While Kathmandu is a capital of Nepal and fascinating city with plenty of cultural and architectural wonders to admire, many travelers quickly tire of its polluted air, traffic jams and crowded streets. Luckily, the Kathmandu Valley is teeming with historical towns, temples, shrines and stupas, all within easy reach of the Nepali capital. Make Kathmandu your home base for day trips to some of the area’s most interesting and historically important sights.
Kathmandu Durbar Square also known as Hunuman dhoka is the generic name used to describe plazas and areas opposite the old royal palaces in Nepal. The name Hanuman-dhoka Durbar came from the statue of Hanuman established by the King Pratap Malla at the entrance of the royal palace in 1672 A.D. storeyed residence built by King Prithvi Narayan shah in 1770,is called Basantapur Durbar(palace) It consists of temples, idols, open courts, water fountains and more. Before the unification of Nepal, Nepal consisted of small kingdoms, and Durbar Squares are most prominent remnants of those old kingdoms in Nepal. In particular, three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu valley, belonging to the three newar kingdoms situated there before unification, are most famous: Kathmandu durbar square unesco heritage site.
The Durbar Square are is actually made up of two sub-areas. The outer complex is renowned for numerous interesting temples as Kumari Ghar , Kasthamandap , Shiv-Parbati Temple, Jagannath Temple, Big Bell etc ,while the inner complex comprises the old palace area ,Hanuman-dhoka and its courtyards as Nasal Choke ,Mul Choke ,Sundari Choke, Basantapur Durbar and other.
Located about 5 km south of Kathmandu in the Kathmandu Valley, on the southern side of the Bagmati River, Patan is one of 3 royal cities in the valley. The city of Patan is believed to have been built in the third century B.C. by the Kirat dynasty. It was expanded by Lichhavis in the 6th century A.D. and again by the Mallas in medieval period. The Malla kings ruled the Kathmandu Valley until the ascension of the Shah dynasty. In 1768, King Prithvi Narayan Shah began his campaign to unify Nepal and Patan became a city in the kingdom of Nepal. Patan is a center of Buddhist and Hindu culture. The city is full of religious art, temples, and monasteries. Many religious festivals take place in Patan each year. One is the Buddha Jayanti festival, marking the birthday of Lord Buddha, which occurs on Jestha Purnima (full moon night in April or May).
The birthday of Lord Krishna is celebrated by Hindus at the Krishna Temple in Patan in August - September. Devotees gather at the Krishna Temple in Patan Durbar Square for a vigil through the night. The following day, the devotees visit all the Krishna shrines throughout the city.
The largest festival in Nepal is the Dashain festival in September to October. This festival takes place at the Palace Complex in Patan as well as in the other cities of the Kathmandu Valley and commemorates a victory by the gods over wicked demons.
One of the most sacred Hindu temples of Nepal - Pashupatinath Temple is located on both banks of Bagmati River on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu.Pashupatinath is the most important temple dedicated to god Shiva. Every year this temple attracts hundreds of elderly followers of Hinduism.They arrive here to find shelter for the last several weeks of their lives, to meet death, be cremated on the banks of the river and travel their last journey with the waters of the sacred river Bagmati, which later meets the holy river Ganges. Hinduists from every corner of Nepal and India are arriving here to die. It is believed that those who die in Pashupatinath Temple are reborn as a human, regardless of any misconduct that could worsen their karma. The exact day of their death is predicted by astrologers of the temple. If you are attracted to the places where the spirit of death can be felt, then consider Pashupatinath as your first destination. It is a temple with special atmosphere of death; death is present in almost every ritual and every corner of it. Only followers of Hinduism can enter the main temple, but all the other buildings are available for foreigners to visit. From the Eastern bank of the river the main temple can be seen in its whole beauty. The western bank of Bagmati also hosts the so called Panch Deval (Five temples) complex, which once was a holy shrine but now serves a shelter for destitute old people.
Numerous religious buildings are also located on the eastern bank of Bagmati, most of them are devoted to Shiva. The majority of these buildings are small single storey constructions made from stone. From the outside these buildings are reminding crypts, but in reality these are sacral buildings, created for holding the symbol of the deity Shiva - lingam (erect phallus). Lingams can be found all over the complex. Only followers of Hinduism can enter the main temple, but all the other buildings are available for foreigners to visit. From the Eastern bank of the river the main temple can be seen in its whole beauty. The western bank of Bagmati also hosts the so called Panch Deval (Five temples) complex, which once was a holy shrine but now serves a shelter for destitute old people.
