With 2 days in Kathmandu Valley, you can get some taste of the local culture.
Day 2 highlights: Patan (Lalitpur), Kirtipur
You can actually walk to Patan from Thamel, if you don’t mind walking half an hour, but you will definitely need a transport to reach Kirtipur.
If you want to visit more than once, you can request this by showing your passport at the ticket office and you can use the ticket for up to a week.
Patan (currently known, as Lalitpur – “city of beauty” in translation) is located just 5 KM from central Kathmandu, south of the Bagmati River. You can walk here from Kathmandu Durbar Square, it would take you about an hour. The way is not that amazing. Like everywhere else in Nepal, many streets have no sidewalks, crossing the streets can be out of a horror movie and the dust is unpleasant, but it still is very interesting to see the areas less visited by tourists and to just observe the local way of life. On the way back, we took a taxi though, it took about 20 minutes (the traffic is just crazy) and cost about 5 USD (they always ask more from tourists).
This old city is one of the 7 UNESCO World heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley. It is believed to date back to the 3rd century BC. Along with Kathmandu (Basantapur) and Bhaktapur, Patan was an independent city state with its own Malla rulers.
The Durbar square and the surrounding areas depict gorgeous Newar architecture from 17th century. Unfortunately, many sites here were strongly affected by the 2015 earthquake. Many temples were completely destroyed. The reconstruction is ongoing, albeit slowly.
Patan Durbar square is far more relaxed than Kathmandu one and less dirty. You can sit and watch people. You will find many locals just chilling.
The royal palace complex (thought to be built in the 17th century) consists of a group of buildings and 3 courtyards. Sudari Chowk is the oldest of the 3 courtyards. It’s carved in stone and has a stone bath in the middle. The Keshav Narayan Chowk houses Patan museum. Mul Chowk is the biggest and is surrounded by temples.
There are a number of amazing temples and pagodas in the area.
The Krishna Mandir Temple is a three-stories temple. According to the story, Malla king dreamed of Krishna visiting the area and ordered for a temple to be built in the spot he stood. Hindus can actually enter and go to the upper floors, but it’s not accessible for anyone else unfortunately. I would have loved to enter.
Next to Krishna Mandir is Bhimsen temple, which was fully in scaffolds when we visited.
Another of the most prominent temples is Hiranya Varna Mahavihar (Golden Temple), which has beautiful golden carvings (as you can guess from its name). The temple dates back to the 12th century. It was damaged during the earthquake and restored.
You will also soon see Hari Shankar Temple and the Krishna temple close to the Taleju bell. The bell was used during the times when enemies were close or when people wanted to show their grievances to the king.
There are many other places of worship in the area you can visit. Just wander around and explore at your own pace. You will also find a number of craft shops in the area.
From Patan to Kirtipur is a 15-20 minutes drive.
No entrance fees
Note: If you have mobility issues, keep in mind that the town is very hilly. The most notable parts are up on a hill and hardly accessible by cars, so if you are driving or in a taxi make sure to ask if they are able to get to Uma Maheshwar.
Kirtipur is a hidden gem of the valley. Its name is translated as the city of glory. It is located in the south-west of Kathmandu nearby Tribhuvan University. The cute little city is spread out on the hill. Therefore, the views from the old city looking over the valley and to the mountains are wonderful.
Kirtipur dates back to 11th century. Eventually it became part of Patan after being invaded by the Shah dynasty in the 18th century.
Not many tourists visit it. It is not on the usual tourist routes and itineraries, hence you can have the old narrow streets all to yourself. We only met three other foreigners overall while wandering around the city. It was quiet, peaceful and really lovely. So do visit it before it gets overcrowded.
Kirtipur is a city with Newar culture. It has been an anti-monarchy city. We met one man, who was very interested in us and explained that he was Newari. We expected that he would ask for payment, but strangely he only asked for the Georgian and Turkish money to add to his collection of notes from different countries.
Most prominent temple in the city is Bagh Bhairab Temple, which is believed to be built in the 16th century. God Bhairab is depicted as an angry tiger and is considered the protector or Kirtipur. Exploring it is very interesting and views are awesome. Animal sacrifices are made here every week.
Nearby Uma Maheshwar is the highest place in Kirtipur and definitely worth a visit. It is dedicated to Shiva and Parvati. The temple was constructed in the 17th century, but was destroyed and renovated a couple of times, with last renovation being completed in 2008.
Another well-known religious monument is Buddhist Chilancho Stupa. It’s surrounded by 4 small stupas.
One warning: There are a number of stray dogs all around the old city. They didn’t seem very friendly, so be careful.