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7 World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu

Updated on November 2, 2016
aesta1 profile image

Mary has been a Consultant working in different countries. She has a Ph.D. in Organization Development. She resides in Canada.

Kathmandu World Heritage Sites are Living Places

Worship in Kathmandu Temple
Worship in Kathmandu Temple | Source

Kathmandu Hosts 7 World Heritage Sites

Camera and computer in hand, I tagged along with my husband who had a short term assignment in Nepal. Trekking the Himalayas is just beyond my interest, or physical capability, so I focused on "trekking" the streets of Kathmandu and the nearby world heritage sites.

These places are alive and thriving and not at all mausoleums to a dead culture. Entering the temples or stupa grounds or holy sites, you become a welcome part of a carousel of worshippers bringing their offerings and saying their prayers.

Meandering the roads and famous squares of Kathmandu, you are part of the living history of cultural rituals and ceremonies as well as small mom and pop and grandma and grandpa and old aunties and who ever shows up stores open to the street.

Have you been to the Heritage Sites of Kathmandu?

Durbar Square
Durbar Square | Source

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The Tapestry of Kathmandu

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Kathmandu: A Heritage Tapestry

The whole of Kathmandu is a world heritage site. All around you shrines compete with open storefronts for attention, and tourists are part of the entertainment. Stop walking. Just stand and look and smell and listen and become a part of a tapestry that in many ways has resisted change or at least absorbed forced change.

Images of Kathmandu and its 7 world heritage sites

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PatanDurbar SquareDurbar Square, PatanPatan
Patan
Patan | Source
Durbar Square
Durbar Square | Source
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Source
Durbar Square, Patan
Durbar Square, Patan | Source
Patan
Patan | Source
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Know a bit more of Kathmandu before your visit

Reading about the place before traveling there is for me one of the best ways to prepare for a trip. This way, I can choose the places I want to visit, prioritize them so I cover the most important first. I hate coming home and sharing with friends and one of them asks if you've been to such and such a place and my face goes blank. Often, we don't go back to the places we have visited so while there, make sure you have covered the ones most interesting to you.

You also gain more from your visit. Your questions are more targeted and you know what to look for when you are in the place. You know those details ordinary tourists often miss.

Book on Kathmandu

Walk Around Kathmandu

Kathmandu
Kathmandu | Source

Kathmandu's 7 World Heritage Sites

Dig and learn more about these interesting heritage places. So, come along with me and let's explore these UNESCO world heritage sites. Just casually, there are lots of book references around if you really want to dig in and learn more. This is just an appetite whetter!


The Durbar Square in Kathmandu

World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site | Source

1. The Durbar Square in Kathmandu

The Durbar Square usually refers to a plaza around a royal palace and can be seen not only in Kathmandu but also the other ancient cities of Patan and Bhaktapur.

The Kathmandu Durbar Square is the seat of the palaces of the Malla and Shah kings who ruled over the city.The square is still the center of important royal events like the coronation of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in 1975 and King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah in 2001.

Towering over the square, you will see the Taleju Temple. This three-roofed temple was built in a typical Newari architectural style and is elevated on platforms that form a pyramid-like structure.

Durbar Square is the heart of town. Wander about there, do your shopping and visit sites.

Worship in the Temples in the Square

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Ganesh StatueStatue of a Temple GodFamily worshipping in the templeWomen consulting a medicine manOfferings to the godsTemple worshipSheep are offered at the templeMore worshippers at the templeWorshippers do their rituals
Ganesh Statue
Ganesh Statue | Source
Statue of a Temple God
Statue of a Temple God | Source
Family worshipping in the temple
Family worshipping in the temple | Source
Women consulting a medicine man
Women consulting a medicine man | Source
Offerings to the gods
Offerings to the gods | Source
Temple worship
Temple worship | Source
Sheep are offered at the temple
Sheep are offered at the temple | Source
More worshippers at the temple
More worshippers at the temple | Source
Worshippers do their rituals
Worshippers do their rituals | Source

Have you visited the Durbar Square in Kathmandu?

UNESCO Heritage Site in Kathmandu
UNESCO Heritage Site in Kathmandu | Source

At Durbar Square - Have a Peek at the Kumari

The Kumari in Kathmandu
The Kumari in Kathmandu | Source

The Kumaris of Nepal

Kumaris in Nepal are very young girls considered to be the host of the goddess Durga and is worshipped in Nepal. If you're lucky, she might just appear at the window in this picture.


A Visit to Durbar Square in Kathmandu

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Read more on Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu and Patan City Map
Kathmandu and Patan City Map

With the map of Patan, one can walk that area and enjoy the treasures hidden in many corners. A map is very useful as it guides you to where to find the places, otherwise, you will find it difficult. Get this book and enjoy a walking tour of these sites.

