Bhaktapur

A 20 km drive east of Kathmandu takes you to Bhaktapur one of the three royal cities of the valley ( the two others being Kathmandu and Patan ). Bhaktapur has rightfully earned titles like 'City of Devotees' , 'City of Culture' , 'The Living Heritage' and 'Nepal's Cultural Gem' and one will surely understand why when one sets foot in the ancient courtyards of the bejeweled ancient city.

The city dates back to the 12th century during the reign of King Ananda Malla and was the capital of the Greater Malla Kingdom until the 15th century. The majority of the inhabitants here are from the Newar community and occupy themselves in professions directly and indirectly related to agriculture and tourism. 92 % of the populace are Hindus and 7 % comprise of the Buddhists. Thus, besides the various primarily Hindu temples, there are 19 Buddhist monasteries ( vihars ) in this city. Most of the monuments here are terra-cotta with carved wood columns; the palaces and temples have intricate and ornate carvings, gilded roofs, open courtyards. Bhaktapur is dotted with pagodas and religious shrines.

The Indra Varna Madavihar built in 1671 is located between Durbar Square and Dattaraya Square has two lion statues, Patingi Hiti ( water spout ), Tantric wood carvings and prayer wheels.

Another prominent and interesting feature of Bhaktapur is the 55 Window Palace ( having 55 windows !! ) which was the seat of royalty prior to 1769. It also houses the National Art Gallery that displays scroll paintings, palm leaf manuscripts and numerous stone carvings.

Outside the Palace entrance to the Taleju Complex is the Golden Gate ( built 1756 ) and is a fine example of metal craftsmanship at its best. The Royal Bath with its golden faucet also reflects the glorious spoils of the then monarchy.

Another very visible and prominent feature is the Big Bell built by the last Malla King of Bhaktapur – Ranajit Malla in the 18th century. It is rung twice a day and is also affectionately referred to as the 'Barking Bell' as dogs start barking when the bell is rung.

Tanmadi Square

The prominent feature here is the Nyatpol ( Nyatapola ) Temple which was built in 1702 and dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi. It is Nepal's tallest pagoda style temple and stands five stories high.

The Bhairavnath Temple which was destroyed in the 1934 earthquake was eventually restored and rebuilt . It contains the gilded bust of Bhairav who is considered either the manifestation of Lord Shiva or the deity that guards his home.

Dattaraya Square

The Dattaraya Square houses Bhaktapur's Hindu monasteries which includes the pagoda style Dattaraya Temple built by King Yaksha Malla in 1428. It is claimed that this building was constructed from a single piece of wood from a tree.

Changu Narayan

Changu Narayan is the oldest temple in the valley and dates back to 464 AD. It is situated 6 km north of Bhaktapur. There are excellent hiking trails from here to Bhaktapur that passes through quaint villages.

Thimi

This is a typically Newar city and is renowned for its fresh agricultural produce and handicrafts that reflect the culture of the valley. Thimi is just 5 km east of Bhaktapur.

Bode

A mere 20 minute walk from Thimi takes you to Bode and to the riverside shrine of Nil Barahi. This place is famous for the tongue boring festival which is held on the second day of the Nepali New Year. A spike is bored through a tongue of a devotee ; if the devotee does not bleed when the spike is removed and packed with mud, it is considered to bring good fortune.

Surya Vinayak Shrine

A 10-20 minute walk from Bhaktapur is a shrine dedicated to Lord Ganesh and devotees pray for good luck from Lord Ganesh. The shrine is located on a top of a forested hill.