Travel guide to Bhaktapur
Bhaktapur, which is famous for the Festival of Bisket Jatra, is a town of Nepal, whose buildings still looks like they are from medieval ages. Bhaktapur is a town located in the Kathmandu Valley and is 17 kilometers far from the Thamel part of Kathmandu.
How to get there?
Buses from Kathmandu leave from the bus stop near Ratna Park. A rickshaw ride from Thamel to here will not cost more than NPR 100 and the rickshaw driver will be happy to drop you right in front of the bus that leaves to Bhaktapur. A ride from here to Bhaktapur is NPR 50. As I am from Indian origin and look like a local, the conductor of the bus charged me fare equal to the local. But if you are western traveler be ready to pay more than what I paid.
The journey passes through the traffic clogged Pasupathi Road and onto the Ring Road, where you would be riding alongside the Tribhuvan International Airport. At the traffic police station the bus diverts from the Ring Road to the Nagarkot Highway and finally after few miles diverts again to enter the Bhaktapur town. The bus stand is actually out of the main town. From the bus stop its a walkable distance to old Bhaktapur which is a World Heritage Site.
As soon as you get off the bus you enter the medieval age. Unlike the tarmac roads that are found everywhere in the world, the roads of Bhaktapur are still make of brick. The houses are still built in Newari architecture, as the Municipality of Bhaktapur made a rule that here the houses and other buildings should be built in this fashion. Even heavy motor vehicles are not allowed to enter the old town which the culture centre. As you walk from bus stop to the old town, you come across shops that sell JuJu Dahi (yogurt) which is a local delicacy. As you walk past 400 meters from the bus stop you can see the West gate that leads to the cultural centre of Bhaktapur. Near the gate is the tourist office. There is a fees if you want to enter here – USD 10 for a foreign tourist and NPR 200 for tourists of SAARC Nations.
What to see?
1. Bhaktapur Durbar Square
The best of the three Durbar Squares in Kathmandu Valley (the other two are the Patan Durbar Square and Basanthpur Durbar Square in Kathmandu), Bhaktapur Durbar Square is a masterclass with important temples, palaces, meeting areas, etc spread around this square. The Golden Gate and 55 Window Palace add charm to this square. All the temples and building date back to 13th century to 18th century. Though this city suffered many deadly earthquakes the external appearance of the buildings were later restored.
The most important is the Golden Gate and the 55 Window Palace. The Golden Gate is the main doorway to the palace. The palace is famous for the woodcarvings on the windows which are remarkable pieces of art. The palace consists of many courtyards and figures of deities, but it is closed to the public. But if you are a Hindu and a Nepali citizen, you will be granted permission to enter these temples.
On entering the the Durbar Square from the West gate, on your right are two magnificent temples dedicated to Lord Krishna and other to Goddess Durga. A statue of King Bhupathindra Malla stands in the center of Durbar Square. A temple dedicated to Goddess Tulja Bhavani is right beside this statue. This temple consists of a huge bell when which was used while worshiping the Goddess. There are many other temples scattered around Bhaktapur Durbar Square and each temple will astonish you in a different way.
2. Taumadhi Square
The other most significant square in Bhaktapur is Taumadhi Square which houses the famous Nyatapola Temple and Bhairav Temple. This is the place where the famous chariot of Bhairav is pulled in a tug of war mood during the Bisket Jatra. Nyatapola Temple is a five storeyed temple and it can be seen even before you enter the Taumadhi Square and is the most magnificent temple in Nepal. The statue of Goddess is so fearsome that it is enclosed behind the doors of this temple which are locked from outside. The Bhairav Temple is a three storeyed temple and entrance is closed to public. The palm sized statue of Bhairav at this temple is brought outside during any religious festivities and put back into the temple after its over.
The other two squares in Bhaktapur are Porttery Square and Dattatreya Square. The Dattatreya Temple is the main attraction at Dattatreya Square, which is believed to built out of a single tree. At the Pottery Square you can see people working on big wheels to make clay pots. You can also observe lots are that are put out in the sun to be dried before they can sell it.
What to eat?
Bhaktapur have a lot of restaurants that serve Nepalese and International food. The most loved restaurant that the tourists love is in Shiva Guest House, which is located right in the heart of Durbar Square. All the restaurants in Bhaktapur charge a little bit more than 20% as taxes. If you walk out of the old town and go to the area near bus stop you can find couple of restaurants for the locals, but there are not many options here. The local delicacy that cannot be missed are JuJu Dahi (JuJu means King and Dahi means yogurt) and Burfi ice-cream which cost less than one US Dollar.
Where to stay?
The best accommodation options are in the old town near the Durbar Square and Taumadhi Square. There are not many luxury hotels in Bhaktapur, all they have are guesthouses which are very well maintained and for a room without an air-con cost about USD 12 -15, but it all depends on your bargaining skills.