The Kathmandu valley has an exotic setting. It is surrounded by a tier of green mountain wall above which tower mighty snow capped peaks. It consists of three main towns of great historic, artistic and cultural interest: Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The Kathmandu valley covers an area of 218 sq. miles. It is situated in 4,423 feet above sea level.

The ancient Swasthani Sculptures tell of lord Shiva, supreme among Hindu gods, who came down to the Kathmandu valley to escape boredom. He came as a tourist, if that is the appropriate word, but he was neither among the first nor the last of the god to visit the valley. Visitors have come to Nepal since times forgotten. And though the country is much different today that it was in ancient times, it has not diminished its charm; the increase in visitors over the years is a living proof. Those who come to valley today will appreciate a lot more than Lord Shiva did in his tour. The architecture started here by the Lichhavi and Malla king is one such example. Much of the greenery the Lord Shiva saw is gone, but the forest surrounding Pashupati where he stayed, are still intact. The seven World Heritage Sites in The Kathmandu Valley – designated by the United Nation Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are the highlights of the valley.

Kathmandu Valley

Swayambhu:

The history of the valley, according to the legends, begins with Swayambhu or the “ the self existent”. In times unchartered by history, Bodhisatwa Manjushree came across, a beautiful lake during his travel. He saw a lotus that emitted brilliant light at the lake’s center so he cut a gorge in the southern hill and drained the water to worship the lotus. Men settled on the bed of the lake and called it the Kathmandu Valley. From then on the hilltop of the self existent Lord has been the holy place.

Swayambhu’s light has been covered in time because few could bear its intensity. By the thirteen century, after many layers were added to the original sculpture that enveloped the Lord’s power, a dome like shape had been acquired. The stupas central mast was damaged and replaced at that time. Peripheral sources of power were discovered on the hilltop as well and the stupas rest house and temples were built honor them. Images of important deities, both Buddhist and Hindu, were also installed. Today, age old statues and shrine dot the stupa complex. Behind the hilltop is a temple dedicated to Manjushree of Saraswati-the goddess of learning.

Swayambhu, is perhaps, the best place to observe the religious harmony in Nepal. The stupa is among the most ancient in this part of the world, and its worshipper are diverse from Newar nuns, Tibet monks and Brahmin priest to lay Buddhists and Hindus. The largest image of the Shakyamuni Buddha in Nepal is in monastery next to the stupa. Other monasteries here have huge prayer wheels; fine Buddhist paintings, and special butter lamps, which may be lit after presenting monetary offerings.

Swayambhu is the major landmark of the valley and looks like bacon below the Nagarjun Hill. It provides an excellent view of the Kathmandu valley. Devotees have climbed the steps on the eastern side for centuries. Statue of Buddha, mini stupas, monasteries and monkeys make the climb to Swayambhu – which is fairly steep – worthwhile. But for someone who is physically disabled or it is pressed for time, the western road allows you to get off your transport almost at the base of the stupa.


Pashupati:

One day Lord Shiva got tired of his glittering palaces on Mt. Kailash, his armies ghosts and spirits, and even Parbati – his beautiful wife. Through his cosmic powers, he searched for a perfect place where he could holiday. Without telling anyone, he ran away from his palace and came to live in Sleshmantak forest in Kathmandu valley. He gained great fame here as Pashupati- Lord of the animals – before other gods discovered his hiding place and came to fetch him.

The Pashupati where he stayed has received the attention of worshippers for at least 1500 years; it is the holiest Hindu pilgrimage destination in Nepal. There are linga images of Shiva along with statues, shrines and temples dedicated to Shiva existed at this site in 879 A D. however the present temple was built by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1697. a gold plated roof, silver doors, and wood carvings of the finest quality decorate the pagoda construction. Guheswari temple restored in 1653 A D represents the female “force”. It is dedicated to Satidevi, Shiva’s first wife, who gave up her life in the flames of her father’s fire ritual.

Lord Shiva once more escaped from Kailash and came back to Pashupati as a hunter, but Parbati followed him disguised as a beautiful huntress. Shiva tried to seduce her, and discovering her true identity returned home shamefully. Kirateshwor Temple commemorates this rather unfortunate jaunt.

A circuit of Pashupati area takes visitors past a sixth century statue of Buddha, and eighth century statue of Brahmathe creator and numerous other temples. Some other places to visit are Rajrajeshwari temple, built in 1407, Kailash with lingas more than 1,400 years old, Gorakhnath temple, and the courtyard of Bishwarup. There are rows of Shiva shrines and Hindu pilgrims from all over south Asia offering puja worship to Shiva, the lord of destruction.

The Bagmati River flows close by and the Arya Ghat cremation grounds are here. We strongly advise photographers not to take photos of cremations and of bereaved families. Sadhus, sages who follow the lifestyle of Shiva, may be seen covered in ashes and loincloths. They ask for money incase you want to take their photos. The main Pashupatinath courtyard may be entered by those of Hindu faith only.


Changu Narayan:

Narayan or Vishnu, is the preserver of creation to Hindus. His temple near Changu Village is often described as the most ancient temple in the Kathmandu valley. A fifth century stone inscription, the oldest to be discovered in Nepal, is located in the temple compound and it tells of the victorious King Mandev. The temple know covers 1600 years of Nepalese art history. The temple, built around the 3rd century, is decorated by some of the best samples of stone, wood, and metal craft in the valley. In the word of one tourist guide, “when you look upon Changu Narayan, you observe the complete cultural development of the valley.”

