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World Heritage Sites Nepal

  • Angie Ong
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  • September 21, 2014
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There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites (WHS) in Nepal. Of these four WHS – two are in the cultural category and two WHS fall in the natural category.

In the cultural categories, the seven monuments of the Kathmandu Valley(together counted as one WHS) and Lumbini – the birthdplace of Lord Buddha- are included whereas the other two WHS in the natural grouping are the Chitwan National PArk and Sagarmatha National Park.

The Kathmandu Valley WHS comprises of three historical palaces which are: Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durba Square and Bhaktarpur Durba Square; two Buddhist stupas – Swayambhu and Boudanath, and two Hindu temples – Pashupatinath and Changu Narayan. All these monuments were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in October 1979.


Kathmandu Durbar Square


Kathmandu Durbar Square lies in the heart of the Kathmandu City. The locals knows this area by its old name – Hanuman Dhoka – an ancient seat of the Nepalese Royalty. The Royal Palace during medieval times were not merely for Royal activities but also used as the centre of administrations, cultural activities and festivals.

Left: Kumari Ghar bult in 1757AD by King Jaya Prakash Mall is the house of the living goddess”Kumari” who is believed to be the incarnation of goddess Taleju, the protective deity. Kumari often provides her blessing from the window to the visitors.

The historical buildings and temples in the area were erected from the time of King Ratna Mall(1484 – 1520AD) to Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah(1875 – 1911AD) covering the Mall, Shah and Rana period of Nepalese history. The entire palace complex here is named after a monkey god called Hanuman. One can see a huge stone statue of Hanuman painted all red next to the main entrance (the golden gate) of the palace. Hanuman here is regarded as a powerful protector of the entire Durbar Square.


Prominent Monuments:

Teleju Temple(AD1562), Krishna Temple(AD1649), Jagannath Temple(1563AD), Stone Column, Degutalle Temple(AD1671), Hanuman Statue(1672AD), Shiva-Parvati Temple, Big Bell(AD1797), Kal Bhairav, Maju Dewal(late 17 century), Trilokya Mohan Narayan(late 17 century), Kumari Ghar(1757AD), Basantapur Durbar(1770AD),Gaddi Baithak(1908AD), Kasthamandap(12 century), Ashok Vinayak, Dhansa(1673AD).


Entrance Fees: 750 NPR per person / per entry.

Additional Entrance: -N/A-

Patan Durbar Square


Patan is also known as Lalitpur which means the city of arts. It is located across the river Bagmati which is 5km south of central Kathmandu. This city founded in 3rd century A.D by King Veera Dev has a distinctions of being the home of the finest crafts and is considered oldest of all three cities of Kathmandu valley. Most of the monuments in this square date back to the medvial Malla period from 16th to 18th century and the monuments in the area are mostly credited to King Siddhi Narsingha Malla, Shri Niwas Malla and Yog Narendra Malla.


Left: Bhimsen Temple Patan. Bhimsen is the God of business and trade.


Prominent Monuments:

Chayasing Deval(18 century), Main Chowks(1647AD), Bhimsen Temple, Vishwa Nath Temple, Krishan Mandir(17 century), Stone Column, Jaganath Temple, Harishankar Temple(17 century), Taleju Temple(17 century), Golden Temple(12 century), Kumbheshwor(14 century), Maha Buddha(15 century)


Entrance Fees: 500 NPR per person/ per entry.

Additional Entrance: Patan Golden Temple: 50 NPR per person/ per entry, Patan Museum: 250 NPR per person/ per entry.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square


Baktarpur meaning the city of devotees was founded by King Ananda Dev in 1197 A.D according to the Gopal Raj Vamsabali even though the existence of the city could be traced back to the Licchavi period(185 – 750 AD). There are many momoments, courtyeards and Buddhists shrines ad monasteries. The Durbar Square ws the seat of the Malla Kings and the present structures were erected from the 12th to 18th century A.D. Bhaktapur is located at around 12km from Kathmandu City.


