Kathmandu Valley comprises the three ancient cities of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, which were once independent states ruled by the Malla kings from the 12th to the 18th centuries. The three cities house seven UNESCO World Heritage shrines which are together listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Culture). The valley is also home to hundreds of other exquisite monuments, sculptures, artistic temples and magnificent art – reminders of the golden era in Nepal’s architecture.
Legend has it that the valley was was once a primordial lake ringed by verdant mountains. In this pristine lake lived giant serpents until one fine day, saint Manjushree, the Bodhisatva, raised a mighty sword and in one fell swoop, cut open the side of a mountain at a place now known as Chobar. The voluminous waters of the lake gushed out, leaving behind a fertile valley capable of supporting large urban settlements over the millennia. The Gopala and Kirati dynasties were the earliest rulers here followed by the Licchavi (300-879 A.D.), under whom flourished trade and crafts.
But the valley’s remarkable cities with their ornate palaces, the superbly crafted pagodas and the monumental stupas are testimony of the artistic genius of the Newar craftsmen, the original inhabitants of the valley, whose skills were championed by the Malla kings and appreciated even by the Mongol rulers of 18th century China.
Attractions: Kathmandu Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Asan, Swayambhunath, Pashupatinath, Boudhanath, Thamel, Dharahara, Budhanilkantha, Kirtipur, Garden of Dreams.
Pokhara’s bewitching beauty has been the subject of many travel writers. Its pristine air, spectacular backdrop of snowy peaks, serene lakes and surrounding greenery make it ‘the jewel in the Himalaya’, a place of remarkable natural beauty. With the magnificent Annapurna range forming the backdrop and the serenity of three major lakes – Phewa, Rupa and Begnas – Pokhara is the ultimate destination for relaxation. Pokhara Valley, gateway to the Annapurna region where many a trekker finds his Shangri-la, sits high on the list of ‘must visit’ places in Nepal.
Pokhara once lay on the important trade route between India and Tibet. To this day, mule trains set up camps on the city outskirts, bringing goods from remote Himalayan regions including Mustang. Gurungs and Magars, who have earned world-wide fame as fierce Gurkha warriors, are predominant here. Thakalis, indigenous of the Thak Khola region of Mustang, are known for their entrepreneurship and run tea houses along the trek routes in the Annapurna region.
Attractions: Mountain Views, Phewa Lake, Barahi Temple, Seti River, Devi’s Fall, Mahendra Gufa, World Peace Pagoda, Old Bazaar, Sarangkot, Paragliding, Ziplining, Boating
Chitwan literally means “heart of the jungle”. In recent years Chitwan tops the list of things to do in Asia. It is a truly wildlife adventure of a different kind – jungle safaris on elephant backs or jeeps, bird-watching, canoe rides and jungle walks.
The Chitwan National Park is Asia’s best preserved conservation area, where wildlife thrives and their habitats remain intact. Only half-hour flight from Kathmandu, the park lies in the Inner Terai lowlands and consists of Sal forests, tall elephant grasslands, hills, ox-box lakes and flood plains of the Narayani, Rapti and Reu rivers. Enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Natural) in 1984, the park spreads over an area of 932 sq. km.
Attractions: Wildlife experience, Bird-watching, Jungle Safari, Devghat, Chepang Hill Trail Trek
Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, in the Terai plains of Nepal is one of the greatest pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. More than 400,000 Buddhists and non-Buddhists visit Lumbini every year. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Culture) and holds immense archeological and religious importance.
Sacred Garden: It was here in the gardens of Lumbini that Prince Siddhartha Gautam, who later became the Buddha, was born in 623 BC. The nativity site is marked by a commemorative pillar erected by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka of India during his pilgrimage to the holy site in 249 BC.
The inscription on the Ashoka Pillar indentifies the Sacred Garden – spread over 9 sq. km – as the spot where the Enlightened One was born. A large number of Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world visit Lumbini to pray at the Mayadevi Temple where excavations have revealed the “marker stone” showing the exact spot where Siddhartha Gautam Buddha was born. The sacred Puskarni Pond where Queen Mayadevi had taken a bath before the birth of Buddha lies to the south of the pillar. It was also in this pond that the infant Buddha was given his first bath.
Monuments: To the north of the Sacred Garden are monastic zones where different countries have built temples and monasteries depicting different sects of Buddhism. The Myanmar Temple (Lokamani Cula Pagoda) is a shiny gold and white structure that resembles the Shwe-dagon Pagoda of Yangon while the International Gautami Nuns Temple is a replica of the Swayambhu Stupa of Kathmandu.
The China Temple, built by the Buddhist Association of China, is a complex of pagodas, prayer rooms and meditation cells. Across the road is the Dae Sung Suk Ga Sa Korean Temple. The Japan Peace Stupa, built by Nippon Jon Kyohoji of Japan, is a 41-m tall structure with four different Buddha statues set into the stupa’s dome facing the four cardinal directions.
Other beautiful monuments and temples have been built by Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia, France, Germany and Sri Lanka.
Lukla is a village in Khumbu and home to the region’s sole airport.
Once a tiny farming community, Lukla is now a large trekkers town, with numerous accommodation options (most fairly simple), many shops; selling everything from batteries and soap to yak hair gloves and knock-off North Face jackets, and even a couple of internet cafes.
Lukla has grown rapidly with the introduction of its airstrip, which has made the Everest region accessible to many people, not just mountaineers.
Tenzing-Hillary Airport is often named one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to its position against the side of the mountain.
The only way you could get around Lukla is by foot. Yes, there are no roads and no any other mean of modern transport. There are plenty of awesome mountainous view around Lukla itself.