Exploring Lalitpur: A complete travel guide

Lalitpur shines as a cultural gem, inviting travelers to explore its rich history and vibrant traditions. Lalitpur, also known as Patan, is located in the south-central part of Kathmandu Valley.
Among Newa (Newar) people Lalitpur is known as Yela.

Things to do in Lalitpur

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  • Explore Patan Durbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site
  • Visit Patan museum, Jyapu museum
  • Discover traditional crafts
  • Attend cultural performances
  • Enjoy Newari cuisine
  • Central Zoo

History

It is believed that Lalitpur was founded by the Kirat dynasty in the 3rd century BC. Then, around the 6th century, another dynasty called the Licchavis expanded it, and then later by the Mallas. Numerous legends surround the origin of Lalitpur’s name, with the most popular one revolving around the deity Rato Machhindranath. In Nepalbhasa (Newari) Rato Machhindranath is also known as Bunga Dyah.

According to this legend, the deity was brought to the Kathmandu Valley from Kamaru Kamachhya, situated in Assam, India. It was brought by a group of three people, among them was Lalit, a farmer who carried Rato Machhindranath from Assam.

The primary aim behind this journey was to overcome a severe drought in the valley. There is a widespread belief that Rato Machhindranath possessed the power to bring rainfall. Lalit’s dedicated efforts ensured the deity’s settlement in what is now Lalitpur. It is believed that the town’s name is kept in his honor. Lalit, with “pur” meaning township, thereby forming Lalitpur.

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nature

Another legend

Lalitpur where settlements must have existed during the Licchavi period around the 7th century AD. It is said that there was an ugly grass cutter who visited Mani Jogini in the Kathmandu valley to sell grass. He felt thirsty while cutting grass and went in search of water but couldn’t find it. After searching for a while he found it. He also took a bath and after taking a bath he transformed into a handsome man.

After taking a bath and finishing cutting grass he went to the city to sell the grass as usual. The king saw him and was surprised at his transformation from an ugly man to a handsome man and named him “Lalit”. The meaning of Lalit is beautiful. The king thought to build a memorial where transformation took place but couldn’t find a suitable name for it. In King’s dream, a voice advised him to call it Lalit Patan and asked him to build a city around it.

After getting instruction from his dream he sent Lalit across the Bagmati River and ordered him to build a city named Lalitpur.

Cultural Heritage

Patan Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located at the heart of the city and it is a famous place in Lalitpur. Here, travelers are transported back in time as they marvel at the ornate palaces, pagodas, and shrines that adorn the square. Among the highlights is the ancient Krishna Mandir, a masterpiece of architecture renowned for its attractive stone carvings.

Walking through Lalitpur’s narrow alleys, one encounters temples, stupas, and courtyards, each telling a story of the city’s glorious past.

Historical monuments

Lalitpur is home to many historical monuments that tell stories of its rich past. These historical monuments in Lalitpur attract visitors from around the world, offering a glimpse into the city’s cultural and architectural heritage.

Patan Durbar Square – The palace square is the residence of the Malla kings of Patan. It is one of the main attractions of Lalitpur, enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Patan Dhoka – One of the historical entrances to the old city.

Ashok Stupa – The Mauryan King of India, Ashoka built five Stupas, while he was visiting Lalitpur on a pilgrimage. Among them, four Stupas are in Lalitpur. They are located at Imadol in the east, Pulchowk in the west, Ibahi in the north, and Lagankhel in the south. During his visit, this place was ruled by the Kirati Kings.

Nature

Discover the natural beauty that surrounds Lalitpur, explore the lush greenery of Godawari Botanical Garden, or embark on a scenic hike to the nearby hills for breathtaking views.

Botanical Garden – Godawari Botanical Garden is located in the southern part of Lalitpur. It is officially known as the National Botanical Garden. This garden was established in 1962 A.D. (2019 B.S.).

Central Zoo – The central Zoo is located at Jawalakhel, Lalitpur. It was established in 1932 by Rana Prime Minister Juddha Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana as a private zoo. It is the only zoo in entire Nepal. After the political changes of 1950, it came under the ownership of the Government of Nepal. The Central Zoo opens from Sunday to Saturday 10:00 am to 05:00 pm.

Hiking

Bungmati Khokana Hiking – This is a popular route for hiking to observe a typical Newa (Newari) village. It is about 12 km south of Kathmandu and there are Rato Machhendranath and Karya Binayak temple.

Khokana is a small Newa village 10 km south of Kathmandu. It is known for Mustard oil production. Shikali Ajima (Rudrayani, the mother goddess) temple is located here.

