A Trip to Jomsom & Muktinath

Jomsom is a small town located at the discreet region of Mustang district. The Muktinath temple in the outskirts of Jomsom is major attraction of the region. A tourist destination, Jomsom is also an important economic and geographic hub connecting Nepal with Tibet.


Jomsom

Jomsom is the district headquarter of Mustang region. It connect Upper Mustang with other important cities in the South. Also known as Dzong-Sampa or New Fort,  it is located at the altitude of 2,700 meters; and covers Kali Gandaki river on both sides.

Kali Gandaki Gorge
Kali Gandaki Gorge

The Dhaulagiri and Nilrigi peaks are clearly visible from the town, along with the northern side of Annapurna mountain range.

It is 67 km away from the tourist city of Pokhara. You can choose to take a short flight, bus or jeep to Jomsom from Pokhara. The road can be treacherous throughout the year due to its poor condition. It goes along the side of Kali Gandaki until Jomsom, and passes through important towns of Beni, Parbat, Lete and Marpha.

The region is also popular for its unique apples and locally produced wine. Marpha exports most of its apples and wines to nearby towns.

It also forms a section of the greater Annapurna circuit trek and Upper Mustang trek. One must reach Jomsom to access the discreet Upper Mustang region, however, you aren’t required to obtain ‘restricted area’ permit to reach until Jomsom.

Muktinath

Muktinath is a temple located at the Muktinath town in the outskirts of Jomsom. Located at 3,710 meters on the foot of Thorong La pass, it is mostly visited by both Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims.

In Hinduism, the temple is considered to be 106th among the available 108 Divya Desam (premium temples) considered sacred by the Sri Vaishnava sect. The Hindu pilgrims must visit the temple one their lifetime and offer prayer along with holy bath under the 108 stone taps available inside the temple premise.

In Buddhism, Muktinath is considered an important place of dakinis, goddesses known as Sky Dancers, and one of the 24 Tantric places. They understand the statue to be a manifestation of Avalokiteśvara, who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

It is believed that, Guru Ringpoche (the founder of Tibetan Buddhism) mediated at Muktinath before heading towards Tibet.

The temple is located 22 km away from the Jomsom town. One must take a locally available jeep, mule or bus to reach Muktinath. You can also choose to trek. The area is flourished with newly opened hotels, restaurants, shops and other services.

Due to its sheer altitude and geographical proximity, the temple remains inaccessible throughout Monsoon and Winter.


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Leah Thomas & Her Mera Peak Feat!

Leah Thomas (26) hails from Vermont, USA. An outdoor enthusiast, she guides rock climbing trips at Cat Ba, Vietnam through Asia Outdoors.

She recently completed her 17 days trip to Mera Peak summit. An arduous climb, Mera Peak makes up for the highest climbable small peaks in Nepal. At 6,476 meters, Mera Peak makes an exciting trip which includes both trekking and minimal climbing experience.

She says,

From the start, Caravan Outdoors was really easy to work with. I talked mostly to Salman who helped me through each step of the process of getting signed and getting to Nepal. I had never done anything like this before, climbing a peak, and they were very helpful in directing me to what I needed to get and do before arriving.

I ended up being the only one on my trip, but it was great. I summited Mera Peak (6400+ meters) which I had my doubts on doing since I was coming directly from sea level, but was able to do it with no major problems!

It was a great experience, the guides were amazing, the trip was amazing! I can’t say enough good things, I’m already looking to go back and do anther trip!

From Her #Insta



I like the suffering. I like being tired and cold and exhausted at the end of the day, I even like knowing that I have to do it all again the next day. I like knowing that it doesn't matter that I haven't showered in weeks, that I haven't changed my clothes in weeks. Out here you can separate yourself from society, from all those social norms that you're required to do. The being exhausted, dirty, hungry, sweaty, cold, hot is part of the adventure. The suffering is part of the thrill. Knowing that you and only a select few others are willing to go through something so painful and difficult, yet come out the other side wanting to do it all again, creates a close community found no where else. There is pain in suffering. There is also great adventure. . . #sufferfest #sufferinginadventure #type2fun #nepal #trekking #longdistance #adventure #liveformore #dontjustexist #live #adventuremore #travelmore #travelwander #seemore #domore #pushlimits

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Gosainkunda Lake

Gosainkunda is one of the most revered sites inside Nepal. The lake situated at Gosainkunda is visited by millions of devotees and tourists throughout the year. It’s mostly visited during the local festival of Janai Purnima.


