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7 World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu

Mary and her husband work on international projects and have travelled to many places in Spain.

Kathmandu World Heritage Sites are Living Places

Kathmandu

Kathmandu

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?

Kathmandu

Kathmandu

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.

The Tapestry of Kathmandu

7-unesco-heritage-sites-in-kathmandu

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.

Walk Around Kathmandu

Walk Around Kathmandu

Walk Around Kathmandu

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

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.

Have you visited the Durbar Square in Kathmandu?

Durbar Square

Durbar Square

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.


At Durbar Square - Have a Peek at the Kumari

The Kumari in Kathmandu

The Kumari in Kathmandu

A Visit to Durbar Square in Kathmandu

Patan and its Bahas

Patan Kathmandu

Patan Kathmandu

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.

Patan in Kathmandu - Just watch these videos

Will you recommend a visit to Patan?

Bhaktapur: The Seat of the Malla Kingdom

Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur

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.


Watch this video on Bhaktapur

Visit Bhaktapur Recommendation

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.

Pashupatinath Temple - The Seat of the National Deity

Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple

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.

Pashupatinath Temple Videos - Kathmandu's world heritage site

A Visit to Pashupatinath Temple

Swayambunath Stupa

Swayambunath Kathmandu

Swayambunath Kathmandu

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

Boudanath

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

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.

Changu Narayan Temple - Hindu Temple Dedicated to Vishnu

Changu Narayan Temple

Changu Narayan Temple

A Visit to Changu Narayan - What is your recommendation?

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 in Changu Narayan are still seen even in modern Newari homes.

Heritage Sites in Kathmandu are Living Spaces

Kathmandu

Kathmandu

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.

© 2010 Mary Norton

Share your experience of the UNESCO world heritage sites

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 03, 2020:

Thank you, Lora. Yes, these world heritage sites are treasures. They had been destroyed during the major earthquake in Nepal. Am sure, they have restored them now.

Lora Hollings on December 18, 2019:

This is an extraordinary article, Mary! I would just love to visit Kathmandu and its amazing temples. I would love to go to Patan to see the wonderful arts and crafts there made by the local artisans too. I learned so much from reading your article and watching the videos too. Sounds like a very spiritual place where one could learn the art of meditation. What an awesome trip you had. I really enjoyed reading about these World Heritage Sites. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 18, 2019:

In the Everest, yes. Also, in the other mountains but in the city, it is not bad.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 13, 2019:

What a beautiful place. Is the air hard to breathe there? Is the altitude very high?

Blessings,

Denise

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on October 15, 2018:

Mary Norton, yes the prayer and the beads in everyone's hands while going around the Stupa.

I hope someday you will be here again. Thank you

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 14, 2018:

Am glad they have done that as Boudanath is special. I love the feeling of prayer surrounding me when I am there.

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on October 14, 2018:

Mary Norton, glad to know that you spend time in Boudhanath. After the earthquake, the reconstruction of Boudhanath Stupa was the first one in Kathmandu valley.

Thank you.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 12, 2018:

We enjoyed our stay in Kathmandu and are often there in Boudanath. I hope it has not changed so much after the major earthquake.

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on October 11, 2018:

Mary Norton, Thank you for promoting Kathmandu to the world. I live around Boudhanath Stupa.Thank you

Robert Sacchi on July 20, 2018:

That is great.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 20, 2018:

I have to do something to engage me when traveling to work with my husband so I write.

Robert Sacchi on July 19, 2018:

Wow, you have visited so many exotic places. I am so glad you are writing Hubs about them.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 19, 2014:

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

David Paul Wagner from Sydney, Australia on November 19, 2014:

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!

tonyleather on October 25, 2013:

Sounds like a great place!

