Pretty as a picture - that is how one can perfectly describe Bandipur. This living and breathing abode of Newari culture is a hilltop settlement in the Gandaki Zone at 1030 metres, some 700 metres above the Marsyangdi River. The municipality snuggles itself on the saddle of the Mahabharat Range of the Himalayas. Bandipur is a perfect weekend retreat from Kathmandu or Pokhara, now that it is connected with the highway by an access road. There isn't much to see, so hoping for an extensive session of sightseeing will meet with disappointment. The town has more of a relaxing vibe, with the laid-back ambience of a small European neighbourhood.
In spite of not housing many sightseeing attractions, there are some places worth seeing in Bandipur. So, if you are up for a local tour, these are the places that should make to the list.
Siddha Gufa Cave is 1.5 hours trek away from the northern end of the town through a muddy and exciting road for those who love adventure. For a shorter walk, you can take the route from Bimalnagar on the Prithvi Highway - it takes only 45 minutes. Once you reach the entrance, a ladder-like staircase will take you down from the cave's mouth into the enormous cavern. It is hard to imagine the interior of Siddha Gufa from outside. Stalactites and stalagmites adorn the centuries-old walls of the cave. Abstract rock formations carve climbing routes inside the cave and give it a mysterious look. With a depth of 437 metres and a height of 50 metres, it is the highest cave in Nepal.
Bindebasini temple is an old and ornate shrine at the northeast end of Dumre bazaar, which is the main shopping lane. The walls of the temple are carved with scriptures and shlokas, giving it a mystic look all-over. The shrine is dedicated to goddess Durga. The courtyard leading up to the temple and the shrine itself will take you back to the olden days and surround you with retrospection.
Tundikhel is a large, green table-top ground open for the public. Once upon a time, this man-made plateau region was used by traders to sell off some goods before making their way to Tibet or India. The ground was also used for parade purposes by the Gorkha regiment. Nowadays, it is open for anyone to enjoy and relax. People gather here in groups for picnics or individually for laps of morning or evening walk. Tundikhel offers a spectacular view of the Himalayan range behind the immediate houses and buildings. Peaks like Dhaulagiri, Langtang Lirung, Manaslu and Ganesh Himal can be spotted in the distance. It is a good place to breathe in some fresh air and enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Visiting the silkworm farm, after a 2.5 km downhill hiking from the Heritage Guest House, is a unique experience. On request and a small donation, a professional in the farm will show you the mulberry orchards that the farm owns, which are the foods for the silkworms. The worms are reared indoors from August to December and from March to May. But the process goes on all year long, and you can see it anytime from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Sunday to Friday.
Padma library is not a very well-stocked one in terms of books, but it is worth a visit because of its impressive 18th-century architecture with carved windows and beams. It stands near Bindebasini Temple, so you can make the trip together.
Thani Mai is a small white temple at the top of Gurungche Hill, dedicated to the mother goddess. The main reason to visit this spot is to have a stunning, 360-degree vista of the entire place, with the majestic ranges of Himalaya rising to the sky from behind all along the horizon. The climb is only 30 minutes and not that hard, and the spectacle from up above is a reward worth savouring. Sunrises and sunsets are exceptionally beautifully from here.
Yet another shrine, this one is not for a deity but the sword of Mukunda Sen, the 16th-century Palpa King. Now, what is so special about a sword that it needs to be enshrined? Legend says that Lord Shiva himself gifted this sword to the King and the blade is a manifestation of Adi Shakti - the feminine power of the cosmos. Once a year during Vijaya Dashami or Dasain, as they say there, the blade of the sword gets sacrificial blood.
You can spend the rest of the time mostly enjoying walks along the many small streets and alleys, shop from local stores, enjoy the native cuisine and refresh yourself for the next week of grinding.
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