Godavari to Phulchowki Hike: Phulchowki is the highest hill in the Kathmandu Valley, and it offers fantastic views of the valley. The hike starts at the botanical gardens in Godavari.

Temples, Mahavihar and Stupas

Lalitpur is home to numerous temples and stupas, each with its unique charm and significance. From the sacred temple of Krishna Mandir to the Golden Temple, visitors can immerse themselves in the spiritual ambiance of these sacred sites.

Bajrabarahi temple – Bajrabarahi temple is located in Chapagaon, Godawari Municipality, this place is a very important religious place.

Balkumari Temple – Balkumari Temple is dedicated to the goddess Balkumari in Sunakothi. This temple is in the middle of the Balkumari forest. There is a football ground near the temple.

Banglamukhi Temple – A temple which is one of the ten mahavidyas (great wisdom goddesses) in Hinduism. This temple is near Patan Durbar Square.

Kumbheshwar Temple – It is the only five-storied temple in Lalitpur, built in 1392 during the reign of King Jayasthiti Malla. A big fair is held in this Shival temple on the day of Janai Poonirma.

Bishankhu Narayan – It is a temple devoted to the Lord Bishnu and there is a small cave inside the temple.

Bhimsen Temple – Bhimsen Temple is located on the northwestern side of Patan Durbar Square. Bhimsen temple is dedicated to Bhimsen, regarded as the god of trade and business. It was built during the reign of King Srinivasa Malla.

Bhringareshwor Temple – According to Gopal Raj Banshawali, the Bhringareswor Mahadev temple was built before the Pashupatinath Temple was established.

Mahabuddha Temple – It is located in the south of Patan Durbar Square. The Mahabuddha Temple is dedicated to the historical Buddha, also known as “the temple of a thousand Buddhas”. In this temple, each brick is adorned with a small image of Buddha.

Karya Vinayak Temple – This is a Hindu temple located in Bungamati, Lalitpur dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Karyabinayak is one of the four famous Vinayakas of Kathmandu Valley worshipped for the successful completion of the work.

Krishna Mandir – One of the stone temples of Nepal built by King Siddhi Narsingh Malla in the 17th century. Krishna Mandir is one of the most beautiful Shikhara-style temples in Patan that reflects the Malla era. It is in front of the Royal Palace of Patan.

Rato Machindranath – Machindranath is known as the God of Rain. Rato means red in the Nepali language. During the Rato Machhindranath Jatra, the Rato Machhindranath image is paraded around the town on a chariot each year. The temple has carved doorways guarded by lion figures and prayer wheels are at the base of the temple. Buddhists worship as the Tantric form of Avalokiteshvara and Hindus worship as the Shiva.

Santaneshwor Mahadev – According to an ancient myth, paying a visit to Santaneshwor Mahadev Temple may bless individuals struggling with fertility in conceiving a child.

Tika Bhairab – It is located in Lele, one of the major destinations for domestic tourists.

Vihars

Bhaskerdev Samskarita Hiranyabarna Mahavihar (Kwa Bahal) – It is located in Kwalkhu Tole, nearby Banglamukhi temple. One of the 18 main Bahals of Lalitpur, Kwa Bahal is popularly known as the Golden Temple. It is a major Buddhist pilgrimage site in Lalitpur. This temple is dedicated to Lokeshwor (Lord Buddha).

Bhuvanakar Varma Samskarita Dharmakirti Mahavihar (Ta Baha) – It is said that Bhuvanakar Varma founded this Baha.

Bidhyadharsarma Samskarit Yashodharvarma Mahabihar (Bu Bahal) – This Bahal consists of a large courtyard.

Cuka Bahal – It is located south of Tangah Baha. This Baha is one of the oldest Bahals of Lalitpur, believed to be founded by King Mandeva I.

Divya diwakar Samskarita Shree Vaisyavarna Mahavihar (Guji Baha) – It is located in the Sundhara area, founded by Vaisya Diwakar Varma.

Guna Laxmi Mahavihar (Dhum Baha) – It is located at the north of the Durbar square.

Indradev SamskaritaJay Manohar Varma Mahavihar (Su Baha) – It is one of the most ancient Bahas located in Su Baha Tole. There are two Licchavi Chaityas in the Baha.

Jyesthavarna Mahavihar (Tanga Bahal) – It is also known as Caku Baha.

Jyo Baha – It is located behind the Durbar Square.

Ratnakar Mahavihar (Ha Bahal) – It is also known as Hakha Bahal or Hatako Baha, founded by Laxmi Kalyan Varma. The Vihar complex is the official residence of the Kumari of Patan. Kumari is always chosen from the Newa Shakya clan and must have the 32 perfections of the goddess to be a Kumari.

