There are many sensationally beautiful places in the Kathmandu valley. Changu Narayan is one of them. What it lacks in size (it is a very small town), it makes up for in character. It is home to one of the oldest temples of Nepal and offers some very beautiful valley views from its hilltop view point. I think it is one of the most scenic heritage sites in the Kathmandu valley.
Perched on top of a hill and overlooking the Bhaktapur valley is located the small village of Changu or Dholagiri. This village is home to the Changu Narayan Temple, one of the heritage sites of Nepal and one that features pillars and statues from the 5th to the 7th century.
Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Changu Narayan temple, a traditional Nepali temple is revered a lot by the Hindus and is quite an experience to see up close. When I was there recently, I was blown away by the statues of the various incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Till before this place, even in India, I hadn’t come across so many beautiful and ancient sculptures of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu anywhere.
Here, you can see Vishwaroop, Trivikram Vishnu, Vaikunta Vishnu, Sridhar Vishnu, Garuda, Garuda Narayan and Narasimha all located a few feet from each other. Most of these sculptures date back to the 7th century and still exist in pristine condition even today.
Whether you are a temple lover, a history lover, a believer in Hinduism, Changu Narayan will offer you enough and more. Even if you are a regular tourist out to see interesting things, Changu Narayan will offer you some breathtaking views from around its temple.
This means that once you finish your temple tour, you can find a view point, order yourself a hot cup of tea or coffee and soak in the lovely green views of the valley below and the Himalayan mountains surrounding them.
All tourists are allowed into the temple and can photograph any area of the temple from the courtyard. However, only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple sanctum and no photography is allowed inside.
An entrance fee of NPR 50 (SAARC) and NPR 150 (Foreign tourists) is charged to enter the temple. It is a short 5 minute climb from the entrance booth to the temple. The stairs to the top are wide enough and you have lots of shops to keep you company in case you run out of breath or need to hydrate yourself.
In terms of access, one can either reach Changu Narayan by bus from Kathmandu and/or Bhaktapur or trod the hilly path to the temple. I opted to trek the way to the top from Bhaktapur. The climb took me 2 and a half hours and on my way back I took the bus to Kathmandu. Buses ply every 30 minutes from the bus station near the entrance booth.
Since this area gets a lot of sun and rains, it is advisable to carry an umbrella with you at all times. Infrastructure is scarce here. However, you can find yourself basic food, beverages and souvenirs here. The nearest stay option would be in Bhaktapur.
If you are culturally inclined, interested in Hinduism or simply want to enjoy some beautiful views, Changu Narayan is the place for you. Its rustic setting, remote access and less crowds are just the icing on the cake.