Located halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara is the picturesque mountain township known as Bandipur. Visiting Bandipur often feels like you've stumbled upon one of Nepal's best kept secrets.
Originally a Magar area in the 18th century Newari people from Kathmandu settled on the hilltop location overlooking the Annapurna Mountain range. In turn the Newars built temples, shrines and buildings in their own distinct red brick and balcony style.
Today the stone paved main streets in Bandipur are completely traffic free. Colorful flowers drape over wooden balconies while boutique style hotels and cafes tempt you to stay longer. And why not? A short stroll from the town center are view points where the snow capped Annapurna Mountain paint a magnificent backdrop to your stay.
Short hill walks, rural farms, Buddhist monasteries, deep caves, Hindu and Newar temples. It's a if someone took the best of Kathmandu and placed it high up in the mountains away from the modern word. Bandipur is the best kept secret for those looking to enjoy a side to Nepal long forgotten on the tourist trail.
Bandipur is located in Tanahun District, Gandaki in Nepal. It's 120km west of Kathmandu and 80km east of Pokhara so in terms of geography it's a nearly halfway between the two popular destinations.
While Bandipur may only have an elevation of 1090 meters it's perched on the Mahābhārat mountain range which gives it an excellent clear view of the both the Kandaki river 700m below and the impressive Annapurna Mountain range.
There are several towns nearby Bandipur including Dumre and Riepe Village. The former is the stopping point to reach Bandipur.
Despite seemingly being in the middle of nowhere Bandipur is quite easy to reach. You have four choices. Go with an expensive tour. Take series of local buses. Take a tourist bus and a local bus/jeep. Ride yourself on a motorbike. Despite what you might have read elsewhere, the tourist bus is by far the best option.
To reach Bandipur comfortably with little fuss simply take a Kathmandu - Pokhara tourist bus or a Pokhara Kathmandu bus (depending on what direction you are coming from) and get off a Dumre. At the town of Dumre there will be local buses and shared/private jeeps that will take you up the zig zag hill to Bandipur in about 40 minutes. If you are coming from Kathmandu then local buses will be on the left side of the road which is where the road to Bandipur sites on. Jeeps are usually spread out.
It's worth pointing out that the shared jeeps are inclined to overcharge by quite a bit. Whereas the buses don't.
The Tourist buses usually arrive in Dumre from Kathmandu at around noon while from Pokhara they arrive around 10 am.
No vehicles are allowed into Bandipur. The bus park is just before the towns entrance. For those driving themselves there's a secure (gated) parking area on the main road before the bus area where you can park overnight for a small fee.
This map shows you the main area of Bandipur, bus stops and the parking areas
Bandipur's recorded history only starts in the 18th century when the Newars from Bhaktapur arrived. Prior to this the area was inhabited by Magar's like most of the region. The area was largely used for cultivating local agricultural produce. The Newars preferred the cool climate which was similar to the Kathmandu Valley and the area was well hidden from what they had fled from.
Fleeing a war
Between 1768 and 1790 the Gorkha king Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered the Newari Malla empire in Kathmandu. The final kingdom in the valley to fall was Bhaktapur While accounts of the cities fall differ there is evidence that the last king of Bhaktapur, Ranajit Malla, made a deal for some of his subjects to leave the valley unhurt. These Newars followed the recent trading route that linked Kathmandu to Pokhara and Tibet.
Given Bandipur's altitude, moderate climate along with a well hidden yet defensive location near a trading route they settled in the hill top location.
As experienced traders the Newars prospered in their new home throughout the 19th century. They built their town under the same style as Kathmandu. Small pagoda shrines, temples and buildings which still stand today. However in the 1950s the Prithvi Narayan Highway was built and it ended Bandipurs trade route.
In the 1970s Bandipur suffered economically. A few kilometers from them was a major highway which meant nobody needed to visit the hilltop town. Locals were forced to move does to Dumre and further afield looking for work. During this period locals protesters demonstrated and fought for a different trading route to no avail. The municipality capital moved away and Bandipur was nearly deserted aside from some local farmers.
In the early 2000s a series of events helped Bandipur to recover. A road from the town to the new highway was agreed. However business in Bandipur want the road to go all the way though the town. Krishna Kumar Pradhan a local business man and politician disagreed. While the road was being finished his group ask the builders to leave the steep steps leading into Bandipur alone. The result was that vehicles could not enter. During this period Tom Jones was the owner of the main hotel. the Old Inn, had begun a scheme to beautify the town.
