The tiered temples of Kathmandu’s medieval Durbar Square are a magical place to watch traditional city life. Nepal’s best preserved medieval town, Bhaktapur, offers the tallest temple in the country, a royal palace and even some carved elephant erotica.
Top 5 Temples in the Kathmandu Valley
The sheer number of temples located in Kathmandu and the surrounding valley has earned it the nickname City of Temples. You could easily spend your entire Kathmandu trip hopping from one temple to the next. To help narrow it down, here are five you definitely shouldn’t miss.
Pashupatinath Temple Located just east of Kathmandu on the banks of the Bagmati River, the Pashupatinath temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and is best known for its magnificent architecture. The two-story pagoda structure houses a sacred linga, or phallic symbol, of Shiva, making it one of the most important Hindu temples in Nepal and the most important Shaivite temple in the subcontinent. Pashupatinath is also the site of the most-used cremation spot in the Kathmandu Valley.
Bodhnath Stupa Bodhnath Stupa, one of the largest stupas in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ranks among the most important and holiest Tibetan Buddhist sites outside of Tibet. The white 14th-century structure is said to house a bone from the Buddha’s body. Worshippers come here to circumambulate the stupa while spinning prayer wheels and praying to the 108 small images of the Buddha that surround the structure.
Swayambhunath Temple Swayambhunath Temple, situated southwest of Kathmandu, is instantly recognizable by its golden spires with ominous-looking eyes painted on them. This Buddhist temple, nicknamed the Monkey Temple for its large population of resident monkeys, affords spectacular views of the city lying in the valley below.
Budhanilkantha Temple Off the main tourist circuit, Budhanilkantha Temple centers around a 16-foot (5-meter) statue of the reclining Hindu god Vishnu in the middle of a pool of water. You’ll likely find more local devotees than tourists at this holiest of Hindu temples in Nepal, and at a busy period, visitors are treated to a glimpse of day-to-day worship at this traditional temple.
Kirateshwar Mahadev Temple If you happen to be in Nepal during a full moon, plan to visit Kirateshwar Mahadev Temple, situated just outside the city center. On every full moon night, this temple on the western shore of the Bagmati River hosts a free classical music concert using traditional instruments like tabla, flute, and sitar.