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List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nepal

  • 07-Apr-2021
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Nepal is not only the home of hundreds of mountains but also a preservation center for 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are natural, historical, and cultural sites. It has well-looked-after numerous cultural, historical and religious, and natural shrines. Such milestones are bold, beautiful, and vitrine the rich cultural and natural dimension of Nepal that is truly tremendous. The World Heritage Sites of Nepal have numerous structurally rich tourist spots that showcase the creative magnificence of Nepal and, lavish national parks that permit biodiversity to thrive.

Every historical and cultural shrine carries its own feature and connotation. Out of those hidden Sangri-La, UNESCO has recognized ten sites as world Heritage sites including seven in Kathmandu Valley. Amid 10, eight carry the cultural significance whereas two are through natural ones. This article describes those Heritage sites in detail.

10. Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square was once a seat of Malla Kings followed by Shah Kings of Nepal locates in the center of Kathmandu, quite near Thamel, the tourist hub. A plethora of art and architecture is combined and preserved there. One can explore the Durbar periphery along with a rich tapestry of temples, statues, sculptures, courtyards, and alleys, which was inscribed in the world heritage site in 1979.

Entring the Durbar square, one can visit Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square, Taleju Bhawani Mandir, Nasal Chowk, Kumari House, Nine Storey Basantapur Tower, Kal Bhairawa Temple, Sundari Chowk, Mul Chowk, Kastamandapa, Pancha Mukhi Hanuman Temple, The Big Bell, Mini Pashupatinath Temple, Tribhuvan Museum and more in its vicinity.

Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square is a former royal palace of the Malla Kings and later handover to Shah Dynasty. These days this palace is working as a historical monument and is used as a ritual and ceremonial occasion as well. The relics of the royal palace are preserved as a museum that lets one explore the culture, religion, customs, tradition, architecture, history of Royal palaces, etc. An entrance fee has been set for entering the museums.

9. Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the major attraction with the old royal palace and a host of artistically designed temples all within the square. It is the royal palace of Malla Kings and is quite popular for its outstanding Newari arts and architecture that are marked in the temples, statues, bahals, hities, windows, doors, and walls of Durbar Square. The durbar periphery is surrounded by the finest architectures, temples, Bihars, and some other historical and religious shrines.

A center of both Hinduism and Buddhism, Patan Durbar Square has 136 "bahals" (courtyards) and 55 major temples. Temple construction in the square went into overdrive during the Malla period (14th to 18th centuries), particularly during the reign of King Siddhinarsingh Malla (1619–60).

The core attractions of Patan Durbar Square are Patan Durbar Square, Mahaboudha Temple, Krishna Temple, Kumbeshwor temple, Hiranya Varna Mahavihar (Golden Temple), Mulchowk, Jagat Narayan Temple, Big Bell, Pillar of Yognarendra Malla, Hari Shanker temple, Vishwanath temple, Bhimsen temple, Marga Hiti, Mani Mandap, Café Pagoda, Rato Machhendra Temple, Minnath, Rudra Varna Mahavihar and so forth.

8. Bhaktapur Durbar Square

One of the three cities of Kathmandu valley- Bhaktapur is one of the medieval kingdoms of Nepal situates just 12km east of core Kathmandu. Bhaktapur, which literally means the city of ‘devotees’ has a vast collection of a plethora of temples, monuments, sculptures, statues, and courtyards each standing as a highlight of authentic Nepalese crafts and architecture. The Durbar complex consists of at least four distinct squares (Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square, Dattatreya Square, and Pottery Square) numerous yards, several temples (Taleju, Nyatapol, Hanumana, Dattatraya), and more.

First-time visitors amaze to see the numerous monuments of Bhaktapur. At the core of the durbar periphery, one can witness the 55-window palace, a perfect example of 18th-century architecture made by Bhupatindra Malla spending more a less half a century. This palace features 55 windows (as its name suggests), richly carved interiors, mural paintings on the inner walls along with the golden gate, Taleju Chowk and Naga Pokhari.

Next, a very scenic monument in the square is the Nyatapola Temple- the tallest temple of Nepal which is 108ft tall and has a five-storied pagoda style. This temple was erected by Nepali King Bhupatindra Malla during a 7-month period from late 1702 to 1703. Dedicated to the Hindu goddess Siddilaxmi, a bloodthirsty incarnation of the goddess Durga (Parvati) opens once a year, the day of Dashain-the greatest festival of Nepal.