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on September 30, 2013:

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 on June 01, 2013:

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

RinchenChodron on May 08, 2013:

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 on March 10, 2013:

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

anonymous on January 27, 2013:

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 on January 10, 2013:

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

Melissa Miotke from Arizona on January 08, 2013:

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

Malu Couttolenc on January 01, 2013:

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

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 31, 2012:

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

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 31, 2012:

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

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 31, 2012:

@LiteraryMind: Thanks for visiting.

Gayle Dowell from Kansas on December 31, 2012:

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

Darcie French from Abbotsford, BC on December 27, 2012:

I would so love to visit this historical landmark

Takkhis on December 25, 2012:

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

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on December 25, 2012:

Thank you for the tour. Great lens as always

pawpaw911 on October 08, 2012:

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

siobhanryan on July 17, 2012:

A brillant lens and the photos are amazing

julieannbrady on June 18, 2012:

I think it is absolutely incredible that there are 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu! I wonder how long of a visit would one need to adequately take in all those sites? Such a treasure! Is there anyplace else in the world quite like this? [P.S. gosh, I wished that Flickr module was working correctly!]

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 13, 2012:

@CyberTech LM: Yes, these temples are still used for worship today as it had been for centuries.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 13, 2012:

@anonymous: Enjoy your virtual tour.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 13, 2012:

@looniestlove lm: Thank you for your generous comment.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 13, 2012:

@indigoj: Yes, as we are older now we enjoy walking tours of the city and some of the corners are fascinating as one gets a peek of how people live.

Indigo Janson from UK on June 11, 2012:

What a beautiful and detailed page on Kathmandu. It's lucky for us you decided to trek the streets rather than the mountains, as you came back with some amazing photography!

looniestlove lm on June 10, 2012:

thanks for another great tour, i do find all of your lenses to be very educational, interesting and very informative...thanks for sharing this with us

anonymous on June 07, 2012:

Enjoy these travel related lenses! They provide with a virtual armchair travel! :)

CyberTech LM on June 06, 2012:

as I said on your other Lens I love the temples built in this area between the 9th to the 13th century AD. I did not read all, and will be back later to finish up on this Lens of yours!

Dave

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 04, 2012:

@wolvyz: Temples are everywhere but what is beautiful is that they are still used by people all the time.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 04, 2012:

@ForestBear LM: I hope you will, too.

wolvyz on May 24, 2012:

The city of temples.

ForestBear LM on May 10, 2012:

Wonderful lens! It's just one of these places I have always wanted to visit. I hope I'll make it in the near future. Thank you for sharing

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 09, 2012:

@anonymous: It is worth going there and don't forget Trekking to Mt. Everest.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 09, 2012:

@Noellel: I hope this will help people travelling to Kathmandu.

Noellel on May 09, 2012:

This is an excellent resource for anybody who wants to travel to Kathmandu. Great lesn...

anonymous on May 08, 2012:

so many great sites to see in Kathmandu. Kathmandu is on my to go list for a very long time.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 05, 2012:

@flycatcherrr: I am glad you had a chance to do this virtual tour.

flycatcherrr on May 05, 2012:

I would love to go to all of these places, but it's so far, I doubt it will ever happen now. Lovely lens!

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 04, 2012:

@JoshK47: Thank you for blessing this lens.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 04, 2012:

@jayceehaynes: Thank you for visiting.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 04, 2012:

@RedShoesGirl: I am sure you will.

RedShoesGirl on April 30, 2012:

what a beautiful place.i hope i'll see it someday.great lens.

jayceehaynes on April 26, 2012:

incredible lens here!

JoshK47 on April 22, 2012:

Definitely on my travel bucket list - wow, what an amazing place. Blessed by a SquidAngel!

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on April 14, 2012:

I'm afraid this is as close as I will get. Thanks for sharing. I'll have to stick to National Heritage Areas in the USA. ;-)

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 01, 2012:

@GrowthSpark: Visit now before Hollywood comes.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 01, 2012:

@anonymous: Thank you again Tipi for the blessing. It is a fascinating place. One month was not enough.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 01, 2012:

@ottnepal: I will certainly do that. I appreciate your visit.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 01, 2012:

@Aquavel: It is a place not to miss.