On the struts of the two-tired Changu Narayan temple, are the ten incarnations in which Narayan destroyed evildoers. A sixth century stone statue shows the cosmic form of Vishnu, while another statue recalls his dwarf incarnation when he crushed the evil king Bali. Vishnu as Narshingh disemboweling a demon is particularly stunning. The western bronze doors sparkle in the evening sunlight, dragons decorates the bells and handsome devas stare from the walls. Garunda, half man half bird, is steed of Vishnu, and his life-sized statue kneels before the temple. The favorite of many tourists is the statue of Vishnu sitting astride his steed.

A couple of hours drive from Kathmandu takes you to the hill top temple. Bhaktapur, a medieval city and a World Heritage Site, is en route and is worth a trip.


Boudhanath:

Boudhanath is among the largest stupas in South Asia, and it has become the focal point of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. The white mound looms thirty-six meters overhead. The stupa is located in the ancient trade route to Tibet, and Tibetan merchants rested and offered prayers here for many centuries. When refuges entered Nepal from Tibet in 1950s, many of them decided to live around Boudhanath. They established many gompas, and the “little Tibet” of Nepal was born. This “Little Tibet” is still the best place in the valley to observe Tibetan lifestyle. Monks walk about in maroon robes. Tibetan walks with prayers wheels in their hands, and the rituals of prostration are presented to the Buddha as worshippers circumambulate the stupa on their hands and knees, bowing down to their lord.

Many people believe that Boudhanath was constructed in the fifth century, but definite proof is lacking. The stupa is said to entomb the remains of Kashyap sage who is venerable both to Buddhist and Hindus. One legend has it that a woman requested a valley king for the donation of ground required to build a stupa. She said she need a land covered by one buffalo’s skin and her wish was granted by the King. She cut a buffalo skin into thin strips and circled off a fairly large clearing. The king had no choice but to give her the land.

The Boudha area is visual feast. Colorful thangkas, Tibetan jewelry, hand-woven carpets, masks, and khukuri knives are sold in the surrounding stalls. Smaller stupas are located at the base. Gompa monasteries, curio shops, and restaurants surround Boudhanath. Conveniently situated restaurants with roof-top patios provide good food and excellent views of Boudhanath.


Kathmandu Durbar Square:

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the seemingly uncountable monuments in the Kathmandu Durbar Square. The house of the living goddess, the ferocious Kaal Bhairab, the red monkey god, and hundreds of erotic carvings are a few examples of the sights at the square! The buildings here are the greatest achievements of the Malla Dynasty, and they resulted from the great rivalry between the three palaces of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The valley was divided among the children of Yakshya Malla. For visitors today, and for the Nepalese, it was serendipitous that they, and later their off springs, began an artistic warfare trying to outdo each other in splendid constructions. Kings coped everything their neighbors built in an even grander style. Visitors who, wanders around the square will see a round temple in the pagoda architectural style, the temple of Goddess Taleju (who played dice with King Jaya Prakash Malla), and an image of Shiva and Parbati sitting together among the many monuments.

The square is teeming with colorful life. Vendors sale vegetables, curios, flutes, and other crafts around the Kastamandap rest house. This rest house is said to have been built with the wood of a single tree and is the source from which the Kathmandu valley get the name. Nearby are great drums, which were beaten to announce royal decrees. All woodcarvings, statues, and architecture in this area are exceptionally fine, and Kathmandu Durbar Square is among the most important sights for travelers to see.
 


Patan Valley

The ancient city is situated on the southern bank of river Bagmati and is about 5 kms southeast of Kathmandu. The city is full of Buddhist monuments and Hindu temples with fine bronze gateways, guardian deities and wonderful carvings. Noted for its craft and metal workers, it is known as the city of artists. Lalitpur, “the city of beauty,” is another name for Patan.

Patan Durbar Square: The Square boast of many famous sites and unique architecture. Krishna Mandir in the Patan Durbar Square was built to honor an incarnation of Vishnu. Krishna fought by the side of Pandavs in Mahabharat war to assure that truth would prevail. He was famous against the gopini cowgirls. His temple is the best example of stone architecture in Nepal. Scenes fro the Mahabharat, Asia’s famous mythological war, are carved on the temple’s walls.

The Bhimsen temple, which honors Bhim – the great wrestler, brother of Pandavs, and a deity to Nepalese businessmen – contains final sample of metal craft. The best place, however to see metal sculpture is Hiranya Varna Mahaviha, the “Golden Temple”. It is a Newari monastery which contains wall paintings, fourteen-century statue, and scriptures. Its front façade is mostly covered in bronze. Not the stone gates and the figures upon them. These were built by silakars whose descendants are active in woodcarving industry today. Also interesting are the four metal monkeys at the corners of the temples. Monkeys have featured in the temples décor of Nepal for several hundred years!

The Sundari chowk contain exquisite woodcarvings, stone carvings and metal sculpture. The huge stone platform in this chowk is the seat of a pious king who endured great penance in search of eternal bliss. It is said that he slept outside on this chilly stone platform in the bitter cold of Kathmandu winters and spent hours in the monsoon rains.

Other sites including the Mahabaudha temple and Uku Bahal are only few minutes walk away from the square in. The streets in this area are home to metal sculptors of the present day. Many more temples dedicated to Ganesh, the elephant headed god, Shiva, Narshingha, Taleju, and others are situated in Patan Durbar Square.
 


