The third of the medieval city-states in the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur was always described as the best preserved. Tragically, however, the 2015 earthquake caused terrible devastation and loss of life. Nevertheless, only a few temples were destroyed, there is still much to see here and tourism is vital to the community.
Nagarkot has a reputation as the top spot for enjoying Himalayan views from the comfort of your hotel balcony. Just 32km from Kathmandu, the village is packed with hotels lining a ridge, affording one of the broadest possible views of the Himalaya, with eight ranges visible (Annapurna, Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, Langtang, Jugal, Rolwaling, Everest and Numbur).
Dhulikhel is one of the more popular places from which to observe the high Himalaya. From the edge of the ridge, a stunning panorama of peaks unfolds, from Langtang Lirung (7227m) in the west, through Dorje Lakpa (6966m) to the huge bulk of Gauri Shankar (7134m) and nearby Melungtse (7181m), and as far as Numbur (5945m) in the east.
Just 5km southwest of Kathmandu, the sleepy town of Kirtipur has a wonderful sense of faded grandeur thanks to the impressive medieval temples dotted around its backstreets. When Prithvi Narayan Shah stormed into the valley in 1768, he made a priority of capturing Kirtipur to provide a base for his crushing attacks on the Malla kingdoms.
One of the oldest towns in Nepal, Panauti offers a poignant look at the passage of time. From the crowded bus stand in the sprawling concrete mess of the new town, you slip down a brick street into the Old Bazaar, the remains of an ordered and prosperous medieval city that would have been a wonder to behold in its heyday.
Beyond the Valley
The roads north to Syabrubesi and Kodari, on the Tibetan border, take travellers to destinations just outside the Kathmandu Valley. Both routes saw severe damage in the 2015 earthquake. At the time of research the road to Syabrubesi and on to Kyrong in Tibet was open, but the border crossing at Kodari was closed. Get the latest road updates before you venture onto these roads.
The tiny village of Chobar, 6km from Kathmandu, tops a hill overlooking the Bagmati River where it flows through the Chobar Gorge, allegedly chopped out by the sacred sword of Manjushri. The village itself is interesting, with a tangle of old streets surrounding the site of a famous temple, Adinath Lokeshwar.
One of the prettiest villages in the Kathmandu Valley, Bungamati faced the full force of the 2015 earthquake and many buildings and temples collapsed. The scars of the disaster will be a long time healing. Nevertheless, some monuments survived the disaster, while others are being rebuilt.
The Northern & Western Valley
There are several interesting detours to the north and northwest of the capital, which can easily be visited by bus, tempo, taxi, rented bicycle or motorcycle, or even on foot. These include the temples of Budhanilkantha and Ichangu Narayan, plus the wilds of Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park.