A well-preserved medieval city state and a UNESCO world heritage site. This walled antediluvian city was founded by 12th century king Anand Dev Malla and remained a former capital of the Kathmandu valley until the first half of the 15th century. Bhaktapur is an up-close-and-personal look at the Newari city in all its majestic beauty with royal styled pagodas and incredibly designed handicrafts.
The once rival city with Kathmandu and Patan is celebrated for its breathtakingly splendid views of snowy peaks of Langtang mountains, misty temples and rich bustling streets set against the Alpine glow of the setting sun. This open-air museum gives visitors a journey back in time with its elaborate Buddhist and Hindu symbols, monuments with sophisticated carvings, fine traditional pottery, carvings and weaving.
Its cobble streets are a must-visit for their unique way of delighting the eyes and the stomach. Bhaktapur’s indigenous culture, lifestyle and exceptional art offers visitors a unique visit underscored by the hundreds of handicraft shops, divine architecture and exceptional craftsmanship.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Just 13km east of Kathmandu valley, this square is a prized display of famous Newari culture with every building showcasing some of the finest ancient architectural designs. The square is one of the best places to visit in Bhaktapur and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a previous home to the royal family of Bhaktapur. Dubbed, this city houses the national art gallery and is widely known for its tantric cloth paintings and rich collection of Paubha scroll canvases.
Aside from the Bhaktapur royal square, several other collections like pagoda and shikhara styled temples and ancient structures from the 17th century are part of the incredible cultural and historical landscape in Bhaktapur. This square also served as the chosen location for the main historic scenes of Bertolucci’s “Little Buddha.” The restorative work done in the complex in the aftermath of the earthquake is simply magnificent.
Changu Narayan Temple
Standing atop Dolagri is Changu Narayan, among the oldest standing temples in Nepal and dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This storied brick-red complex has stone guards sculpted as lions, elephants and griffons lining up its entrance. Once inside, visitors can catch a glimpse of the deity Vishnu depicted as Narayan the creator of all and gauda, the figure of his comfort which dates back to the 5th century.
The statue also features one of the oldest inscriptions in the valley with Vishnu’s symbol on the conch and Chakra disc depicted as two pillars near the shrine. The temple’s courtyard is filled with numerous structures like Narsingha; man-lion incarnation, Vikranths- the six-armed dwarf, ten-armed, ten-headed Vishnu depicted on a piece of broken slab.
On the outside, the temple is surrounded by dense plush forests of the Champak tree which play an important role in ancient folklore regarding the temple’s past and making it a good place to visit in Bhaktapur.
A five-story temple that makes its mark as the tallest temple and one of its kind in Kathmandu valley. Located within the Taumadhi square, and built in 1702, the temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess of prosperity Siddhi Lakshmi-an incarnation of Goddess Parvati. The fearsome idol is installed in the sanctum sanctorum and only the priests can enter. The temple’s structural strength and resilience has withstood two major earthquakes (1934,2015).
The staircase leading to the temple is lined with stone figures depicting the temple guardians including the likeness of Bhaktapur’s strongest men, Jaymal and Pata; two lions; two elephants; two griffons; and Baghini (Tiger goddess) and Singhini (Lion goddess) on the topmost level.
The temples traditional pagoda style architecture and numerous timeless sculptures make amazing backdrops and although the temple is only accessible to priests, the view outside and the photogenic designs are more than enough to make it a great place to visit in Bhaktapur.
55 window palace
A famous highlight of Nepal’s architecture, this palace was constructed in the 18th century during the Malla dynasty by king Jitamitra Malla for his 55 wives. It features astounding works of art from ornamental wood carvings, intricately patterned columns and the 55 windows each with its unique peacock design. This artful culmination of woodcarvings cannot be missed.
Sun Dhoka or the Golden Gate is a gilded Torana and a display of fine metalwork. It serves as the entrance to other inner courtyards around the palace. Nearby, the Naga pokhari holy pool can be seen surrounded by a cobra around its water tank-like design it is considered the place used by goddess Teluju for daily ritual births. This iconic monument of love is not open to visitors but the outside of the temple certainly quenches your thirst for its art.
Found in the oldest square of the city and home to many of Bhaktapur’s temples and museums is Dattatreya temple. This eye-catching pagoda styled temple was originally developed in 1427 by king Yaksha Malla. This three-storied sanctuary is believed to have been built with the trunk of a single tree. It is guarded by a group of large friendly goats.
Right next to Durbar square sits Taumadhi square, a place of revered stone sculptures and wood carvings and a good place to visit in Bhaktapur. These breathtaking sculptures depict Taumadhi Tole, the ancient life in Bhaktapur. It gets its sparkling reputation from its proximity to Nyatapola temple, the tallest temple in Nepal. Many visitors often pass over Taumadhi and miss out on its fascinating sculptures.
A signature Nepali sight with the finest carved windows in all of the Kathmandu valley. Designed and carved by Araniko -a famous architect of Nepal, in the 1400s. this ‘mona Lisa’ of Nepal was unfazed by the earthquake of 2015. A testament to its incredible architecture and a good place to visit in Bhaktapur.
Also known as Siddha Pokhari, Pujari is an artificial rectangular pond located near the Bhaktapur Durbar Square main gate. This old pond was built in the 15th century during the reign of the Malla dynasty. Ta-pokhu as it is popularly known, is surrounded by ancient structures and if you visit on a clear day the snow glazed mountain peaks are visible.
Every year on the day of Ashwin Krishna Dwitiya., devotees visit pujari or Indra Daha and take a dip in the holy water and worship goddess Indrayani. This process is believed to give them good fortune, health and happiness. Leading up to this day, incredible displays of lamps and idols including those of Shaiva, Shakti, Biashanv and Buddha will graze the pond.