Nepal is home to 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including seven in Kathmandu Valley, Lumbini (Birthplace of Buddha), Chitwan National Park and Sagarmatha National Park. The heritage sites have been nominated based on their cultural and natural value. The UN governing body UNESCO identified “World Heritage Sites” as places that belong to all the people in the world.
Nepal also has few monuments inscribed on the World Heritage Sites list. These heritage sites are amazing man-made wonders. Some of these are over 2500 years old. Since many of these sites inside Kathmandu valley are in close proximity, therefore, this helps you to view them during a single day. Only three of the sites from Nepal listed in the World Heritage Sites are located outside the capital city.
10 World Heritage Sites Which are Listed by UNESCO
In this very article, we are covering about heritage sites in details. UNESCO has listed following sites under heritage site category: Pashupatinath Temple, Swayambhunath Stupa, Boudhanath Stupa. Kathmandu Durbar Square. Patan Durbar Square. Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Changu Narayan Temple and Lumbini etc…
#1 Pashupatinath Temple
Hindu temple of god Shiva one of the important god of Hindus dedicated to Pashupatinath is located on the banks of the Bagmati River. The temple has been on the World Heritage Sites list since 1979. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Pashupatinath is one of the four most important religious sites in Asia for devotees of Shiva. Built in the 5th century and later renovated by Malla kings, the site itself is said to have existed from the beginning of the millennium when a Shiva lingam was discovered here.
The structure is a two-storey building and is built in pagoda style. One of the most astonishing decorations of the temple is the huge golden statue of Nandi – Shiva’s bull. 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 as a shelter for destitute old people.
The Pashupatinath Linga has four faces and fifth invisible one is said to be on top of the others. The recent of Linga date back to the fourteen century. The main festival of the year is Mahashivaratri. It lies between Februarys to March. Pilgrims come from all over the Nepal and India. Experience this highly recommended religious hub for a mix of religious, cultural and spiritual experiences.
Located 3 km northwest of Kathmandu on the banks of the Bagmati River, the temple area also includes Deupatan, Jaya Bageshori, Gaurighat (Holy Bath), Kutumbahal, Gaushala, Pingalasthan and Sleshmantak forest. There are around 492 temples, 15 Shivalayas (shrines of Lord Shiva) and 12 Jyotirlinga (phallic shrines) to explore.
#2 Swayambhunath Stupa
Resting on a hillock 3 km west of Kathmandu, Swayambhunath is one of the holiest Buddhist Chaityas in Nepal. It is said to have evolved spontaneously when the valley was created out of a primordial lake more than 2,000 years ago. This stupa is the oldest of its kind in Nepal and has numerous shrines and monasteries on its premises.
A journey up to the Buddhist temple Swayambhunath is one of the definitive experiences of Kathmandu. Mobbed by monkeys and soaring above the city on a lofty hilltop, the ‘Monkey Temple’ is a fascinating jumble of Buddhist and Hindu iconography and which is also listed on UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
The structure represents the four elements of earth, fire, wind, and water. The 13 rings of the spire symbolize the 13 steps of the ladder leading to Nirvana. There are 365 steps passing through which you will reach the holy site of Swayambhunath stupa. Even the 2015 earthquake failed to topple Kathmandu’s best-loved temple, though a couple of outlying buildings crumbled in the tremor. Swayambhu means Self-Manifested or Self-Sprung.
#3 Bouddhanath Stupa
For centuries, Boudhanath has been an important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists & local Nepalese. It is located on what was a major trade route between Nepal & Tibet. Many traveling merchants used it as a resting place. It is also a popular tourist site. In 1979, Boudha was listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
The Great Stupa of Boudhanath is the focal point of the district. There are at least 29 Tibetan Gompas (Monasteries & Nunneries) around Boudhanath. From its whitewashed dome to its gilded tower painted with the all-seeing eyes of the Buddha, the monument is perfectly proportioned.
