Nepal is one of the most culturally rich, welcoming and exciting places in Asia. However, it can be exhausting. There was plenty of surprising things about Nepal we didn't know before we arrived. You get the experience of bumpy bus rides along gravel dirt roads, motorbikes whizzing by as you dodge the tourists in the temples of Kathmandu, and high altitude trekking in the Himalayas. If you want a quiet refuge with traditional culture and calm, relaxing days where you experience countryside walks, nature and mountain views, Bandipur in Nepal is the place for you. It’s no wonder we think it's one of the most beautiful places to visit in Nepal.
There is a good chance you never heard of this place, but its one of the best historical places in Nepal. Its a small town starts with a 600m-drive up the winding hills of the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway. Sit down for tea, relax, breathe deeply and find out why Bandipur is definitely one of the best places to see in Nepal. Frankly, it is a travelers dream, its perfect after trekking in Nepal, and it's almost as though they designed this place with the traveler in mind!
Once a trading post in the 1700's it became a commercial center for Tibetan and British India traders until the 1970's when the Pokhara to Kathmandu highway development completely bypassed it. Luckily for tourism it has slowly become a mecca of Newari culture and a big city escape.
Bandipur village is an ideal ‘rest stop’ as it's by far one of the best places to visit near Kathmandu, AND it is easy to get from Pokhara to Bandipur. Stopping here is a great way to break down the long travel days and take a break from those oh-so-bumpy roads. Don’t let the distance fool you. It doesn’t look far on the map, but the road conditions and traffic make travel life here a lot longer. Kathmandu to Bandipur is about 140kms (it could take 5-7 hours), roughly 73kms to get to Pokhara (3-4 hours by bus) or about a 2.5 to 3.5-hour bus ride from Chitwan to Bandipur. (check out the how to get there below)
There are many reasons how this little hilltop village revealed its name as “the warm heart of Nepal."
- Traffic is closed on the main streets to vehicles, including motorbikes. Be prepared to enjoy the tranquility of walking effortlessly on lovely cobblestone streets, admiring the traditional wooden and brick buildings traditional Newari culture.
- There is no haggling. No shop owners will come out to negotiate, wheel and deal so you can peruse and wander at your leisure.
- The prices here aren't inflated. In fact, you can eat, stay and drink here for less than in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
- Traditions and architecture - Amongst the wooden balconies and glorious Bougainvillea trees hanging off the traditional Newari architecture, there are a great selection of cafes, restaurants, places to stay and things to do.
- Buddhist and Hindu followers are living in harmony. You can freely visit the small, intimate temples without any crowd.
- Nature – If you feel like you missed out on the green, mountain views, and fresh air while in Kathmandu, you can recharge your lungs and spirits here in Bandipur.
There many options for your Bandipur stay, there are loads of comfortable accommodations. Many are homestays, and some are quaint central street hotels, even tented areas. Here are some of the many options.
Surprisingly, there are unlimited things to do in Bandipur. The first one is to relax and enjoy the reprieve from the bustle of Nepal. The second are all these fun activities:
1. Visit the Monk and the tiny Buddist Monastery at the Boudha Sadan Shakyamuni Monastery (also just known as Bandipur Monastery) – This was one of our most favorite days during our 2-month stay in Nepal. We took a walk up the Buddhist monetary by following the steps just past the main square. The Monk who resides there invited us in for tea to share his story about building the monastery and his expansion plans for the temple, which resulted to spending the whole afternoon there. He left us to meditate in the temple and sit on the steps of the temple to admire the views of the snowy peaks of the Himalayas across the horizon. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments to get up close and personal, an opportunity to connect with a Monk and ask anything you want.
2. Climb up to the Thani Mai – This is a hill above the town with a well-marked staircase and hand-railed path. It is best to climb in the early morning sunrise or afternoon sunset. At the top is the Thani Mai temple, a small Hindu temple, which is not a significant attraction but a great place to visit for the views. For an even better view, you can continue to hike across the mountain range to the Gurungche Hill to get a full 360-degree view of the entire area. The hike is a comfortable, mildly steep walk up the stairs for about 30 minutes.
3. Explore and climb through the dark Siddha Cave – Hike down the steep stairs halfway down the Bandipur village hill to reach the Siddha Cave, the largest cave in Nepal measuring 437m deep and about 50 metres high. A guide is required to lead you through the cave. The guide, which is at a small cost, carries a flashlight and leads you to descend into deep caverns on ladders and swing through sections with ropes. The cave is full of stalactite structures. You can hear the sound of whistling bats high above the cavern walls. Along the way, you will see local worship and meditation areas and a swimming pool during the rainy season. Good shoes are necessary. Bring your own headlamp. This adventure isn’t for the faint of heart.