Bhaktapur Valley

Bhaktapur means “the city of devotees” in the Sanskrit language. It is also known as Bhadgaon and was founded by 899 AD by King Anand Dev. Today it covers an area of four square miles and flanked by Khasa Khusung and Hanumante Rivers. The palace complex is in the middle of the city portrays the prosperities of the Malla years and details at which the crafts people then worked. The palace of Fifty-five windows stands in the square and it was home to many kings of Bhaktapur. They even ruled over Kathmandu and Patan from the 12th century the 14th century.

The massive gate to the square was made by King Bhupatindra Malla (1696 to 1722), who took pride in his own engineering and building skills. His skills must have been impressive indeed as the gate, though it looks small now, was among the biggest in the valley and daunted many enemies. It is sturdy even now and stands firmly. Among the other monuments in Bhaktapur are the big bell, golden gate, the five-tiered temple of Nyatapole, the Bhairab temple, and the Dattatreya Square with its woodcarving and metal craft museums. Surrounded by beautiful farming area, the traveler to Bhaktapur will easily fall in love with the city.

Bhaktapur is perhaps the most popular of the of the three Newars town of the Kathmandu valley. Newar art and architecture here rivals the best craftsmanship of the Malla period (from the 12th to 18th century). Though a massive earthquake of 1934 destroyed many temples, bahals (monastery courtyards), and residences, the city is still living proof of the highest craft standards in this part of the world. As the visitors wander around the narrow streets, many alleys will show hidden shrines and statues. Clay craftsmanship as well as cloth weaving is still practiced here as much in the past. Fourteen kilometers east of Kathmandu, the peaceful, conservative town stands in sharp contrast to the bustle of its two adjacent cities.

After seeing one or all of these monuments of the Kathmandu valley, the visitors need to realize that, of course the world Heritage sites are only the tips of the iceberg. There are countless other monuments to see in the Kathmandu valley, as there are shrines, statues and religious images in almost every valley. Only the god knows how old most of these are. There are many pleasant walks and hikes as a grand backdrop. And the original charm, which lured Lord Shiva, still welcomes you. Welcome to Nepal, the country where gods come to holiday!
 


Other Valley Destinations

Balaju Water Gardens: The Balaju Water Garden has been the focus of the several Nepali folk songs. The fish farm, the forests, the waterfalls and the plant here are beautiful and the 22- sea-dragon spouts are the site of religious festivals. Located at the foot of the Nagarjun Hill, it has plenty of water resources and is a favorite picnic spots.

Budhanilkantha: the Vishnu statue of Budhanilkatha was found buried in the ground in its original state. The statue is estimated to be about thousand years old and shows Vishnu lying on the cosmic water before the universe was created. Shivapuri looms over Budhanilkantha and visitors find much peace there. You will be able to observe local people perform puja every morning and evening.

Chobhar Gorge: Manjushree came upon a huge lake eons ago and saw a huge lotus emanating bright light at the center. So he cut the deep gorge in the wall of the lake and let the water out in order to observe and worship the lotus. The bed of the lake became Kathmandu valley and the place where he cut the lake is said to Chobhar. An intricate cave is located there as well as Ganesh Temple.

Dakshinkali: the temple of Dakshinkali is dedicated to the ferocious mother goddess who has much energy and power. It is said that she gives strong willpower and energy to those who come to her and she love sacrifices. The temple is tantric in nature and is a favorite worship place of the Hindus. Saturdays are good days to visit, as there is always a massive crowd of worshipper who comes from all parts of Nepal to offer prayers.

Jawalakhel Zoo: The zoo has improved a lot over the years and contains fine samples of Himalayan animal species. The tourist who may have problem seeing the one-horned rhino and the royal Bengal tiger in the wild have no problems observing them close-up at the Jawalakhel Zoo. The zoo is managed by the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation.

Lakuri Bhanjhyang: over looking at the wide spectrum of the Himalayan Range on the broad expanse of the Kathmandu valley, Lakuri Bhanjhyang lies perched atop the pristine hill of Pokhari Thumko (18 kms from Kathmandu). Located at an altitude of 2000 m, approximately 15 kms southeast of Kathmandu, this is another vantage point commanding a sweeping view of Snowy Mountain peaks on northern horizon an ideal location to watch spectacular views of sunrise and sunset. After dusk, a myriad of shimmering lights far below in the cities of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur glow to reveal yet another delightful feast for the eyes.

Godavari Royal Botanical Garden: This is perhaps the most popular picnic ground for the Kathmandu people. The pants are wide variety and the flowers, when in bloom, make the atmosphere sparkle in colors. In fact, most of the Nepali films songs and dances are shot here. You may wish to visit the Nau and Paanch Dhara pond or take a hike up the 2,700 meter Phulchowki Hill nearby.

Kakani: Lying to the northwest of Kathmandu and only hour’s drive away fro the capital, the hill top is recommended for its quiet surroundings and skyline view of Gauri Shanker, Langtang, Choba Bhamare, Ganesh Himal, Manasalu, and Himchuli.

Nagarkot: At a height of 2,099 meters above sea level, the hilltop is visited for viewing beautiful sunrise and sunset and visitors take delight in the lay out of the Kathmandu valley below. On a clear day, Manasalu Ganesh imal, Gari Shankarand Everest can be see from here. Lodges and resorts are open through out the year and visitors can extend their sojourn to explore the countryside.

Phulchowki: About out 2,700 meters above sea level, Phulchowki is the tallest hilltop surrounding the Kathmandu valley. Visitors will enjoy the bid watching and nature hikes in the thick forests. More than 250 bird species have been sighted here as well as a barking deer, leopard and bear.

