10 historical, cultural, and natural sites in Nepal have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Out of them, 8 are cultural heritage sites with historical magnificence and 2 are natural heritage sites that are sumptuous havens for blooming biodiversity. These sites are bold, magnificent, and really awe-inspiring, showcasing Nepal's rich cultural and natural richness.
The below listed World Heritage Sites of Nepal have something to offer everyone, whether they are nature lovers or history and culture buffs.
Cultural Heritage Sites in Nepal
1, Pashupatinath Temple
The Pashupatinath Temple, one of Nepal's greatest and one of the four prominent Hindu sanctuaries in the world, stretches across both banks of the picturesque and sacred Bagmati River on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu. This temple is the majestic sanctuary dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Believed to have existed since 400 BC, the current two-story main temple was built in the 5th century AD. The main temple, which is built in a pagoda style, houses Lord Shiva's sacred Linga or phallic emblem. There are approximately 200 shiva Lingams, 500 temples, shrines, and chaityas within the temple precincts, including Ram Temple, Guheswori Temple, Virat Swaroop Temple, and Vasukinath Temple.
Designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1979 AD, the site not only draws a large number of Hindus from all over the world but also is a work of art for art historians. The main temple, with its pagoda-style built-in with gold roofing and finely carved silver doors, and the temple grounds, which include a variety of temples, are magnificent specimens of Nepalese craftsmanship. Wood, stone, and metal carvings are used to create the sculptures on the temple grounds.
Every Hindu from the Kathmandu valley is taken to be cremated here and thousands of devotees flock every day to get blessed by Lord Shiva. Pashupatinath Temple is busiest on Mahashivratri and Teej Festival days, as pilgrims from all over the world attend during the primary festival dedicated to Lord Shiva, Mahashivaratri, while almost every devotee from Nepal & India comes here to worship Lord Shiva during Teej Festival.
Only Hindus are allowed to enter the main temple, but all of the other structures are open to visitors. The main temple can be viewed in all its glory from the river's eastern side.
Tips:An hour before the Pashupati Aarati is the finest time to visit the temple. The Aarati ritual is held on the banks of the Bagmati River every evening, between 6:30 and 7:30 P.M.
2, Boudhanath Stupa
In 1979 AD, UNESCO designated Boudhanath Stupa as a World Heritage Site in Nepal along with Pashupatinath. Since then, the destination's popularity among international travelers has skyrocketed.
According to legends, the stupa was built during the 14th century after the Mughal invasions. Following the Chinese invasion in 1959, many Tibetans came to the stupa area which today has become one of the most important centers of Tibetan Buddhism.
Boudhanath is a 36-meter-high mandala-style construction with three levels resembling the Swayambhunath Stupa in appearance and serves as a three-dimensional reminder of the Buddha's path to enlightenment. With representations of the meditational Buddha inserted inside copper prayer wheels, this skyline-dominating whitewashed dome has a gilded tower with eyes on all sides and a symbol like a nose, personifying awareness. The copper prayer wheels, which are carved with the calligraphy mantra, are a tool for gaining insight and meditation. The Boudhanath Stupa truly represents serenity.
If Pashupatinath is in Kathmandu's holiest Hindu temple, the Boudhanath Stupa must be its Buddhist counterpart. It is one of the world's largest Buddhist stupas, and the surrounding area is a Buddhist-populated community with over 40 monasteries and religious monuments nearby.
Every day, a huge number of visitors, pilgrims, and locals can be seen visiting and making a kora (circumambulation) around the stupa. Chanting monks and pilgrims, spinning prayer wheels, colorful prayer flags, flocks of pigeons, the scent of Himalayan herb incense, and the shops of hand-made handicrafts are just a few of the elements that contribute to this location's unique ambiance. You can appreciate the buzzing spirituality from sunrise to sunset.
During Buddhist festivals, tens of thousands of Buddhists, as well as locals from other religions, flock to the area from all around the valley.
• The rooftop cafes and restaurants offer a stunning full view of the Boudhanath Stupa.
• Many believe that circumambulating a stupa cleanses negative karma and promotes enlightenment realizations. So, make 1 or 3 koras of the stupa while chanting “Om Mane Padme Hum” clockwise.
• There are wonderful shops around the stupa where you can buy something for mementos or souvenirs for friends and family such as Thangka paintings, singing bowls, statues of Buddha, colorful prayer flags, and, Himalayan herb incense.