The culture is very much Himalayan with a strong presence of Tibetans & Sherpas, as can be evidenced by the number of restaurants selling momos, thukpa & other Tibetan favorites. Many maroon clad Tibetan Buddhist monks & nuns can be seen walking around Boudha, especially at the Stupa.
As a daily ritual, many people walk three or more times around the stupa while repeating the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ either quietly or aloud. During the days of & surrounding the full moons, the air is often thick with incense & mantras sung by monks, & the number of people visiting the Stupa increases significantly, along with the intensity of their mantras & prayers. Boudha is a fascinating & very spiritual area.
#4 Kathmandu Durbar Square
Most of the cultural centers of Nepal are concentrated around the Kathmandu valley; among those cultural sites, the important one is the Hanuman-dhoka Durbar Square. The name Hanuman-dhoka Durbar came from the statue of Hanuman the devotee of god Lord Ram 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). The whole complex is also known as Kathmandu Durbar Square.
The entire square has been listed on a UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1979. This place is the past kingdom of the Malla and Shah King of Kathmandu who ruled over this city. This place is also denoted as the living god places. This is an ancient royal courtyard which lies in the heart of the capital city, Kathmandu.
The major attractions in Kathmandu Durbar Square are Kasthamandap, Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple, Kumari Bahal, Taleju temple, Basantpur tower, Gaddi Baihak, Maru Ganesh, Mahadev temple, Shiva Parvati temple, Bhagwati temple, Krishna octangular temple, Kal Bhairav and Jagannath temple.
Kasthamandap and Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple was completely destroyed by the massive earthquake of 25th April 2015. Half a dozen temples collapsed, as did several towers in the Hanuman Dhoka palace complex, but it’s still a fabulous complex. Reconstruction will continue for years.
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#5 Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Popular for its religious, cultural and historical heritage, Bhaktapur is also known as Bhadgaun. This city, rich in ancient arts, religious values, fabulous cultural traditions, architectural masterpieces and ancient sculptures, is also known as an open museum.
Moreover, the city is also famous as a city of gods. Bhaktapur has a cluster of temples, pagodas, monuments, courtyard, squares. traditional houses, artistic stones, taps, also Buddhist shrines and monasteries built in different times of the history.Founded in the 12th century by King Ari Malla (Ari Deva) of Banepa from a kingdom just outside of the valley.
He moved the capital of his kingdom to Bhaktapur’s Tachupal Tole (Taumadhi Tole – the oldest square in the city). King Ari was the first to adopt the Malla name which means “wrestler” in Sanskrit indicating power, strength, and skill. Throughout Bhaktapur, you will find stone statues of wrestlers.
The existing civilization characterized with Newari lifestyle and their fabulous traditions and rituals reflected in the day to day activities is the main point of attraction for foreigners visiting this city. On world heritage sites listed by UNESCO, Bhaktapur offers its visitors the opportunity to closely study ancient architecture, arts and culture of Lichhavi and Malla resign.
Five storied temple, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, CHANGUNARYAN TEMPLE, 55 Windows Durbar, (Palace) Dattatraya area and Siddhapokhari are the main attractions of can easily come to notice Newari Language, arts culture, and costumes.
Renowned for Juju Dhau (King sweet curd), clay pots and wood carving artistry. Bhaktapur has earned a worldwide reputation as a unique city. foreign tourist have to pay the entry fee to visit this historical city which lies at a distance of 10 km from Kathmandu.
#6 Patan Durbar Square
Lalitpur is considered the richest among the three districts of Kathmandu Valley in sculpture, wood crafts, and fine arts. The district that has set itself apart due to its historical, religious and traditional heritage is also known as Patan or Yala in Newari.
The district with its unique artistic traditions and ancient heritage are bounded by Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Kavre and Makawanpur districts. The town dotted with artistic Temples, Monasteries, Stupas, Pagodas and other religious sites has become an important destination for the tourists.
Located in the heart of Patan city, this was once the palace of the kings of Patan. The square is a display of Newari architecture that had reached its pinnacle during the reign of Malla kings who were great builders and patrons of the arts. The square boasts of many famous sites and unique architecture.