Prominent Monuments:

The Lion Gate(1696 AD), Golden Gate(1754 AD), Four Pilgrimage sites, Stone Column, 55 Windows Palace(1427 AD), Vatsala Temple(17 century), Yakcheswor Mahadev(1480 AD), Nyatapola(1702 AD), Bhairav Nath Temple(1718 AD), Teel Mahadev Narayan Temple(12 century), Dattatreya Temple(1427 AD), Pujari Math(15 century), Bhimsen Temple(1605 AD)


Entrance Fees: 1500 NPR per person/ per entry.


Pashupatinath Temple


Situated 5km east of Kathmandu city center, Pashupati literally means “Lord of Animals” and is considered to be the patron deity of Nepal. Pashupatinath is regarded as one of the hliest sites for Hindus all over the world.

Pashupatinah temple is a pagoda style two-tiered golden roof with exquisitely carved four silver doors containing in its sanctum a phallic idol with four faces facing each direction and the other fifth one is looking up towards th zenith. A temple dedicated to Shiva was constructed at the present site by Licchavi King Supushpa Verma according to an ancient chronicle. However, the present temple is claimed to have been built by King Bhupalendra Malla in 1697A.D. Legend has it that a cow would frequently escape its herds and offer milk on a Jyotirlinga(phallic symbol of Shiva) which denotes the point where the temple stands today. it is said that a certain cowherd much to his surprise found the self-generated Jyotirlinga(phallic symbol of Shiva) when he dug the spot where the cow would give mil. The spot immediately became the center of worship that has been continued till today.

Legend also mentions that the Pandawas after the great Mahbrarata battle were told that only by sighting Shiva would they be absolved of their sins and it was at this very spot that they saw the Lod. hence, this most scared abode of Shiva, who is the God of the gods – Mahdew – merits a visit by all Hindus, at least once in a lifetime, to be truly blessed and cleansed. It is believed that pilgrimage to the four dhams like Dwarika, Kedar, Rameshwor and Jaganath of India becomes meaningful only after a final darshan of Pashupatinath and by taking a holy dip in the Bagmati River and conducting a proper “Puja”. There are temples of other Hindu deities in Pashupati premises like Bhairavnath, Vasuki nag, Parbd blessing to the Temple, Ram Mandir, Vishwo rup,Goraknath, Kirateshwor temple and dozens of temples dedicated to different gods and goddesses.

A considerable part of the temple vicinity is converted to rest and prayers areas. Behind the temple on the banks of Bagmati is a crematorium for Hundus. It is the wish of every Hindu to be cremated on the bank of the Bagmati river near the temple. At the other end of the Pashupatinath temple area is the temple of Guheshwori dedicated to Shiva’s consort Parbati also known as Satidevi. There is also a deer park at the back of the tmple across the Bagmati river. it is also interesting to watch the monkeys roam in and around the temple freely. On may also observe Sadhus smeared with ashes dressed in lion-clothes and the Hindus Brahmins offering “Tika” and blessing to the visitors. Pashupatinath attracts thousands of pilgrims on spring festival Maha Shivaratri(Feb – March), the day dedicated to Shiva, Hari Talika/Teej (Aug – Sep), Janai Purnima (July – Aug) and all Mondays of the month of Shrawan(July – Aug).

In October 1979 Pashupati area was declared as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO and the temple is being manged by Pashupati Area Development Trust.

Entrance Fees: 1000 NPR per person/ per entry.

Syayambhunath Stupa


Located on a lovely little hillock, Swayambbhunath Stupa lies about 4km west of central Kathmandu. There are 360 steps leading all the way to the top commanding a magnificent view of Kathmandu valley and the breath –taking panorama of the snow-clad Himalayan range. The tradition in the Stupa follows the Vajrayana form of Buddhism which is a tantric variation of the Mahayana Buddhism (the great vehicle). The stupa seems to have been constructed during the Licchavi Period. Religious and literally sources give numerous accounts of the establishment and the patronage of the Swyambhunath premises. It is also interesting to note that the stupa went a series of renovation during the Malla period in the medieval times with donations made by merchants, monks, pilgrims and Buddhist followers.

