The third of the medieval city-states in the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur is also the best preserved. Many Nepalis still use the old name of Bhadgaon (pronounced bud-gown) or the Newari name Khwopa, which means City of Devotees. The name fits – Bhaktapur has not one but three major squares full of towering temples that comprise some of the finest religious architecture in the entire country.
From a visitor’s perspective, this is a place to wander around aimlessly, soaking up the atmosphere. Narrow cobblestone streets wind between the red-brick houses, joining a series of squares and courtyards that are peppered with temples, statues, cisterns and wells. The contents of any one of these historic squares could fit out a decent-sized museum.
The town’s cultural life is also proudly on display. Artisans weave cloth and chisel timber by the roadside, squares are filled with drying pots and open kilns, and locals gather in communal courtyards to bathe, collect water and socialise – often over intense card games. Visitors must pay a steep entry fee of US$15 to view this tapestry of Nepali life, which goes into protecting and maintaining the temples.