Kathmandu is home to myriad of cultures, histories, and traditions that are beautifully entwined to each other. Since the ancient times, it was the melting point of cultures incoming from its two great neighboring countries – India and China. During the medieval times, it was divided into three illustrious kingdoms that continuously tried to outdo each other in terms of cultural and religious richness. Thankfully, that age-old competition has gifted this city with a number of staggeringly beautiful heritage sites. Moreover, these sites boast of very unique and rick architectural masterpieces. Afterall, Kathmandu wasn’t called a City of Temples on a whim. Here, we present the list of four architecturally best heritage sites in Kathmandu Valley.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
The name Bhaktapur literally translates to “City of Devotees”. True to its name, the city is home to countless ancient temples that will make you feel like you are walking through a cultural museum. Out of the durbar squares of the three main cities of Kathmandu valley, Bhaktapur has best preserved, celebrated, and practiced its medieval culture and traditions.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is best known for its enormous temples that are the true representatives of the rich Newari architecture. Be it doing the rounds of the medieval palace courtyards, counting the numbers of windows in the Palace of 55 Windows, looking into the eyes of mammoth stone elephants guarding the Nyatapole temple, or just visiting the sacred Taleju Temple, Bhaktapur will ceaselessly amaze and impress you.
Pashupati Nath Temple
Lord Shiva is believed to be the strongest Hindu God. A temple dedicated to him, Pashupati Nath, which translates to “Master of animals”, is revered as the holiest. The main temple is an absolutely stunning three-story, pagoda-style temple with golden roofs. Although non-Hindus are restricted from visiting thisseventh-century temple, one can still have amazing views of it from across the holy river of Bagmati.
Today, Pashupati Nath is a very large and beautiful complex of temples, shrines, cremation sites, ghats, and bathing areas. You will meet a lot of mysterious sadhus adorned in bright orange clothes. Also, don’t be surprised if you smell marijuana in the air near the temple, because the sadhus are legally allowed to use it for recreation. One main highlight of visiting this site is you can witness the entire process of Hindu cremation ritual that will leave you with very mixed feelings later.
Changu Narayan Temple
Changu Narayan, a 4th century temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is the oldest in Nepalese history. For skeptics, the temple has a lot of inscriptions and documents supporting the claim. The temple is also definitely the most gorgeous one in terms of wooden architecture. The front façade of the temple is adorned by intricate repousse work. The roofs boast of beautifully preserved tantric carvings, while the temple is guarded by elephants, lions, and sarabhas on all sides.
Apart from the main temple, the site has other equally interesting temples, artifacts, and even a museum to keep an art-lover busy for a whole day. For instance, you can visit the Kileshwor temple, examine the historical 4th century pillar, or pose beside the statue of flying vehicle of Lord Vishnu, Garuda.
Swayambhu Nath Stupa
Located within just walking distance from the tourist hotspot of Thamel, Swayambhu Nath is a majestic 5th century stupa, considered to be the holiest and most important Buddhist heritage site in Nepal. The name literally translates to self-created, and it is largely believed that the “eternal” flame that burns inside the stupa came into existence by itself. Talking about the architectural features, the stupa consists of a large white dome with a series of 13 steps emerging from its center. Between the dome and steps is a rectangular golden portion that is adorned with a piercing set of eyes that are believed to be the Buddha’s.
In addition to this magnanimous stupa, there are many other countless stupas and temples that were built over a long period of time. One particular temple that is showered with a lot of attention is that of HaratiMaa, the protector of children. It is a stunning golden pagoda-style temple with a very interesting history.