Kathmandu is known as the City of Temples. However, it is not short of spectacular and beautiful Buddhist heritage sites. These monasteries and temples are the city’s unique landmarks and carry a very distinctive identity. While devout followers visit these revered sites daily for religious sites, these holy sites also attract other visitors with their architectural and recreational features. Here are some monasteries to visit when you’re in Kathmandu. Here is a list of five best Buddhist heritage sites to explore in Kathmandu Valley.
Swayambhu Nath is considered to be the holiest Buddhist heritage site in Nepal. Perched on the top of a hill just two kilometers west of Thamel, this fifth century temple is a must-visit highlight of Kathmandu. The name Swayambhu literally means self-created in Nepali, and it is believed that the eternal flame over which the stupa was built came into existence itself. The stunning stupa is a solid white dome with 13 steps emerging from it and pointing to the sky. Between the dome and steps is a rectangular portion that is painted with the most beautiful and piercing eyes that are believed to be Buddha’s. Alongside this main stupa, there are several other big and small temples and stupas that accentuate the site’s beauty and religious significance even more.
The Hiranya Varna MahaVihar in Patan, also known as the Golden Temple, will literally blow you away. Although tucked in a corner, it is the most sought-after temple in the Patan Durbar Square. Well, it actually isn’t a temple but a Newari Buddhist monastery built in 1409. Its new name “Golden Temple” actually arose from popularity rather than it being made of pure gold. The temple itself is stunning three-story temple with absolutely intricate gold details. At the entrance, you will be welcomed by two gigantic brass elephants and riders on each side. Also, the temple plaza contains enough artifacts to keep an art and history buff amused for a whole day. It won’t be wrong to say that this temple offers great closeup views of so many artifacts without being in a museum.
Boudha Nath is the largest stupa to ever exist in Asia and believed to be the holiest by the Tibetans outside Tibet. Although there are many legends surrounding when was it built by whom, the most popular legend is that it was built by a prince to redeem the sin of killing his own father. Just like the Swayambhu Nath, the stupa consists of a massive white dome with 13 steps emerging from it and a set of Buddha’s eyes between the two. However, here you have the liberty to entering the core plaza and climbing up to the dome. It is quiet fun to circle this enormous stupa. Also, you can visit the Tamang Gompa situated right in front of stupa and take blessings from the monks.
Druk Amitabh Mountain Monastery
Perched on a small hill northwest of Swayambhu, this is the most famous Buddhist monastery site in Kathmandu. Also known as the SetoGumba or White Monastery, Druk Amitabh Mountain is now more often visited for recreational purposes than religious ones. It is a great place to be for a short getaway picnic or an outing. Dedicated to Amitabh Buddha, it was built in the 80s. From an architectural point of view, this monastery is downright impressive. The built of the monastery itself is beautiful, and on top of that, the intricately painted walls that depict Buddha’s teachings add even more to its beauty. It also has a nunnery where more than 300 nuns reside and practice Mahayana Buddhism.
Just a stone’s throw away from Boudha, Kopan monastery, Kopan Monastery, too, is perched on a hilltop. This monastery follows the Gelung tradition which stems from Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism under His Holiness Lama Zopa Rinpoche. While the monastery is aesthetically very beautiful, it is mainly popular for other features like its meditation retreats and courses on Buddhism. You can even undertake an official course in affiliation with the Foundation for the preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). You can visit the residences nearby that is home to more than 360 monks, lamas, teachers, and other workers. All in all, it is a great place to learn profoundly about Mahayana Buddhism.