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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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 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!
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
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
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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