Temples, shrines, buildings and the stone pavement were all repaired. The end result is what you see today. A one of a kind township in Nepal with no traffic and an emphasis on being clean.
Being one of the few traffic free towns in Nepal that had been restored gave Bandipur a head start in it's tourism development. Coupled with picturesque mountains, rolling hills and an old world feel Bandipur began to attract tourists in the know back and thusly prosperity slowly returned. However Bandipur's future is still not certain. In 2018 Tony Jones left the Old Inn due to a dispute. The local municipality wants plans to build a cable car and tour operators are trying to capture rights to the town.
For now those few tourists in the know about Bandipur can still enjoy it's idyllic setting and charming surrounds.
Highlights of Bandipur include:
- Clean, vehicle free historic town
- Picturesque mountain viewpoints
- Boutique style center of town
- Historic buildings & temples
- Traditional style accommodation
- Rolling hills
- Cultural & natural walks
- Easy to reach
Bandipur has a rich blend of scenic beauty, architecture, culture and mountain views to enjoy. Coupled with day hikes you can easily do by yourself, parading and visiting some cottage industries there's enough to keep you going in Bandipur for at least two days.
As you make your way up from the standard bus park you might wonder what makes Bandipur so unique. This all changes the moment you step over the stone pavement barrier leading into the old towns bazaar. Boutique hotels and guesthouses are likely to grab your attention first.
Gone are the standard Nepali concrete hotels. Replaced by wonderful Newari natural materials from wooden balconies to stone walls. The second thing to hit most people is just how clean Bandipur is or moreover how clean Bandipur is compared to the rest of Nepal. It's near on par with a quaint European village.
Flowers and vines hang from balconies, the smell of local bakeries, people delivering fresh milk and water while quiet coffee shops line the stone road all the way up to even more red bricked buildings.
One of the two larger places of worship along the old city road is the slate roofed Ganesh shrine. It's dated to the 18th century but was renovated in the late 1990s.
The shrine stands out as being different from many other pagoda style temples mainly because of its low heavy grey slate roof. There are three of them. The first is regular slate. The next has a boundary of slate with bulging red bricks behind. The final roof is thick grey slate held down by final pinnacle at the top. A rare find in Nepal.
Locals say much of the shrines design came from the rebuild in the 1990s. However far from some of Kathmandu Valleys rather appalling attempts at late 90s reconstruction this shrine has become unique and exquisite.
The balconied two-story building in the middle of the old town was built not in the 18th century as many have written but in the late 19th century. It was extensively renovated in 2000 and now has a very distinct Newari flavor to its architecture.
The main library is up the staircase to the side of the building. It's opened most afternoons or if you request from a nearby shop the current caretaker might well open it up for you. Inside there are shelves of old books. Mostly school books from the UK donated or gathered up over the years. School children still come here to study and the local women's group use it as their meeting place along with being used as a Community Service Center. Donations are not requested but if you'd like to leave a book here it will be gladly accepted.
Directly behind the Padma Library is a striking large two tiered temple dedicated to Durga known as the Bindebasini Mandir (temple). A large stone platform lies before the temple with a tall wooden column. At the top of the column are is a golden statue of two people praying.
The temple itself is the largest along the old town road. It was renovated by the local Lal Govinda Trust and then painted in early 2019. The repainted has been a bone of contention among some of the local residence who preferred the less bright colors that previously adorned the temple.
Inside the temple there's not a lot to see aside from some small statues in darkened corners. Nevertheless the enigmatic temple remains and impressive sight within the town.
Paragliding in Bandipur usually occurs during the peak seasons. A group of people are required or a premium price is needed. Most of the paragliding outfits are from Pokhara but Bluesky does have semi-occupied office in the middle of old Bandipur. It's best to book in advance to avoid high premiums.
Khadga Devi Mandir
There's a high set of steps to the right of the old town street that lead you up to several new destinations. The first of which is Bandipur's largest temple known as Khadga Devi Mandir.
Set within a boundary wall you can enter the courtyard the large white rectangular block style temple sits in. For many it's not that an impressive a building but what sits inside is one of Nepal's prized artifacts.