Overview

Gosainkunda is a fresh water oligotrophic  lake located inside the Langtang National Park of Rasuwa district. Situated at the altitude of 4,380 meters, you must trek for days before reaching the holy lake. It has a surface area of 13.4 ha; and it was declared a Ramsar site back in 2007.

The lake freezes and remains inaccessible throughout October-February. Spring (March-June) and Autumn (September-October) are the best times to visit Langtang region. The weather remains clear during these times of the year.

It makes up for many sources forming the Trishu river. There are 108 smaller/larger lakes in the area.

Legend & Pilgrimage

Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva

The Hindu mythology of Puranas attributes Gosaikunda as the abode of the Hindu deities Shiva and Gauri. The Hindu scriptures and the epics Ramayana & Mahabharata refer to Samudra manthan (Churning of the Sea), which is directly related to the origin of Gosaikunda.

It is believed, Lord Shiva created the lake when he thrust his trident into a mountain to extract water to quench his thirst after swallowing the poison.

The water of the lake is considered holier and significant during the events of Gangadashahara and Janai Purnima. Thousands of pilgrims make a visit on foot to Gosainkunda during these festivals.

Trekking

Gosainkunda forms a greater trekking trail in Langtan region. It can be reached during both Dhunche-Helambu trek and Langtang trek.

Lauribina La Pass at the altitude of 4,610 meters forms the toughest part of the treks. The surrounding mountains of Langtang Lirung and Ganesh Himal are clearly visible during the trek. The farthest you can reach is at Kyanjin Gompa inside the national park.

Langtang National Park was established in 1976 as the first Himalayan national park in Nepal. It covers an area of 1,710 kmand covers 3 different districts, namely; Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Sindhupalchok.


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Langtang National Park

Langtang National Park is located inside Langtang region of western Nepal. The fourth national park of Nepal is also the first Himalayan national park, and the expanse of the park reaches 3 different districts. It is also home to one of the rarest animals in the world; Red Panda.


Overview

Langtang National Park was established in 1976 as the first Himalayan national park in Nepal. It covers an area of 1,710 kmand covers 3 different districts, namely; Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Sindhupalchok.

Kyanjin Gompa
Kyanjin Gompa

The area extends from 32 km north of Kathmandu to the Nepal-China border. The inhabitants of the region are culturally Tibetan and are mainly the adherent of Buddhism.

While the main reason for the park is to preserve the natural environment, an equally important goal is to allow local people to follow traditional land use practices that are compatible with resource protection.

Tamang tribe of people are the major inhabitants of the region, followed by Sherpas. The former were the followers of Bon religion, which later got assimilated into Buddhist teachings.

Wildlife & Vegetation

Around 25% of the park area is forested. The northern part is mostly covered by mountains. The region is home to wild dog, red panda, pika, muntjac, musk deer, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan tahr, ghoral, serow, rhesus monkey and common langur.

The most available vegetation at lower Langtang regions are Oaks, Chirpine, Maple, Fir, Blue pine, Hemlock spruce and various species of rhododendron.

Langtang Lirung

Langtang Lirung
Langtang Lirung

Langtang Lirung is the highest mountain located inside the park. Par of the Langtang Himalayan range, it is measured at 7,234 meters. It’s included in the short peaks of Nepal and is opened for climbing.

It was first climed in 1978 by Seishi Wada and Pemba Tsering, from a Japanese-Sherpa expedition, via the East Ridge route.

Trekking

Langtang makes up for one of the most sought for trekkings in Nepal. A comparatively shorter trek than Everest and Annapurna, the highest you may reach during the trek is 4,983 m at Tsergo Ri.

The trek may last anything from 11 to 15 days, and it may take you to Gosainkunda lake, Tsergo Ri and Kyanjin Gompa.