 Moving eastward from Nyatapol, one reaches popular Dattatraya Square spending about 7-8 minutes on foot. The eye-catching Dattatraya Temple was originally built in 1427, supposedly using timber from a single tree. It’s said to be the only temple in Nepal dedicated to Dattatreya who is part of the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Apart from this temple, explorers can visit Bhimsen Temple, Laxmi Narayan Temple, Pujari Math, Peacock Window (Mona Lisa of Nepal) during their trip to this heritage site.

7. Swayambhunath Stupa

 Swyambhunath Stupa, an ancient religious shrine situates atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of core Kathmandu. The name Swyambhu comes from an eternal self-existent flame (svyaṃbhu) over which a stupa was later built. Believed to be the most ancient and enigmatic of all the holy shrines in Kathmandu valley, Swyambhu is estimated to be around 2500 years old.

The complex consists of the main stupa, a variety of shrines of temples, some dating back to the Licchavi era. The main stupa comprises a hemisphere at the base, above which is a cubical structure painted with the eyes of Buddha glancing in all four directions representing Wisdom and Compassion. Buddha's eyes and eyebrows are painted just above the dome in four different directions. Between them, the number one (in Devanagari script) is painted in the fashion of a nose.

The stupa symbolizes the four elements that are earth, wind, water, and fire. Thirteen tiers symbolize that sentient beings have to go through the thirteen stages of spiritual realizations to reach enlightenment or Buddhahood and Gajur is at the top of them. Panch Buddhas(five Buddhas) are also craved on each of the four sides of the stupa.

Along with that, one can explore other important monuments including the huge gold plated Vajra ‘thunderbolt’ set on the east side of the stupa, Buddha statue on the west side of Swayambhu, the Sleeping Buddha, the Dewa Dharma Monastery, noted for a bronze icon of Buddha and traditional Tibetan paintings and the temple dedicated to Harati, the goddess of all children. It is said that she was an ogress before Lord Buddha converted her to be the caretaker of all children.

6. Pashupatinath Temple

Another cultural UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, the Pashupatinath territory is renowned all around the world as a Hindu religious shrine- the Shiva temple and several other monuments. Remaining at the bank of the holy Bagmati River, Pashupatinath is a two-storied Pagoda-style temple made from copper and is covered with gold. This richly decorated temple with wooden sculptures is believed to make wishes come true. One of the most astonishing decorations of the temple is the huge golden statue of Nandi – Shiva’s bull.

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. Apart from this temple, there are around 492 temples, shrines, chaityas, and about 1000 Shivalingas. 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.

Pashupatinath area is popular for its cremate place as well. Hindus from all over the Kathmandu valley are taken to be cremated there. The different ghats in the bank of Bagmati River (Arya Ghat, Raj Rajeshowari Ghat, Ghauri Ghat, Bhasmeshwar Ghat, etc.) Enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1979 A.D., Pashupatinath is being preserved and promoted by Pashupatinath Development Trust. One can explore Electric crematorium, Deupatan, Jaybageshwari, Guheshwari, Gaurigat, Kutumbahal, Shleshmantak Forest while visiting this religious and cultural shrine.

5. Boudhanath

One of the holiest shrines for Buddhists all around the world, Boudhanath Stupa is the largest stupa in Nepal and one of the largest in the world. Enlisted in a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, Boudhanath is believed to be built in the 5th century A.D. This colossal ancient Stupa is surrounded by several other monasteries and religious shrines.

Boudhanath Stupa consists of a giant dome with a Buddhist pyramid tower on the top which is shaped like mandalas themselves. The highly symbolic construction serves in essence as a three-dimensional reminder of the Buddha’s path in the direction of enlightenment.

The plinth signifies earth, the Kumbha (dome) is water, the Harmika (square tower) is fire, the pinnacle is air and the umbrella at the top is the void or ether beyond space. The 13 levels of the spire represent the stages that a human being must pass through to triumph nirvana. It is a very captivating and spiritual area where devotees walk more than three times a day enchanting the holy mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ (Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus).

During the full moon day, monks are humored in prayers, singing songs, and several Buddhists come over to the place for visiting. The five most promising elements representing Buddha (earth, air, water, fire, and space) are comprised in the Stupas architecture. Numbers of Buddhist prayers visit this holy serene place and pray for world peace. The spiritual word and sound of monks praying and humming chants will sacredly relax you.

4. Changu Narayan Temple

Change Narayan temple is another holy place for both Hindus and Buddhists locates at a high hilltop of Bhaktapur district, 12km east from core Kathmandu. Believed to be the eldest temple of Nepal, was built 323 A.D. (sources vary) and was enlisted in World Heritage Site in 1979 A.D.