As the ancient legend goes Kathmandu valley was a lake long time ago. Right in the center of this lake was a full blown lotus with the divine light atop. When Maha Manjushri a saint from China heard about this he came all the way from China to the valley. He cut through the southern hill of the valley with his divine sword. The cleft made by the sword immediately drained the entire lake water making the valley floor ready for habitation. Hundreds of votive shrines and other historical monuments built in and around this stupa speak a lot about the significance and antiquity of this famed stupa. The Stupa of Swyambhunath stands on a typically stylized lotus mandala base. The hemispherical part of the chaitya is made of brick and stone and on top of the hemispherical part lies the hermika which carries the eyes of Vairochana watching painted in the Malla period. The stupa is also laden with in all the directions and believed to have been the 13 gold plated spires which symbolized the 13 stages to salvation. The spire is crowded by a golden umbrella supported by a pole from within the center. Devotees pour lime down the chaitya to cure illness of family members.

Panch Buddhas(Five Buddhas): There are also statues of the Buddha at the base of the stupa. There are Vairochana who occupies the center Akshobhya facing the east, Ratna Sambhava facing the south, Amitabha facing the West and Amoghsiddhi facing towards the north.

Five Elements of Life: Temples and sacred sites representing the five fundamental elements of nature are said to have been founded by Shantikar Acharya. The five elements of life represented in the premise of the stupa are Vasupura(earth), Nagapura(serpents, the lord of water), Shantipura or Akashpura(spece or sky), Vayupura(air) and Agnipura(Fire).


Important Days to visit this holy site:

* Buddha Purnima, the birthday of Buddha which falls on the full moon day of Baishakh(April- May)

* Gunla, the holy Buddhist month according to Newari calendar

* Kojagrath Purnima(Sep – Oct), Samyak day of Magh(Jan-Feb)(once in every 12 year)

* Lhosar


Entrance Fees: 200 NPR per person/ per entry

Boudanath Stupa


Bondanath, the biggest stupa of Nepal, is located 5km east of central Kathmandu. The stupa stands on a three-tiered platform raised over the crossed rectangles in order to bring out the yantra form.

The claim made in various religious and literary texts regarding the erection of the stupa is varied and conflicting. However, the stupa is believed to have been built in the 5th century A.D. during the reign of the Licchavi Kings.

As in other stupa architecture, this stupa also has Vairochana at the center followed by Aksobhya, Ratna Sambhava, Amitabha and Amogha Siddhi in East, South, West and North directions respectively. Similarly, there are one hundred and eight small niches around the stupa accommodating the icons of Buddhas, Bodhisatavas and other female deities along with conjoint figures in erotic poses. Likewise, at the bottom level, it is surrounded with the praying wheels embossed with the famous mantra Om Mani Padme Hum fixed in more than hundred and forty niches.

According to a very popular legend, in ancient time there was a poor girl in a Magat village of Nepal. She was called Jyajima and was very pious and charitable by nature. She had a deep desire to spread the faith of the master and approached the king for a piece of land where she could build a stupa. Hence she built the stupa with the help of her four sons as it stands today.

According to another very popular legend, in the ancient days Kathmandu valley was under severe drought and this causes the King Dharma Dev much concern and anxiety. Finally, the king was advised by an astrologist that only the sacrifice of an ideal man with 32 virtues in front of the dry royal water could bring rainfall in the country. There was hardly anybody with such a great virtue except the King himself. S the following night he commanded his son to go the dry water spout near the royal palace at mid night and behead the person clad in white robe without looking at him. The prince (Mandev the Licchavi King) obeyed his father and to his great horror found that it was none other than his own father that he beheaded.

In order to atone for the heinous sin, he prayed to goddesses Vajrayogini who ordered him to erect a stupa and practice rigorous penance. He practiced great penance in Gumvihar where Vajrayogini rests and it was due to his great devotion there sprang out the present stupa of Boudanath.

During Buddha Jayanti(Birthday of Lord Bhddha, April –May) on the full moon day, a religious precession takes place with the icons of Buddha on a chariot. During Lhosar festival (Jan –Feb) the pilgrims worship the Buddhist deities, light the incense and butter lamp day and night. On the full moon day of Janai Purnima(sacred thread festival, Aug-Sep) the stupa is decorated with prayer flags and lights. Every 12 years a special ceremony is also observed denoting the fact that it took 12 years to build the stupa. Some Buddhist texts also mentioned that it took 2555 days*7 years) to complete the construction of the stupa. Dance, musical instruments, chant and hyms are performed to mark the event with great festivity.

