Kathmandu (काठमाण्डु) is the largest city and capital of Nepal and the namesake of the Kathmandu Valley. Once thought to be the fabled and inaccessible Shangri-La, Kathmandu is now a hub for independent travellers as well as a growing vacation spot catering to all budgets. As a result of considerable urban growth in recent decades, it is now part of one continuous urban area together with Patan to the south.
According to a census conducted in 2011, Kathmandu metropolis alone has 2.5 million inhabitants, and the agglomerate has a population of more than 3 million inhabitants. The metropolitan city area is 50.67 square kilometres (19.56 sq mi) and has a population density of 3000per km² and 17000 per km square in city. The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal. It is surrounded by four major mountains: Shivapuri, Phulchoki, Nagarjun, and Chandragiri. Kathmandu Valley is part of three districts (Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur), has the highest population density in the country, and is home to about a twelfth of Nepal's population. Historically, the Kathmandu Valley and adjoining areas were known as Nepal Mandala. Until the 15th century, Bhaktapur was its capital when two other capitals, Kathmandu and Lalitpur, were established. During the Rana and Shah eras, British historians called the valley itself "Nepal Proper". Today, Kathmandu is not only the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, but also the headquarters of the Central Development Region of Nepal. The Central Region comprises three zones: Bagmati, Narayani, and Janakpur. Kathmandu is located in the Bagmati Zone.