The region was heavily devastated during the major earthquake of 2015, however, the locals have rebuilt the region, and today it’s is fully operational. Langtang Trek is suitable for all kinds of hikers. You must be accompanied by a guide to enter the region; a strict policy maintained by the government of Nepal in light of unforeseen accidents in the region.

From mid-October to mid-December and from mid-February until mid-April the weather is usually clear but cold at higher elevations. From mid-April to mid-June, it is warm but often cloudy with thunder showers, spring flowers are at their best.


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Phoksundo -The Deepest Lake of Nepal

Phoksundo is a fresh water lake located in the Dolpo region of Nepal. It is popularly known as the deepest lake in the country, and makes up for one of the best trekking experiences in Nepal.  Reaching the lake isn’t easy either. You need to trek for days and up to 3,612 meters to reach the site.


Overview

Phoksundo or Shey Phoksundo is an alpine fresh water oligotrophic lake located in the Dolpo region of mid-western Nepal. It lies to the north of Dhaulagiri mountain bordering Tibet and inside Shey Phoksundo National Park.

Phoksundo Lake
Phoksundo Lake

With the depth of 145 meters, Phoksundo is known to be the deepest lake in Nepal. The lake and surrounding was designated a Ramsar site back in 2007. At the lake’ southern end, the village of Ringmo lies on the 30,000-40,000 year old landslide dam that formed the lake. Past the dam, the waters of the lake plunge over a 167 meter tall waterfall, called Phoksundo Waterfall.

The lake is rich in biodiversity and also supports various wildlife in the region. Snow leopard, musk deer, Blue sheep, Tibetan wolf and frequently traversing Yak caravans and cattle.

Visitors are prohibited from stepping inside the lake, as it is considered a holy site by the local inhabitants.


Dolpo region

Upper Dolpo is a high-altitude region located at western Nepal. A rain-shadow area, Upper Dolpo receives least rainfall; therefore, most of the terrain resembles a desert like landscape and can be trekked throughout the year. It lays close to Tibet in the North, therefore, the inhabitants, local culture, dialect and architecture, resembles its northern counterpart.

The Dolpo people have practiced trading salt through caravans for ages. Eric Valli, a renowned French filmmaker made a movie based on the life of the people of Dolpo, named “Caravan.” It was nominated for Oscars in 1997.

Phoksundo National Park

Shey Phoksundo National Parkestablished in 1984, is the largest and only trans-Himalaya National Park in Nepal. Covering the entire Dolpa and Mugu districts, the park is home to some of the most exotic and least seen wildlife.

The national park is home to 6 different species of reptiles and 29 butterflies. Snow Leopard, Grey wolf, Musk deer, Blue sheep. Goral, Great Tibetan sheep, Himalayan Tahr, leopard, Jackal,Himalayan black bear and yellow-throated marten dominate the wildlife. Rhododendron, Caragana shrubs, Salix, Juniper, White Himalayan birch and the occasional Silver fir are the most found flora inside the park.


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The Red Panda

The Red Panda is the most elusive of the wild animals found in the world. A predominant inhabitant of the Himalayas, Red Panda has been listed as the most endangered species due to major loss of its habitat and human encroachment. It is one of the most protected wild species in Nepal, India & China.


Overview

Habitat Map
Habitat Map

COMMON NAME: Red Panda
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ailurus fulgens
TYPE: Mammals
DIET: Omnivore
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: 8 years
SIZE: Head and body, 20 to 26 in; tail, 12 to 20 in
WEIGHT: 12 to 20 lbs


The Red Panda or Red-bear cat is a mammal of Ailuridae family found mostly in the Eastern Himalayas. Almost 38% of the total population is found inside Nepal. It has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs; it is slightly larger than a domestic cat.

It lives in the trees, feeds mainly on bamboo. Due to its omnivore nature, it seldom feeds on bird eggs, birds, and insects. It is a solitary animal, hence, its sightings is one of the rarest among the entire wildlife.

It has been listed under the Endangered species by IUCN, due to its dwindling population. Human encroachment has been the major cause for its habitat loss.

