Nepal has a rich history and its testimony is literally everywhere. One rule applies when visiting this amazing land: wherever you go, open up your eyes and don’t be afraid to get lost (it might happen to you more than once).
Before its unification in the mid-eighteenth century, Nepal consisted of small kingdoms, each capital having its own Durbar square, the historical center of the city. These plazas welcome the old royal palaces, temples and shrines devoted to the important deities, water fountains and other areas where the Newar people could gather. Three Durbar Squares have been recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites: Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, and Bhaktapur Durbar Square. They are luckily all situated in the Kathmandu valley, just few minutes from each other.
The last one on your to do list, isn’t by far the least. Even though Bhaktapur has been damaged by an earthquake back in the 1930’s, the whole medieval complex with its terra-cotta monuments definitely deserves few days of visit. Not so congested as its sisters from Patan and Kathmandu, Bhaktapur plazas, namely Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square, Dattatreya Square and Pottery Square, are spaciously separated. Being able to crisscross Bhaktapur’s paved streets from one to the other is a pleasurable travel back in time. In addition to window shopping, do some window hunting! The Palace of fifty-five Windows, considered being a unique masterpiece of woodcarving, and the famous peacock window would make great trophies in your collection.
How to go there?
If you are not arriving as part of a tour group, you may take mini bus (bound for Kamal Binayak stop in Bhaktapur) or big bus (bound for Chyamasingha stop in Bhaktapur) from Bus Stop near Bhadrakali. You can save time by taking Express Bus (this does not stop in between except in Maitighar and Sallaghari) from Bagbazar in Kathmandu. Recently, micro buses also started service of suttling between Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, which are pretty fast.
For those who haven’t experienced a public bus in South Asia, it will be a way to (literally!) rub shoulders with locals. In either case the ride takes about 40-60 minutes and drops you off just outside of town. The cost of the fare from Kathmandu to Bhaktapur is approximately 35 NRS (Sept 2009) by bus for local people. Average taxi fee from Thamel to Bhaktapur (one way) costs about 800-1000 NRS for the 16 km drive. You can easily hail a taxi or pick up a return bus to either Patan or Kathmandu just outside of the first main gate that leads into the city.