Chandragiri: It provides excellent hikes and a commanding view of the Kathmandu valley. The best approach is from Hattiban. Though the vegetation is sparse, the culture is rich and you will see farmers, houses and rice fields as you climb up. However the upper reaches of Chandragiri are dry and uninhabited. Be sure to take plenty of waters.

Nagarjun: It is named after a famous sage. There is a stupa at the top and the forest is well known for its animal life. Controlled by the army, the animal life is protected here and the forest is also known as the Queen’s forest. Leopard, birds, deer, Squirrels and other animal species may be seen and the hill tracks are perfect for mountain biking as well.

Shivapuri: Shivapuri provides most of the water to the Kathmandu valley and among the hills, it is closest to the Himalaya. The wildlife sighting here is also excellent as the park has its access to wider lands and areas behind Kathmandu valley. You may wish to visit the Buddhist monastery set high on the hills.

Dhulikhel: The old Newari town lies beyond the eastern rim of the valley with comfortable lodging for extended trips. Mountain bikers will appreciate the root that takes them up to Dhulikhel, to Namobuddha Shrine, and down to the old town of Panauti. The ride can be completed in one day.

Sankhu: Sankhu is the sleepy town beneath the Gum Bihaar religious complex. Within the complex is the temple of Bajra Yogini built in 17th century. The area has been important religious site since the 4th century and has excellent bird and wood life as well as charming monkeys and pigeons in the temple area. Visitors may wish bike up to Nagarkot and come down biking Sankhu.
 


Pokhara

If Kathmandu is the cultural hub of Nepal, Pokhara is its center of adventure. An enchanting city nestled in a tranquil valley; it is the starting point of many of Nepal's most popular trekking and rafting destinations. The atmosphere in the shores of Phewa lake is one of the excited vitality as hipster backpackers crowds the many bars and restaurants exchanging recommendations on the guest houses and view points both by the lake and above the clouds.

Pokhara is the place of remarkable natural beauty. The serenity of the Phewa Lake and the magnificence of fishtailed summit of Macchhapuchhre (6,977m) rising behind it create an ambience of peace and magic. At an elevation lower than Kathmandu, it has much more tropical feel to it , a fact well appreciated by the beautiful diversity of flowers which prospers its environs. Indeed, the valley surrounding Pokhara is home to thick forest, gushing rivers, and emerald lakes and of course, the world famous view of the Himalayas.

The powerful rule of the old kings of Kathmandu, the Lichhavis and the Mallas, held sway over this valley for some time. As these dynasties fell prey to their own troubles, Pokhara valley and surrounding hills disintegrated into small kingdom, frequently at war with each other. These were called the Chaubise Rajya or twenty-four kingdoms. It was among these that Kulmandan Shah established his kingdom. His descendents Drabya Shah was the first to establish, source of the legendary Gurkha warriors.

Finally, Pokhara is part of a once vibrant trade rote extending between India and Tibet. To this day, mule trains can be seen camped on the outskirt of the town, bringing goods to trade from remote regions of the Himalaya. This is the land of Magars and Gurungs hard working farmers and valorous warrior who have earned worldwide fame as Gurkha soldiers. The Thakalis, another important ethnic group here, are known for their entrepreneurship.

Mountain Views: Clearly the most stunning of Pokhara’s sights is the spectacular panorama of Annapurna range which forms its backdrop stretching from east to west, the Annapurna massifs include I to IV and Annapurna south. Although the highest among them is Annapurna I (8,091 m), it is Machhapuchre, which dominates al other in this neighborhood. Boastfully levitating in skyline, the fishtailed pinnacles is the archetypal snow capped, needle pointed mountain. If you want to see the mountain from close up, Everest Air Offers a mountain flight from Pokhara that takes you on an aerial sight seeing tour of the western Himalaya.

Phewa Lake: Phewa Lake, the second largest lake in Nepal, is the center of all attraction in Pokhara. It is the largest and most enchanting of the three lakes that add to the resplendence of Pokhara. Here, one can sail or row a hired boat across to water or visit the island temple in its middle. The eastern shore popularly known as lakeside or Baidam, is the favorite home base for travelers and is where most of the hotels, restaurant and handicraft shops are located.

Barahi Temple: The Barahi Temple is the most important monument in Pokhara, built almost in the center of the Phewa Lake; this two-storied temple is dedicated to the boar manifestation of Ajima, the protector deity representing the female force Shakti. Devotees can be seen, especially in Saturdays, carrying male animals and fowl across the lake to be sacrificed to the deity.

Seti Gandaki: Another of he Pokhara’s natural wonders that unfailingly interest the visitors is the Set Gandaki River. Flowing right through the city, the boisterous river runs completely underground at places. Amazingly, at certain points the river appears hardly two meter wide. But its depth is quiet beyond imagination – over 20 meters! Mahendra Pul, a small bridge near the old mission hospital, provides a perfect view of the rivers dreadful rush and the deep gorge made by its powerful flow.

Devi’s Fall: Locally known as Patale Chango (Hell’s fall). Devi’s fall (also known as Devin’s and David’s) is a lovely waterfall lying about two kilometer south west of the Pokhara Airport on the Siddhartha Highway. Legend has that a trekker (Devin, David) was washed away by the Pardi Khola and mysteriously disappeared down into an underground passage beneath the fall.

Mahendra Cave: Another of the nature’s wonder in Pokhara is the Mahendra Gupha. The large limestone cave is locally known as he house of the bats, an apt name for it a two hour walk to the north of Pokhara, it is best to bring your own torch to see the stalactites and stalagmites, as well as the local winged residents.