Legend has it the sword Shiva gave the Magar king Mukunda Sen of Palpa in 16th century sits inside the temple. Every year during the Dashain festival the sword is brought out. However it remains wrapped in cloth as it's believed that if people look at it they will die as if struck by it.
If you like a bit of a walk then a trail veering to the east leads to a well kept Buddhist monastery perched at the end of a trail.
The trail is unmarked but locals will point you in the right direction. It takes about 30-45 minutes to reach from Khadga Devi Mandir at a gentle stroll. There's usually a monk in residence and there's a peaceful garden in front of the monastery where you can sit and relax.
Ask many Nepali what the highlight of Bandipur is and Tudikhel is likely to be at the top of the list. Tudikhel is a former parade ground that now serves as a makeshift football pitch and picnic area at the top of a hill.
For tourists they'll be told the best views of the mountains are from Tudikhel. While on a clear morning or evening the grounds certainly offer an easier view of the mountains than the far better vantage point of Thani Mai. However, dotted with large pine trees Tudikhel is certainly worth a walk along.
Martyrs Memorial Park
A small park on the way to Tudikhel dedicated to the Martyrs who died in the area. It's a small area which also has a view of the mountains.
Taking a right at the Ganesh temple back in the old town will bring you down to the slopes of Bandipur hill. There's a small temple here dedicated to Mahalaxmi. There's usually an old caretaker who will open the gate to the temple for a few rupees.
While the temple is small the statue inside is decorative. Behind the small temple are number of old ruins. Standing here is another small temple dedicated to Kuladevata a family goddess.
Tin Dhara Temple
To south east of Mahalaxmi is an area known as Tin Dhara. There are several sights here including the impressive three-tired temple to Shiva known as Tin Dhara temple.
There's a lot of forest and high grass near the clean and neat temple but there's also a small path leading to it which is best to use.
The temple is well kept with both a ground entrance and a top entrance which is unusual for a pagoda temple like this in Nepal.
Tin Dhara itself means "three taps". Indeed just down from the Tin Dhara temple past a pati (rest stop) you'll see one of the primary sources of water in Bandipur.
A row of traditional water spouts complete with stone naga or serpent heads stands along the bottom of forested area.
As you may notice there are now five water spouts. It is thought two additional spouts were installed at a later date. They don't all always work but you will still find villagers here throughout the day washing clothes and indeed washing themselves.
Shiva Mandir (Tin Dhara)
A large stone temple dedicated to Shiva with a dome stands opposite Tin Dhara.
Inside the domed temple is a simple Shiva lingam. Do take care if walking around this temple as it's quite a drop down.
The largest caves complex in Nepal and one that was only discovered in 1987. The cave is 10 meters in width and 400 meters in length. There are stalactites here along with plenty of bats. The cave should not be visited during the monsoon season as dangerous flooding occurs and at least one tourist has died there. Nearby is a limestone cliff known as Chun Pahara however as of yet there is nowhere to rent or take a skilled climbing guide to ascend the cliff. Caution is once again advised. Both are a fair distance from Bandipur and back on the main highway.
Gurungche Daada & Thani Mai
By far the best mountain viewpoint in Bandipur is atop the hill opposite the town known as Gurungche Daada. There's an entire set of concrete steps leading up most of the hill. It takes a good 45 minutes to climb and it's up all the way.
At the top the views of the vast Annapurna Mountains are vast. Best seen in the morning or at sunset. There are several small shrines at the top but further towards the end of the well worn path is a small shrine to Thani Mai who was Khadga Devi's sister.
For hikers and trekkers there's one more view point by the old sal tree. It's an unmarked trail that involves scrambling over some rocks, crossing tundra and navigating broken paths. But once there the huge sal tree provides a magnificent foreground for the wondrous mountain range that stretches out before it.
There is no entrance fee to enter Bandipur nor do any of the attractions within Bandipur have a charge. The municipality has been rumoring to charge tourists an entry fee for some time but it's constantly taken down by local businesses and residents.
If visiting Siddha Gupha caves then there is a 150 rupee entrance fee.
Bandipur can be visited at any time of the year. If you are going for mountain views then do take note that like the rest of Nepal it's best to visit during peak trekking seasons to get good views.
Bandipur Weather by month
|Precipitation / Rainfall (mm)|
As you can tell from the above table Bandipur get's a lot of rain between May and September. These months are not good for mountain viewing however Bandipur itself remains fresh and enjoyable to visit. Landslides occur along the road leading up to Bandipur so caution is needed.