The stupa along with the monasteries are centres of learning, cultural activities, prayers and meditation.


Entrance Fees: 150 per person/ per entry

Changu Narayan Temple


Located on a magnificent hill top commanding a fantastic view of Kathmandu valley, Changu Narayan – the temple is full of magnificent art works in metal and wood. In fact, it is one of the finest temple examples of Nepalese architecture. The first epigraphic evidence of Nepalese history found in the temple premises during the reign of the Licchavi King Mandeva dating back to 464 A.D. shows that Changu had already been established as a sacred site in the 3rd century A.D. The present structure was probably constructed in the 17th century, though older elements have been incorporated during the restorations. The pagoda styles temple has several masterpieces of 5th and 12th century Nepalese art.


Some of the important sculptures here are:

* Viswo Roop- Lord Vishnu in his all-pervasive universal form Vishwo Roop represented in a serpent bed-the-symbol of the endless water. This sculpture dates back to 8th century A.D.

* Vishnu Vikaranta – Lord Vishnu in his most powerful form measuring the space by his feet. The stone bas-relief image is dated back to 8th century A.D.

* Vishnu mounted in his vehicle Garuda – the mythical man bird.

* Nr.-singha Vishnu in his half human and half lion’s form.


The myth behind the conception of the Changu Narayan Temple portrays the religious significance and importance of the place. According to a legend, Lord Vishnu beheaded a Brahmin thinking it to bea demon and only discovered it later that he had committed a heinous crime. He then wandered on earth on his mount, the “garuda” eventually descending on the hill at Changu. There he lived in anonymity, surviving on milk stolen from a cow belonging to a hermit sage called Sudharshan. When Sudharsan noticed about the stolen milk, he attacked and beheaded Lord Vishnu which freed Lord Vishnu from his sins. Ever since that day, the site has been held sacred and the temple has been revered.


Entrance Fees: 100 NPR per person/ per entry.

Lumbini – Birthplace of Lord Buddha


Buddha was born at Lumbini in southern Nepal on a full moon day in 623 B.C. The importance of Lumbini is testified by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka who visited Lumbini in order to pay homage to the great Master and erected a pillar in 249 B.C to indicate the birthplace of Buddha.


Near the Ashokan pillar is the newly renovated Mayadevi Temple which houses the Nativity sculpture depicting the birth scene of the Buddha. The temple also house The Marker Stone discovered in 1996 A.D. which depicts the exact spot where the Budha was born is now kept in the bulletproof glass in the Mayadevi Temple.


In 1986, exacavatons by General Khadga Shumsher Rana of Nepal and renowned archaeologist Dr. A Fuhrer shed light on various aspects of the life of Buddha. in 1898, the British government dputed P.C.Mukherjee who confirmed the exact location of Aurorakot as the birth place of Kankmuni Buddha and Gotihawa as the native place of Kakruchhanda Buddha who existed before the Shakyamuni Buddha and Lumbini as birthdplace of Shakyamuni Buddha. he also claimed Devdaha to be the maternal home of Buddha and Tilaurakot to be the exact site of Kapilvasu – the ancient capital of the Shakya Kingdom.


Shortly after the Buddha attained enlightenment at the age of 36, he delivered his first sermon, in which he laid out the essential framework upon which all his later teachings were based. This framework consist of the Four Noble Truths and the Eight fold path, which identifies the sources of suffering and the path towards the cessation of suffering and the attainment of Salvation.


Access: From Kathmandu, fly to Gautam Buddha airport in Bhairahawa(30 minutes) and then drive (22km) to Lumbini. overland from Kathmandu to Bhairahawa is 300km(9 hours)

Getting Around: There are manual three – wheelers to get around the Lumbini complex.

Climate: Temperature 40 degree Celsious maximum, 7 degree minimum. The rainy season lasts June – September.