The Old Bazaar: Pokhara’s traditional bazaar is traditional and so are its ethnically diverse traders. In its temples and monuments can be seen ties to the Newari architecture of Kathmandu valley. Located about 4 Kms from lakeside, the market’s original charm is alive and well. This area strewn with shops selling commodities from edible and cloths cosmetics and gold is pleasant and shady spot to stroll around,

The old bazaar is also home to one of Pokhara’s most important shrine. Locally, called the Bundebashini Mandir, this white dome like structure dominates a spacious stone paved courtyard built atop a shady hillock. It is dedicated to goddess Bhagwati, yet another manifestation of Shakti. The park like ground offers a fine picnic area, and on Saturdays and Tuesdays when devote flock their to offer sacrifices, it takes on a festive local flavor.

Museums: The Pokhara Museum, located between the bus stop and Mahendra Pul, reflects the ethnic mosaic of western Nepal. The lifestyle and history of ethnic groups, such as Gurung, Thakali and Tharu are attractively displayed through models, photographs and artifacts. One major highlight in a display highlighting the newly discovered remains of an 8000- years – old settlement in Mustang. Open daily, except Tuesdays and holidays, from 10 am to 5 pm. Entrance fee is Rs 10 (TEL: 20413)
The Annapurna Regional Museum, also known as the Natural History Museum, is another interesting visit in Pokhara. Run by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), the museum has exceptional collection of butterflies, insect birds and models of wildlife found in the area. Located at Prithivi Narayan Campus, east of the old bazaar, it is opened daily except Saturdays and holidays from 9 am to 5 pm. Entrance is free (Tel: 21102).

Surrounding Areas: Pokhara is the starting and/or finishing point for some of the most popular treks including Annapurna Circuit and the Jomsom Trek. It also offers a number of short treks for those who cannot opt for long, challenging ones. The most popular among them is Sarangkot (1592 m), a former Kaski fort lying atop a hill to the west of Pokhara. The panoramic views of the Himalaya seen from this point are superb. Kahundanda, Naundanda, Ghandrung, Ghorepani, and Ghalchowk are other favorite destinations around Pokhara.

Getting There: Pokhara is located roughly 200 km west of Kathmandu. The journey between these two famed cities is certainly part of the Pokhara Experience. Flying over the snow capped Himalaya to the north and the green Mahabharat range to the south is thrilling, while the overland journey paste sparse rural settlements nestled along the Trishuli river provides a view of life particular to Nepal's middle hills. There are daily flights and bus services between Kathmandu and Pokhara.
 


Gorkha

Gorkha is the hill bazaar and the ancestral home of the Shah dynasty. It is from here that King Prithivi Narayan Shah started his conquest of the country’s various tiny kingdoms and unified them into a single nation, Nepal. Perched one thousand feet above Gorkha Bazaar, the palace dominates its surroundings and is visible from all around the area. It is regarded as a holy shrine by many and from here; visitors can get fantastic view of lush green valleys and the Himalaya beyond. The palaces also boast beautiful architecture.

Even though only Hindus are allowed to enter the palace premises, it is worthwhile walking up the stairs for the view. A holy cave is situated just below he palace where once lived a saint named Gorakhnath from which the town earned its name. Visitors will enjoy strolling around Gorkha Bazaar, which is located below the palace. Its fine architecture and cobbled lanes are reminiscent of a time long forgotten.

To get Gorkha from Kathmandu, rented cars, taxis and local buses are available at the main bus station at Gongabhu. Visitors should buy their tickets in advance since the bus leaves at 7 am every morning. On you arrival in Gorkha, you can make a selection from a wide range of lodging, which provide cheap as well as expensive accommodations.
 


Janakpur

Janakpur is the capital of an ancient state of Mithila and the Janaki Temple, located in the center of the city, is well known in the Hindu kingdom. Sita, the wife of the legendary hero Ram was born in Janapur. Through out the years many pilgrims come to pay their respects to Ram and Sita who are the main religious attractions in Janakpur. Worshippers and visitors alike throng the city especially during the festival of Bibah Panchami. This annual festival is celebrated on the occasion of Ram and Sita wedding ceremony is enacted through out the week. During this period, the city was enlivened by the wedding festivities.

Ram and Sita are the two central characters of the great Hindu epic Ramayan. In the story, Ram strings a bow that originally belonged to Lord Shiva the destroyer and in the process, the bow breaks into three pieces. One piece flies up to heaven. Another falls down into the depth of the underworld. Today there is huge pond called Dhanush Sagaar above the very spot. The third piece flies to present day Dhanushadham, about 40 kilometers from Janakpur. There, visitors will see huge rock shaped like a bow. Thus after Ram’s successful attempt to string the bow, Janaki’s father, King Janak Give his daughter’s hand in marriage to the brave prince of Ayudhya.
 


Tansen

If visitors are wondering which place n his kingdom would give them a taste of everything, we suggest that give Tansen a try. Tansen is a small town of approximately twenty thousand people. It is on the way from Pokhara to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and it is not too far from the Royal Chitawan National Park. Located 4,300 meters above sea level, on the south flank of Shrinagar hill, the greatest attractions of this town are ancient culture, friendly people, excellent mountain views, and above all its serene atmosphere. The weather remains moderate through out the year, and it is pleasant place to visit in any season.

