24 Hours in Bandipur Nepal

Did you know that Nepal has a social stratification system where Hindus are split up amongst different ethnic groups?

Yes, it’s true! There are around 134 castes or more in Nepal. While this can seem unique to travelers, it can also be controversial due to unfair treatment and behaviors towards ethnic groups.

Regarding the mistreatment, though, that’s another article that needs to be written. 

One of the major castes in Nepal is Newar, which takes up half the population of the Kathmandu Valley itself. This caste group is truly unique with its language, food, dress, rituals, and more. 

If you’re planning on visiting Kathmandu, there’s a variety of places you can come to experience Newar culture and meet Newari people.

However, if you’re more of the off the beaten track type of traveler, I’d suggest you visit a popular place with the natives, Bandipur Nepal.

What is Bandipur?

Bandipur is an authentic Newari village situated in Tanahun District in Nepal. It’s less common with tourists and more of a popular place for a getaway with locals. The only way to access it is by road, and that’s around a 4-5 drive from Kathmandu, all depending on the traffic!

One of the main reasons you should visit Bandipur Nepal is that the village has buildings from the 18th century. Unlike Kathmandu, it’s not full of dust, and no vehicles are allowed in the village, making it a serene getaway.

The Settlement is stunning itself; there are well preserved buildings with shades of yellow, pink, white, brown shutters, and pagoda roofs. There are some similarities with Tudor-style architecture in the U.K, but this village is strictly unique. Personally, I feel one of the most beautiful things about Bandipur is that a lot of the area is untouched, and the locals are unphased by foreigners.

Plus, this town provides the best of both; it has stunning architecture, culture, and scenery! Bandipur means enclosed, and the town itself used to be a jail, way long back! Former prisoners from Bhaktapur, an old city in Kathmandu, would be transferred to the prison in Bandipur once it became too full. 

Don’t quote or ask me on such dates, as I’m not entirely sure when it was, but that’s what a local seemed to say!

Also, back in the 1960s, Bandipur was an essential place to stop on the India-Tibet trade route for many merchants! Today though, it’s now more of a place visited by tourists, but now and again, you can still bump into farmers and traders taking part in their work. 

Where to stay in Bandipur?

Whether you’re a “book as you go” traveler or a pre planner, I get it; accommodation can be pretty overwhelming. Plus, when you’re reading travel blogs, it can be a bit difficult to verify the accommodation you’re staying in as the writers could have some affiliation with them. 

Now, safe to say with Bandipur Nepal, it’s none of the above. I’m specifically going to highlight one place to stay based on personal experience: The Old Inn. Now you can book The Old Inn directly through hotel websites like Booking.com, Agoda, or Expedia; however, I’d recommend just calling up and making a reservation. This is partly because Bandipur hotels will get more money and fewer cuts through a booking agent.

What exactly is The Old Inn?

While there are many hotels, homestays, and lodges in Bandipur Nepal, I’d heavily recommend The Old Inn. It may be slightly on the pricier side, costing around $77-$90, depending on what booking agent you use. Inclusive of this price is also a delicious set breakfast accompanied by tea or coffee.

Don’t be deceived too much by the name; this accommodation might have a rustic vibe; however, it only opened in 2002. The Inn comprises of two traditional Newari townhouses over 150 years old and later renovated to become the Old Inn. So in a way, you’re staying in a part of history itself!

What’s particularly unique about the Old Inn is that it has wooden balustrades on each floor and old wooden-style rooms. It has similarities to an old Tudor house as the ceilings are really low with low doorways you step down into. Depending on what room you get, you could have classical shutters and a balcony overlooking the main Bazaar or the scenic landscape, which on a good day you can see the Annapurna’s. 

The Old Inn Food

Now regarding their food, it’s all traditional Nepali thali, and it’s delicious! All the staff are incredibly hospitable and go out of their way to find out what country you’re from. The reason behind this is that they bring the Nepali flag out and your countries on a plaque to show the symbolic bridge to friendship the countries hold.

In addition to this, they also have an extensive selection of spirits, wines, and beers to accompany your meal if you’re the drinker. Plus, they’re also flexible with their mealtimes, as long as you tell them in advance so they can prepare for you accordingly. 

One of the best assets I find about The Old Inn is their resident manager Ramsharan Shrestha. Ramcharan Ji is a Newar himself who originated from a traditional Newar city known as Bhaktapur. 

Since its opening he’s been working at The Old Inn and is full of wisdom about Bandipur and the Newar culture. If you’re lucky, catch him at mealtime and crack a conversation, you’ll be fascinated. He’s a walking history book! 

Where to eat in Bandipur? 

Arguably, food can be a staple part of travel, and it can definitely help you gain a different perspective of a country. It can also help you see into the eyes of the locals how they live too. With that said, you HAVE to eat local Newari food in Bandipur.

One of the best things I love about this place is that it’s not a tourist trap. This means the majority of food places you dine at serve you at the local price. Some of these places are even cheaper than in Kathmandu. Trust me; this is unusual for a tourist destination in Nepal, which is why you should visit!

Falcha 

Situated to the left of The Old Inn, only a minute’s walk away, is Falcha. This is a super cheap local place run by mother and son. It’s a popular place amongst Nepalese, but don’t let that put you off! Unlike some local places where you have to ask what they have, this place has QR codes that you can use to scan your phone and get the menu. 

