Kathmandu is one of those names that immediately conjures images of the exotic. In this instance it’s a true reflection of the destination. Hindu temples, shrines and images are found on most streets, daubed with colourful paints and with garlands of marigolds. Buddhist stupas and statues are adorned with thousands of colourful prayer flags, surrounded by banks of prayer wheels and the smell of incense. The old town squares of the three cities of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur are packed with pagodas and palaces, two of which are still home to Living Goddesses.
Kathmandu is a bustling city, with traffic jams caused by sacred cows sitting in the roads, rush hours and pollution but head off down side alleys and into the small central courtyards that proliferate and you walk back in time.
To its south, across the Bagmati River and now almost a suburb of its near neighbour, is the valleys second city of Patan. During the golden Malla period of the 16th century Patan competed with Kathmandu and the third city Bhaktapur to be the most splendid. It was this that has left all three with the beautiful Durbar (Palace) Squares that they boast today and many other of the monuments and temples that cover the valley.
A visit to both Bhaktapur and Patan is a must and if you have time to other smaller towns and villages that still retain the old charm lost in the sprawling streets of Kathmandu.
Within the valley there are four other monuments to consider, all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites:
Swayambunath, or the Monkey Temple, is considered one of the most sacred places in the country. Standing on a hill to the west of the city centre this atmospheric stupa, surrounded by smaller temples and shrines, offers great views out over the city and, during the winter months of the mountains to the north.
To the east of the city are two more of the sites. Boudhannath is scared to Buddhists and the centre of the Tibetan community in Nepal. This huge Stupa, recently repaired after damage sustained during the 2015 earthquake, is ringed with prayer wheels and crowned with vast strings of prayer flags.
Nearby lies Pashupatinath, the second most sacred site in all of Hinduism. No-Hindu's cannot enter the Temple to Shiva but you can wander through its grounds on the banks of the Bagmati River, exploring the other shrines and watching the cremations endlessly taking place on the Ghats.
The last of the four is the least visited and yet one of the most beautiful. The temple of Changu Narayan lies at the end of a ridge just to the north of Bhaktapur. It is dedicated to Vishnu and believed to be the oldest temple in the valley. Its stunning carving, lovely position and peaceful courtyards make it a wonderful place to wile away an hour or two.
Explore Nepal's stunning Himalayan scenery and discover the wildlife of Chitwan National Park including elephants and tigers
This short tour takes in the highlights of this wonderful mountain country and is perfect for those either short on time or who also wish to visit India.