 

Patan and its Bahas

Patan Kathmandu
Patan Kathmandu | Source

Patan in Kathmandu - Just watch these videos

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2. Patan - The Center of Ancient Arts and Crafts in the Kathmandu Valley

Best known as the artistic city, Patan is the center of art and crafts in the Kathmandu Valley. So many ancient crafts are still practiced in the city which is home to so many Bahas. Bahas usually consist of a square central hall or courtyard enclosed by small rooms or cells, with the main shrine opposite the main entrance. Inside the main shrine is enthroned a special deity called Kwapa-dyo, an image of the Buddha sitting in Vajrasana and showing the Bhumisparsa, the earth touching gesture.

The city was initially designed in the shape of the Buddhist Dharma Chakra, Wheel of Righteousness. This chariot wheel is one of the oldest symbols of Buddhism. To understand DharmaChakra better, visit this site.

More than 1,200 Buddhist monuments of various shapes and sizes can be seen in and around the city. Other art pieces found in stone, metal, terracotta, and ivory all convey the artistic excellence of the craftsmen in this city. In fact, the whole city is an open museum. The best way to enjoy it is to do a walking tour.

Patan is a very interesting site to visit as it is a living heritage. Nepalis come to worship there with all their offering of lamb, candles, fire and flowers. Just watching the line of people doing their worship is in itself an unusual and educational experience.

Get a map to help you identify the different temples and buildings. There is a good map of the Patan Walkabout.

Bhaktapur: The Seat of the Malla Kingdom

Bhaktapur
Bhaktapur | Source

Watch this video on Bhaktapur

Visit Bhaktapur Recommendation

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3. Bhaktapur: An Ancient Newar Town

Once the seat of the powerful Malla Kingdom which ruled Nepal until the second half of the 15th century. Also known as Khwopa or Bhadgaon, it was part of the ancient trade route to Tibet, and has been beautifully preserved. Friends still talked of this ancient city and how the Germans helped in preserving it that now, one can enjoy poking around street corners and watch the various rituals and ceremonies performed by worshippers all over the place.

Bhaktapur is a showcase of the advanced skills of the Newari artists and craftsmen. You can still observe many of these Newari artisans busy at work here. Take special note of the peacock windows all ornately and expertly carved by these artisans. There are around 40 temples in this area so you can spend a whole day and still have more to see.

Just 13 kms east of Kathmandu city, Bhaktapur is a very popular day trip destination for tourists but once you have visited the place, you always want to go back. You can sit in one of the restaurants and while away your time watching the locals go about their daily routine, rituals and ceremonies. If you are lucky, you can march along with a wedding party.


Why Bhaktapur is so compelling

Bhaktapur has lots to offer. There are so many things to fire your imagination back into history. You need a guide to understand the interweaving of its history, cultural snippets or stories about the place, and other interesting accounts.

STREETS OF SILVER, STREETS OF GOLD
STREETS OF SILVER, STREETS OF GOLD

If you want a guide on Kathmandu, get this one. It is more than just the usual guide.

 

Pashupatinath Temple - The Seat of the National Deity

Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath Temple | Source

Pashupatinath Temple Videos - Kathmandu's world heritage site

4. Pashupatinath Temple

Located on the banks of the Bagmati river, Pashupatinath Temple is one of the biggest in the world of the Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is the seat of the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath.

Non-Hindu visitors are allowed to have a look at the temple from the other bank of the Bagmati river. Cremations take place here all the time so only Hindus are allowed into the temple premises.

Built around the 5th century, this temple has the unique tradition of allowing only 4 priests to touch the idol and these priests have to come from South India.

A Visit to Pashupatinath Temple

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Swayambunath Stupa

Swayambunath Kathmandu
Swayambunath Kathmandu | Source

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5. Swayambunath-The Monkey Temple of Kathmandu

Built around the 5th century, this temple is one of the sacred sites in Kathmandu for both Buddhists and Hindus. Often called the Monkey Temple because of the hundreds of monkeys in residence.

When we were there, one of the monkeys grabbed the chip bag from which a child was eating. The deprived kid cried her heart out as the monkey, bigger than she was, enjoyed her chips.

Swayambunath is on top of a hill and offers one of the most panoramic views of Kathmandu. Hundreds of pilgrims ascend the 365 steps of the temple to worship.

On this stupa are a pair of big eyes which symbolize God's all seeing comprehension of the universe. Between these eyes, is inscribed the number one in the Nepali alphabet, signifying that the single way to enlightenment is through the Buddhist path. Above each pair of eyes is another eye, referred to as the third eye, signifying the wisdom of looking within. Inside are the shrines to the Five Buddhas and Four Taras.