While they make a few continental snacks, I’d fully recommend you go for the traditional Newari snacks. I’ve not tried the whole menu. I’d suggest you try the following:

  • Bara: Spiced lentils (daal) cooked and made into a patty.
  • Chatamari: Nepali version of a pizza! This is a rice flour bread that has toppings of vegetables, eggs, meat, and cheese. You can choose to make this veg or non-veg.
  • Buff Sukuti: This is dried buffalo cut into slices and marinated, then charbroiled.
  • Jhol Momo: Traditional Nepalese dumplings that come with spiced meat or vegetable fillings. Moreover, this type comes with a spicy gravy like sauce. 
  • Chang: A popular Newari alcoholic drink made from malt, rice hops, yeast and water.

These are just a few items out of many you can try! Also, try and get tongba, a traditional yet tasty millet based alcohol. I’m suggesting them as I had them all, some of which two plates of each dish and change. The place is so affordable too, coming to a total of 1800 NPR for the meal, which is about $15!

Items from left to right: Chang, bara and buff sukuti.

Samay Baji

If you can, check out this traditional family husband and wife run Newari restaurant. Samay Baji is perfect as it offers a fantastic balance between continental and Nepali/Newari cuisine. 

It’s situated towards the eastern end of Bandipur Nepal, and it’s super affordable! Madan, the owner, always greets you, makes you feel at home, and is also full of wisdom. Many visitors comment on how great their momos are too! Don’t be surprised if Madan recommends you some interesting things to do free of charge. 

Cafe Red Castle

I know I said local and Nepali food! But, I sometimes know us travelers can feel a tad homesick and crave home comforts. For this reason, I recommend you visit Cafe Red Castle. This is simply a coffee shop that serves Nepali food and continental food like Pizza’s, burgers, sandwiches, and a bakery. Plus, if you’re a digital nomad, it’s a convenient place to work. 

What to do in Bandipur?

If you’re planning to stay in Bandipur Nepal, 24 hours should be sufficient; however, many people choose to stay for 48-72 hours; it all depends on your availability. In addition to touring the vehicle-free village you can do a range of activities which are:

Hike to Ramkot- 2-2.5 hour walk

Only 5km away from Bandipur is the serene village of Ramkot. Ramkot is easily accessible by a short hike and is very traditional. You can witness lots of goats, chickens, and clay/wooden built houses in the village. The hike itself is filled with stunning views of rice fields and the Himalayas. This can get quite hot depending on the season you’re hiking in, so make sure you pack your sunscreen!

Visit Siddha Cave 1.5 hour walk

Bandipur has several caves to visit, one of which you can go to is 500 meters deep, known as Siddha Cave. The cave itself costs around 200 NPR and takes around 45 minutes to explore with a local guide. 

Climb the Than Mai temple 

Take a short hike to the Than Mai Hindu style temple at sunrise or sunset. The temple itself is not that amazing, however, the views are magnificent! You can even progress a tad further over to Gurunche Hill, which takes around 30 minutes, and you get a full panoramic view!

Paragliding 

Believe it or not, you can also do Paragliding in Bandipur, but it’s best you speak to an expert at The Old Inn or your guesthouse who can arrange it! 

Silk Factory Visit

You can also visit a silk factory and witness real silk worms making silk!

How to get to Bandipur?

As mentioned previously, Bandipur is a place which is only really accessible by road, which means you can reach it by car or bus. The most common way to get to Bandipur is via Kathmandu, and you can easily do this. 

Be warned; if you’re a foreigner, the cost may be quite high if you choose to hire a private vehicle; therefore I’d recommend you opt for a bus. You can also access it from Pokhara and Chitwan, as it’s placed 73km from Pokhara and 70km to the North of Chitwan.

Kathmandu – Bandipur- Approx 4-5 hours

To reach Bandipur from Kathmandu, then it’s best you take a tourist bus to Dumre. You can get a local bus easily from the bus park and then get a connecting local bus from Dumre to Bandipur. If you wish to pay a bit more money you can also get a tourist bus from the Kantipath bus park to Dumre, which leaves 6-7 each morning. 

Whatever bus you choose, you will have to get a connecting local bus from Dumre. Don’t worry though, it’s super cheap, around 50-100npr as it’s only 9 kilometers to reach Dumre. Similarly, if you already have accommodation booked in Bandipur, you can always contact them in advance, and they might arrange a private transfer for you! 

Do note that these buses don’t commonly go to Dumre; you have to request that they do ahead of your travel, so the driver knows to stop off on the way.

Pokhara- Bandipur – Approx 2 hours 45 minutes

If you’re already in Pokhara, you can easily catch a bus to Bandipur in less time than you would from Kathmandu. To do this, simply just go to the Old bus park (if you can handle a local bus) and catch a bus to Dumre; these buses are super cheap, around 200npr! You can also catch one from the tourist bus park next to the lakeside, which will be slightly pricier! 

Chitwan- Bandipur- Approx 2 hours 30 minutes

To get to Bandipur from Chitwan, you should get a bus that’s going to Pokhara, as there are no direct ones. Take one of these buses from tourist bus park Sauraha or the Bharatpur bus park. 

Other destinations to check out in Nepal

Conclusion 

Overall, Bandipur Nepal is definitely a hidden gem known amongst most Nepalese but not visited as much by tourists. While you may see foreigners there, it’s one that many people do not undervalue! 

I say this because you don’t pay any tourist fees to enter the area. Plus, the affordability does not stop there! When dining at places in Bandipur or paying for anything, the prices are consistent throughout and not inflated. The town itself is incredibly quiet, and the locals go their extra mile to welcome you, treating you the same as locals. Plus the views are quite spectacular!

Moreover, if you’re planning on visiting Pokhara or Chitwan, then this is a must to stop over on the way. 

Does anything in particular interest you about Bandipur Nepal? Let me know in the comments down below. 

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Navigating Nepal and the World

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