Bhaktapur – the most beautiful old city in all of Nepal
If you read about my search of the Kumari then you might have picked up on me mentioning a visit to Bhaktapur. In fact I’ve had many visits and stays in Bhaktapur, which is quite surprising really consider the repulsive entry fee foreigners are charged to enter this ancient city. I write that in a two tier context. One is to do with the rising cost of Nepalese entry fees for foreigners to otherwise public areas. And two because Bhaktapur has the highest entry fee in all Nepal.
Is it worth it though? Well my many visits to Bhaktapur would make it seem so.
To me Bhaktapur has the most beautiful of old city centers in all of Nepal if not the world.
So then yes, perhaps there is a price to pay to see something like that.
There are however ways around paying the inflated ticket price. Right or wrong, here’s a little about my travels to Bhaktapur.
How to get to Bhaktapur cheaply
If you are staying in Kathmandu city then simply head to Ratna bus park. It’s a bit of walk but certainly doable from Thamel. It’s easy in the cold winter months, but during the summer it’s a hot and dusty trip. Buses leaving for Bhaktapur leave on the right hand-side section. There are no signs – it’s Nepal remember.
Just walk in through the entrance to the park and head over to the right. If you are besieged by men asking where you want to go, then simply ask someone. I found it best to ask one of the waiting bus drivers. Then the next and the next until finally you find one that nods that this is the right bus.
Step two is to jump in and wait for the battered bus to fill up. You’ll get a little ticket. The cost is 30 rupees for “some locals”. Though random fuel prices mean it’s 40 rupees on a bad day. For foreigners though you’ll have to pay 50 rupees.
I sat next to some students one morning and they kicked up a fuss that I had to pay a higher price. I ended up paying 25 rupees in the end.
Then again you can always just take a taxi for about 800 to 1000 rupees. Or 2000+ if you want the driver to wait a few hours and drive you back. Remember to bargain hard and agree on a price. Eitherway the journey is about 40-60 minutes depending on traffic. Leaving before 8am seems to be the fastest.
Entrance price into Bhaktapur
It’s USD$15 or 1100 rupees. Yes, I think it’s the most expensive entrance ticket to anywhere in Nepal. I’ll be writing up a pro’s and con’s article (rant) about entrance fees later. Eitherway if you plan to stay in Bhaktapur then show the ticket office your passport with your Nepalese visa. You can easily get a one week ticket for the same price.
If you are staying longer in Bhaktapur eg. volunteering or writing this article then either a letter from a guesthouse or local business will help secure you an even longer stay ticket.
Then again there are plenty of people who will simply keep walking after the bus leaves you off and take some side streets into Bhaktapur’s old area. There are guards around, it’s a hit and miss affair.
A quick tour through Bhaktapur
There’s no doubt Bhaktapur is a beautiful old city. The traffic ban helps tremendously in enjoying the old side streets, buildings and shops without worrying about being run over by a teenager on a motor bike or random rampant man in a car.
The initial walk takes you up though a winding street filled with little stores until you reach Dattatreya Square. Personally I always leave waking around Dattatreya Square until last if it’s just a day trip. There are a lot of craft stores there, peacock window, Dattatreya Temple itself and several nice places to eat so it’s a nice area to round off your trip to Bhaktapur.
Further along the main winding road you’ll come across Taumadhi Square which contains the magnificent Nyatapola Temple – well worth a climb. On the north wall there’s a line of souvenir stalls. Taking the street on a hill between them will take you to the famous Bhaktapur Durbar square. Of all the squares in Nepal, I think this is my favorite.
With the impressive Palace of 55 windows, the golden gate, a miniature version of Pashupatinath Temple, Vatsala Durga Temple and the stone Siddhi Laxmi Temple there’s plenty to see in the huge wide open square area.
Finally there’s the museum, pottery square and the near never-ending side streets leading to smaller temples and handicraft stores. So yes in terms of value for money there’s more to see and do in Bhaktapur than you might first think.
How long should you stay in Bhaktapur?
I certainly recommend spending a full day minimum in Bhaktapur. It’s a great place to explore. With so many side streets it rarely feels crowded compared to other cities in Nepal. It’s also a great place to pick up Nepalese handicrafts and souvenirs.
For those looking for longer stays in Nepal, Bhaktapur offers a much more relaxed city life than that of Kathmandu while not nearly being as quiet as Patan. It also gets a lot more sun than Kathmandu which is nice in the winter months to warm you up during the day. No, you won’t get the endless touristy cafes, coffee stores, books shops and restaurants like Kathmandu but you will get solace and peace of mind.
There’s more to do in Bhaktapur
There’s something to be said for the people making a place great. Bhaktapur is no exception. The people here are much more relaxed and there’s no hard push on tourism here.
I’ll be introducing you to a few quite soon. You’ll see from their faces alone that there’s something special about this place.
Bhaktapur has less touts, more smiling faces and a happier vibe than just about anywhere else in Nepal.
My journey with the locals of Bhaktapur
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