4. Admire and wander the temples – There are several beautiful Hindu temples scattered throughout the town. You can explore on your own to find them, such as the Bindebasini temple, a small temple located on the north part of the main street or bazaar. The temple is known to be a dedication to the goddess Durga. Intricate stone carvings line the temple and along the historic wooden door.
5. Shop the Bandipur Bazaar – Buy t-shirts, Newari gifts, and snacks. The benefit of no haggling is that you can wander to your heart's content.
6. Hike along the countryside to whichever direction you choose and you are going to find interesting homes and temples.
7. Eat Momos and Dhal Bhat Of course Momos are the Nepal famous food, and there is no shortage of Momos in this town. You can find lots of delicious dumplings, fried or steamed anywhere you go. Most common is chicken, buff (water buffalo) and vegetable but these are less common and often have to be ordered in advance. Dhal Bhat is the most traditional dish with rice, vegetables, a lentil soup, pickled curry usually served with an unlimited refills.
8. Paragliding There is a paragliding takeoff area just at the outskirts of Bandipur main town. Your guesthouse can arrange a glide for you, so inquire when you arrive.
There are ample local, fresh and delicious places to eat in Bandipur. There are no big food chains here, just local restaurants owned by families in the area, and they are a treat!
We had no problem finding delicious food in Bandipur.
However, most of our favorites spots are not found on TripAdvisor.
Old Home Country Food – A small family food place right in the middle of the main Bazaar. Get your Dahl Baht and traditional foods there at locally attractive prices. We ate here several times in this tiny place with this joyous kitchen.
Loving Spoon – The women who owned it made this lovely little restaurant. Walk north then turn at the steps of the Bandipur village resort and walk a couple blocks. The food is incredible, especially the Dahl Baht and momos. The restaurant is lovingly decorated with seats on each side of the road, one in the main house and the other overlooking the valley in Bandipur.
Hill’s Heaven – Sit on the patio overlooking the main bazaar and enjoy delicious traditional Nepali food. We loved the Nepali Thukpa soup.
Himalaya Café – Enjoy great coffee and views from the back deck. But they are a bit overpriced in comparison to the other food options.
Samay Baji – The one finer dining type of restaurant with very traditional meals. You need to order food in advance for dinner. The atmosphere is nice, food is great.
The warmest months are in April through to August, with temperatures ranging from maximum of 20-30°C to minimum 15-20°C. December and January are the coldest months with temperatures ranging from 5°C to 20°C. Typically, the days are warm and the nights are cold. With no furnaces or internal heating, it can get very cold at night. Pack lots of layers and hats and gloves at this time of year. The rainy season is from June to September with average rainfalls between 600mm-800mm. Overall, the weather is pleasant with lots of sunshine during the colder months.
It is located on a hilltop off the Kathmandu-Pokhara Highway. You need to stop right off the highway in the town called Dumre . From there, you can catch a cab up to the hill or wait for the bus to go up the mountain. Either way, it’s all about timing. A cab to Bandipur is about 8kms and it will cost you about 500 rupees (4USD), so make sure you negotiate. The local bus will cost between 100-200 rupees (1USD). There is no posted bus schedule, so it’s best to ask a shop owner when the next bus arrives or your guesthouse owner can arrange for your way back when you are in Bandipur.
How to get from Kathmandu to Bandipur – Catch a local bus or cab down the hill then take the Kathmandu “tourist bus” from Dumre. (It's the Pokhara tourist bus that makes a quick stop to pick up passengers in Dumre, right off the highway.) The Tourist Bus is simply a passenger bus for long distances, but it services locals and travelers, too. The Kathmandu bus will stop near Thamel. The distance is 122kms, but it can take anywhere from 3.5 to 5 hours with traffic. So get comfortable!
How to get from Pokhara to Bandipur – Just book the tourist bus from Pokhara to Dumre. You can book at many of the tourist areas along the main road. The distance is 81kms but expect it to take at least 3 hours with traffic and bumpy Nepali roads. It should cost around 1000 rupees (10USD).
You can get there from Chitwan or Lumbini to Bandipur. Just be prepared to take a very long day. It took us about 8 hours to get from Lumbini to Bandipur, with a change of buses in Pokhara.
The Bandipur Street Food Festival- This event happens during new years December 30th-January 1st every year, and we're disappointed we missed it. Music, cultural dancing, classic Newari customs and rituals, fireworks and of course-food. If you can plan your travels here during that time, this would be the place to visit!
Future cable car- There are current plans underway to build a cable car from Dumre up the hill to Bandipur. This will not only increase the traffic of the village, but it will change the quaintness and “escape” feel that it has now. Expect a lot of local visitors to the cave and temples. However, the timing for this major investment is unclear.
We hope this gives you lots of information for your Bandipur stay. So what's the verdict, do you think it's one of the most beautiful places to visit in Nepal. If you are looking for more inspiration to go to Nepal, you can check out all our posts here.
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Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at TravelLifeMedia.com