Swayambhunath — also known as the Monkey Temple, for its holy, furry dwellers that swing from the rosewood trees is one of the oldest and most sacred Buddhist sites in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley, an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus as well as Buddhists. The main entrance has 365 stone steps which need to be climbed before you reach the temple complex. Swayambhunath was founded by the great-grandfather of King Mānadeva at the beginning of the 5th century.Must see highlights- Climb the full 365 steps to the top – take a breather on the way up to enjoy the small stupas, monkeys and watch vendors prices go up! Circle the stupa at the very top Do visit the small temples and shrines around the main stupa, Visit one of the many singing bowl stores in the back streets at the top, Enjoy the view of Kathmandu from the top If you have time walk down the stairs behind the stupa to the world peace pond. There are sometimes some local artisans along these steps.This sacred pilgrimage site is also home to hundreds of monkeys considered holy to Tibetan Buddhists and Hindus. According to legend, Manjushree, the bodhisattva of wisdom, was in the process of raising the temple hill when the lice in his hair transformed into these monkeys. Swayambhunath means self-arisen and is derived from that legend. Legend says that once the Kathmandu valley was a lake in which Swayambhu hill existed as an island. On top of that hill stood a natural crystal stupa. Buddha, when visiting the place, declared that it was a wish-fulfilling stupa and whoever is touched by the wind that passes over the stupa receives the seed of liberation from the cycle of existence. The stupa represents Buddha’s mind. To visit a stupa is said to be the same as meeting a Buddha in person. It offers peace, freedom and joy to the whole world and ultimately helps us to obtain perfect enlightenment. Just seeing, hearing about, reflecting upon, or touching a stupa fosters peace and even spiritual release. The stupa pacifies physical and mental difficulties such as sicknesses, famine and conflicts in all areas and directions. Swayambhu, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, goes back to ancient times. The earliest written record of the Great Stupa of Swayambhu is a 5th century stone inscription. Honored by kings, monks, and pilgrims alike, the stupa has been restored and repaired on numerous occasions. In 1349 it was damaged by an invading Muslim army and later repaired by King Saktimalle Bhalloka. In 1505, the yogin Sangye Gyaltsen added the wheel and spire to the stupa’s dome. In 1614 the 6th Shamarpa had shrines built into the stupa in the four cardinal directions. Several important Kagyu lamas held a consecration ceremony in 1750 after a major renovation.