Midway on the Prithivi Highway between the capital Kathmandu & the resort town of Pokhara lies Bandipur, a picturesque Newar town that still retains much of its centuries-old appeal.
Bandipur is situated on a ridge above the highway town of Dumre, and presents sightseers with a heady mix of history, architecture, incredible views, awesome caves and unspoilded landscapes. Located at an altitude of 1030m, Bandipur has been descrived as a natural view tower, providing a spectacular panorama of the entire Annapurna Range plus the peaks of Dhaulagiri, Manaslu (above 8000m) and Langtang to the Marsyangdi valley which is bellow 500m. Apart from the stunning views of the Himalaya and the Marsyangdi Valley, a visit to the town is an opportunity to get a close look at Newar cultural life that reflects the erfined civilization of the Kathmandu Valley. Bandipur is also a great place for adventure sports like paragliding, caving, rock climbing, rafting and hiking.
Bandipur was once a prosperous trading centre, as its charming buildings with their neoclassical facades and shuttered windows, will attest. Originally a simple magar village, Newars from Bhaktapur settled here in the early nineteenth century, taking advantage of its malaria-free location to develop it into an important stop on the India-Tibet trade route.
Temperatures in the summer (March-July) hover between a maximum of 32-33*c and a minimum of 12-13*c. In the winter (Oct-Feb), the temperature fluctuates between 18*-21*c and 2-3*c. The clear skies over Bnadipur at this time of the year provide magnificent views of the mountains. Heavy downpours mark the rainy season from June to August.
Situated in the Mahabharat Range in Tanahu district, it lies 143km to the west of Kathmandu, 73km to the south of Pokhara, 70km to the north Chitwan and 8 km from Dumre Bazzaar on the Prithivi Highway.
Drive from Pokhara or Kathmandu to arrive at Dumre Bazzar byDidday and then it's about an half hour bus ride to Bandipur Bazzar. From Dumre, one can find the local rides shuttling between Dumre & Bandipur.
Via the ancient route:
If you are adventurous, then the hike through the historical route, made famous by the song "Bandipure Ukali lamo" by Late Poet king MBB Shah, will take you about two hours. It ends in Tundhikhel, and a short five minute walk will take you to the heart of Bandipur; Bandipur Bazzar.
Via the Siddha Cave:
If you want to take the less travelled route to Bandipur with the visual delights of the caves and the Bandipur hillside, then this route is highly recommended. It starts from Bimalnagar and takes you past the Siddha Cave, probably the biggest cave in the Himalaya, and will get you to Bandipur in about an hour and a half.
Quality accommodation is available at the hotels and resorts in Bandipur. For budget travelers, home stay is available in several old Newar homes that provide bed and breakfast.
Places to Visit:
The Inner Tour:
Bandipur Bazzar The heart of Bandipur is the medieval-looking Bandipur Bazzar that sweeps in a gentle curve along the top of the hill in an east-west axis. The stone-paved main street is lined with compact town houses with ornate windows and doorways and roofs of tin or slate. All along the street, a covered veranda extends in front of the rows of houses providing shade in summer sun and mansion rain.
Tundikhel, a field to the northern end of Bandipur's main bazzar, is an excellent vantage point for viewing the Marsyangdi Valley(bellow 500m) and the magnificent Himalayan Range (above 8000m) in a single frame. It includes the spectacular peaks of Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchhre, Langtang, Manaslu & Ganesh Himal, among others. The legendary Gorkha Palace & the famous Manakamana Peak are clearly visible from here. Other sights include
Bimalnagar & Dumre Bazzar.
Thani Mai (Purano Kot)
Purano Kot, originally a fort, lies at a distance of about 500 m to the west of the main bazaar. It takes about twenty minutes of easy and gentle climbing to reach the top. There is a small temple nearby containing a number of old statues. Next to it stands a newly build temple of Thanithan Mai. The local people believe that praying to the god Mahadev at this spot during a drought will bring rain. Since this sport lies on a hilltop above the bazaar especially at sunrise and sunset.
This picnic spot lies to the east of the main bazzar and can be reached in fifteen minutes. The name of this place drives from the original three water spouts which is still the main source of water for the villagers. The shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva lies nearby with rest houses and shady sports scattered around making this a favorites place for picnickers.
Nature Walk in Raniban:
This mixed Sal forest is located to the east of the main bazaar. It is a tranquil haven for nature enthusiasts with abundant local flora and fauna, including langurs, orchids, butterflies etc.
Exploring the Siddha Cave,
Bandipur's hillsides are dotted with caves, often carrying religious significance for the locals. The must-see destination here is the Sidhha Cave discovered only in 1987. Rich in stalactites and stalagmites, it is said to be the largest cave in the Himalayan region. Siddha cave is situated just above the cliff of Bimalnagar, from where it is a 30 minute climb.
Hike to Ramkot Village
Ramkot is a two-hour easy hike to the west of Bandipur. It passes through Muchuk Village from where you can also visit Mukundeswari. Ramkot is a typical Magar village with traditional round houses, untouched by modern development offering an opportunity to experience authentic lifestyle of rural Nepal. From here, one can go on to chabdi Barahi, a pilgrimage spot, which can be reached after two hours of easy hiking.
Bandipur hosts more than 24 species of orchid. The month of June is the best season to enjoy the different varieties of orchid in full bloom. Although you can see orchids in most parts of Bandipur, the best route to enjoy these beautiful flowers is on the way to the silk farm west of Bandipur Bazaar.
Temples & Festivals
This highly revered temple of Khadga Devi could be mistaken for a residential house were it not for the finial. The shrine does not contain any idols, but a Khadga, a scared sword-a gift from Lord Shiva to Mukunda Sen. Wrapped in layers of cloth, legend has it that anyone looking at the bare sword invites instant death. The Khadga is worshipped as a symbol of the female power. This temple is opened to devotees only once a yer on the day of Phulpati the seventh day of the Hindu festival of Dasain usually in October.
This pagoda-style temple is located in the main bazaar. Enshrined here is an image of the goddess Bindhebasini. It also contains idols of other goddesses. During the New Year celebrations in April, the image of Bindhebasini is put on a chariot and pulled through the town amidst other revelry.
This pagoda-style temple from the medieval period is located to the southeast of the main bazaar. Its struts and tympanum are adorned with figures of Bhimsen and various mythical creatures.
As with Newar towns elsewhere, Bandipur also boasts year-round festivals and a plethora of other cultural shows. The unique festivals of Bandipur include the Khadga Jatra (October) and Bisket Jatra (April). The Magars mark the full moon day of Baisakh Purnima (April), in which unmarried women perform the Ghatu dance with married women singing the folk songs. The Sorathi & Chutka are other popular dance of Bandipur.