3, Swayambhunath Stupa
The two fierce eyes on all four sides of the iconic whitewashed Swayambhunath Stupa indicate wisdom, while the curly nose like a question mark in the middle denotes unity. And, the 13-tiered gilded tower reflects Nirvana's 13 phases.
The history of the Swayambhunath Stupa and the Kathmandu Valley are interrelated with each other. As a result, it is one of Nepal's oldest monuments. The beginnings of this stupa complex may be traced back to 1500 years ago, according to historical records and inscriptions, but religious traditions and stories go back even longer.
Swayambhunath, which literally means "self-sprung," is thought to have been created after the lake dried up and gave rise to the current valley. The construction of this stupa by Boddhisattva Manjushri in Buddhist mythology and by King Veṛsadeva during the Gopala Dynasty in Hindu mythology is tied to the founding of Kathmandu.
This hilltop stupa is also known as Monkey Temple, probably because of the many monkeys that live on the temple grounds. It is a fascinating blend of Hindu shrines and Buddhist stupas, two distinct architectural styles coexisting together. Travelers go through the shrines, chanting supplication mantras.
There are 365 concrete steps leading up to Swayambhunath. But, a four-wheel or a two-wheel vehicle can reach the stupa area from the western side but it will take 5-10 minutes of walking to reach the top/main stupa. In addition to a magical and mystical experience with ancient carvings adorning every square inch of the temple and incense filling the air, the proud Swayambhunath offers a breathtaking perspective of the Kathmandu valley and surrounding hills.
• As in Boudhanath, circumnavigate the stupa in a clockwise motion.
• A statue of Buddha holding a cauldron in the World Peace Pond can be seen. You can attempt to toss coins into the cauldron in the hopes of having your wishes granted.
4, Changu Narayan Temple
Changu Narayan Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is the least visited heritage site in Kathmandu. The temple was named for Lord Vishnu, who is also known as Narayan and is located near Changu which is encircled by a champak tree around 14 kilometers east of the center of Kathmandu.
This two-tiered temple houses a stone inscription from 464 A.D. and other architectural masterpieces that showcase the ancient history of Nepal resulting in it being one of the oldest temples in Nepal. The main temple is embellished with some of the finest carvings in the Kathmandu Valley, and the variety of statues encircling the temple is the best you will see outside the National Museum of Nepal.
The temple's two pagoda roofs are supported by diagonal beams embellished with exquisite sculptures depicting Vishwaroop, Vishnu Vikrant, Vishnu riding Garuda, Nar-Singha Vishnu, and the other ten incarnations of Vishnu and numerous Tantric goddesses with multiple arms. Meanwhile, stone lions, griffins, elephants, and Sarabhas (part-lion, part-bird Hindu mythological animals) guard the temple's four gates.
The vicinity of the temple has a few other temples dedicated to Kileswar Shiva, Chinnamasta Devi, and other gods and goddesses. In addition, the temple offers a spectacular view of the Manohara River as it cascades through lush foliage along with snow-clad mountains and green hill vistas.
Tip: If you want to learn more about Changunarayan's rich history and fascinating myths, there is an information center as well as a handful of museums nearby.
5, Kathmandu Durbar Square
The Kathmandu Durbar Square, also known as the Hanuman Dhoka Palace and Basantapur Durbar Square, is one of the three durbar squares in the Kathmandu Valley. With a multitude of temples, shrines, statues, sculptures, and lanes, this was the old royal residence and courtyard of the Malla and Shah Kings of Kathmandu.
Basantapur Durbar Square has been a UNESCO cultural world heritage site since 1979. It is located 2 kilometers south of Thamel and is known as Katmandu City Center. This palace now serves as a historical landmark as well as a place of ritual and ceremonial significance. The royal palace remains have been maintained as a museum where visitors can learn about the culture, religion, customs, tradition, architecture, and history of royal palaces and Shah Kings, among other things.
There are more than 50 exquisite monuments, such as Kasthamandap - (a wooden pavilion) made of single tree wood built in the 8th century, Kumari Ghar – the residence of Living Goddess Kumari, Shiva-Parvati Temple, big bell, Taleju Temple, Jagannath Temple, Krishna Temple, Degutalle Temple, Gaddi Baithak and Kal Bhairab Temple. These monuments showcase the skill and beauty of Newar handicraft with stone sculptures, bronze art, outstanding woodcarving, pagodas, and shikhara style built-in.