The town’s mostly Newar and Magar inhabitants have long been known as staunch warriors. The king of Tansen wielded great power over western Nepal in the 15th century. Palpa, their kingdom was last to be defeated by the conquering Gurkha’s who unified today’s Nepal. These people became even more famous in the Anglo Nepal war of the 1800s. Col. Ujir Sing Thapa who commanded the army in the region was in an extremely trying situation at the time. His men were out numbered four to one by the English forces. He desperately asked for divine help before going into battle, promising the temple in the name of the mother Bhagwati (who is ferocious and loves blood sacrifice) if she would help him. He won. In 1815, he kept his word and built a temple to the goddess. However, fighting is not the only forte of Tansen residents.

The jamre folk song performances of the Magars are colorful. Dancing and feasting are accompanied by drumbeats of the madal during festivals. Amar Singh Thapa, another great champion of the Anglo-Nepal war, had great affinity for Tansen as well. He brought highly skilled artisans from Kathmandu valley to build the Amar Narayan Temple when he was the governor of the town. The temple’s woodcarvings are remarkable and the puja is offered here every day to Vishnu.

During the time of Rana prime ministers from 1846 to 1951, Tansen became an important outpost. Those who offended the administration or were political prisoners were sent away from the Kathmandu valley beyond Tansen. It was thought that they would not be able to cause problems to the rulers from there far away exiles. Later the Ranas tried to develop Tanen into hill station and built palaces and mansions for personal use. One such palace in the heart of the town has a huge door called Baggi Dhoka. Some say that it was built so that Khadga Shumsher Rana would not need to get off his elephant while entering the palace. Others claim that it was built so that horse drawn chariot could easily enter the palace grounds. The town intricately patterned Dhaka is the most popular hand woven cloth of Nepal. Newar women of the Kathmandu valley have preferred its shawl for many decades. Nepal’s national cap, the topi, is also made of Dhaka. Dhaka is available to buyers at the town’s bazaars. Those interested may also see weavers at work on their looms.

There are potters and metal workers in Tansen too. Earthen pottery is still used in many houses of Tansen. Jugs, basins and even filters are made from clay for local use. Chang, the local liquors, is wonderfully cold if it has been stored in earthenware. Metal workers make deep plates, karuwa water jugs, and utensils for worship and hookahs for smoking.

Tansen is charming because it is unspoiled by modernity, pollution and urban bustle. On clear days, mountain views from the town revail Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Manasalu, Gauri Shankar and other peaks and walk up to Shrinagar Hill provides an even more thrilling Himalayan panorama.

The several hotels are located in Tansen. The numbers of travelers to this “hill station” have increased over the years, and so have tourist facilities. Indeed! Tansen is the perfect answer to those who wish to get an over all taste of Nepal.
 


Lumbini - (The Birth Place of Lord Buddha)

Shakyamuni Buddha was born in Lumbini, in southern Nepal, twenty-five hundred years ago. Since his time, Nepal has been a sacred ground for Buddhist as the birthplace of the Buddha. Lumbini is a small town in the southern terai plains of Nepal, where the ruins of old city can still be seen. Shakyamuni Buddha was born to a royal family. His mother, queen Maya Devi, had a dream foretelling his coming. In her dream she saw a white elephant with nine tusks come down to her from the heaven and enter her body. When the time of his delivery approached, she left for her parental home, according to the practice of the time. En rote to her parents’ home, she gave birth to Sidhartha Gautam in the gardens of Lumbini.

The prince is said to have emerged from her right side as she rested her arm on the branch of a fig tree. And immediately after birth, he took seven steps in the four cardinal directions and wherever his feet touched the ground, a lotus bloomed.

After this powerful birth, prince Sidharta live in his father’s palace, shielded from the evil and the pain of the outside world. His fathers have been informed by the seers of time that the prince would either become a great emperor or a holy man. Fearing his son would leave the world for religious practice, the king took pains to see that prince Sidhartha neither saw nor experienced suffering. Thus he hoped Sidhartha would become a great emperor and never dream of leaving he kingdom.

But Sidhartha – who had lived his life on isolated royal splendor – inevitably ventured beyond the castle walls one day. Outside these walls he came across sorrow, pain death, and a man whose life was devoted to releasing others from those sufferings. He saw a beggar, a cripple, a corpse and a holy man. These encounters affected the young prince deeply, awakening a deep desire to find the ultimate cause of suffering and thus alleviate it. One night when all were asleep inside the palace, he escaped. He cast aside his princely garments, cut his hair, and began the life of wandering ascetic.

For years he fasted, meditated and spent his time in a rigorous and painful search to find a way to end suffering. One full moon night in the north Indian town of Bodhgaya, as he meditated under a tree, Sidhartha had a direct realization of nirvana, eternal peace. This transformed the mortal prince into Buddha.

He spent his rest of the life guiding people towards nirvana, love and friendship. When it was time for him to leave this world, he had thousands of followers to keep Buddhism alive. He left this world (a person who has attained nirvana is freed from the cycle of life and death) at the age of 84, having exhausted his human body for the sake of all sentient beings.

Lumbini has since been holy round for Buddhist all over the world. The restored garden and the surroundings of Lumbini have the remains of the many of the ancient stupas and monasteries. A large stone pillar erected by the Indian emperor Ashoka in 250 BC bears an inscription about the birth of Buddha.

An important part of Lumbini is the temple of Maya Devi. It has a stone image of Maya Devi giving birth to Lord Buddha she hold on to a branch. It has been well worn by the stroke of barren women hoping for fertility. To the south of the temple is a pool where Queen Maya Devi bathed and given her son his first purification bath.