Bandipur is just one and half hours from Besisahar which is one of the main trail heads for the Annapurna Trekking Region. If Kathmandu or Pokhara are not your type of places and you are looking for a more rural quieter life either before or after trekking then Bandipur could easily make a good place to base yourself. Just be aware there there are no trekking stores in the town itself. You'd use buses or jeeps from Dumre to reach Besisahar.
For day hikes around Bandipur do note that there are no set paths nor routes. A good mornings walk would be to leave at dawn for the old Sal tree near Gurungche Daada
To make day of it you'd come back down, walk around Tin Dhara before making your way up to Tudikhel and then over to the Buddha Monastery before going back to Gurungche Daada for sunset.
As Bandipur is traffic free the back streets, trails and paths are enjoyable to walk along but not sign posted. Locals are friendly and will easily point you in the right direction.
Being away from any major city in Nepal Bandipur has lacked a large selection of quality independent restaurants. That's all changing at the moment. With an increase in tourism and Bandipur's qualities being revealed to the world restaurants are taking shape along the old city's main street.
To give you an example of this development two years ago there was only one espresso machine in all of Bandipur. Today there are nearly a dozen.
The vast majority of restaurants are located within the ground levels of hotels. Some are high-end while the majority are budget to mid-range eateries. Menus largely reflect the rest of Nepal's tourist offerings from chicken sizzlers to pastas and of course local meals like Dal Bhat or momos.
This is a Newari Set plate - beaten rice, potatoes, curry, tofu, beans, peanuts, bara and egg.
Vegetarians will be happy in Bandipur as virtually every meal set comes with a vegetarian option. There's nothing stunningly creative on the menus but the vegetables and indeed meat options are fresh from the local markets.
While Kathmandu's Newari restaurants are often overlooked for more modern restaurants Bandipur we must remember is also Newari. The difference here is that the vast majority of people are Newari so the food is going to be good.
The longest running and certainly best independent restaurant is found behind the Bhindebasini Mandir. Nanu's Samay Baji is a traditional Newari restaurant but one that also serves a host of delicious mainstream dishes. Nanu herself can be seen cooking in the kitchen area is a delight to talk with. If you ever wanted to try Newari food this is place to do it! Her Bara (pancake) is exceptionally good!
Typical Bandipur Menu (mid range)
|Banana Muesli||300 Rupees|
|Milk Porridge||250-300 Rupees|
|Cheese Omelet||200-250 Rupees|
|Cheese Sandwich||250 Rupees|
|Chicken Sandwich||300 Rupees|
|Chicken Fried Rice||250 Rupees|
|Chicken Biryani||300-350 Rupees|
|Dal Bhat Veg||300-400 Rupees|
|Dal Bhat Meat||450-500 Rupees|
|Buff Momo||200 Rupees|
|Veg Momo||150 Rupees|
|Palak Paneer Curry||250+ Rupees|
|Newari Set||300 Rupees||Bara (pancake)||50-70 Rupees|
|Soft Drinks||50-80 Rupees||Espresso||100-150 rupees|
If you prefer a more continental or upper scale restaurant then Old Inn's restaurant will fill your needs and perhaps empty your wallet quite well.
As Bandipur develops so to the restaurant and menus. Take a 5 minute stroll along the old street looking at menus and seating to choose from any number of choices.
There is no shortage of accommodation in Bandipur. There is however a huge discrepancy in room prices. So take your time and choose carefully. The vast majority of hotels and guesthouses are within a 15 minutes walk. There's really no need to book in advance unless you have your heart set on a place or it's peak season - but again keep in mind the price discrepancy.
The premier hotel in Bandipur is the Old Inn.
|Hotel Name||Telephone Number
|Old Inn||+977 65-520110||$44+|
|Bandipur Chhen||+977 65-520169||$44+|
|Bandipur Kaushi Inn||+977 65-520083||$44|
|Bandipur Samira Homestay||+977 984-6479019||$12|
A Narayan shrine along a street with flowers in Bandipur
Many guesthouses/homestays in Bandipur are trying to cash in on the rustic or boutique look and charging through the nose for it. Booking through agencies and package tours will likely end up costing you a lot more than seeking out accommodation yourself!
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