The earthquakes in 2015 wreaked havoc on the cultural complex and nearly half of the premises fell, but it has kept its original splendor. The most popular annual fairs and festivals in the Newar Community such as Indra Jatra, Kumari Jatra, Durga Puja, Ghode Jatra, Yomari Punhi, Machindranath Jatra, and Gaijatra are celebrated at this durbar square complex and temples.
Tip:Try some authentic Newari food found near the Kasthamandap. Chataamari (Newari styled pizza with different ingredients), Anda Keema (minced meat with egg & soup), Aalo Paratha, Sekuwa & Momos are the must-try foods here.
6, Patan Durbar Square
As well as listed as World Heritage Site in 1979, Patan Durbar Square is located in Patan/Lalitpur (city of beauty) which is 8 km southeast of Kathmandu city. According to legend, the Kirat dynasty founded Patan in the third century, and it was later perfected by the Lichhavis in the sixth century, followed by the Malla dynasty. And parts of this Durbar Square were created by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, according to historical records.
Patan Durbar Square is home to ornately carved shrines, historic royal houses, Buddhist monasteries, Bahals, statues, and temples that are fantastic examples of distinct Newari culture and architecture. People's artisans in Thangkas, as well as metal crafts, have flourished in their art. On the durbar grounds, we can also witness magnificent stone and wooden crafts. The exquisite Krishna temple on the west side of Patan Durbar Square is one of a kind, displaying antique stonework.
There are roughly 136 courtyards in the square, with the palace's three principal courtyards, Mul Chowk being the largest and oldest located in the center. The western half of the complex is made up of several different-sized and-styled temples. The Patan Museum, located in Keshav Narayan Chowk, houses some of the finest collections of Newari arts and antiques, including pictures, statues, wood carvings, and paintings.
Within the vicinity, there are 55 prominent temples such as the Mahaboudha Temple, Krishna Temple, Bhimsen Temple, the Golden Temple, Kumbeshwor Temple, Jagat Narayan Temple, and Hari Shanker Temple, Vishwanath Temple, and Rato Machindranath Temple are among the noteworthy attractions to visit in Patan Durbar Square.
Tip: The central Zoo of Nepal is just 30 minutes southwest of this durbar square at Jawalakhel.
7, Bhaktapur Durbar Square
The Bhaktapur Durbar Square is the last of Kathmandu's three royal palaces located in Bhaktapur which is also the medieval kingdom of Kathmandu Valley along with Kathmandu and Lalitpur cities. Bhaktapur, a literal translation of ‘City of Devotees’, often spelled Khwopa or Bhadgaon, is a historic city about 12 kilometers east of Kathmandu.
Bhaktapur is known as the cradle of Nepali culture, customs, and enticing arts and crafts of exceptional craftsmanship. And Bhaktapur Durbar Square is one of the outstanding examples of Nepali architecture and craftsmanship in Kathmandu. This square is made up of four squares: Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square, Dattatreya Square, and Pottery Square.
Each monument in Bhaktapur is a representation of Nepal's medieval culture, religion, and customs. The 55-window palace, the palace of Malla King Bhupatindra Malla, which took over 50 years to create, stands in the heart of the square, attracting all visitors' attention. This palace was built in the 18th century that has 55 windows, richly carved interiors, and mural paintings on the inside walls, offering views of the Golden Gate, Taleju Chowk, and Naga Pokhari.
Nyatapola, a five-story pagoda-style temple dedicated to Goddess Siddhalaxmi, is another eye-catching landmark in the square. Dattatraya Square, Taumadhi Square, and the famed Pottery Square, where Newari craftsmen continue to create unique clay designs, are among the other attractions here. You will also find every minor utility that resembles a temple, as well as habitation locations, gossip centers, traditional music, and water springs with a large number of antique enthusiasts.
Tip:Try Ju Ju Dhau (king of yogurt) that comes in a clay pot/cup. It is the most famous thing here and you won’t be disappointed.
8, Lumbini – Birthplace of Lord Gautama Buddha
Lumbini is the most sacred pilgrimage site in the world for Buddhism followers as Lord Buddha was born here around 500 BC and spent his 29 years of life as Prince Siddhartha Gautama.
