Kirtipur: a great half-day or quick trip from Kathmandu

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ July 6th, 2016. Updated on September 10th, 2016. Published in: Travel blog » Nepal.
Kirtipur's Dev Pukku (pond), Royal palace and Bhairab temple (rear)

Kirtipur’s Dev Pukku (pond), Royal palace and Bhairab temple (rear) make it one of the best Newari sight seeing trips you can do in a morning!

Kirtipur is a great heritage site to visit & very close to Kathmandu

Many people looking for things to do around Kathmandu overlook the former “capital” of Kirtipur. It’s only 25 minutes on a local bus from Thamel and is filled with history, culture and away from all that traffic!

While most people head for full day trips or half-day trips out to Patan and Bhaktapur.  I’m adding Panauti into this list too because it really is a great cultural city worth visiting. Shorter trips to Boudhanath and Swayambunath are also mainstays. Try adding Kirtipur to your list as well, here’s why!

Why you should consider visiting Kirtipur

It’s off the beaten path yet just a stones throw away from the hubub of Kathmandu. I’ve visited Kirtipur on many occasions and have rarely seen more than a handful of tourists there. Why? Simple. It’s not on the tour operators hotlist. There’s no money to be made bringing tourists here as there is only one hotel, a few restaurants and there’s no entrance fee.

All this sounds good to me!

Chilancho Stupa in Kirtipur stands neglected in silence

Chilancho Stupa in Kirtipur stands neglected in silence

Kirtipur’s history might answer a few questions

Kirtipurs history dates back to 1099 AD when it was part of Patan. When the Gorkha King Prithvi Narayan Shah invaded the valley in the 18th century Kirtipur managed to break away.

However in 1767 Kirtipur was brought back into the kingdom following 23 attempts to conquer it by the King. On the 23rd attempt one of Kirtipur’s noblemen defected and the king was able to launch a final assault on the beleaguered town. These battles became known as the “Battle of Kirtipur”.

Kirtipur has always been a bit of a rebel …

quote from my Kathmandu Valley Guidebook 

Soon after the Malla kingdoms of Patan, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu fell and under the new Shah era the country united into what is known known as Nepal.

These days there’s an air of isolation about the place. Some say that it still views itself as a rebellious old Malla kingdom so it’s often the last to get funding. Others say it’s still living in the past.

Visiting Kirtipur today

No matter ones view on Kirtipur’s past its streets are well kept, there’s a little tourist office, no entrance fees for tourists anywhere and a great way to experience a little bit of old Nepal right on the doorstop of the capital.

Kirtipurs quiet streets

Kirtipurs quiet streets make it a great escape from Kathmandu!

A quick bus from Ratna bus park will bring you to Naya Bazaar at the base of the steps (a good place to eat, get a haircut and visit a Thai monastery) leading up to the old city.

At the tops of the steps (I didn’t count but it’s about a 7 minute walk), you enter through one of Kirtipurs old gates. From here on the old city starts. Traffic free, entrance fee free all you need to do is start walking to enjoy the unique temples and stupas in the city. Not to mention the classic old Newari streets and people themselves.

Kirtipurs must see highlights

There’s too many things to list without dragging on (they’re all listed in my Kathmandu Valley Guidebook) but here are the main things to see in Kirtipur.

Chilancho Stupa

Think boudhanath but smaller and seriously more neglected. Built in 1515 by the Emperor Ashoka today the harmika (top) and the white stupa is badly in need of some white paint. Perhaps this is what makes it so interesting?

Bagh Bhairab Temple Kirtipur

The Bagh Bhairab Temple is one of Kirtipur’s main attractions that your should visit

Tri Ratna Temple

This old stone Krishna like temple is worshiped by both Hindus and Buddhists alike. It encompasses Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The temple took some mild damage in the 2015 earthquake and was used by many aid organizations as a landmark. To the right down a street are two large golden Buddha statues well worth visiting too.

Dev Pukku

This old royal area is one of most charming in Kathmandu. The pond here is where Kirtipur’s main water source is fed by underground water. To the tank’s left is the very well-preserved former Royal Palace. It’s all local accommodation now and it’s great on a summers day to see people sitting at the old Newari style windows looking out.

Bagh Bhairab Temple

Dhartimata statue in Kirtipur

Dhartimata statue is giving birth to “something”!

The whole complex is one of my favorite in all of Kathmandu. The main courtyard is filled with shrines and temples. It’s worth having a look at a few as they are extremely unique.

The temple itself is huge, though Saturday mornings might best be avoided due to the odd animal sacrifice. The views from behind the temple are also some of the best in Kathmandu city.

I also managed to solve a little riddle there that certain other guidebooks couldn’t! In the south east corner is a Dhartimata statue giving birth to “something”. I won’t spoil what. It’s in my guidebook (sorry, but I gotta keep somethings for the books).

Uma Maheshwar Temple

This tall temple is guarded by two elephants wearing saddles made of metal spikes (to keep people off). Originally built in 1663 with four roofs one was destroyed in the 1934 earthquake. It survived the 2015 without much of scratch. There’s also a British Bell here from Croyden!

The stone elephant guardians at Uma Maheshwar Temple

The stone elephant guardians at Uma Maheshwar Temple complete with spikes!

A heritage site worth visiting

If you’ve only got time to visit Kathmandu and little else then put Kirtipur on your list! It’s only 25 minutes away by bus or even faster by taxi. You can cover all the sights there in well under half a day trip. It’s away from the crowds. There’s no entrance fee. It’s a classic Newari heritage site. And, you get to go somewhere very few people know about!

Looking for more? Here’s my free online guide to Kirtipur and for even more information with maps, restaurants, accommodation and hidden facts – check out my book below.


Get my latest Kathmandu Valley Guidebook to learn more about Nepal!

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13 Great responses to Kirtipur: a great half-day or quick trip from Kathmandu

  1. Anthony says:

    Good to read about some of Nepal’s history in such a way. Just subscribed too. Planning a trip September

  2. Hian says:

    Hi,

    Just wanted to say we bought your guidebook to Kathmandu and read about this after reading. It’s really, really great buy. Worth a lot more than you are charging!

  3. Cathy says:

    Namaste! I met you a few weeks back and you were just talking about Kirtipur! I went there like you said here and it really was a great trip! Thanks again Danybaht

  4. Franz says:

    Question for coming trip. It is possible to buy good safe lunch here or not?

    • In Kirtipur? Yes, you can buy lunch there. At last count there three restaurants in the old town and dozens in Naya Bazar. Is the food safe? Well, I didn’t get sick there. Stick to hot food that’s cooked well!

  5. Carmine says:

    Claps. Thank you. I was looking for something to do next week. Anything else you can suggest for day trips would be great.

  6. Oscar says:

    Great write up. Never really knew much about this place though I had read about it. Nice to put photos to it too.

  7. Rosemarie Driscoll says:

    Great article! I can’t wait for your next destination in Nepal! Hoping it to be more awesome than the others!