Experts disagree on just how old Bodhnath Stupa is, but this site of Buddhist worship is undeniably one of the largest stupas in the world and the most popular site in Nepal. The oldest structure likely dates back to the fifth century AD, and local legend tells of a woman who tricked the king at the time into giving her a large plot of land to build a shrine to the Buddha.
It’s unclear whether the Bodhnath Stupa houses a holy Buddhist relic as most such stupas do, but locals will tell you it has a small piece of bone that the Buddha once carried. Whatever the case my be, pilgrims still come here to walk clockwise around the stupa and spin the dozens of prayer wheels lining the brick wall that surrounds the structure.
Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, one of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Nepalese capital, was once the location where kings were crowned, and today remains the heart of the city. The square dates back to the 11th century, when the Hanuman Dhoka Palace was constructed, and remained the abode of the Nepalese monarchy until the 19th century.
The temples and palaces that still surround the bustling Durbar Square demonstrate the intricacy of Newar architecture, characterized by carved wooden windows and fine brickwork. The structures of the palace complex now house the King Tribhuwan Memorial Museum, the Mahendra Museum and the bizarre Kumari Chowk, a gilded palace where a young girl lives who is worshiped as the human incarnation of the goddess Durga. You can sometimes catch a glimpse of the current Kumari through her palace windows. During the Indra Jatra festival each September, the Kumari is paraded in her chariot through the square.
The Asan Tole Market, also known as Ason Tole or Asan Bazaar, has always been one of Kathmandu’s most strategically well-placed marketplaces. In ancient times, famous trade routes converged here and merchants traveling from India to Tibet would stop at the bazaar for rest and trading. Today, it is produce that is carried from all over the valley to the bazaar. In accordance with the square’s importance of food, the temple of Annapurna Ajima, the goddess of prosperity and abundance presides over the neighborhood. In the form of a filled grain bowl, she looks on from her ornamented pagoda over the market stalls loaded with fresh vegetables, grain, rice, lentils, peas, spices, teas, oils, incense and daily consumer goods. Merchants belonging to the Newari communities worship here and wish for luck in business, good fortune and wealth and both Hindus and Buddhists visit to pay their respects to the goddess.
The five-meter-long and thus biggest stone statue in Nepal, Budhanilkantha, portrays a sleeping Vishnu, floating like a gigantic astronaut on a bed of snakes in the middle of a big pool of water depicting the cosmic ocean. The incredibly well preserved carving is made out of black stone and is thought to be 1500 years old. Located in the village of the same name, the holy site is a popular spot for Hindus to practice puja, a prayer ritual to worship the gods. The daily ceremony entails priests – they are the only ones allowed to approach Vishnu’s divine head - washing the face and the feet of the sculpture with water and afterwards, applying a mixture of ghee, milk, yoghurt, honey and sugar on the same spots.
Later, since only Hindus are allowed to get close the statue, believers worship at its feet and leave offerings of food and flower petals. All other visitors have to be content with viewing the resting Vishnu from the sidelines.
Bhaktapur is the third largest city in Nepal, and along with Kathmandu and Patan, makes up the three holy cities in the Kathmandu Valley. The city was founded during the 12th century AD by King Anand Dev Malla and remains well-preserved and free of motor traffic to this day, giving it a sense of timelessness and peace in bustling Kathmandu.
Its distance from Kathmandu, about seven-and-a-half miles (12 kilometers) east, and the small entrance fee to enter the city tends to keep the crowds away from this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once inside the city, you’ll be able to walk the cobbled streets filled with more temples by area than both Kathmandu or Patan. Many of the most interesting structures, including the 55-windowed palace that used to serve as the royal seat of Nepal, are centered on the Bhaktapur Durbar Square.
The Annapurna Mountain Range is situated in the Himalayas in Nepal and consists of several peaks, with the tallest reaching a height of over 8,000 meters. The mountains and the regions surrounding them are protected by the Annapurna Conservation Area, which is the largest conservation area in Nepal.
The region is naturally a popular area for trekking; the Annapurna Circuit trek circles the Annapurna Range, taking in some stunning Himalayan views and passing through hot springs, rhododendron forests and tiny hamlets along the way. The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek leads up to the Annapurna Base Camp, and there are also a number of smaller and slightly less challenging trails.
Built by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1754, the stunning 55 Window Palace in one of the Kathmandu Valley’s most iconic landmarks and a destination for travelers venturing to the famed Bhaktapur Dubar Square. Although locals are quick to talk about an earthquake that devastated and destroyed much of the original structure—and in fact kept the palace closed to the public for some 22 years—visitors will today find the impressive structure mostly-open thanks to a Rs. 2.18 billion renovation and truly worthy of a visit.
Visitors can explore the incredible collection of ancient statues tucked among the remarkable architecture of the 55 Window Palace, which includes a 10-armed representation of the goddess Taleju Bhawani. Travelers should wander along the Golden Gate and journey into one of the former courtyards as well during a visit to this beautiful place.