Krishna Mandir in the Patan Durbar Square was built to honor an incarnation of Vishnu. Krishna fought by the side of the Pandavas in the Mahabharat war to assure that truth would prevail. He was a favorite among the Gopini cowgirls. His temple is the best example of stone architecture in Nepal. Scenes from the Mahabharat, Asia’s greatest mythological war, are carved on the temple’s walls.
There is more than 1, 200 Buddhist monuments of various shapes and sizes scattered in and around the city. Among which Patan Durbar Square is the most important monument of the city. It has also been listed by UNESCO as one of the seven Monument Zones that make up the Kathmandu Valley a World Heritage Sites list in 1979. All the monument zones are declared as the protected monument zones according to the Monuments Preservation Act of 1956.
#7 Changu Narayan
The hilltop temple of Changu Narayan, located 4 kilometers north of Bhaktapur, is the oldest Vishnu shrine in Kathmandu Valley. Founded as early as 325 AD, it is one of Nepal’s most beautiful and historically important structures. Reconstructed in 1702 following its destruction by fire, the two-storey temple has many intricate carvings of the ten incarnations of Vishnu and different multi-armed Tantric goddesses.
Changu Narayan’s true gems, however, are the Lichhavai period (4th to 9th centuries) stone, wood, and metal carvings in the courtyard surrounding the main temple. It lies on the top of the hill and tourist can view the beautiful views of the Kathmandu valley.
If some tourist interested in hiking they can make 2-4 hours treks till Nagarkot. Nagarkot is the one of the best viewpoint around the Kathmandu valley. The Changu Narayan Temple is one of seven structures cited by UNESCO as demonstrating the historic and artistic achievements that make the Kathmandu Valley a World Heritage Site.
It is listed in the World Heritage Sites list in 1979 by UNESCO. Garuda, half-man, and half-bird is the vehicle of the Vishnu. A life-size stone statue of Garuda kneels in front of the west face of the temple. There is an inscription stone behind the statue. The inscription provides important information on the Licahhavi dynasty and on the history of Kathmandu valley.
In front of the temple’s main entrance, in an ornate cage, there are smaller statues of King Bhupatindra Malla and his queen. To the north of the temple is the statue of Vishnu seated on a Garuda. The sculpture dates back to the 9th century and is yet another attraction in the area.
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Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha was enlisted as a World Heritage sites list in 1997. This is one of the holiest places for Buddhist pilgrimages. One of the world’s most important spiritual sites is home to the historic birthplace of the Buddha. Today you can visit over 25 international Buddhist monasteries, study Buddhism, meditation and visit Buddha’s birthplace itself within the sacred Mayadevi Gardens.
Mayadevi Temple is one of the important sites in the Lumbini Garden with many historians and archaeologists referring to it as the place of birth of Lord Buddha. Inscriptions on the Ashoka Pillar also refers to the spot as his birthplace. It is said that here the newly born Prince took his first seven steps and gave a peace message to humanity.
Situated in the Terai belt of the nation, Lumbini happens to be one of the famous tourist destinations, a Mecca for the devotees and believers all over the world. Lumbini is located in the district of Kapilvastu, near the Indian border. Blessed with the various sites, instruments, and shrines of various stages of Buddha’s life, Lumbini offers a variety of attractions related to the different occurrences in Buddha’s life.
Lumbini is believed to be the place where Queen Maya Devi gave birth to the baby Buddha, Siddhartha Gautam. While there are various inscriptions, bricks and other pieces of evidence of Lumbini being the birthplace and a place of worship for the people for centuries, it was rediscovered by Nepali archaeologists in 1896. The archaeologists discovered the Ashokan pillar which confirmed the linkage of Lumbini with Buddha.
UNESCO enlisted the birthplace as a world heritage sites list due to its importance to the Hindu and Buddhist religious community as well as the history and culture of the entire world. The Lumbini heritage site covers 4.8km in length and 1.3 km in width and is stated as a monastic zone where only monasteries can be built. The building of any recreational structure in the area is prohibited and is separated into the Eastern zone (with Theravadin monasteries) and the Western zone (Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries).
