This tour focuses on the Kathmandu Valley and provides a glimpse of the glorious heritage, culture and natural beauty of Nepal without having to travel long distances. Taking advantage of the many splendorous sites that the historic valley has to offer as well as incorporating some light trekking, this trip will leave you feeling fresh, inspired and rejuvenated!
You will start the day going to the heart of the city with a visit to Kathmandu Durbar Square (also known as Basantapur), one of the three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu valley. The others are in Bhaktapur and Patan. Durbar Square means “Kings square”, and is the area in front of the royal palace. All the three Durbar squares are the UNESCO Heritage sites that echo the ethnicity and legends of the former kings, displaying exquisite arts of the traditional Newari craftsmanship over several centuries in the forms of temples, idols, courtyards, fountains and more.
After lunch, you will visit one of the oldest religious sites in Nepal. Swayambhu (also Swayambunath, Shoyambhu and commonly referred to as the ‘monkey temple’), is on top of a hill in the west of the city. Ancient Buddhist architecture is featured around one big stupa surrounded by a number of smaller temples and shrines – Hindu as well as Buddhist. This is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites and is a UNESCO world heritage site. There is a Tibetan monastery, a museum and a number of shops and restaurants. After the steep climb up or easier back route, you can enjoy views of all of Kathmandu stretched out below.
The bustling town of Bhaktapur is home to one of the three Durbar squares in the Kathmandu valley. This historic Newari town is brimming with stunning architecture and history. Unfortunately the town suffered a lot of damage in the 2015 earthquake. The main temples and historic sites are in the process of restoration but many of the inhabitants are still struggling to rebuild their homes and lives. Nonetheless, there is still much to see and a wander around this beautiful town is still enthralling.
A few miles north of Bhakatpur is Changu Narayan Temple, thought to be the oldest temple in Nepal from the Licchavi Dynasty. Perched on top of a hill, this temple is full of rich craftsmanship of statues and temples earning its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple suffered serious damage during the 2015 earthquake. Although many of the sites are still under restoration, the site is open and you can still enjoy the majestic artistry of the whole complex.
Pay homage to Goddess Kali, the most ferocious incarnation of Goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva. Dakshinkali temple is about 22 kilometers from Kathmandu. On the way to Dakshinkali, you can visit Shes Narayan temple, the temple of Lord Vishnu. The word ‘shes’ refers to the snakes upon which Lord Vishnu sits and rests.
On the way back to the city is the gorgeous village of Chobar, known for its gorge that flows in between the two hills. The gorge was formed when water seeped in through the soft rock of the limestone hills creating a gaping fissure, a magnificent view in itself! A myth enshrouds the gorge that it was struck by the mighty sword of Manjushri to sprout out the water, making the land suitable for habitation.
Kirtipur is a historic town just outside Kathmandu’s ring road. King Prithivi Narayan Shah invaded it in 1768, subsequently capturing all three kingdoms of Nepal - Bhaktapur, Lalitpur and Kathmandu, marking him in history as the legendary king of the Shah dynasty who ruled over a unified Kingdom of Nepal! Kirtipur is full of medieval temples and shrines throughout its back streets. Known for its weavers, you will see yarn drying and hear the clicking of hand looms as you explore this ancient town.
Boudhanath Stupa is one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world. Adorned with prayer flags, the giant mandala with a huge dome in its center and a square tower of 13 steps pyramid above it is a stunning sight. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is one of the most revered pilgrimage sites of Buddhists.
Pashupatinath temple for Hindus is what Boudhanath and Swayambhunath are to Buddhists. On any auspicious day for Hindus, Pashupatinath temple comes alive with throngs of people, visiting to pay their homage. Heavy incense, chanting and the mantras of the Hindu priests reverberate in the air, creating quite an extraordinary sight and experience! Although you can’t go inside the temple area unless you are Hindu, there is still plenty to see throughout this UNESCO World Heritage Site including the funeral rituals at the burning ghats.
Patan Durbar square is located in the city of Lalitpur.This square is more compact than the other Durbar squares but possibly the most beautiful. You can also explore the wonderful Patan Museum in one of the former royal palaces adjacent to the main square. The Krishna mandir (temple) is one of the most famous attractions here.
You will start the day with a drive to Nagarkot about 32 km from Kathmandu, nestled in the hills of the Kathmandu valley. A popular destination for its scenic views of the Himalayan mountains, Nagarkot also boasts lots of lovely nature trails. It is about a 6 hour walk at a comfortable pace to the monastery at Nala. The trail will take you along the forest ridge through rural villages and rows of terraced farmlands while you will enjoy the fresh mountain air and views of undulating mountains.
After enjoying the sunrise over the mountains from Dhulikhel, you will set out on a short trek from Dhulikhel to Namo Buddha and Panauti. This should take about 3 to 4 hours at a comfortable pace.
Namo Buddha is a Buddhist pilgrimage site where legend tells of a kind prince (Buddha in a previous life), who offered himself to a weak tigress who had just given birth to three cubs. There is a monastery and a temple in the small village.
Panauti is a small, beautiful Newari town rich in culture and ancient temples. Situated at the confluence of two rivers along with a third ‘invisible river’ there are many who believe this sacred spot is resistant to earthquakes – and it certainly did weather the 2015 quake with minimal damage!
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