The Kathmandu Valley, the political, commercial and cultural hub of Nepal, is the first stop for the majority of visitors to the country.
Once a separate kingdom in itself, it contains three fabled cities - Kathmandu (local name: Yen, population 550,000); Patan (Yala, population 160,000); and Bhaktapur (Khopa, population 75,000). There are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Valley.
The history of the Valley begins with the Buddhist saint Manjushree who slashed a passage through the surrounding hills to drain out the primordial waters and make it inhabitable. Over the centuries, a refined urban civilization emerged, built on a unique synthesis of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Dynasties came and went. Trade and the arts flourished. Its deeply religious Newar inhabitants built fabulous cities and artistic temples that attracted devout pilgrims as well as rampaging invaders. In the late 18th century, following the founding of modern Nepal within more or less the present boundaries, Kathmandu was made the capital.