It stand approximately 6 km North East from Center of the Kathmandu Valley. Surrounded by hills, Boudhanath Stupa is a jewel point in the center of a natural mandala, a store of scared energy. It is one of the most important place f pilgrimage for the Buddhist. In the past, when the trade routes to central and western Tibet were fully open, traders, pilgrims and travelers sought bless at the stupa for safe passage over the Mountain passes and gave thanks giving to it upon arrival in the Kathmandu Valley. Today, it towers above a small Tamang villagethat since the arrival of Tibetan refugees in the 1960's has become the center of a thriving town of monasteries, craftsmanship and businesses. It is the principal center of Himalayan Buddhist worship and studies in the Kathmandu Valley. It is indeed, in the Indian sub-continent a major destination of pilgrims from the Himalayan, Tibet and South- East and Eastern Asia. It is also one of the largest and most significant Buddhist Monument in the world. The Stupa is commonly known as Boudha or Boudhanath, meaning lord of Wisdom, It is a protective,purification and wish-granting stupa. But, further because of it's origins are beyond the recall of folk memory,it's foundation and fabric impregnated with the vibration of innumerable generations of devoted worships and powerful meditation,its's awesome size and unique form,and it's basis in myths and legend. It is has become one of the most significant object of worshop in the Buddhist universe.
There are many stories and legends concerning the origin and history of the stupa. The Himalayan Buddhist believes that a window namd Jyazima aspired to make great offering of the buddha,using her hard earned savings as a poultry-keeper. She approached the lcal kind for permission and it was granted ,on condition that she used an area of land measuring the size of a single buffalo skin. However, Jyazima cut the skin into thin strips and claimed the land enclosed form the strips and claimed the land enclosed from the strips lay end to end. This mere woman's ambition to build such a magnificent monuments offering to Buddha caused much jealousy between the rich and powerful at the time. The jealous lords petitioned the kind to have the stupa demolished, but the kind who had allowed this happen, replied " Since permission to have been given,it shall not be rescinded" Thus the meaning of the stupa named Jyarung Khashyor.
Legend says that once the Kathmandu valley was a lake in which Swayambhu hill existed as an island. On top of that hill stood a natural crystal stupa. Buddha, when visiting the place, declared that it was a wish-fulfilling stupa and whoever is touched by the wind that passes over the stupa receives the seed of liberation from the cycle of existence. Later a Buddhist monk from China who was an emanation of the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri drained the lake and thus made the crystal stupa accessible for people. Nowadays it is protected against robbery by the dome-shaped structure. Throughout the centuries countless Buddhist masters from India, Sri Lanka, Tibet and China have visited the stupa. Swayambhu means Self-Manifested or Self-Sprung.
The stupa represents Buddha’s mind. To visit a stupa is said to be the same as meeting a Buddha in person. It offers peace, freedom and joy to the whole world and ultimately helps us to obtain perfect enlightenment. Just seeing, hearing about, reflecting upon, or touching a stupa fosters peace and even spiritual release. The stupa pacifies physical and mental difficulties such as sicknesses, famine and conflicts in all areas and directions.
Spiritual practices bring stronger results when performed close to stupas than in other powerful places. Visitors and pilgrims walk around the stupa in a clockwise direction and recite mantras, make offerings, turn prayer-wheels and make wishes for the benefit of all beings.
Swayambhu, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, goes back to ancient times. The earliest written record of the Great Stupa of Swayambhu is a 5th century stone inscription. Honored by kings, monks, and pilgrims alike, the stupa has been restored and repaired on numerous occasions. In 1349 it was damaged by an invading Muslim army and later repaired by King Saktimalle Bhalloka. In 1505, the yogin Sangye Gyaltsen added the wheel and spire to the stupa’s dome. In 1614 the 6th Shamarpa had shrines built into the stupa in the four cardinal directions. Several important Kagyu lamas held a consecration ceremony in 1750 after a major renovation.
The famous Bhutanese master Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche (1918-2003), the late abbot of the Bhutanese Drugpa Kagyu Monastery  on the western side of the stupa, came to Nepal in order to assist his uncle, the Drukpa lama Sherab Dorje, in restoring and maintaining the stupa during the early 20th century. The most recent renovation of the Swayambhu Stupa was completed in May 2010.