Introducing Around the Kathmandu Valley
The fertile, mountain-sheltered Kathmandu Valley is the historic heart of Nepal, where the Himalaya's most sophisticated kingdoms rose and fell and where Nepali art and culture were developed and refined. In many ways the Kathmandu Valley is Nepal.
The artistic richness of the valley is reflected in the six Unesco World Heritage sites that lie scattered around the valley like jewelled confetti. They include the ancient Buddhist stupas of Swayambhunath (affectionately known as the 'Monkey Temple') and Bodhnath. The Pashupatinath Temple ranks as Nepal's most important Hindu site and attracts pious pilgrims and dreadlocked sadhus (holy men) from all over the subcontinent. Newari architecture reaches its pinnacle in the breathtaking Durbar squares of Patan and Bhaktapur, the third and most traditional of the valley's three former kingdoms. Just outside Bhaktapur is the Changu Narayan Temple, an open-air museum of stone-carved masterpieces. All these sites are easily visited as day trips from Kathmandu.
The valley has a host of lesser-known, but still wonderful, temples, viewpoints and traditional Newari villages, and half the fun is getting to and from these sights, by foot, mountain bike or motorbike. Many people miss out on these sights in a feverish rush to get to Chitwan, Pokhara or Everest, but the irony is that you'll find far fewer tourists just 10km outside Kathmandu than you will jostling for a view at Everest Base Camp.
With a rapidly expanding population of 1.5 million the valley has certainly changed over the years, but aspects of traditional life endure. Rural life continues to move to the rhythms of the seasons and spectacular festivals, and the timeless demands of the fields, the family and the gods remain the fundamental priorities of most people's lives.
Around the Kathmandu Valley destination guides
Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar
A classic trek through Sherpa villages to the base of Mount Everest and Kala Pattar
Spectacular traverse from Gokyo Lakes to Kala Pattar affording incredible views of Mount Everest