In the very heart of majestic Nepal lies the village of Bandipur, perched on a narrow ridge 1000 metres up in the air. Towards the north, the mighty Annapurna mountain range glitters in the sunset. South, the rapidly-flowing Marsyangdi River holds promise of white-water rafting adventure, while three hours to the west lies Kathmandu. To the east, beyond the hilly saddle road upon which generations of Tibetan and Indian merchants have trod, the city of Pokhara beckons.
Once a simple Magar village, Bandipur prospered in the 19th century as Newar merchants settled and transformed it into an important stop along the India-Tibet trade route. Today the merchants are gone, but Bandipur still stands as a living museum of traditional Newar culture, now disappearing from many other parts of the country. The village is ideally located along the main tourist circuit at equal distances from Kathmandu (3.5 hours), Pokhara (2 hours) and Chitwan (2.5 hours). It’s also close to many outdoor activities: just a mere hour’s drive to the start and end points of the popular Annapurna and Manaslu circuits and 45 minutes’ drive from whitewater rafting on the Trishuli and Seti Rivers, making it ideal for an overnight rest stop enroute to Pokhara or the mountain trails.
The historic town of Bandipur is a living museum for traditional Newari culture.
When to Go
Bandipur has a monsoonal climate with four main seasons. The main climbing season lasts from October until late November, with cool but pleasant temperatures and clear skies that make it perfect for outdoor activities. December till February sees temperatures as low as 0°C (32°F), although treks at lower altitudes are still possible. March to April brings colourful spring blossoms and pleasant weather around 20-30°C (86°F). June to September marks the monsoon season, with high levels of humidity and low visibility.
Things to Do
Bandipur’s activity centres around the main town square, lined with historic temples, tea houses, shops, cafes and restaurants. Wander about and soak up the everyday village life, where you’ll stumble upon children playing football as well as the occasional live music and dancing. Alternatively, take a walk or picnic out into the countryside along the dirt paths and pastoral fields, where you can still catch farmers tending to their animals and silkworm spinners going about their daily chores.
Visit the local temples
The historic buildings surrounding Bandipur’s main square include some architectural gems that are well worth visiting, including the 18th century Padma Library, the elaborately carved Bindebasini Temple as well as the smaller Mahalaxmi Temple nearby. Closeby, the Temple of Khadga Devi houses a sacred sword believed to have been a gift from Lord Shiva to the 16th-century King Mukunda Sen, and opens its doors only once a year during the festival of Dashain. This celebration is held every year around September or October and sees the entire town and surrounding villages gather to perform Puja (spiritual cleansing) and worship the Sacred Sword with animal sacrifices, playing horn-bells and lighting holy candles. It's well worth timing your visit to witness this event, still celebrated the same way as it has been for centuries.
Admire the views
For the best views in town, make your way over to Tundikhel, a man-made plateau that served as a meeting grounds for 18th century merchants along the India-Tibet trade route. Visit at dawn and at sunset to be rewarded by a stunning panorama of the mighty Annapurna peaks, including Machhapuchhare or Fish Tail Mountain (6997m), Dhaulagiri (8167m), Langtang Lirung (7246m), Manaslu (8162m) and Ganesh Himal (7406m).
The area around Bandipur offers some exceptional day treks, including a 4-hour hike to the Magar village of Ramkot with its quaint local farms and stunning views, as well as another 4-hour round-trip trek to explore Siddha Cave, which at 437m deep and 50m high is Nepal's largest cave. Cave guides are compulsory and can be hired at the entrance for a small fee. Experienced guides can be hired from the Tourist Information Centre for around Rs 500-1000 per day. Along the way, you’ll pass by pastoral scenes of smiling children and farmers going about their daily chores, against a stunning backdrop of rolling hills and snow-capped mountain peaks. The local people here are genuinely excited to see foreign faces and to exchange a few words of friendly greetings.
