The City of Devotees, Bhaktapur, in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

During our first full day in Kathmandu, we took a tour just outside of the city to visit the temples of Bhaktapur. Like many of the locations that we visited throughout the Kathmandu Valley, there was evidence of the devastating earthquake of 2015. There has been a lot of work done to restore these UNESCO World Heritage Sites back to their original states. Bhaktapur is one of the three main cities of the Kathmandu Valley and is home to many of the Newar people, which is one of the oldest cultures in Nepal and also give the city its name as the city of the devotees.

Pagoda Style Temple
Hindu Relief
Dramatic Shikhara Style Temple
View of the Durbar from the Temple Stairs
Ornate Entryway

There are three styles of temple roofs in Nepal and can be found in the Bhaktapur square, the pagoda style that can be found throughout Asia, the Shikhara style that resembles a mountain peak, and the Stupa style with its dome top. Neapal was made up of many different small kingdoms and each of these palaces had their own squares called a durbar where people gathered, worshipped, and most likely sold goods. The architecture of Bhaktapur is quite stunning, but the effects of the earthquake are quite visible as many of the buildings are being supported by posts to keep them from toppling over until they can be fully repaired.

Buildings Supported by Posts
Another Shikhara Style Temple in the Durbar
Amazing Architecture
Detailed Carvings on the Door
Temple Under Reconstruction

Bhaktapur is also known for the clay pots and bricks that are produced in the region and as you drive towards Bhaktapur, you can see the chimneys of the brick factories with plumes of smoke rising towards the sky. In the square, you will find clay pots being painted by the local artisans and awaiting for their time in the kiln to be fired. We spent about two hours in Bhaktapur walking amongst the temples and enjoying the atmosphere. Visiting Bhaktapur is definitely a must for anyone spending time in the Kathmandu Valley.

Pagoda Style Temple Roof
Dragon Protecting the Doorway
Another Temple
Entrance to the Durbar
Snake Fountain
Another Statue Guarding the Temple
More Construction
Items for Sale

The Amazing Ruins at Aphrodisias in Turkey

One of the day trips that we took from Kusadasi in western Turkey was to see the Greek ruins at Aphrodisias. Of all of the ruins that we visited, Aphrodisias was actually our favorite even though it is not as excavated as the ones at Ephesus. The cruise ships don’t typically do tours to Aphrodisias, so you will not be surrounded by crowds and will be able to get up close to all of the different sites within the area. The ancient city gets its name from the Temple of Aphrodite that is located at the site, but one of things that makes Aphrodisias so unique is that was the location of the school where artists learned to carve statues, so there is a museum featuring many statues that the students had created.

Memorial Gateway, Tetrapylon
Amphitheater or Bouleuterion
Columns of the Temple
Classical Bust Done by a Student
Very Large Stadium for Chariot Races
Walking the Grounds
View of the Agora from an Overlook

As with many ancient Greek cities, it was later occupied by the Romans who built a large stadium for chariot races as well as Bouleuterion or amphitheater for the leaders to give speeches as well as to hold performances. Unfortunately, because the site doesn’t attract as many tourists, it hasn’t been as restored as other more famous locations. It has also suffered from several catastrophic earthquakes throughout its history, but what has been restored is truly quite stunning.

A Soldier’s Remains in the Museum
Another View of the Tetrapylon
Interesting Architecture
Many Statues
Reliefs on a Wall Near the Museum
Seats in the Stadium
Statue Amongst the Ruins

We would highly recommend visiting Aprhodisias when staying in either Kusadasi or Izmir as it is definitely worth taking time to see. From the monumental gateway, tetrapylon, the Temple of Aphrodite, the stadium, and the museum, there is enough to see to take at least a couple of hours walking amongst the ruins. As with any historical location, it is also a good idea to have a guide who can explain the history and culture of the city. Even in its current condition, one can certainly imagine what it would have looked like during the times of the Greeks and Romans who originally built it.

