Nepal is popular as a trekking destination and most people travel for different treks. Apart from its popularity among trekkers around the world, there is so much to see and experience in this Himalayan Kingdom. Nepal has a rich heritage and history, its monuments and old buildings are unique in the world. Though many structures damaged during the earthquake of 2015 still there is so much to see. The old cities of Bhaktapur and Patan (Also known as Lalitpur) are a fine example of Nepal’s architect.
These old towns are within 5 to 15 Km from Kathmandu and can be explored on a day trip. There are hotels in Bhaktapur and Patan but most of these hotels are smaller. Also, there are lesser eating joints in comparison to Kathmandu. There are more hotels in Kathmandu and both places can be seen on a day trip from Kathmandu.
Visit Lalitpur and Patan Durbar square
We hired a cab for the whole day and first I went to Lalitpur Nepal, which is popularly known as Patan. Like all the old towns of Nepal, Lalitpur also has a Durbar square in the center of the town. It is known as Patan Durbar Square and is the most visited place in the area.
Lalitpur is the third largest city of Nepal after Kathmandu and Pokhara. It is 7 Km from the capital city of Kathmandu. Patan Durbar Square is best known for its rich cultural heritage, traditional arts, and crafts. There are artisans in this area who still make fine ancient art, statue in metallic and stone carving.
Patan was a well established and developed town since ancient times. Patan has been founded in the third century BC by the Kirat dynasty and later expanded by Licchavis dynasty in the sixth century. It was further expanded by the Mallas during the medieval period.
According to the historical records, Patan is the oldest among all the cities of Kathmandu Valley. It is the center of Newari culture and Newar names of Lalitpur is Yala.
Patan Durbar Square has been listed by UNESCO as one of seven Monument Zones that make up the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site. These zones are declared as protected and preserved area, so no new construction can be done in these areas.
Patan Durbar Square is similar to Kathmandu Durbar Square. In Patan, there is a residential palace of former Malla king, there is a total of 136 courtyards and 55 major temples. There are many courtyards and major temples dedicated to Hinduism and Buddism, there is a museum also in the area.
The best way to see Patan is to walk around and see different temples and monuments. Then sit among the visiting locals, absorb the vibes and smile at people passing from Patan Durbar square.
The real charm of Durbar Square apart from the ancient architectures are its small alleyways that made me feel as if I discovered something new but after circling for few minutes I realized that I end up exactly where I had started.
We spent half a day exploring the Patan Durbar Square area and then we went to Bhaktapur.
Exploring Bhaktapur from Kathmandu
Bhaktapur literally translates to a place of devotees. It was founded in the 12th century by King Ananda Malla king. Bhaktapur was the capital city of the Greater Malla Kingdom until the 15th century and was an independent kingdom until the 18th century.
The last three Malla rulers of Bhaktapur were Jitamitra Malla, Bhupatindra Malla, and Ranjit Malla. These rulers played key roles in building the palaces and temples of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. It is a fine example of Newari culture and traditions.
Bhaktapur is filled with Hindu and Buddhist temples but its population is mainly Hindu. Bhaktapur durbar square is called an open museum because each building in this town is a beautiful sight, with old wooden carved windows and doors. It is less touristic in comparison to Kathmandu and Patan Durbar Square. Here things are more laid back.
Bhaktapur has the best-preserved palace courtyards in Nepal. It was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its temples, wooden work, metal and stone artworks. German-funded Bhaktapur Development Project (BDP) restore and maintain the area.
Bhaktapur Durbar square is a fine example of traditional art, architecture, historical monuments, magnificent windows, pottery, and excellent temples.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is an assortment of the pagoda and shikhara-style temples, mostly dedicated to Hindu gods and goddesses. These temples are grouped around a 55-window palace of brick and wood, which is the main attraction of this square.
The main attraction of Bhaktapur Durbar Square is 5-story Nyatapola Temple, which was erected by Nepali King Bhupatindra Malla during a 5-month period from late 1701 to 1702.
Other important temples are pagoda temple of lord Bhairab the dreadful aspect of Lord Shiva, the three-story pagoda-style temple of Dattatreya with statues of the Hindu trinity of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. These were built during the reign of King Yaksha Malla. These temples are very popular among locals. Bhaktapur is still preserved as an ancient city.
There are some restaurants in the Bhaktapur Durbar square though food quality here is not great though view and surroundings compensate for it.
Bhaktapur is on the way to Nagarkot and easier to combine with it.