The holiest of Hindu shrines devoted to Lord Shiva, Pashupati draws the largest crowds of devotees and has vast tracts of land under its jurisdiction. The deceased are brought here for cremation along the banks of the Bagmati and many Hindu festivals bring devotees here for a dip in the river and to pay homage to their god Shiva. The largest crowds gather here for Shivaratri ‘the night of Shiva’ in the beginning of spring when along with devotees, sadhus (the holy men) arrive here in great numbers from India.
The largest stupa in Nepal, Boudha is not very far from Pashupati and should be included in the same tour. This magnificent shrine has been an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists from around the world and especially from Tibet where Buddhism reached its pinnacle. In the vicinity of the stupa are many monasteries where hundreds of monks reside and foreigners take up courses in Buddhist studies. The largest crowds of devotees descend here for the Lhosar (the Tibetan New Year) festival in late winter or early spring.
Yet another powerful shrine and also one of the oldest, Swoyambhu is dominated by the Newar Buddhists. Perched atop a small hill, it is seen from most parts of the city and has a circular road around it for circumambulation where devotees are seen from early morning. A big draw for pilgrims from around the world, a near vertical staircase leads straight up to the stupa but there are also easier approaches. A great view of the city can be had from the shrine.
Similar to Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square is a living museum enriched by art represented in the wood-carving, stone carving, metal work and superb architecture of the temples built centuries ago. Part of the old Malla era palace has been converted into a museum that showcases the art of old Lalitpur. The outstanding Krishna temple in stone is worth a visit.
The most spacious of the three palace squares of the valley, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square also has fewer temples but more space for people to sit around. The major attractions are the Golden Gate and the Fifty-five windows of the old palace. Worth a visit is the Art Gallery which houses some ancient artifacts. The art around Durbar Square is quite exceptional especially in the form of metal craft which includes some fine repouse work. This is where the remaining Malla kings took their last stand against the invading Gorkha army and lost their kingdoms.
Not far from Bhaktapur and accessible by car or bus, is one of the oldest temples of the valley, the Changu Narayan dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Standing majestically on a hilltop, it overlooks a large part of the valley and boasts some wonderful sculptures. Eateries, souvenir shops and hotels line the steps leading up to the shrine. Built in the Lichhavi period, it dates back to the 4th Century AD.