History and Scenery
Perched on a saddle high above the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway, Bandipur consists of a single flagstoned street lined on both sides with traditional wooden Newari architecture. Once an important stop on the trade route to Tibet, the former merchants' homes you'll find in this town have today been mostly converted into guesthouses and cafes. However, a few traditional shops remain, and their 18th-century architecture remains utterly charming. Here, crimson bougainvillea flowers cascade off wooden balconies, and ancient temples peek out from every street junction. The complete lack of vehicles and their tooting horns is a particular joy, especially if you've spent any time in polluted and crowded Kathmandu.
What to Do
More than anything, Bandipur is an ideal town to explore at your own pace. Visit the temples, stroll the charming backstreets, and generally enjoy a leisurely pace of life that harkens back to an earlier age. That's not to say, however, that modern pleasures are absent. The village's main street is lined with coffee shops and balcony tables where you can relax in the afternoon sun with a book and free wifi. The recommended Himalayan Café bakes its own cakes and offers cocktails in addition to cappuccinos, plus there's a back terrace offering mountain views.
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Walks in Bandipur
For superb early morning views, walk 30 minutes up to the hilltop viewpoint at the Tani Mai Temple. You'll be treated to a sweeping panorama of both Himalayan peaks and the Marsyangdi Valley below. For an easier hike with nearly as breathtaking views, stroll to the Martyrs Memorial Park, or to nearby Tundikhel, a former parade ground that now serves as the town's main football field. Head to the far end of the Tundikhel ridge, grab a cold Gorkha beer and savor it as the sun sets over the blushing Himalayan range in front of you.
Hiking and Cycling Around Bandipur
Bandipur is also a good location for some longer hikes. A nice half-day walk leads downhill to the Siddha Gufa, the largest cave (gufa) in Nepal. You'll explore it by torchlight as you gradually descend into successive chambers via a series of ladders and ropes. A resident sadhu (Hindu ascetic) lives deep in the cave, chanting alone in the atmospheric gloom. Adventurers can abseil down through the roof of the cave 'Mission Impossible'-style. Rock climbing is also possible on the nearby cliffs, and there is superb canyoning (rappelling down waterfalls) en route to Chitwan National Park. A couple of tour operators in Bandipur also offer paragliding from a launch site just above the town.
Another half-day hike (or full day, depending on your speed) will take you to Ramkot, a traditional Magar village that boasts one of the region's last surviving thatched-roof roundhouses. Local villagers have set up the simple Mountain View Restaurant at the end of town, where thatched cabanas front an eye-catching horizon of Himalayan peaks spanning Dhaulagiri and the Annapurnas as far as Manaslu Mountain and the distant Langtang region. This route, as well as the surrounding trails, offers good mountain biking, provided you're up for some two-wheeled exploration.
Where to Stay
Bandipur's architecturally striking boutique hotels are an attraction unto themselves, as many have been converted from traditional Newari merchant houses. The rooms are often austere, with exposed roof beams, ochre brickwork, wooden shutters and few pieces of furniture. However, in some hotels, you'll find rooftop terraces that take full advantage of the grand views. The nicest lodging options can be pricey (for Nepal), but there are many smaller budget guesthouses lining the town's main street.
One unique lodging option, ideal for inveterate hikers, is the newer 12-room Three Mountain Lodge. A three-hour jaunt from Bandipur takes you to this remote luxury lodge. From here you can continue the journey, trekking another couple of hours down to a fixed camp on the Seti River. This is the embarking point for a scenic rafting trip down the Seti, with an optional transfer onward to Kathmandu or Chitwan National Park.
Trekking Around Bandipur
Bandipur is three hours drive from Pokhara, five hours' drive from Kathmandu, and 90 minutes from Besisahar—the traditional starting point of the Annapurna Circuit trek. To this end, it's a great town to visit before or after an Annapurna Circuit or Manaslu Circuit trek. If you're interested in heading to Pokhara, check out Where to Stay in Pokhara to find out about lodging options in the area.