Entrance Fees: 200 NPR per person / per entry

Additional Fees: 50 NPR per person/ per entry to Lumbini museum

Chitwan National Park(932 SQ.KM)


Chitwan National Park is established in 1973 was declared UNESCO Natural Heritage Site in 1984. The park that includes in its area a part of the shivalik hills iscovered with deciduous forest overlooking the floodplains of Narayani, Rapti an Reu rivers and offering a wilderness of rich ecosystem that includes mammals, birds, reptiles and water animals of several kinds. there are around 600 plant species, 50 mammals, 526 birds and 49 amphibians reptiles found in this park. The highlights, of course, are the One-Horned Rhinoceros and Royal Bengal Tigers that live in the dense forest of the park.

Sharing home in this park are other animals like rhesus monkey, grey langur, deer, leopards, white stocking gaur, wild boar, wild dogs and wild cats. Among reptiles are different kinds of snakes including the python, while the river areas breed amphibians like the endangered snouted gharials popularly known as Gangetic crocodile and marsh crocodiles. The forest is alive during summer with the arrival of migrant birds like paradise flyctcher, Indian pitta and parakeets, while winter birds include waterfowl, Brahminy ducks, pintails, bar-headd geese, cormorants and migratory birds from Siberia. Other bird varieties arewoodpeckers, hornbills, peacocks, peahens, foricans and redheaded trogons. A rare attraction of the park is the worlds’ fresh water dolphin variety sometimes seen in River Narayani.

Another factor adding a distinct touch to the Chitwan experience the colourful Tharu culture. There are also sites of religious and historical importance of Devghat, Pandavnagar, Balmiki Ashram and Kabilaspur.


Activities: Jungle safari on elephant back, jungle walk, canoe ride, jeep drive, and observation of Tharu culture.

Accommodations: resorts, hotels and lodges.

Access: The park headquarters’ at Kasara is a 21km drive from Bharatpur, which is 20 minutes by air or 146km by road from Kathmandu.

Best season: Oct – Feb(average temperature 25 degree Celscius), Mar – Jun (hot, up to 43 degrees), July- Sep(rainy)


Entrance Fees: 1500 NPR per day/ per entry

Additional Fees: 50 NPR for Chitwan Elephant Breeding Camp.


Sagarmatha National Park


The prime attractions of Sagarmatha National Park established in 1976, is Mt Everest – the highest peak of the world. The park was added to the list of World Heritage Site in 1979. The park, a part of the Himalayan ecological zone, has several other prominet peaks most of which are above 6000 meters.

With most of the ark above 3000 meters, Sagarmatha is full of rugged terrain with deep gorges, glaciers and huge rocks. with its Himalayan terrain and its culture, the parks offer a blend of natural and cultural tourist products. The vegetarian at the lower elevation is dominated by pine and hemlock forest, while above 3500 meters the forest is dominated with silver fir, birch, rhododendron and juniper trees.

During Spring and moonsoon the varieties of rhododendron flowers are seen. The common wildlife in the park are Himalayan Tahr, ghroral, musk deer, pokka(mouse hare) weasel and jackal. Other rarely seen animalsare Himalayan black bear, wolf, lynx and snow leopard. Birds inhabitating the parks are of over 119 species. Common ones among them are the impeyan pheasant(danphe), blood pheasant, read billed cough, yellow-billed chough, snow-cock, snow pigeon, Himalayan griffon, and lammergeyer. The area also provides warm Sherpa hospitality and has many monasteries and cultural landmarks. Tourism activities and farming are the main activities of the area. Growing barleys and potatoes and rasing Yaks are some of the notable occupations. the majority of the youths are engaged as mountaineering and trekking guides in the season.

The best point to explore the area could be Gokyo vally, Lobuche, Kalapatthar, Everest Base Camp, Chuking valley and the Thame valley.


Activities: Trekking, mountaineering, cultural observation and meditation.

Accommodations: Resort, hotels, lodges, camping.

Access: Namche Bazaar, the gateway to Everest Region, is a two days walk from Lukla which is 30 minutes by air from Kathmandu.

Best Season: Oct – Nov, Mar – May, Dec – Feb(Snow, daytime temperature 5 degree Celsius), Jun – Sep (rainy)


Entrance Fees: USD30 per person per entry

Additonal Fees: TIMS(Trekking Permit): For the first 4 weeks per week per person USD10 and After 4 weeks per week per person USD20, Or equivalent convertible foreign currency

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