Bandipur, Nepal – a cultural getaway in the hills

Many travelers come to Nepal to explore and experience Himalaya mountains, visit the heritage places like Bhaktapur and Patan and hang out in a tourist area of Thamel (Kathmandu) to buy the equipment for trekking. Those ones who are trekking in Annapurna Conservation Area add a couple of days to 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 the main points:

  • Things to do in Bandipur
  • How to reach Bandipur from Pokhara or Kathmandu?
  • Accommodation in Bandipur
  • Other travel tips to help you plan a visit to this town
Bandipur nature
A part of the town is spread on the green hills!

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.
    • There are no world famous sites in the town, but I recommend spending a night and a day in Bandipur to feel the atmosphere and visit a few viewpoints.

Things to do in Bandipur Nepal

Explore the historical center of Bandipur Nepal

Walk through the narrow street and explore the architectural heritage in 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.

Bandipur main Bazaar
The main street in Bandipur

Sunset at Thani Mai temple in Bandipur

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.

Visit a silk farm in Bandipur

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 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. Afterward, 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.

Meet sunrise at Tundikhel in Bandipur

Tundikhel view
A view from Tundikhel, Bandipur. In the mornings, you can see Annapurna range

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. If you are planning to trek Annapurna Circuit or any other itineraries in the Conservation Area, there are a few small hikes around Bandipur that can serve as a small preparation.

Other places to visit in Bandipur

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.

Bandipur viewpoint
One of the numerous viewpoints in Bandipur.

Considering Bandipur is quite an offbeat destination comparing to trendy Pokhara or Kathmandu, you might be wondering how safe it is? As a person, who traveled in Nepal both solo and with friends, I felt safe in all the destinations I visited. Safety in Nepal is a broad topic however and I can speak only from the perspective of a foreigner woman.

My encounters with people in Bandipur were friendly and welcoming. When I asked a local woman about the way to the farm, she walked with me almost half km, because she wasn’t sure if I meet someone understanding English on the way. Even when I ensured her I can figure out, she genuinely wanted to help.

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 3-4 hours from Kathmandu by minibus.

It takes 4-5 hours to reach Dumre from Kathmandu by bus. Sometimes, it takes one hour just to leave Kathmandu during rush hours. Buses start from Kantipath in Kathmandu and Prithvi Chowk in Pokhara.

Road to Bandipur
The road to Bandipur

You need to inform a driver that you are heading till Dumre. The minibusses might refuse to take you unless you pay the full price. Wait for a proper bus – there are many regular routes between Pokhara and Kathmandu. It’s easy to negotiate with a bus about starting and ending point. A local bus will cost you around 200-250 NPR till Dumre, depends where you start from. I paid 200 NPR from Pokhara and reached in 2 hours.

Let’s sync – a local bus is a non-AC vehicle that drives like crazy and stops in many villages. If you are opting for speed, AC and other conditions, you might find options around 500-600 NPR.

Once you reach Dumre, there is a direct bus to Bandipur. Taxi drivers might try to convince you that there is no other way to reach Bandipur than taking a cab. 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 in Bandipur Nepal

Bandipur architecture
Most of the windows have different design

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 mid-range 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 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.

If you have a budget of 80-100 USD/night, the famous pick will be The Old Inn in Bandipur. It is just at the main street – a traditional Newari construction with nice interiors and exteriors.

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.

Food in Bandipur Nepal

Bandipur food prices

At the main street itself, you will find a few local cafes selling nice spicy food for reasonable prices (e.g. 100-300 NPR/meal). There are also some expensive cafes that are part of boutique hotels if you are looking for an AC environment and cozy interiors. You can see above a sample of the menu from one of the street cafes on the main road.

What else? Local people were strongly opposed to the construction of the 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?

2 thoughts on “Bandipur, Nepal – a cultural getaway in the hills”

Leave a Comment