Rudradev Gargagotra Varma Samskarita Dattanama Mahavihar (Dau Baha) – It was founded by Rudradev Varma.

Samskarita Baladhar Gupta Mahavihar (Yachhu Bahal) – It is located in a courtyard north of the Sundhara. Yachhu Bahal is a small Baha named after Baladhar Gupta, the founder of this Mahavihar.

Shankerdev Samskarit Mayurvarna Mahavihar (Bhinche Baha) – It has a large courtyard, located north-east of Sundhara.

Shivadev Samskarita Rudravarna Mahavihar (Uku Bahal) – It is located in the Wankuli area, founded by Shivadeva Varma. It is in the Wankuli area and known as Wankuli Bihar but later its name changed to Wankuli – Unkuli – Uku Bahal. Later it was renovated by Rudradev and it is named “Shivadev Samskarita Rudravarna Mahavihar”. Inside the courtyard, there are statues of Prime Minister Juddha Shumsher, winged horses, Garuda etc. In 1934, Juddha Shumsher donated for the repair of the Bahal.

Sri Vaccha Mahavihar (Si Baha) – This Baha was established by King Siddhinarsimha Malla.

Wam Baha – It is located to the northeast of Durbar Square.

Stupas

Pulchowk Stupa
Lagankhel Stupa
Ibahi Stupa
Teta Stupa

Traditional Crafts

Experience the rich cultural heritage of Lalitpur through its traditional crafts and artwork. Explore the bustling lanes of the city’s old bazaars, where skilled artisans practice age-old techniques such as woodcarving and metalwork. Visitors can also shop for authentic handicrafts, souvenirs, and locally-made treasures to take home as mementos of their journey.

Wood Carving
Metal Carving
Stone carving

Festivals and Celebrations

Lalitpur comes alive during the festivals and celebrations, offering tourists a glimpse into the vibrant culture of Nepal. Festivals of Lalitpur’s roots run deep in the Newari culture and boast a legacy dating back centuries. The city celebrates numerous festivals throughout the year. From the vibrant Gai Jatra and Rato Machhindranath festivals to the mesmerizing Holi, Lalitpur is alive with cultural festivities.

Shrikali Jatra – The Shrikali Jatra is a festival in Lalitpur dedicated to the goddess “Shrikali”.

Rato Machindranath Jatra – It is one of the greatest religious events, a chariot festival held in Lalitpur, Nepal.

Matya – During Matya, people walk around the 1,300 Buddhist shrines in Lalitpur.

Navadurga Jatra – Navadurga Jatra is an important festival held in Patan.

Museums and Galleries

For those seeking a deeper understanding of Lalitpur’s heritage, the city’s museums provide insight into its art, history, and craftsmanship.

Patan Museum – Lalitpur is home to the renowned Patan Museum, a place of a remarkable collection of religious artifacts, ancient sculptures, and paintings that showcase the rich heritage of the region.

Jyapu Museum – In this museum one can see the lifestyle and culture of farmers known as Jyapu, the typical name for the indigenous of the Kathmandu Valley.

Ponds

There are many Ponds in Lalitpur including PimBahal Pokhari.

Balkumari Pond – Balkumari Pond is located beside Balkumari Temple in Lalitpur. There is a statue of Buddha in the middle of the pond and it is also known as Buddha Pond.

Pimbahal Pokhari – Pimbahal Pokhari is a famous historical pond in Lalitpur. It is an artificial pond, surrounded by buildings and local residents.

Purnachandi Pond – This pond is located behind the Purnachandi temple in Gabhal, Lalitpur. Purnachandi Pond is surrounded by houses.

Saptapatal Pond – Saptapatal Pond is a religiously and historically important pond of Lagankhel. There is a school named Namuna Machhindra School and Ashoka Stupa near this pond.

Sundar Pokhari – It is located in Lalitpur near Santhaneshwar Mahadev.

Culinary Delights

No visit to Lalitpur is complete without visiting Lalitpur’s charming cafes or rooftop restaurants. Lalitpur is popular for its traditional Newari cuisine. Indulge in mouthwatering Newari dishes such as bara, yomari, Newari Bhoj (feast), and chatamari (also known as Newari pizza). There are many best restaurants in Lalitpur such as KFC Lalitpur.

Conclusion

Lalitpur is a captivating destination that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re exploring its ancient temples, savoring its culinary delights, or immersing yourself in its vibrant festivals, a visit to Lalitpur promises an unforgettable experience for travelers of all ages.

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