Habitat & Breeding

They reside in the rainy and high-altitude forests, similar to Giant Pandas, in the mountains of Nepal and northern Myanmar (Burma), as well as in central China.

They spend most of their lives in trees and even sleep aloft. When foraging, they are most active at night as well as in the gloaming hours of dusk and dawn.

Red pandas are known to have a sweet tooth for bamboo, however, they feed on fruits, acorns, roots and eggs as well.

They are obscure animals except when mating. Females generally give births in the spring and summer, typically one to four cubs at a time. Young red pandas remain in their nests for about 90 days, and are solely nurtured by mother pandas.

Facts

  • Only about 10,000 Red Pandas are estimated to be living in the wild.
  • China has the largest known population of Red Pandas. About 42% of the entire population is found inside the protected regions of China.
  • Even though they were placed in the Racoon and Bear family before, the extensive research has proved they are unique species and have since been placed in the Ailuridae family.
  • Red Panda is the only surviving member of the Ailuridae family.
  • There are over 86 protected areas inside China, India, Myanmar and Nepal dedicated to the conservation of the Red Panda.
  • There are only two recognized species of Red Panda, namely; Ailurus fulgens fulgens and Ailurus fulgens styani.
  • Red pandas have a long gestation period (roughly 135 days) for an animal that weighs only 11 pounds at maturity.

 

Insight on Everest Trekking

Mount Everest is the highest peak on earth. It attracts more than 50,000 people in a year to trek through the treacherous trail to reach its base camp. But, there’s more to the trekking than just seeing the Everest. The Sherpa inhabitants of the region, their native culture, rich biodiversity and the sight of humongous mountains are few treats of the trekking.


Everest Region

With the commercialization of Mount Everest, the trekking began in late 80s. Since then, millions of tourists have visited the Khumbu (Everest) region; few of them comprising of climbers. Today, the Everest Base Camp along attracts more than 50,000 tourists in a year.

Over 5,000 people have summited the Everest. With availability of better logistics and assistance, more climbers tend to join the expedition every year bringing the total summits over 300 per year.

Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse
Mount Everest

Khumbu is mostly accessible through a short flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. Those who wish to map it on foot can arrive through Jiri village. It may well take over 9-10 days to trekking to reach the base camp. However, there aren’t any lodges available in the base camp, hence, you must stay at Gorakshep or Lobuche before approaching it.

Kala Patthar at 5,643 meters is located just above the base  camp. It’s a small hill or the monument where the trekkers can spend time enjoying the up-close glimpse of the Mount Everest. (Note: Everest isn’t visible from the base camp. The towering Lhotse peak blocks the entire view)

Namche Bazaar, Gokyo lakes and Tengboche are another major attractions in the region. Namche and Tengboche are accessible through the usual trail, however, you must take an entirely different route to reach the Gokyo lakes. Gokyo is a discreet village located at the western section of Khumbu.

Trekking

The trek is generally strenuous and may require walking over 5 hours a day. It begins at Lukla. The trail aslowly ascends towards Namche Bazaar through Phakding. Namche is the most populated Sherpa town and is known for its luxury lodges, markets and ethnic lifestyle. Hiking around the place or staying a day more is recommended.

The trek ascends further towards Tengboche. Tengboche boasts the highest monastery on Earth. The monastery is over 100 years old and the popular Mani Rimdu festival is held every year to commemorate its legacy. Few other Sherpa villages, you’ll come across are Dingboche, Lobuche and Gorakshep before heading towards the Everest Base Camp.

You can hike to the base camp from Lobuche in few hours and come back to Gorakshep to stay overnight. The next day, you an make an early hike to Kala Patthar and start descending the usual way afterwards.

Anyone from the age 8 to 59 can do this trek, with sound health and proper assistance. Acclimatization is essential to get used to the local environment and altitude.