A quiet garden, shaded by a leafy Bo tree (the type of a tree under which Buddha received enlightment), and a newly planted forest nearby lend an air of tranquility, which bespeaks Buddha’s teachings. Lumbini is now being developed under the Master Plan of the Lumbini Development Trust, a non-governmental organization dedicated to the restoration of Lumbini and its development as pilgrimage site. The plan, completed in 1978 by the renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, will transform three square miles of land into sacred place of gardens, pools, and grooves. The development will include a Monastic Zone, the circular sacred ground surrounding the Ashoka pilla and Maya Devi Temple, and Lumbini Village, where visitors will find lodges, restaurant, a cultural center and tourist facilities.

An important archaeological site near Lumbini, Kapilvastu evokes the ancient palace where Lord Buddha spent his formative years. Scattered foundations of palace are abundant and archaeologists have by now discovered 13 successive layers of human habitation dating back to the 8th century BC. A must of archaeological and historical buffs!

Beside its historical and religious significance, Lumbini offers cultural insights into the village life of southern Nepal. If possible, try to coincide your visit with the Monday bazaar when villagers come from miles to buy grains, spices, potteries, jewelries, saris and various other items. It may appear as a scene out of the Arabian nights, with colorful merchandise spread out under the mango tree and the air perfumed with incense. It’s a chance to bargain for souvenirs while witnessing local life in Lumbini. Wooden ox-carts loaded with hay trundle by. Villagers dry cow-dung for fuel, and tea stalls serve sweet milk tea.

Today, Lumbini is beginning to receive travelers’ and archaeologists’ attention after centuries of neglect. Serious preservation work has only just been started in the later half of this century and Lumbini as slice of history is worth seeing and worth preserving. Royal Nepal Airlines and other airlines fly regularly to Bhairahawa, near Lumbini, and bus services are available from Pokhara and Kathmandu.
 


Chitwan

Surrounding Royal Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal is one of the most planned and most intelligently developed tourist areas in Nepal. Not only it offers a wide variety of resorts and lodges, it is also easy to reach by road or by air. Regular flights are scheduled by Royal Nepal Airlines and other airlines to Meghauli, Simara and Bharatpur. Many resorts provide coach service. Local buses offer a choice between a night and day ride.

Royal Chitwan National Park is perhaps the best park in Nepal for seeing animals in the wild. In the earlier parts of the century, when rapid deforestation was devastating Nepal’s southern terai belt, His Majesty’s Government of Nepal intervened and proclaimed the Chitwan area a national a park.

At one point in time, Chitwan was not protected by government fiat but by malarial spreading mosquitoes. The whole of the terai belt was infested by mosquitoes and only the hardiest settlers survived. Ever the travelers who were just passing through would fall prey to the disease. To the lahure, enlisted soldiers in Indian or the British army, a journey through the terai was dangerous as being on the battlefield. People considered this land useless and, in consequence, animal flourished in the Chitwan wilderness.

However, the Rana prime ministers from Kathmandu did not considered the place entirely useless; for them, it was a favorite holiday resort. They were wiling to brave malaria to enjoy the sport of hunting tigers, leopards, and rhinoceros that abounded in these jungles. Nearly every eminent foreign visitor was invited to Chitwan for a hunt. Today, one can see photographs of past foreign notables standing over their hunting trophies (mainly Tigers), with their safari elephants in the background.

The mosquitoes began to eradicated from terai through the use of DDT, the land opened up. Land was cheap, and in some cases free for the taking. Anyone needing farmland had only to cut down the trees and start cultivating the soft soil, enriched by hundreds of years of natural fertilization. Rapid deforestation was the result. Animals that have flourished in the hunting era were killed by the settlers because they attacked people, livestock and crops.

The government of Nepal declared the Chitwan region a national park, outlawed settlement and deforestation within its boundaries, and a campaign to save animals began. Project carried out with the help of friendly nations have revived the animals that remained. Though the terai is certainly not what it once was, the preserved portion within the Chitwan National Park is still treat for animal lovers.

Royal Bengal tigers roam the region; one horned rhino can be seen charging through the underbrush, feeding and even courting. The Rapti River has been damned to form a man made lake called Lamital where water birds and marsh mugger peckers and many other birds are found in plenty in these forests.

Elephant grass five to six meters tall, provides excellent camouflage for animals. This grass serves as the food for the gaurs (a local Bison), rhino and other herbivores. Once a year, local people are allowed into the park area to cut grass. The grass is dried and used to thatch roofs or stored for food for the domestic animals during the dry season.

Resorts and lodges are available to suit one’s travel budget; most includes elephant safaris, jungle walks, canoeing and variety of cultural activities in their programs.

Reservation for accommodation can be made at the Kathmandu offices of Chitwan lodges and resorts, with selection ranging from most luxurious to those with simple food and shelter. On a village tour you can observe the culture of Tharu people. Tharu songs and dance performance are included in most resort and lodge entertainment. A visit to Chitwan is a visit filled to the brims with activities, whether you stay two days or a week.
 


Other Places of Interest

East of Kathmandu

Basantpur: Basantpur lies in Koshi zone in eastern Nepal at an altitude of 2,323m. it is famous for its natural beauty, diverse culture, beautiful landscape and cool climate. Tinjure Danda in Basantpur is forested with Rhododendron trees. The place is ideal for sunset and sunrise viewing and also for viewing the Himalaya.

Dharan: Dharan lies right at the foot of the hills, but the transformation when coming from the terai is dramatic. This is unquestionably a hill town with hill people to be seen. Dharan is bustling bazaar town that has grown rapidly.

