The Kathmandu Valley, a bowl-shaped valley in central Nepal, is one of the country’s most distinctive geographical areas, crisscrossed by four different mountain ranges.
At its lowest altitude, the valley is about 1,425 meters above sea level and surrounding it are the Shivapuri (2,800 m), Phulchowki (2,795 m), Nagarjun (2,825 m) and Chandragiri (2,551 m) mountain ranges.
The Bagmati River runs north-south through the middle of the valley, entering the Kathmandu valley through a break in the southern mountain ranges.
The city itself sits at an altitude of about 1,400 meters in the northwest portion of the valley. Altitude sickness is never a concern at this low elevation, and the possibility of experiencing any of the symptoms is minimal to none.
Since the core of the valley is at a lower elevation than the nearby mountains, almost all of the trees lining the valley floor are conifers, consisting of maples, oaks, elm, and beech trees, with some coniferous trees at the higher altitudes of the hills and mountains.
The Kathmandu Valley consists primarily of three major districts, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur, covering an area of about 570 square kilometers from the valley floor, making up Nepal’s cultural center.
Nepal’s Kathmandu City is situated in the lowest points of the Kathmandu Valley at altitudes between 1,280 meters and 1,340 meters above sea level.
Many of the main attractions in the Kathmandu Valley are based around the Kathmandu City, west of the Swayambhunath Stupa and Kathmandu Royal Durbar Square, and northeast of the city is the Pashupatinath Temple.
It is also the hub of Kathmandu’s Thamel District, the city’s tourism center, and the seat of the Airport of Tribhuvan. Find out more on the tourist map of Nepal.
Extending from Patan to the south of the district of Kathmandu to Gimdi in the southern hills of Phulchowki, Lalitpur is a district largely consisting of open grasslands and rising dense forests to the south of the city of Kathmandu.
The district sits at its lowest point in Patan at approximately 1,324 meters, rising to approximately 2,300 meters at its highest point in the south of the district.
The region has a population of only 466,000 and occupies about 385 square kilometers. Further south, there are a few reservoirs to explore, as well as the Idgah Mosque and a mountain region that makes for great low-altitude trekking. Find more information on the Nepal tourist map.
Located east of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur District is the smaller of the three districts covers an area of only 119 square kilometers. With a limited population of approximately 304,000, this small but populous district is affectionately known as Khowpa by the residents.
Patan Durbar Square, Saugat Gurung
And while it may be Nepal’s smallest district, it also has the country’s highest literacy rate, with more than 81 percent of people reading and writing.
The district has an overall altitude of approximately 1,320 meters and is only 1,350 metres above sea level at its peak. The city has a huge number of landmarks, albeit small, including the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the Pottery Square, the Nyatapola Temple, and the Dattatreya Temple.
There are four separate peaks surrounding the Kathmandu Valley, situated in their own mountain ranges, that are the biggest trekking hills in the valley and great places for hiking or mountain biking around.
Shivapuri Peak is the second-highest peak in Kathmandu, at an altitude of 2.800 meters, and lies north of the Kathmandu Valley.
A holy hill in the Hindu faith, the mountain is filled with forests and the top provides amazing views of the valley and the Himalayan peaks to the north.
Located within the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, the mountain is a significant Kathmandu Valley water-catchment area and a major supplier of the city’s daily water needs.
The Shivapuri Village is located at the foot of the mountain, a small settlement that provides the hotels in Kathmandu as a significant organic vegetable distributor and is home to one of the most lavish excursions in the Kathmandu Valley. Once a retreat from the Buddhist, it is believed that the Buddha lived there once.
Phulchowki is the highest point in the southern Kathmandu Valley at an elevation of 2,795 meters above sea level, and the name means “Hill of Flowers” in Nepali.
Covered by rhododendron forests in various colors, ranging from pure white to dark red, the mountain is one of the best places for hiking in the south of the valley and is easily reached by car to the foot.
The Beauty of Phulchowki, Twitter
The region below the hill is a botanical garden lined with exotic plants and flowers, offering some of the best views of the Kathmandu Valley, and is an ideal place for birding.
At the top of the hill sits the temple, framed by flags of prayer and raw brown dirt. Sadly, the view of the temple, guarded by a small military base, is rather obscured by the radio and tv mast beside it.
Nagarjun Peak is also located in the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, at an altitude of 2,825 meters, the highest of the four peaks surrounding Kathmandu and is a popular hiking destination in the city.
A ten-minute drive to the park is only about seven miles from the edge of Kathmandu District. Also known locally as the Jamacho Mountain, this small mountain lies west of the district of Kathmandu, and it takes about two hours to hike up through thick Raniban forests.
See more: The World’s Oldest Temple