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Top 5: Temples of the Kathmandu Valley

by Akhil Kalepu

Oct 8, 2014

Boudhanath © Radekwojnar | Dreamstime


Kathmandu lies in the heart of Asia, a crossroads of the ancient civilizations that have ruled and fallen in the region. The Kathmandu Valley was nicknamed “City of Temples” for good reason; there are more than 130 monuments, seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites and several religious sites that Hindus and Buddhists make pilgrimage to. Here are five you should definitely see.



Founded in the fifth century by King Manadeva, Swayambhunath is an expansive complex that contains a Buddhist monastery, museum, library and a stupa recently reguilded with 20 kilograms of gold. The temple is unofficially known as the Monkey Temple, named after the population of monkeys living on the northwest side of the complex. They are considered holy, believed to have grown out of the head lice living in the enlightened Manjusri’s long hair.



Bhaktapur is a small town 10 miles out of Kathmandu, known throughout Nepal for its quality pottery and art, as well as the large variety of temples in the area. Most famous is Nyatapola, a five-story Hindu temple built in 1702 during the reign of King Bhupatindra Malla. The temple is the tallest in Nepal, and dedicated to Siddha Laxmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity.


Kopan Monastery


Just north of Kathmandu is the Kopan Monastery on top of Kopan Hill. It was built in the 1970s and currently houses about 400 monks taking part in morning chants, puja ceremonies and courses in meditation and yoga. On the weekend, Kopan is open for visitors who can pray in the temple, explore their immaculate garden and even take a spiritual class taught by a monk.



Another one of King Malla’s temples, this one was built in 1696 and features an elaborate, pagoda-style architecture with a gilded roof and intricate carvings dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and his family. The temple is also a popular cremation site in Nepal. Visitors are not allowed inside the temple, but the impressive architecture and surrounding riverbanks are popular with tourists.



Perhaps the most famous temple of Nepal, and also one of the most important Buddhist temples outside Tibet, Boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features a massive stupa measuring 120 meters in diameters. The central spire draped with prayer flags is one of the most iconic images of Kathmandu. Originally built in the 14th century, visitors today circle the stupa while spinning prayer wheels and meditating to the 108 images of Buddha.



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