Looking Up at the Gateway Arch
One of the Many Carvings
Temple of Aphrodite
Wall Full of Carvings in the Museum
Pomegranate Tree
View of the Amphitheater
Getting a Sense of the Scale of Aphrodisias
Interesting Carving of a Family
Looking Up at the Columns of the Temple

Wonderful Highlights of a River Cruise from Luxor to Aswan in Egypt

One of our favorite things that we did during our trip to Egypt was to take a cruise down the Nile River from Luxor in the north to Aswan in the southern portion of the country. It is definitely not just one of our favorite memories of Egypt, but is probably one of our best travel memories overall. Even though the overall cruise is only a few days, the sights that you’re able to see are simply amazing. You have the choice of every type of cruise from luxury to economy, but we went with a mid-range cruise, which was still wonderful. We also had a private Egyptologist that took us to the various places where we stopped, which is a must in our opinion since there is so much to learn about the history and culture.

Karnak Temple Complex at Dusk
Empty Tomb in the Valley of the Kings
Hatshepsut Temple
King and Queen Together in the Luxor Temple
Obelisk Reaching Toward the Sky in the Karnak Temple Complex

We spent two days in Luxor, first visiting the east bank of the Nile to see the Karnak Temple Complex. Karnak Temple is considered the second most visited site in Egypt behind the Great Pyramids of Giza and is certainly a perfect place to start the cruise down the Nile River. We even went back to Karnak that first night to see a light show that took you through the temple after hours with an audio narrative describing more of the history. In addition to Karnak Temple, we also visited Luxor Temple, which is also very interesting and Egypt is in the process of restoring the water feature between Karnak and Luxor Temples that is lined with sphynx statues. That night the cruise ship makes its way across the Nile to the west coast where a full day was ahead of us. We visited the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut Temple and the Colossi of Memnon, and also went to an alabaster factory where we purchased a couple of items.

Worker at the Alabaster Factory
Statue of Horus at the Temple of Horus
Both of the Colossi of Memnon Statues
Lotus Columns in the Temple of Kom Ombo
Sunset Over the Nile River

From there we enjoyed an afternoon cruise where we were able to see beautiful sunsets over the Nile River. At night we arrived in Edfu, which would start our third day of the tour. From our cruise ship, we were taken by horse-drawn carriage to see the Temple of Horus. It was certainly a great start to the day. We then returned to the ship where we continued down the river to our next stop of the day, which was at the Temple of Kom Ombo. This would be our last night on the cruise ship as the following day we would tour sites in Aswan before flying back to Cairo.

People in the Background Provide Scale to the Obelisk in the Quarry
Entrance to the Temple of Isis
Looking Out From the High Dam
Walking Down to the Tomb Chamber in the Valley of the Kings
Taking a Cruise Ship Down the Nile River in Egypt

On the final day, we focused on the sites within the city of Aswan, which is most known for its historic High Dam. As with the rest of our time in Egypt, the real highlight were the historic sites that we visited including seeing the ancient granite quarry that still has a partial obelisk carved into the stone. We took a small boat out to see the island of Philae where the Temple of Isis was relocated in order to save it from flooding. Although it was hot wherever we were in Egypt, the temperatures in Aswan were the highest, reaching as high as 112 degrees Fahrenheit (44 to 45 degrees Celsius).

Standing Inside the Karnak Temple Complex
View of the Temple of Isis from the Boat
View of the Temple of Kom Ombo
Riding in the Carriage Through Edfu, Egypt
Colorful Column

It was definitely an incredible, if not overwhelming, experience to see all of those wonderful places. It is possible to extend the tour or to spend more time in Luxor, but we found the full four days to be quite enough as there was so much to see and absorb as it was. Just sitting on the upper deck of the cruise ship and seeing the shoreline of the Nile or even watching the local children swimming and playing in the water gave us time to absorb what we had seen. We would highly recommend anyone visiting Egypt consider taking one of the Nile River cruises between Luxor and Aswan.