Draped like a scarf along a high ridge above Dumre, Bandipur is a living museum of Newari culture. Its winding lanes are lined with tall Newari houses and people here seem to live centuries before the rest of the country. Bandipur is a pearl of an historic mountain town between Kathmandu, Pokhara and the Chitwan National Park. Once a commercial centre along the trade route to Tibet, the hilltop town not only overlooks the incredible expanse of the Marsyanngdi river valley, but also offers a breathtaking sweep of the Himalayan range. With its glorious 18th century architecture, absence of motorized vehicles and restaurant tables set out on the bazaar, it has a distinct European feel. Yet Bandipur remains very much a living community, full of farmers and traders going about their business.
Bandipur was originally part of the Magar kingdom of Tanahun, ruled from nearby Palpa (Tansen), but Newari traders flooded in after the conquest of the valley by Prithvi Narayan Shah. The town became an important stop on India-Tibet trade route until it was bypassed by Prithvi Highway in the 1960s.
Following are some of the notable attractions not to be missed while in Bandipur:
- Thani Mai Temple: Perched atop Gurungche Hill, the main reason to climb up to Thani Mai is for its spectacular sunrise views.
- Siddha Gufa: Making for a popular half-day trip, at 437m deep and 50m high, Siddha Gufa is said to be the largest cave in Nepal. Its cathedral-like chasm is full of twisted stalactites and stalagmites and hundreds of bats chirp and whistle overhead.
- Tundikhel: Back when Bandipur was a stop on the trade route India – Tibet, Tundikhel was the setting for trade fairs, as well as a parade ground for archery contests and celebrations. These days it’s all about views. At dawn and sunset, the clouds peel back to reveal a stunning panorama of Himalayan peaks that include Dhaulagiri (8167m), Machhapuchhare (6997m), Langtang Lirung (7246m), Manaslu (8162m) and Ganesh Himal (7406m).
- Silkworm and Mulberry Farm: Silkworm Farm takes you through the fascinating process of how silk is produced. The farm comprises of mulberry plants, grown for worm food. The worm themselves are reared indoors, usually from August to December and March to May.
- Bindebasini Temple: The ornate, two-tiered temple is dedicated to goddess Durga. Its ancient walls are covered in carvings and an elderly priest opens the doors each evening. Facing the temple across the square is the Padma library, a striking 18th-century building with carved windows and beams. Nearby, a set of stone steps runs off east to the small Mahalaxmi Temple, another centuries-old Newari-style temple.
- Khadga Devi Temple: A wide flight of stone steps leads up the hillside to this barn-like temple, which enshrines the sword of Mukunda Sen, the 16th century king of Palpa (Tansen). Allegedly a gift from Shiva, the blade is revered as a symbol of shakti (consort or female energy) and once a year during Dashain, it gets a taste of sacrificial blood.
Whether it’s the eagle-nest location, its remoteness, its lazy walks through the idyllic farms and orange groves, the locals’ friendliness, or the breathtaking views of the Himalayas, Bandipur is the perfect getaway for you from your daily busy schedule.