Experience whitewater rafting
Linking the Annapurna mountain range with the wildlife reserve of Chitwan, the Seti River makes for a magical rafting experience. Most stretches are fairly mild and relaxing, with rapids reaching up to category 3 during the post-monsoon season of October and November, and rafters can choose to camp overnight along the route. The start point is a mere 45-minutes’ drive from Bandipur.
The nearby Magar village of Ramkot offers excellent opportunities for paragliding from its viewpoint. The combination of soaring updrafts and breathtaking mountain views in all directions make this an ideal location for both novices and experts alike. Flights can be booked through several agencies around Bandipur’s main square.
Visit a silkworm farm
Located about 2 kilometres down the road, the Silkworm Farm offers a fascinating glimpse at how silk is produced the traditional way. Orchids full of mulberry plants provide food for the silkworms, which are kept indoors during the season of August to December and March till May. You can also see traditional hand spinners for separating the fine silk threads from the cocoons and other interesting artifacts. Admission is by donation.
The closest airport to Bandipur is located in the city of Pokhara, approximately 2 hours' drive away. Pokhara is served by a number of domestic flights, including Yeti Airlines, Buddha Air, and Simrik Air, which operate regular trips back and forth from Kathmandu, approximately 40mins away.
Bandipur is a 2 hour drive from Pokhara and a 3.5 hour drive from Kathmandu. Private cars with a driver can be hired from travel agents in both Pokhara and Kathmandu to take you there. Please note that no cars are allowed within central Bandipur – parking is available a short 10 minutes' walk outside of the pedestrian area and drivers will be charged a small fee levied by the local municipality as well as a parking fee.
From Pokhara, hop on a tourist bus bound for Kathmandu and alight at Dumre Bazaar along the Prithvi Highway (about 2.5 hours).
From Kathmandu, hop on a tourist bus bound for Bharatpur and alight at Dumre Bazaar along the Prithvi Highway (about 4 hours).
From Dumre Bazaar, transfer to a bus or shared taxi/jeep for the short 15 minute drive up a winding mountain road to reach the village. Buses and jeeps depart approximately every hour from 7am till about 4pm.
The village of Bandipur is a designated pedestrian zone, and therefore no cars, bicycles or other vehicles are allowed within the area. The village itself is small enough to easily cover on foot, while the surrounding hills and trails contain some delightful walks.
Visas on arrival are available on arrival for citizens of most countries at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. The price ranges from US$25 for a 15-day visa up to US$100 for 90 days. Bring along a passport-sized photo – an expensive photo booth is available before the gates but is usually packed with arriving crowds. To view a list of eligible nationalities, visit Nepal’s Department of Immigration website.
Nepal uses the Nepalese Rupee (NPR), currently exchanging at a convenient 100:1 ratio to the US dollar. Visit xe.com for the latest exchange rates.
US dollars are widely accepted, especially for hotels and larger sums of money. Note that the nearest ATM is located at Dumre Bazaar a 20 minute drive from Bandipur – be sure to bring plenty of cash with you.
The birth country of Buddha has always been very religious, and temples and celebrations are still an important part of the city life. Nepal’s Buddhist-Hindu culture is naturally tolerant, but visitors are expected to show respect in return. Always remove your shoes when entering a temple and remember to circulate clockwise around the stupas. Pay attention to flower or rice offerings in front of doorsteps and avoid stepping on them.
Before hiring a tour guide or porter, do some research and find reputable companies who pay fair wages. Many companies cut costs with the porters who generally earn the least and travel with heavy packs and unsuitable gear. Remember that you are contributing to the livelihoods of people living in one of the poorest nations in the world – tip generously if you can.
Learn the Lingo
Nepali is the official language of Nepal. Most villagers in Bandipur speak little or no English, therefore learning a few useful phrases will go a long way.
Hello / goodbye – Namaste
How are you – Kasto cha?
Excuse me – Maapha ganus
Thank you – Dhanybhad
What is this? – Yo ke ho?
How much is this? – Yo kati ho?
Please make it a little cheaper – Ali sastoma dinus
Have a nice day – Subha din