Lumbini is located southwest of Kathmandu in the southern Terai lowland. Listed as a world heritage site in 1997, the site was located in 1896 by British and European archaeologists after centuries of being lost.
Lumbini is home to all of the significant places and monuments associated with Buddha's life. Mayadevi Temple (where Buddha was born), Puskarni Pond (where Buddha's mother bathed before giving birth to Buddha), and Ashoka Pillar (erected by Emperor Ashoka to honor Buddha's birthplace) are among the most noteworthy. Crane Sanctuary, Lumbini Garden, Buddhist Library and Lumbini International Research Institute, World Peace Stupa, and international monasteries are among the other tourist attractions.
Lumbini is now a world peace center, with visitors traveling from all over the world to seek peace, spirituality, and learn about Buddha's philosophy. Meditation classes, workshops, and retreats are available at several monasteries in Lumbini.
Natural Heritage Sites in Nepal
1, Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park (CNP) was established in 1973 and designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. It is the first national park in the country with a 932 sq. km area that stretches over Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Parsa, and Makwanpur districts.
Chitwan National Park is made up of forests, marshland, and grassland, all of which are home to large animal populations, making it one of Asia's top national parks for wildlife viewing which was one a royal hunting reserve. It is home to over 700 types of fauna, ranging from mammals and reptiles to uncommon bird species.
The endangered Royal Bengal Tiger and the Asian one-horned rhinoceros are the most notable wild animals in this national park. The other well-known species of this sanctuary are Clouded leopards, Sloth Bears, Striped Hyenas, Golden Jackals, Gaurs, Antelopes, Oriental Darters, Kingfishers, Spotted Eagles, King Cobra, Rock Python, Gharials, and Crocodiles. With more than 500 bird species including the endangered Bengal florican and a great pied hornbill, CNP is also recognized as a bird paradise.
Just beyond the park, the indigenous Tharu people with their own distinct culture and indigenous wisdom reside in their traditional houses made of mud and clay. A Tharu Cultural show helps to learn about native tribal life. Interested can engage in a local homestay and experience a distinct way of life in Nepal.
Visiting Royal Chitwan National Park may be a delight for wildlife enthusiasts. The national park is not only limited to safaris but also offers more than dozen of activities to entertain the visitors while being inside the sanctuary. Elephant safaris, canoe rides, nature walks, and bird watching are just a few nature-based activities available here.
2, Sagarmatha National Park
Sagarmatha National Park was established in 1976, and it was declared a world heritage site after 3 years of establishment in 1979. Sagarmatha is the Nepali name of Mount Everest (8848.86m) and the national park is located on the flanks of Mount Everest.
Sagarmatha National Park was the first Himalayan national park to be declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mt. Everest and other above 6000 m high Himalayan peaks like Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam, Thamserku, Lhotse, Pumori, Nuptse, and others are all included in the national park, as are glaciers and lakes such as Khumbu Glacier and Gokyo Lake deep valleys inhabited by Sherpas.
The elevation here varies between 2000 and 8848.86 meters. Along with the Himalayas and glacial lakes, the national park is a veritable treasure trove of Himalayan herbs, flowers, and wildlife. The park is home to a diverse range of animals, including over 118 different bird species. The forest is dominated by silver fir, birch, rhododendron, and juniper trees, although trekkers in this area may see musk deer, Himalayan tahr, ghoral, serow, wolf, and Himalayan black bear.
Snow leopards, red pandas, and two types of magnificent pheasants—the crimson-horned and the Impeyan, Nepal's national bird—are among the endangered species rarely seen. Smaller species such as marmots, pikas, and martens can also be found in the park.
The Sherpa people, with their unique Buddhist culture and mountain lives, as well as their outstanding ability to climb mountains, and the highest monastery of Nepal, Tengboche Monastery (3600m) are well-known in the Sagarmatha region. Over the top, the Everest Base Camp, located in Sagarmatha National Park, is the world's most famous trekking destination and trekkers visit Sagarmatha National Park only for this reason.
These 10 listed World Heritage Sites showcase a glimpse of the cultural and natural treasures of Nepal. So, take a trip to Nepal to see some of these incredible sites and learn how its flawless geography is brimming with singular fantastic energy that is suitable for high-level spiritual well-being experiences.