Dhankuta: Although Dhankuta is only 75 km by excellent road from the terai, it seems more like million miles. Dhankuta is quiet large town, and although there is no specific attraction, there are good views, a mild climate and plenty of interesting walks in the surrounding area. The town owes its prosperity to the fact that it was major recruiting center for the Gurkha regiments of the British army and quiet a bit of British aid money has been spent in the vicinity.

Charikot/Jiri: About 133 kms from Kathmandu, Charikot provides a spectacular mountain view of Gauri Shanker. In the Eastern upper part of Dolakha township there is a famous roofless temple of Dolakha Bhimsen.

Namche Bazaar: The name Namche Bazaar is generally associated with Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest), the highest peak in the world. It is the entrance to the Everest region. Situated to the lap of Khumbu Himal Range, Namche Bazaar is about 241 kilometer from Kathmandu.

Hile: It is situated about 13 kilometers north to Dhankuta Bazaar. The panorama of the major peaks of the eastern Himalaya including Sagarmatha (MT. Everest) Makalu, Lhotse and Kumbhakarna can be enjoyed from Hile.

Antu Danda: It is situated at an altitude of 1,677 m in Ilam District and is famous for its unique view of Everest and Kanchanjunga. It is the best place for viewing sunrise and sunset. There is a motorable road from Ilam to Chhipitar from where one can reach Antu Danda on foot.

Dhanushadham: Dhanushadham lies in Janakpur zone in the Middle Development Region of Nepal. Dhanusha is district of temples and hermitage where devotees of Lord Ram and Sitapay obeisance. There are many religious and tourist attractions such as Ram Mandir, Ganesh Mandir, Baba Makhandanda Kuti etc. other main attractions are the Dhanusha pond and several other ponds.

North of Kathmandu

Nuwakot: The old fortress town of Nuwakot used to be important strategic outpost. It controlled the ancient trade routes to Tibet and the kings of medieval Nepal maintained large garrison here. Nuwakot offers terrific views of the mountains and the surroundings rural scenery makes for an enchanting experience. There are number of artistic buildings on the hilltop which recall the traditional architecture of the Kathmandu valley.

Helambu: Helambu situated about 72 kilometers north east of Kathmandu, is famous for its scenic grandeur and pleasant climate. There are many Buddhist monasteries amidst a rich and enchanting landscape. Sundarijal is the starting point for trekking to Helambu, which is only 11 kilometers away from Kathmandu.

Gosainkund/Langtang: Gosainkunda Lake is the site for a great pilgrimage in August in each year this is the height of the monsoon, not a pleasant time for trekking. The large rock in the center of the lake is said to be the remains of a Shiva shrine and it is also claimed that a channel carries water from the lake directly to the tank at Kumbheshwor Temple in Patan, 60 km to the south.


West of Kathmandu

Manang: the village itself is a compact collection of 500 flat roofed houses separated by narrow alleyways. To reach a doorway you must ascend a steep log notched with steps. The setting of the village is most dramatic, with the summit of Annapurna and Gangapurna less than 8 km away, and a huge icefall rumbling and crashing on the flanks of the peaks.

Baglung: Baglung is now accessible by road by Pokhara. It is the main market place of a Dhaulagiri zone and the gateway to Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, which is well known as the habitat of blue sheep.

Muktinath/Jomsom: The famous temple of Lord Muktinath lies in the district of Mustang and situated about 18 km northeast of Jomsom at an altitude about 3749 meters. The temple is situated in the high mountain range and is visited during the fair weather. There are two ways to get Muktinath from Kathmandu. Either take a direct flight from Kathmandu via Pokhara to Jomsom and hike for a couple of hours via Kagbeni or trek all the way from Pokhara. There is also an air service from Pokhara to Jomsom.

Mustang: Jomsom is district headquarter for the Mustang region of Nepal. To many people, however Mustang implies the area of Nepal that extends like a thumb into Tibet. This is the region described in Michel Piessel’s book Mustang, and includes the wall capital city of Mustang, Lo Manthang.

Dolpo: Dolpo is the most remote and the least developed district in Nepal. Although few anthropologist and geographers had explored the region, the entire region was closed to trekkers until 1989 when the southern part of Dolpo was opened to organize trekking groups. Peter Manthiesen’s ‘The snow Leopard’ and Snellgrove’s ‘Himalayan pilgrimage’ have contributed to the mystique and attraction of Dolpo.

Humla/Jumla: Jumla in the bank of the Timla River at 2370 meters, is one of the highest rice growing areas in the world. The entire Tilla valley is covered with paddy fields growing unique red rice that is tastier than white rice, but is scorned by most locals. The people in this region speak their own version of Nepali. The people throughout the region are Thakuris, and also Chhetris who have the highest social, political and rituals status.

Khaptad: The Khaptad National Park covers 225 Sq km of grassland and forested plateau. Khaptad Baba, a Hindu guru, lived here for many years. A 5 km area in the park has been reserved for meditation and tranquility, where butchering alcohol and tobacco are forbidden. The habitat at the park provides good covers for bears, leopard, common langur, musk deer as well as many species of birds. Herbs with medicinal properties and wild flowers grow in this national park.

Sublinks
- Kathmandu Valley
- Patan Valley
- Bhaktapur Valley
- Other Valley Destinations
- Pokhara
- Gorkha
- Janakpur
- Tansen
- Lumbini
- Chitwan
- Other Places of Interest
 
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