Nepal - Getting to know Bandipur
Nestled on a ridge of hills with the snowy Himalayan peaks jutting behind, and the green terraces of the Marsyangdi valley on all sides, Bandipur's location couldn't be more spectacular. It's a sleepy little town, full of atmosphere, its stone-paved main street lined with pastel-hued shop houses decorated with ornate woodwork verandas and steep tiled roofs. This is a perfect place to kick back and simply soak up Nepal's impressive mountain views.
Located on what was formerly the main trade route between India and Tibet, Bandipur was once a prosperous trading centre. These days it’s a little rustic, even slightly run down, but we think this adds to its rather charming sensation of faded grandeur. It's a popular stop off en-route between Chitwan National Park, with its rare wildlife, and the awe-inspiring trekking on offer around Pokhara. Standard itineraries often only feature one night in Bandipur, but many visitors quickly fall under its spell and wish they had planned a longer stay.
Some of the traditional shops have been transformed into friendly bars and restaurants, but tourists blend in happily with the locals and Bandipur still feels authentically Nepalese. Often referred to as a ‘living museum of Newari culture’, normal Newari life continues around you: kids play football in the pedestrianised streets, vendors sell brightly coloured woven carpets and clothes on street stalls.
Part of the joy of visiting Bandipur is just not doing much at all, particularly if you’ve come from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu or the early morning safari starts at Chitwan. You can wander dusty old streets, spend time chatting with locals and explore ancient temples. There are easy walking trails right on the doorstep taking you through orchid-strewn meadows to visit local villages where little has changed for centuries, and you're assured of a warm welcome.
What to do in Bandipur
- Just exploring Bandipur's narrow streets and tumbledown squares is a delight. The bazaar runs east to west along the top of the hill, and comprises a gaggle of old houses with carved wooden lintels and verandas. Right in the middle sits the small pagoda-style Bindhebasini Temple that enshrines Bandipur's icon of the goddess Bindhebasini, which is pulled through the town during New Year celebrations.
- Close by, a wide flight of old stone steps leads up the hillside to Khadga Devi Temple. This tiny, unassuming temple allegedly contains the sword of Mukunda Sen, a 16th-century king. Whatever you do, don't touch it. Legend has it you'll be struck dead immediately if you do!
- In former times the flat plateau at Tundikhel was a spot where traders gathered to barter, and a parade ground for Gurkha soldiers. It's just a short walk up from the village and the views are spectacular. From here you have an uninterrupted panorama of the Himalayas, and on a clear day can see up to ten peaks including Dhaulagiri and Manaslu, the seventh and eighth highest peaks in the world.
- Exploring the forested hillsides around Bandipur and visiting the villages that cling to the terraced valleys is like taking a step back in time. At Ramkot you can meet members of the Magar tribe who still live in traditional round houses and rely on healers and shamans for their well-being. You pass through the villages of Muchuk and Mukundeswari en route, both little touched by development.
- Silk farming is an important industry in the Bandipur region. Travel a short distance from town and you can visit a traditional silk farm, where you’ll learn about the production of silk and see silk cocoons being nurtured on mulberry bushes. The delicate thread is spun in the home and then used to make colourful scarves and carpets.
- The hillsides around Bandipur are honeycombed with caves. Discovered as recently as 1987, Siddha Gufa is a vast cave system that’s possible to trek to from Bandipur. Said to be the largest cave in Nepal, it boasts huge cathedral-like caverns studded with stalagmites and stalactites, and is also home to hundreds of bats. You’ll need good shoes, a torch, and the assistance of a guide to explore the system safely.
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The place to stay in Bandipur is The Old Inn. A highlight in itself, it has the most wonderful sitting area with vast views of the mountains which are particularly special at sunset.
The valleys around Bandipur are home to 24 different types of orchid. May to June is the best time to witness them in full bloom.