Most of the travelers come to Nepal to explore and experience Himalaya mountains. Most of the visitors I’ve had a chance to meet during several trips spent a few days in Thamel(a tourist area in Kathmandu) to buy the equipment for trekking and went to a trek that takes the most time of the stay in Nepal. Those ones who are trekking in Annapurna Conservation Area add a couple of days visit Pokhara.
Some of the nature lovers might visit Chitwan park and spiritual people add Lumbini to their itinerary. The last two places are way less popular comparing to Kathmandu and Pokhara though. But wait! What about other towns and places to visit? There are so many things to do in Nepal beyond trekking and breathtaking mountain views. If you are after the cultural experiences, today we will talk about Bandipur – one of the beautifully preserved settlements of Newari culture.
Surprisingly, there is very little practical information available online about this town, though it used to be an important stop in the India – Tibet trade route. Let’s look into main points: how to reach Bandipur from Pokhara or Kathmandu? Accommodation in Bandipur, places to visit and other information to help you plan a visit to this town.
What do you need to know about Bandipur?
- Bandipur is all about atmosphere – it’s a place to slow down, savor the hilly crisp air and relax from the buzzing city rhythm of Kathmandu. Local citizens keep this town clean and you will feel the difference from the first steps in the pedestrian area. I strongly encourage you to respect it.
- The bigger part of the town is mainly pedestrian. The transport can take you to the bus station near the entrance to the town. Afterward, you will have to go by foot.
- Plan to spend at least one night in Bandipur to feel the atmosphere and visit a few viewpoints.
How to reach Bandipur from Pokhara or Kathmandu?
If both Pokhara and Kathmandu are in your plan, Bandipur is on the way between these cities. It is easily accessible from Dumre – a city on the highway between Pokhara and Kathmandu. It takes 2 hours to reach Dumre from Pokhara by bus and 3 hours from Kathmandu by minibus.
Once you reach Dumre, there is a direct bus to Bandipur. Taxi drivers will try to convince you in the opposite, but here is a point (27.96385, 84.40926) where the bus stops from Bandipur to Dumre and opposite to it across the road, the bus starts to Bandipur. The bus costs 50 NPR – they don’t give tickets, the passengers pay cash to the driver.
If you go by taxi be ready to pay 500-800 NPR (~5-8 USD) depending on the time and season. There is 9 km of serpentine road from Dumre to Bandipur. There is also a steep walking path to the hill, around 4.5 km.
Accommodation and food in Bandipur
Though Bandipur is not popular among tourists like Kathmandu or Pokhara you will find a huge contrast in the price range of accommodation there. The common price for “posh” hotels & stays is around 1000-2000 NPR (~10-20 USD) per night. There are also budget guesthouses that cost 500-600 NPR (~5-6 USD). If you visit 10-15 places in the town, you will be surprised how monopolized stable are these prices.
Note: if you come to Bandipur by taxi or happen to stop at the taxi parking (near the bus station), they will recommend you the budget options near the station itself. This accommodation will come at the same cost of 500-600 NPR per night. I strongly recommend going inside the heart of the town where the pedestrian area is. You will find good and affordable options there as well.
I’ve stayed at the Namaste Guest House – it has several rooms (3-4) on the floor with a common balcony, a common hot shower and a toilet attached to each room. Free WiFi. It is on the main street, around 150 meters from the entrance to the town. Rented in September for 500 NPR/night.
At the main street itself, you will find a few local cafes selling nice spicy food for reasonable prices. Here is a sample:
Exploring Bandipur – some memorable experiences
Roam around the historical center and enjoy the paved streets and colorful houses. The town streets with cobblestones, nineteenth-century mansions with the flowers hanging from the balconies, shuttered windows, and clean pedestrian areas take you to the atmosphere of the small cities in Southern Europe, despite Bandipur was never colonized or invaded by the westerners. Nowadays, many of the buildings were transformed into the guest houses or cafes, nevertheless, they still keep the spirit of the past era.
It’s an experience itself to see the impact of Newari architecture, visit the temples and witness different cultural festivities. I was in the town at the time of Dashain, so it was interesting to see people wearing festive clothes, visiting the temple and following traditions.
In the evening, don’t miss a sunset from the Gurungche hilltop. Climb all the way to Thani Mai Temple – 30 minutes climb that starts opposite to the entrance to pedestrian part of the town (5 min walking distance from Bazaar Street). From the hilltop, you can see picturesque views of the town and mountains in the clear skies. There are a few benches if you would like to stay for a longer time.
During the daytime, visit a silkworm farm – it is a place where you can see different stages of silkworm growing. There are orchards of mulberry plants that are grown for worm food. Though you will not see the process of the silk production since it’s a farm, not a factory, you can ask any questions you have about the process.
There are no entrance tickets, though you can leave a donation at the end of the box. The farmers don’t sell silk items or do any other type of fundraising. This place is more of a learning experience about the initial stages of silk production. Since silk is a popular material used in the fashion industry, it’s useful to know how it is made. Afterwards make your conclusions to buy silk clothes or not.
The silkworm farm is a 30 minutes walking distance from Bandipur down the hill. After entering the pedestrian area of the town from the bus stop take a right ascending path till you reach the indicator with Silk Worm Farm. Confirm with the local people the working schedule and holidays.
Watch the sunrise from Tundikhel or visit it during the daytime. After Shah dynasty came to power in Bhaktapur in the 18th century, Newari traders shifted to Bandipur which was a malaria free area and had a good connection between India and Tibet. Tunkikhel is a man-made plateau where the traders used to haggle for transported goods. Nowadays, Tundikhel is a huge playground for football and cricket players and a great viewpoint for Annapurna range and other snow peaks.
There is also a big cave (Siddha Gufa) near Bandipur that takes a half-day trip. You can see the indicators to it on the way to Tundikhel. This time I haven’t visited it. I didn’t want to make my two days visit a hassle because that’s not what Bandipur is about. I gave the preference to walking around the hill areas, exploring the narrow streets of the town, enjoying food and interacting with locals.
Local people were strongly opposed to the construction of Prithvi highway in the second part of the 20th century. It meant that traders will have to shift to another place. Though Bandipur lost its importance in trading after the appearance of the highway, it still keeps the charming atmosphere of the town which managed to preserve the impact of different cultures and traditions.
What about you? Would you like to visit this town?