The Kathmandu Valley today incorporates three major settlements, each have their own distinctive character with outstanding temples, works of art and architecture and a varied calendar of feasts and festivals, all three have their roots in being capital cities of the valley's three principalities in times gone by. Between them they boast the highest density of World Heritage Sites to be found anywhere in the World, seven in total. There are many other fascinating settlements in the valley, which offer their own reasons for being there.
The Capital and home to Nepal's only International Airport is a lively and colourful place, although like so many capital cities in the developing world it has begun to show signs of congestion over the past few years, this hardly detracts from its mystery and celebration of life. Ancient temples in a medieval atmosphere sit, somewhat strangely, in harmony with the modern Kathmandu. From the busy tourist bazaar area in Thamel with its restaurants, nightclubs, curio shops and Internet cafes to the holy cremation site at Pashaputinath, Kathmandu, like the rest of Nepal, is diversity itself.
Patan (The City of Beauty) stands on the southern bank of the holy river Bagamti (a tributary of the Ganges) five kilometres south-east of Kathmandu. Nowadays, it has virtually become part of sub metropolitan Kathmandu. The pace of life here is more relaxed than its bigger brother. The city is renowned for its wealth of Buddhist and Hindu temples as well as having an abundance of fine bronze gateways and wonderful carvings. Patan is also known for its expert craftsmen and metal workers.
Bhaktapur is situated 14 km east of Kathmandu; it is the least developed large settlement in the region. Bhaktapur, (the City of Devotees), is the most "laid back" of the three valley towns. Its narrow brick paved streets remain as intact as they were centuries ago and harbouring, it seems, hidden shrines and statues around every corner. Many of Bhaktapur's practices have changed little over time. It is quite easy to spend a whole day here relaxing and taking in the atmosphere of this ancient Newar town famous for its woodcarvings, pottery and cloth weaving.
Some major sights of interest within the valley include.