Kirtipur, Nepal is a city set into the hillside. It’s less than an hour drive outside of Kathmandu, yet, you never really hear about it. I’d seen the famous photos of the stacked buildings and thought it looked a little run down, but the truth is, this old city has tons of charm. Ancient Nepali cities have become some of my favorite places to visit and this one is no exception.
Brief History of Kirtipur
The history of Kirtipur is really fascinating. The word “Kirtipur” means “glory city.” The fall of Kirtipur actually brought down an entire empire. Prior to the 1770’s, the Kathmandu Valley was ruled by the Malla Dynasty. This dynasty is often referred to as the “Golden Age” of the valley because of its emphasis on craftsmanship. Most of the famous Nepali architecture was built during this time frame including all of the Durbar Squares.
In the 1750’s, the Gorkha King was trying to take over with little luck. The Gorkhali army actually attacked this little city three times before winning. The first attack was somewhat straight-forward, while the second attack involved setting up blockades to starve the residents of the city. After little success, they attacked at night, but the townspeople threw stones over the walls to deter the army from getting in.
On the third try, the Gorkhas made it into the city with the help of a traitor who showed them the way. It’s said that the Gorkha King was so mad at being defeated so many times that he killed anyone noteworthy and cut the noses off of the remaining 800 villagers. At the time this was a common punishment for thieves. After capturing Kirtipur, the army was able to capture the remainder of the Kathmandu Valley, and the rule changed from the Malla dynasty to the Shah dynasty which lasted until 2008. In Nepali history, this was known as the unification of Nepal.
There’s also an interesting story of a woman named Kirti Laxmi who disguised herself as a man to fight off the Gorkha army. She continued to fight them even after they gained control. She was later held captive and took her own life, but before being captured, she inspired the army not to give up. It’s said that the city is named in her honor. Today, Kirtipur is a quiet city with beautiful temples and views of the Himalaya.
Kirtipur City Map
Kirtipur City Guide
Nepali & Newari
11km southwest of Kathmandu
How to get there:
You can take a bus from Kathmandu or Patan. You can also take a taxi. The road is well paved compared to other areas in the Kathmandu Valley. Depending on traffic it can take as little as 20 minutes to get here from the center of Kathmandu.
Restaurants in Kirtipur
Trying the famous Newari food in this area is a must. There are two famous restaurants in Kirtipur. One is Newa Lahana which has wonderful views and a very interesting menu. If you’re not super adventurous, order the Samay Baji (without chili is an option). However, if you like to try new things you can opt for fried intestine chilly, ear fry, eye curry, jellied buffalo soup, or spinal cord gravy. Not to mention a large selection of blood soups.
The second famous restaurant is Sasaa The Newa Restaurant. We went here on a different occasion. The restaurant is a little nicer and had live music when we went on the weekend. It was super crowded. In my opinion, the ambience is better, but I liked the food at Newa Lahana better.
Things to do in Kirtipur
Visit religious sites including Bagh Bhairab Temple, Uma Maheshwar Temple, and Chilancho Stupa. Walk through small winding alleyways and try local Newari cuisine.
The city is known for a few of its temples which hold a lot of significance in Newari culture. The Bagh Bhairab Temple is dedicated to the god Bhairab who is known as a form of Shiva. He’s often associated with annihilation. Most of the rituals in Newari culture can’t be completed without pleasing Bhairab. Therefore, this temple is a popular place of worship for those who want to honor him.
Uma Maheshwar Temple is a popular lookout point in Kirtipur. It’s the highest point of the city, and on a clear day you can see Langtang, Dorge Lakkpa, Chobhu Bhamure, and Gaurishankar. The temple has actually been destroyed several times, but as you can tell from this city’s history, the residents don’t give up easily. The original temple was built in 1655 A.D. It was restored in 1933 and again in 1982 after two earthquakes ruined it.
Kirtipur Hotels & Accommodation
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Michelle Della Giovanna
Writer at Full Time Explorer
I’m just your average New Yorker who quit her job in the fashion industry to explore the world. Come find out what it’s like to trade in five-inch heels for squat toilets.