Inspiring • Authentic • Tailor-Made

Inspiring • Authentic • Tailor-Made

Pettitts Travel UK 01892 515966

Cultural Highlights of the Kathmandu Valley

Author: David Pettitt

With the mighty Himalayas as a backdrop, the Kathmandu Valley has long been both a cradle of civilization and a bastion of Nepalese culture and history. Home to no less than seven designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Kathmandu Valley was positioned at the crossroads of multiple ancient Asian civilisations and, consequently, became the setting for the construction of numerous monuments, temples and pilgrimage sites important to both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Unsurprisingly, this rich cultural tapestry, with its unique blend of landscape, architecture and tradition led to the foundation not only of Nepal’s current capital Kathmandu but also the ancient cities of Bhaktapur and Patan, and the monumental UNESCO-listed temple of Changu Narayan. A destination in its own right, the Kathmandu Valley can also be incorporated into a longer exploration of Nepal or used in combination with northern India, Sikkim and Bhutan. As with much of the Himalaya region, the best time to travel to the Kathmandu Valley is during the months of autumn and spring, from September to November and February to April, when the weather is mild, risk of rainfall low and the skies clear. This blog focuses on each of the four key centres of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Patan and Changu Narayan, elaborating on their individual highlights and the key places to see.


Kathmandu, the bustling capital of Nepal, serves as the main access point to the Kathmandu Valley. Steeped in history, the rich cultural kaleidoscope of Nepal can clearly be seen in Kathmandu with streets lined with temples, stupas and palaces showcasing a distinct fusion of Hindu and Buddhist styles and architecture.

Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands as a magnificent reminder of the Malla dynasty. The square is adorned with intricately carved wooden temples and palaces, including the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar, the Taleju Temple and the Kumari Ghar, home to the living goddess Kumari.

Swayambhunath Stupa, often referred to as the ‘Monkey Temple’ due to monkeys that have lived in the complex for generations, is perched atop a hill overlooking the city. A sacred pilgrimage site for both Buddhists and Hindus, its iconic white dome and fluttering prayer flags tower over the city.

Bodhnath, another significant Buddhist site, is home to one of the largest stupas in the world. The all-seeing eyes of the Buddha gaze down from its lofty spire, symbolizing the watchful wisdom of Buddhism. It is a hub of Tibetan culture, with monasteries and shops selling religious artifacts and Tibetan carpets.

The Pashupatinath Temple complex is the most sacred Hindu temple in Nepal. It stands on the banks of the Bagmati River and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This sprawling temple precinct includes many smaller shrines, ghats and ashrams and, most importantly, also serves as a site for cremation rituals.


Just a short distance from Kathmandu lies Bhaktapur, another jewel in the crown of the Kathmandu Valley. This ancient city has preserved its Newari heritage with great care with Durbar Square showcasing a breathtaking display of medieval architecture. The fifty-five window palace, Vatsala Temple and Nyatapola Temple, the tallest temple in Nepal, are recognised as some of Nepal’s finest architectural and engineering marvels.

Bhaktapur also boasts a vibrant artisan community. Skilled craftspeople and artists here have been honing their skills for generations. The pottery square is a particular highlight with artisans meticulously crafting intricate pottery using traditional methods. Visitors can witness the creative process and even try their hand at the pottery making.


Patan, also known as Lalitpur, is a city of great historical significance within the Kathmandu Valley. Its history dates back to the 3rd century BC when it was a prosperous market centre on the ancient trade routes that criss-crossed the Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. The city is renowned for its architecture, richly adorned temples and exquisite monasteries.

Patan’s Durbar Square is a masterpiece of Newari architecture, featuring a harmonious blend of Hindu and Buddhist elements. The Golden Temple, a pagoda-style temple covered in gold leaf, is particularly spectacular whilst the nearby Mahaboudha Temple showcases thousands of terracotta tiles depicting the life of Buddha.

Patan is also home to numerous monasteries, such as the 800 year old Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, known for its fine woodwork and sacred courtyard – the Mul Chowk – a serene oasis adorned with intricately carved struts and columns.

Changu Narayan

Changu Narayan, situated atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, is the oldest temple in Nepal and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This sacred shrine is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and boasts a rich history dating back over 2,000 years. The temple's location also provides far-reaching panoramic views back through the valley.

The main temple, with its exquisite woodwork and intricate stone carvings, is a masterpiece of ancient architecture whilst the museum houses a collection of stone and metal sculptures dating back to the Licchavi period.

Speak to a travel expert

Speaking to one of our experienced sales consultants is the best way to begin your Nepal holiday enquiry.

It allows us to answer any questions you may have as well as make suggestions and recommendations for your planned trip.

We are available on evenings and weekends by prior appointment so please do not hesitate to book a call in with us at a time convenient to you.

Book An Appointment

Keep In Touch With Pettitts Travel

Sign up for our weekly travel ideas by email, keeping you up to date and inspiring you with ideas, information and suggestions for your next holiday.

Sign Up

Follow Us

Contact Us

Contact Us

01892 515 966

Speak to one of our Travel Consultants (* fields are required)

I would like to receive news and special offers