The valley’s northwestern fringe is its most congested. Kathmandu sprawls right to the very edge of the basin, while the main road to Trisuli heaves itself smokily out of the valley. The wooded hillside of Nagarjun Ban provides a pleasant swathe of green, however, and just outside its boundaries – it is part of the Shivapuri–Nagarjun National Park – lie the curious Sleeping Vishnu at Balaju and the rustic temple of Ichangu Narayan. It’s true that Nagarjun’s forest is no match for Shivapuri, the Vishnu plays second fiddle to the one at Budhanilkantha, and the temple is distinctly ordinary compared to the similarly named Changu Narayan, but they’re all handily close to the city centre.
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According to tradition, a Narayan temple occupies each of the four cardinal points of Kathmandu Valley. The western one, Ichangu Narayan, is rustic rather than distinguished, but it nestles in a surprisingly pleasant rural side valley at the southern base of Jamacho. A roughish road leaves the Ring Road immediately opposite Swayambhunath’s western tip; there’s no bus, but taxis wait at this junction, or you can hike or bike up through the suburb of Halchok towards a small notch in the ridge behind a big Buddhist monastery; from here an increasingly rough road descends into the Ichangu valley to reach the temple after about 3km. Just beyond the saddle, another road breaks off to the south beside a quarry; from here mountain bikers could head westwards to Bhimdhunga and on to Thankot, astride the westbound Prithvi Highway.