Aquavel on April 01, 2012:

Gorgeous lens! Would absolutely love to go there and experience it for myself. In the meanwhile, I LOVED this virtual tour of Kathmandu. Great info, picts, and vids!

ottnepal on March 29, 2012:

This is the best lens for the information about sightseeing tour of Kathmandu Nepal. If you are searching more about Trekking in Nepal Visit my lens I have tried to include Information in my lens. I have included some popular websites of Nepal. You can also see details from them.

anonymous on March 29, 2012:

I love traveling the world through your articles and once again you give us an exceptional experience in Kathmandu with your pictures and love filled commentary of the 7 World Heritage sites. I remember being fascinated as a child with the name "Kathmandu" and now I even know how to spell it, thanks to you. Beautifully done and blessed.

GrowthSpark on March 26, 2012:

This adds to the reasons I have to go there, many thanks

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 25, 2012:

@sukkran trichy: Thank you so much.

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on March 23, 2012:

wonderful pictures and great details. simply superb.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 30, 2012:

@eims74: I also love Bhaktapur and it is one of the heritage sites.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 30, 2012:

@waldenthreenet: will have to watch this movie.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 30, 2012:

@ajgodinho: Thank you so much.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 30, 2012:

@chezchazz: Thank you so much for the blessing. A much welcome New year blessing.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 30, 2012:

@indiavacationplans: Thank you so much.

indiavacationplans on January 19, 2012:

This lens is very interesting and I'll have a look at your other lenses as well!

ernad18 on January 18, 2012:

great lens.. nice to meet you...

Chazz from New York on January 01, 2012:

Wonderful lens. My bucket list just got longer! New Year's Day Blessings. Your lens is now featured on "Wing-ing it on Squidoo," a charity fundraising lens dedicated to the best pages I've found since donning my wings last March.

Anthony Godinho from Ontario, Canada on November 25, 2011:

Wow, you've got an extensive lens on heritage sties in Kathmandu. So much of history is captured here and it's great to see all the pictures you took. Blessings!

waldenthreenet on November 18, 2011:

Admiring your selection and appreciating the wonderful culture of Nepal ! I cast my vote for "Like' on this one. Night Train to Katmandu, one of my favorite movies ! Thanks.

eims74 on November 11, 2010:

Great lens - I've been to Kathmandu and my favourite place in the city (well just on the outskirts) was Bhaktapur - what beautiful carved buildings!

Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on October 30, 2010:

I enjoyed this travel to Nepal. Thank you for the chance.

nepaltraveltrekking on October 12, 2010:

Thanks a lot for this wonderful post. You'll get lots of such heritage sites if you ever happen to travel Nepal

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on October 03, 2010:

I just returned from three months in Nepal, during which time I spent a while in Kathmandu, mostly around Boudha Stupa. What a city! I'll lensroll this to my Nepal lenses. It's fun to read about a place I've been.

Joan Hall from Los Angeles on September 30, 2010:

Great pictures, great information, and a great way to share your experience. I'm giving this lens an Angel blessing and will feature it on my SquidAngel At Your Service lens.

nort43 on September 28, 2010:

Just great. I visited most of these and after India, it was a real treat. I like the idea of trekking in the urban space. I hope you bought a Tanka...what a great memory. Do an article on Tamil if you were there. Amazing.

julieannbrady on September 26, 2010:

Quite a lot of history you have presented here. You know I was reading what you had to say; i.e. "How to Be a Better Stupa Visitor - Ignorance may be bliss but not only is it bovine, it truly limits enjoyment of new things." Hmmm. I hadn't heard that expression before. Well, if one is going to travel, try and be as informed as possible. I like to take a travel guide -- like Rick Steves to guide me.

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