Soak up the peaceful atmosphere and above all visit the Mayadevi Temple which dates back to 2,200 years, which archaeological evidence proclaim as the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautam or Lord Buddha in 623 BC. One can visit the Panditarama Vipassana Center for some yoga and meditation and interact with the monks, who live in the vicinity of the monasteries, devoting their time to balancing the environment with religious worship. If you are planning on traveling to exotic places in South Asia looking to find some Nirvana, then do not miss Lumbini in Nepal.
#9 Chitwan National Park
Nestled at the foot of the Himalayas, Chitwan has a particularly rich flora and fauna and is home to one of the last populations of single-horned Asiatic rhinoceros and is also one of the last refuges of the Bengal Tiger. Chitwan National Park (CNP), established in 1973, was Nepal’s first National Park. The Chitwan National Park was formerly known as the Royal Chitwan National Park. This park is home to many different species of wildlife. These also include the famous Asian one-horned rhino and the Royal Bengal tiger.
Located in the Southern Central Terai of Nepal, it formerly extended over the foothills, the property covers an area of 932 sqkm, extends over four districts: Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Parsa, and Makwanpur. Witness wilderness in its real form, and do it in style like the old-day Maharajas on elephant back to spot rhinos and deer, or go jeep safari in the depth of the forest to catch a glimpse of the elusive Bengal tiger.
Chitwan used to a hunting ground that royalty used for big game. Established in 1973 conservation orders were put in place to protect the remaining endangered animals found there. In 1984 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Another exciting adventure is to go canoeing in the marshy Terai river amongst hundreds of marsh mugger crocodiles basking in the sun, waiting for their prey to fall in their mouths. You can also spend some calming animal time visiting the elephant and gharial breeding farms, a perfect way to educate your kids about the animals and their life cycle.
You’ll have an excellent chance of spotting one-horned rhinos, deer, monkeys and some of the more than 500 species of birds. If you’re extremely lucky, you may spot a leopard, wild elephant or sloth bear – though it’s the once-in-a-lifetime chance to spot a majestic royal Bengal tiger that is the premier attraction.
#10 Sagarmatha National Park
Sagarmatha National Park extends over an area of 1,148 square kilometers of the Himalayan ecological zone in Khumbu region of Nepal. The Park includes the upper catchments areas of the Dudhkoshi and Bhote Koshi Rivers and is largely composed of rugged terrain and gorges of the high Himalayas, ranging from 2,845m at Monjo to the top of the world’s highest peak- Mt.Everest i.e (Sagarmatha in Nepali)at 8,848m above the sea level. Other peaks above 6,000m are Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Thamserku, Nuptse, Amadablam, and Pumori. The famed Sherpa people, whose lives are interwoven with the teachings of Buddhism, live in the region.
The renowned Tengboche and other monasteries are common gathering places to celebrate religious festivals such as Dumje and Mane Rumdu. Tengboche, Thame, Khumjung, and Pangboche are some other famous monasteries of this region. For its superlative natural characteristics, UNESCO has enlisted Sagarmatha National Park as a World Heritage Sites list in 1979.
Endangered species seen by a lucky few include snow leopard, red panda, and two varieties of dazzling pheasants – the crimson-horned and the Lophophorus impejanus also known as impeyan, Nepal’s national bird. Smaller animals like marmots, pikas and martens are also found here.
The region ranges in altitude from less than 2,000 m above sea level at Jiri to the high peaks of the Himalaya at over 8,000 m. Hence the flora and fauna are diverse with a dense forest of pine, oak and the flowering rhododendrons up to 4,000 m. The latter are one reason to make a trip to Nepal in the spring when the hills between 2,000 m and 3,500 m are a riot of colors. The majority of visitors to the area are people looking to trek to Everest Base Camp or on one of the various other treks in the region, such as the Gokyo Lakes, Island Peak, or Three Passes treks.