Facts

  • The Everest was attempted by British mountaineer George Mallory before it was successfully summited by the 9th British expedition
  • Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa became the first humans to touch the summit of the peak, in 1953.
  • Over 5,000 people have summited the Everest since 1953.
  • Reinhold Messner became the first person to summit the Everest without the use of bottled oxygen
  • The term Sherpa actually signifies the native tribe of Khumbu region. Today, Sherpa is used as a misnomer for porters, guides and such.
  • Over 250 people attempt the summit in a single day every year during the climbing season of May.
  • The disaster of 1996’s at Everest cost 15 lives. The incident was later adapted into the best-seller, Into Thin Air.
  • The popular trekking seasons are Spring and Autumn. They last from March to June and September to November simultaneously.

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The Janaki Temple of Sita

Janaki Temple at the Mithila region of Nepal is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Sita. It was built in the early 20th century, copying the Mughal style of architecture. Janaki temple attracts thousands of Hindu pilgrims throughout the year and is considered one of the most revered Hindu sites in the world.


Overview

Janaki Temple or Ram Janaki Temple is a large temple premise located in the Janakpur district, the Mithila kingdom of Nepal. Maithali is the official language of Mithila.

Rama and Sita
Rama and Sita

It spans over 4,860 sq. ft of area and the main temple is 50 meters high. It is a three-storied structure made entirely of stone and marble. All its 60 rooms are decorated with the flag of Nepal, colored glass, engravings and paintings, with beautiful lattice windows and turrets.

Diverse ethnic groups live in the Janakpurdham. Yadavs, Teli, Brahmins, Kyastha, Tharu, Musahar, Rajput, and Chhetri are the main inhabitants of the region. Most are farmers by occupation. The whole region is also considered the center of Maithali culture, therefore Maithali art and culture is predominant in this area.

History

The temple was built in 1910 by the Queen Vrisha Bhanu of Tikamgarh, India. The temple is popularly known as the Nau Lakha Mandir, meaning “Nine lakh or Nine Hundred Thousand.” The cost for the construction of the temple was about the same amount.

Mythology

According to the Ramayana, the original city of Janakpurdham was named after King Janak of the Mithila kingdom. King Janaka of Videha dynasty ruled the entire Mithila (Both India and Nepal) from Janakpurdham.

Janak found a baby (Sita) in a furrow of a field and raised her as his daughter. When Sita was about sixteen, the king announced that she could be betrothed to whoever strings the divine bow of Shiva. Though many royal suitors tried, only Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, was successful to do so. She was married off to Rama.


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Honey Hunters of Nepal

Honey hunting involves harvesting the honey from wild bee colonies located at the high cliffs. The practice of honey hunting in Nepal has been prevalent since hundreds of years. A Kulung clan of Gurung community in mid-western Nepal harvests honey every year from Apis laboriosa‘s honey comb, the largest  honey bees in the world.


Overview

Honey hunting has been practiced since the dawn of civilization. In Nepal, the practice of harvesting wild honey started few hundred years ago by the native Gurung tribe of mid-western region. The harvesting is mostly practiced at Bhujung and Pasgaon villages of Lamjung.

Facts

  • The native practice of harvesting involves using scarce materials made from locally available resources. Bamboo, jute ropes, firewood etc are frequently used. The hunters avoid using harness while climbing the high cliffs, mainly because of the experience, hence increasing the risk of falling.
  • The harvest may last a day or two. A special puja is led by the shaman before embarking on the job. The puja purportedly placates the cliff gods and spirits. The hunter using special ropes climbs up to 200 meters with unprotected clothing and a bamboo stick. The staffs help the hunter in the purpose by setting up the materials, collecting and burning firewood to generate smoke to disorient bees and to carry and manage the hunted bee hives. The hives are cut and collected in the basket and carried down safely.
  • There are 3 types of wild honey available; red honey is created from flowers at higher altitude during spring, spring honey is made from flowers at mid or lower altitude and autumn honey is created from flower at any site.
  • Red honey has psychotropic qualities and isn’t  consumed locally. They are sold at international market at higher prices. Red honey is mostly used to prepare medicines and are mainly exported to Japan, Hong Kong and Korea.
  • The well organized trips are conducted twice or thrice a year to various places in Nepal for the interested tourists. They tour agencies tend to charge huge amounts while their harvest practices doesn’t really follow eco-friendly methods. The entire benefit is engulfed by the tour agencies, leaving less for the local staffs. You are recommended only to participate in the honey hunting trip organized at the designated places in Lamjung district; and support the local staffs earn more benefits from the trip.
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Himalayan Honey Bee

Apis dorsata labiriosa
Apis dorsata labiriosa

Apis dorsata labiriosa or Himayan honey bees are the largest among the honey bees in the world, and they are mostly found in the higher altitudes of Nepal, India and Bhutan. They were categorized as the subspecies of Apis dorsta, however, in 1980 it was classified as the separate species.