With the excellent Pagoda-styled architecture, the temple is one of the brilliant places for travelers who love to explore Hindu culture and the ancient beliefs of Hindus. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is a perfect place to visit during festive times. Although the temple is dedicated to Vishnu, although shrines to Lord Shiva, Ashta Matrika, Chhinnamasta, Kileshwor, and Krishna are also found within the wider temple complex.

The core monument here is secured on all sides by pairs of real and mythical creatures – elephants, lions, winged lions, and ram-horned griffons – and its roof struts feature some amazingly intricate carvings of Tantric deities. Facing the west door of the temple is a statue of Garuda, the legendary bird that served as Vishnu’s mount, which dates back to the 5th century A.D. And near this statue is the hoariest stone inscription in the Kathmandu Valley, etched in 464 A.D by the then King Mandev.

3. Lumbini

Lumbini, the home and birthplace of Lord Buddha (Siddhartha Gautam) the founder and prophet of Buddhism and is one of many magnets for pilgrimage that sprang up in places pivotal to the life of the Buddha. One of the most divine places the world's great religions and its remains contain important evidence about the nature of Buddhist pilgrimage centers from as early as the 3rd century BC. It is both shrine and a serene place that seeks peace of mind and soul and is a popular national and international destination for several tourists.

A plethora of the shrines concerned with Buddhism is to be explored in Lumbini. Maya Devi Temple, world, peace Pagoda, eternal peace flame, Lumbini Museum, a peace garden, monastic zones (both eastern and western), remarkably beautiful monasteries built by countries such as China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Germany, France, and many more, Tilaurakot durbar periphery, Ashoka pillar can be explored throughout the journey to this historical and religious place.

2. Chitwan National Park

A natural paradise for diverse flora and fauna, Chitwan National Park is an ideal place to go for a wildlife safari. Established in 1973, it was granted the status of a World Heritage Site in 1984.  Extended in four districts of Nepal i.e. Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Parsa, and Makwanpur, this park covers 932 sq km that contains forests, marshland, and grassland witnessing sizeable animal populations, making it one of the best national parks for viewing wildlife in Asia.

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 one-horned rhinoceros, royal Bengal tiger, great Asiatic elephants, gharial crocodile, freshwater Gangetic dolphin, and others. Besides, various kinds of deer, monkeys, wild boars, sloth bears, elephants, and leopards can also be found here. It is an ideal place for viewing the birds as well.

The remarkable landscape, sheltered with sumptuous flora and the Himalayas as the backdrop makes the park an area of exceptional natural beauty. The arboreal hills and fluctuating river landscapes oblige to make Chitwan one of the most stunning and attractive parts of Nepal’s lowlands. Positioned in a river valley basin and characterized by steep overhangs on the south-facing slopes and a mosaic of riverine forest and grasslands along the river banks of the natural landscape makes the property amid the most visited tourist destination of its kind in the region.

Explorers can spend some valued time rambling the elephant and gharial breeding centers, a perfect way to educate your kids about these animals and their life cycle. Observe local tribal life by visiting Tharu settlements, and the cultural performances where you will be welcomed inside their traditional mud houses and treated most respectfully.

1.  Sagarmatha National Park

Another natural shrine and the home to the tallest peak- Mt. Everest is Sagarmatha National Park which extends over an area of 1148 sq. km of Solukhumbu district, eastern Nepal and it ranges in elevation from 2,845 m (9,334 ft) at Jorsalle to 8,848 m (29,029 ft) at the summit of Mount Everest.

Established in 1976 and got inscribed as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site in 1979. The national park encompasses not only Mt. Everest and other tallest Himalayan peaks such as Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam, Thamserku, Lhotse, Pumori, Nuptse, etc. however also glaciers and lakes as Khumbu Glacier and Gokyo Lake, and deep valleys with rugged terrain.

This national park is one of the most visited tourist destinations by mountaineers and trekkers from the entire planet. Its alpine climatic condition and vegetation mean the area is suitable habitat for wildlife species in the likes of Snow Leopard, Himalayan Monal, Red Panda, and Blood Pheasant, etc. Home of the brave mountaineers- Sherpa people with their unique lifestyle and cultures can be explored while trekking/ mountaineering in Everest. Numerous religious shrines as Tengboche Monastery are preserved well inside the national park.

Final Words

The whole Life is short to explore Nepal and its beauties. Visiting not only the heritage sites but other natural, cultural and historical shrines of Nepal, one remembers the statement “Heaven is a Myth, Nepal is real.” Visitors can organize numerous activities like white water rafting, bungee jumping, paragliding, canoeing, jungle safari, ultra-light flight, trekking, hiking and excursions, mountain climbing, and some other mountaineering activities, mountain bike riding, and so on in their visit to Nepal.

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