said that Manjushree cut out the gorge to drain out of the Kathmandu valley which was then a lake. There is a small but picturesque temple of Adinath on the top of a hill. From this top one can have a complete view of snow- capped mountain peaks. Just beyond the Chobbar gorge there is the temple of Jal Vinayak. The main image of the shrine is on a colossal rock. It extends outside the temple on the back, only a small part in front vaguely resembles an elephant tusk. The image of Jal Vinayak is different from other images of lord Ganesh.
This place is famous for Hindu pilgrimage. A beautiful countryside drive of just about 25 kilometers south west of Kathmandu. Dakshinkali is one of the famous shrines of the powerful mother goddess of the Hindu amidst green pine woods. The sacrifice of duck, goat, cock, and buffalo can be made to the goddess for appeasement. An hours scenic drive from Kathmandu city, Dakshinkali is a famous Hindu temple for sacrifice particularly on Tuesday and Saturday. Wonderful views of the surroundings landscape are marvelous.
Approximately 8kms north of Kathmandu, at the base of Shivapuri hill is a remarkable huge statue of lord Vishnu, reclining on a bed of snakes. This is one of the masterpieces of stone situated in the middle of a small pond and it appears to float in water.
Kakani is situated at 1982m above the sea level and located 29kms.northwest of Kathmandu city. It is famous for its’ wonderful view of the valley. It overlooks the northwestern Himalayan ranges against the awe of the blue sky. The fabulous holidays of Kakani features attractions ranging from beautiful alpine scenery to the magnificent Himalayan panorama particularly of the Ganesh Himal. Other Massive peaks that can be closely seen from kakani are Gaurishankar (7134m.), Choba Bhamre (6016m), Manaslu (8463m), Annapurna (8091m) and several others.