It mostly nests at the altitude of 2,500 and 3,000 meters; building very large nests under overhangs on the south-western faces of vertical cliffs. The nests are made facing against the direct sunlight and potential predators. One nest can contain as much as 60 kg of honey. The bees forage at altitudes of up to 4,100 m (13,500 ft).

A pound of wild honey may fetch $60 – $80 in the Asian black market.

Read The Last Death Defying Honey Hunters of Nepal  –National Geographic

 

 

 

Bhaktapur, The Former Royal State of Nepal

Bhaktapur formerly was a princely state ruled by the Malla Kingdom of Nepal, until it was invaded and annexed by Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1744 during his initial unification campaign. Today, it remains one of the major cities in Nepal and a popular tourist destination.


Overview

Bhaktapur or Bhadgaun is an ancient Newari city located 12 km east of Kathmandu. One of the 3 former princely states of Kathmandu valley, Bhaktapur is also known to be the largest among them.

55 windowed palace
55 windowed palace

Due to the historical and archaeological importance of the place, it was enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Newar tribe of people remain the predominant inhabitants of the city. The local architecture and culture signifies that of contemporary Newari art and lifestyle.

The city was hugely damaged by the major earthquake of 2015, along with the tourist site of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Most of the monuments in the durbar square has been renovated or are in the process.

History

Founded in the 12th century by Ananda Malla, Bhaktapur was the capital city of the Greater Malla Kingdom until the 15th century and was an independent kingdom from then until the 18th century. The Newari art, cuisine and lifestyle flourished under the Malla regime. The popular religious and public festivals were birthed during the hey day of Bhaktapur. The individual rulers of Lalitpur and Kathmandu city belonged to the same Malla clan and were siblings.

Ranjit Malla was the last king of Bhaktapur. He was a close friend and aide of Prithvi Narayan Shah. The latter invaded and annexed the city during his initial conquest of the entire Kathmandu valley. Afterwards, it came to be known as one of the districts of the unified Nepal.

The most popular delicacy of Kathmandu, Ju Ju Dhau (Curd) was introduced in Bhaktapur.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

The former royal complex at the center of Bhaktapur district is known as the Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Consisting of a palace, courtyards, historic monuments and numerous temples, the whole complex, along with Kathmandu Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square, were included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

After Kathmandu Durbar Square, Bhaktapur is the 2nd most visited tourist destination. it suffered a huge loss during the major earthquake of 2015. The renovations have started and going well lately.

Tourist Attractions

  • 55 Windowed Palace -It is a former royal palace of the Malla Kings. It has a total of 55 windows, hence the name 55 Windowed Palace. Today, it serves as the art museum for the  tourists.
  • Golden Gate -A major gate of the palace is entirely made out of gold. It lies just in front of the 55 Windowed palace and acts the main entry point.
  • Lion’s Gate -According to the legend, “This magnificent gate was produced from artisans whose hands were cut off after finishing touch to them by the envious king so that no more of such masterpieces could be produced again.” Today, it serves as one of the major entry points for the durbar square.
  • Mini Pashupati Temple -Similar to the Pashupatinath temple of Kathmandu, the Mini Pashupati temple is a major attraction of Bhaktapur
  • Nyatapola Temple -A 5 storied temple, it is located inside the Durbar Square premise, and is one of the major attractions of the area. Despite the huge earthquake in 2015, the temple still stands strong.
  • Bhairav Nath Temple -Dedicated to the God of Terror and Death, Bhairava, it is another major tourist destination. It holds importance among the locals; and devotees sacrifice animal at the temple premise every year.

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