valley today incorporates three major settlements, each have their own distinctive character with outstanding temples, works of art and architecture and a varied calendar of feasts and festivals. All three have their roots in being capital cities of the valleys three principality's in times gone by. Between them they boast the highest density of World Heritage Sites to be found anywhere in the World, seven in total. There are many other fascinating settlements in the valley, which offer their own reasons for being there.
Some major sights of interest within the valley include.
Kathmandu Dubar Square
Kathmandu's most impressive sight, Durbar Square, is crowded with ancient temples and palaces reflecting the religious and cultural life of the people. It is also home to Kathmandu's Kumari, or 'living goddess', a young girl believed to be a reincarnation of the goddess Durga.
Bouddhanath lies eight kms east of the centre of Kathmandu in the heart of theTibetan/Sherpa district. It is one of the largest Stupas in the World and the centre of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. It was listed by UNESCO as the World Heritage Site in 1979. An early morning visit around 5:30 is recommended, many Tibetan pilgrims visit at this time.
One of the world's most famous Buddhist Chaityas, Swoyambhunath dates back over 2000 years. It is commonly referred to as the 'monkey temple' because of its resident population of apes. This spectacular Buddhist Stupa with its all seeing eyes, sits on a hilltop, 2 km from the center of Kathmandu. The views of Kathmandu and the surrounding valley are superb from here.
The ornate and fascinating Pashupatinath temple is situated five kilometers east of Kathmandu on the banks of the sacred Bagmati river which is a tributary to the Ganges. The temple of Lord Shiva, who in his manifestation of Pashupatinath, is both the creator and destroyer of life. It is a famous Hindu pilgrimage site. The area along the banks are lined with Ghats where the recently dead are cremated.
Patan (The city of beauty) stands on the southern bank of the holy river Bagamti (a tributary of the Ganges) five kilometers southeast of Kathmandu. Nowadays, it has virtually become part of sub metropolitan Kathmandu. The pace of life here is more relaxed than its bigger brother. The city is renowned for its wealth of Buddhist and Hindu temples as well as having an abundance of fine bronze gateways and wonderful carvings. Patan is also known for its expert craftsmen and metal workers.
Patan Durbar Square
Situated in the heart of the city, Patan Durbar Square is a major focal point of a visit to here. The square is full of ancient temples palaces and shrines noted for their exquisite carvings. It also houses the Patan museum which has many fine examples of Nepal's ancient culture.
Bhaktapur is situated 14 km east of Kathmandu. It is the least developed large settlement in the region. Bhaktapur (the city of devotees) is the most "laid back" of the three valley towns. Its narrow brick paved streets remain as intact as they were centuries ago and harboring, it seems, hidden shrines and statues around every corner. Many of Bhaktapur's practices have changed little over time. It is quite easy to spend a whole day here relaxing and taking in the atmosphere of this ancient Newar town famous for its woodcarvings, pottery and cloth weaving.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
The main square of the City was devastated by an earthquake in 1933. However, it still contains many temples and other architectural showpieces. The lion gate, the statue of the King Bhupatindra Malla, the National Art Gallery, the Palace of 55 Windows and the Bell of the Barking Dogs are major attractions to name but few.
Kirtipur is situated 10 kms south west of Kathmandu. Less frequented by tourists this ancient Newar township is a natural fortress with a proud and courageous history. The Chilmahu Stupa and the temple of Bagh Bhairab are two major sights here. Kirtipur offers medieval narrow streets lined with artistic houses and temple squares. The people are known for their skill in building and weaving.