Boudanath Stupa - Kathmandu's Tibetan Buddhist Center

Boudanath Stupa
Boudanath Stupa | Source

6. Boudanath: The Biggest Stupa in Nepal

Boudanath was, at one time, the focus of controversy when vendors were no longer allowed by the management committee to ply their trades on the path where the worshippers do their circumambulations to protect the sacredness of the place.

This stupa was already popular to ancient Tibetan merchants who rested and worshipped here. Said to contain the remains of Kasyapa, the Stupa in 1950 attracted around its vicinity a big number of Tibetan refugees who have taken residence close to their place of worship. You will see many Tibetans selling goods around the stupa.

When we were there, the place though busy has a stillness enveloping it as one listens to the rhythmic in cantations of the mantra, Om Mani Padme Om.


Recommendation to visit Boudanath

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You will find Tibetan thangkas in Boudanath - Read more on this unique art form

Visit one of the thangka stores and meet the artists. Let them talk about the thangkas they have so lovingly made. Some of these thangkas take years to complete.

Tibetan Thangka Painting: Methods and Materials
Tibetan Thangka Painting: Methods and Materials

For those who are interested in learning about ancient art and crafts, this book will prove to be very interesting. Some tangkas take over a year or several to complete as the undertaking of it is a meditative process, not just artistic.

 

Changu Narayan Temple - Hindu Temple Dedicated to Vishnu

Changu Narayan Temple
Changu Narayan Temple | Source

A Visit to Changu Narayan - What is your recommendation?

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7. Changu Narayan: The Oldest Hindu Temple in Nepal

This temple, dedicated to Changu Narayan, the god Vishnu, is one of the oldest Hindu temples of the valley, and is believed to have been constructed in the 4th century.

A stone slab discovered in the vicinity of the temple dates to the 5th century, and is the oldest such stone inscription discovered in Nepal.

Situated on top of the hill, on a clear day, one can see the Himalayas and a panoramic view of the Kathmandu Valley. On the way, you can see the little villages on the hills.

On the way up the hill, check out the school on thangka painting. In the village is also a museum that shows a typical Newari house.

This Newari Museum is quite interesting as the descendants of the owners are the guides and are very knowledgeable of the way of life of the Newaris.

The features of this Newari house here are still seen even in modern Newari homes.

Heritage Sites are Living Places

Everyday, many of these heritage sites are in full use with people flocking to worship at the place. Become part of the place, not just a passing observer. You can see from the pictures here the riot of colors these places have when you luck out and catch a festival or your timing partners prayer time or a wedding or a funeral.

And the crowd makes you feel welcome. So different from some neighbouring countries where you feel intrusive and a bit unwelcome at these events. Still, respect their worship.

What are world heritage sites?

Read on UNESCO's mission

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.

Share your experience of the UNESCO world heritage sites

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    • aesta1 profile image
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      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Yes, even go around, touch it and go in and worship with the folks.

    • David Paul Wagner profile image

      David Paul Wagner 2 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      An excellent introduction to the most important heritage sites of Kathmandu. We must count ourselves privileged that these venerable edifices have survived to our time and that we are able to see them at such close quarters!

    • profile image

      tonyleather 3 years ago

      Sounds like a great place!

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 3 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      fortunately we have few world heritage sites nearby. but, first time heard about kathmandu's heritage sites. thanks for a wonderful, detailed lens

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 3 years ago

      You certainly get around and its wonderful that you share so much of your travels in lenses. Thoroughly enjoyed this visit.

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      I'm Buddhist and spent about 10 days in Kathmandu in 2005 - when the Taoists were making trouble. Loved it there - not enough time to see everything. I'm going back!

    • Jogalog profile image

      Jogalog 4 years ago

      I would love to visit Nepal and Kathmandu one day. It has such an interesting heritage.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Dear Aesta,

      I am yet to see any world heritage site, Nepal being the closest to the country India where I reside. I am sure these places are unique and worth seeings, some day I shall.

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 4 years ago

      Very fascinating and beautiful. I'd love to visit and see this history for myself.

    • Melissa Miotke profile image

      Melissa Miotke 4 years ago from Arizona

      Beautiful pictures, I haven't been to any of these places but I would like to!

    • TheLittleCardShop profile image

      Malu Couttolenc 4 years ago

      Nepal is Number 1 in my list, I hope to visit this year :)

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @Gayle Dowell: That visit would really have more meaning. Was it in Kathmandu?

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @takkhisa: You have to. Nepal has so much to offer.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thank you for the tour. Great lens as always

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @LiteraryMind: Thanks for visiting.

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 4 years ago from Kansas

      I would love to travel to Nepal. My husband was born there and lived there until he was two.

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 4 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      I would so love to visit this historical landmark

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      I have a dream to visit Nepal, yes of course to Kathmandu.

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 4 years ago

      Beautiful. Whenever I feel like traveling the world, I just drop by one of your lenses. Well done as usual.

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 4 years ago

      A brillant lens and the photos are amazing

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