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Bandipur's Newari town is one of the forgotten and crown jewels of central Nepal. It blends traditional village architecture, epic views of the Himalayas, spectacular walks in the mountains, local adventure sports, and fantastic accommodation.
Bandipur is also a perfect spot to break up the drive between Pokhara and Kathmandu, while in the end having a soothing glimpse of rural Nepal. Today in this article, we talk about Bandipur and the activities you can enjoy in the crown jewel of Nepal.
Perched on a hill high above the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway, Bandipur is made up of a single flagstone street lined with traditional Newari wooden architecture on both sides.
Once an essential stop on the trading route to Tibet, most of the former merchant homes that you may find in this region have been turned into guesthouses and cafes today.
A few typical shops, however, exist, and their architecture from the 18th century remains entirely charming. Here, flowers of crimson bougainvillaea waterfall from wooden balconies, and from each street corner, ancient temples peer out.
A particular joy is the complete absence of vehicles and their tooting horns, mostly if you have spent some time in dirty and crowded Kathmandu.
Bandipur is, more than anything, a beautiful city to discover at your own pace. Visit the temples, walk down the quaint backstreets, and enjoy a leisurely style of life that remembers an earlier period in general.
However, it is not to suggest modern pleasures are missing. The main street of the Bandipur village is lined with coffee shops and balcony tables where, with a book and free wifi, you can chill in the afternoon light.
In addition to cappuccinos, the suggested Himalayan Café bakes its cakes. It serves drinks, plus there is a back terrace offering mountain views.
Bandipur is a three-hour drive from Pokhara, a five-hour drive from Kathmandu, and 90 minutes from Besisahar, the Annapurna Circuit trek's typical starting point. To this end, before or after the Annapurna Circuit or the Manaslu Circuit trek, it is a pleasant town to visit.
Walk 30 minutes (approx) up to the hilltop viewpoint at Tani Mai Temple for excellent early morning views. You will be guided to a sweeping panorama of both the Himalayan peaks and the lower Marsyangdi Valley.
Travel to the Martyrs Memorial Park for a more comfortable walk with just as stunning views, or to the nearby Tundikhel. This former parade ground now acts as the primary football field of the area.
Visit the far end of the ridge of Tundikhel, take a cold Gorkha beer and savour it as the sun sets in front of you over the blushing Himalayan mountains.
For some more extended hiking, Bandipur, the crown jewel of Nepal, is also a decent spot. A fun half-day walk leads downhill to Siddha Gufa, Nepal's most extensive cave (gufa).
By torchlight, you will discover it as you steadily descend through a sequence of ladders and ropes into successive rooms. A sadhu (Hindu ascetic) resident resides deep in the cave, singing alone in the depression of the atmosphere.
Adventurers will abseil down through the 'Mission Impossible'-style roof of the cave. Rock climbing is also possible on the surrounding cliffs. En route to Chitwan National Park, there is excellent canyoning (rappelling down waterfalls).
In Bandipur, a few tour operators also sell paragliding packages from a launch site just above the area.
Another half-day walk (or full day, depending on your speed) takes you to Ramkot. It is a traditional village in Magar that has one of the few remaining thatched-roof roundhouses in the country.
Local farmers set up the simple Mountain View Restaurant at the end of town. Here the thatched cabanas face an eye-catching horizon of Himalayan peaks stretching Dhaulagiri and the Annapurnas as far as Manaslu Mountain and the distant area of Langtang.
This path provides decent mountain biking, as well as the nearby trails, provided you are up for some two-wheeled adventure.
As many have been transformed from typical Newari merchant houses, the crown jewel of Nepal's architecturally stunning luxury hotels is a draw within themselves.
The quarters, with exposed roof beams, ochre brickwork, wooden shutters and just a few pieces of furniture, are always austere. You'll find rooftop terraces in some hotels, though, which take full advantage of the grand views.
The most excellent accommodation choices (for Nepal) can be costly. Still, many smaller budget guesthouses are lining the main street of the town. The newer 12-room Three Mountain Lodge is one unique lodging alternative, suitable for inveterate hikers.
From Bandipur, a three-hour ride brings you to this isolated luxury cabin. You will resume the trek from here, hiking for another few hours down to a fixed camp on the Seti River.
This is the point of departure for a scenic Seti rafting journey, with an optional move to Kathmandu or Chitwan National Park.