Lingering Longer in Bhaktapur
While almost all visitors to Nepal visit the sites of Kathmandu, only some are lucky enough to visit the ancient city of Bhaktapur. Even fewer discover the hidden riches of this fascinating locale by staying overnight or for a few days. Known as the best-preserved of the three ancient kingdoms of the Kathmandu valley, Bhaktapur (“City of Devotees”) is like a living museum, where the ancient Newari culture of its residents is alive and thriving in a manner unlike anywhere else in Nepal.
As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Bhaktapur boasts a wide array of traditional shrines, unique architecture, and local artwork. But in addition to its history and monuments Bhaktapur also offers the visitors a fascinating glimpse of a culture that is very much alive. At the end of the day, or in the early morning hours, visitors who have extended their stay can experience a city like no other in the world. Walking casually about the city with no car traffic and very few other tourists, one can experience the daily rhythms of the residents as they manage their lives much as their ancestors have for hundreds of years. An overnight visitor can linger in a courtyard where men and women lounge serenely or watch as women draw water from the ancient cisterns and traditional water spouts (pawas).
Bhaktapur is well-renowned for its public squares, ancient temples, and museums which can be visited during a day trip. Durbar, Taumadhi, pottery and Dattatraya Squares have captivated visitors from around the world. But to experience the true diversity and richness of its culture, scenery and people one should linger longer than a day. The tourist entry fee of $15 USD allows one to visit the city for up to 15 consecutive days. There is a very good selection of overnight accommodations, from quaint guesthouses to deluxe hotels built in the traditional Newari architectural style. Lodging prices in Bhaktapur are very reasonable and a significantly better value than found in Kathmandu. An overnight visitor will also be able to enjoy the exceptional Newari cuisine that has over 200 unique dishes. At the end of a meal you can also try one of the favorite foods from Bhaktapur, Juju Dhau, a sweet yogurt made in the traditional style.
Bhaktapur is near the eastern edge of the Kathmandu valley, nestled against the foothills of the Himalayas. Within walking distance of the city center are verdant hidden valleys and hilltops that provide stunning vistas of the highest mountain peaks. The temple of Suryabinayak Ganesh, a world-renowned Hindu pilgrimage site is just a 30-minute walk from the city center. A short drive away are several smaller ancient towns and religious sites that are well worth a visit for the day or overnight. Dhulikhel, Nagarkot, Balthali and Namo Buddha are among the most famous of these nearby attractions.
Fortunately Bhaktapur is very easy to drive to from Kathmandu and also an easy drive to or from the international airport. It is a city that feels thousands of miles and centuries distant but is quite accessible. Come and stay awhile to experience the splendor and friendly welcome of this ancient kingdom.