BHAKTAPUR AND NAGARKOT
One of the three royal cities in Kathmandu Valley is Bhaktapur. Among the three, its Durbar Square is the most serene and peaceful because only pedestrians are allowed inside. The city itself is well preserved where most building are made of red bricks. Nearby is Nagarkot, a peaceful hill-top town famous for its amazing panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain range where the small tip of Mt. Everest can be seen. It’s definitely worth a visit.
HOW TO GET THERE
- For flights and entry requirements to Nepal, please read: Nepal Budget Travel Guide: Backpacking Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara
- From the Thamel, the tourist area of Kathmandu, take a taxi to Bhaktapur. Alight at Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Travel time: 30 – 40 minutes
When taking taxis at Nepal, do not forget to haggle. Drivers usually bloat the price up. Try to insist your price to fit your budget. Agree on a price first before riding the taxi.
By Bus: The cheaper option from Kathmandu to Bhaktapur is a bus ride. Go to Ratna Bus Park and ask where the bus to Bhaktapur is. The bus ride will take longer because of the stops. Travel time: 40 – 50 minutes approx. Fare: at least 50 Rs.
WHERE TO STAY
There are a lot of guesthouses in Bhaktapur. You may book a hotel or guesthouse inside the Bhaktapur Durbar Square for the complete experience. We got a room with two single beds for 1000 Rs/night near Taumadhi Square where Nyatapola Temple is located. Aside from the capital city, we recommend spending a night here as well. Here’s a list of hotels in Bhaktapur. You may also book through Booking.com list of hotels, AirBnb or Hostelworld.
ITINERARY AND THINGS TO DO
A day is enough to explore Bhaktapur city proper. Compared to Kathmandu Durbar Square, Bhaktapur’s is more quiet and peaceful. Cars and motorcycles are not allowed to enter the square proper. Also, it’s less noisy and congested compared to Kathmandu. The red brick houses are also very well preserved.
If you’re staying inside the Durbar Square, do not forget to have your ticket extended so you wouldn’t have to pay again on re-entry. Just show your passport and have the ticket extended for as long as your tourist visa is valid. This will come useful since some points of interests are outside the square. There are multiple ticketing booths stationed at different entrances. Keep your ticket with you just in case you’ll be asked for it when inside. They will also hand out a brochure with a map to guide you in your exploration.
You may start of you day with a walk to Bhaktapur Durbar Square proper. You may enter the Golden Gate to the royal palace (just present your ticket). There’s a temple at the back where only Hindus can enter. Beside the temple is an interesting water catch basin surrounded by intricate snake sculptures. There are also multiple temples scattered around the square like the Vastala Temple, Shiva Temple and the Krishna Temple near the entrance. If you need a break, there are coffee shops nearby overlooking the square. Beside the Golden Gate is the 55 Window Palace.
After exploring the Durbar Square, take a short walk to Taumadhi Square the next biggest square in the city. It is home to different multi-roofed and square temples – the biggest being Nyatapola Temple. It is a five-story pagoda considered as one of the tallest in Kathmandu Valley, if not the tallest temple at 30 meters. You may walk up its steps for a better view of Taumadhi Square.
After Taumadhi Square, you may visit Pottery Square nearby where you’ll see a lot of local potters working with their own crafts. Visit when the sun is out to experience the drying process when they lay out and dry all their work in the streets. From time to time, the pots are dipped in a clay mixture again, then turned. It is quite an interesting sight to see.
At the city outskirts, you may drop by Siddha Pokhari, a man-made pond, for a quiet escape. It is a popular hangout spot for locals and tourists alike to get away from the city’s noise. You’ll see a lot of souvenir shops in Bhaktapur selling pouches, wallets, pants, even paintings and a lot more.
After exploring the city, we also decided to visit Nagarkot, A hill-top town famous for its amazing views of the Himalayan Mountain Range. Since it’s nearing the end of our trip in Nepal, we decided to stay here for three days to rest and to have a peaceful break from all the exploring we did in the city (Kathmandu, Pokhara, Patan & Bhaktapur). This is probably the best way to end your Nepal trip.
How to get there: Ride a taxi to Nagarkot from Bhaktapur city center. A decent fare would be 1000 – 1,500 Rs. It would take around 45 minutes to an hour to get to the town proper. Taxis will usually drop you off at Nagarkot’s Bus Station. Riding a local bus to Nagarkot is also possible and definitely cheaper, but it will take relatively longer. Just ask for the directions from your hotel.
Where to stay: We suggest that you pre-book your hotel or guesthouse before heading to Nagarkot. Guesthouses can be fully booked especially during peak season. We decided to “splurge” a little bit and stayed at a Himalayan view room at Peaceful Cottage. Rooms are at least Php 1,500/night. (Alternative: Hotel at the End of the Universe). Here’s a list of hotels in Nagarkot. You may also compare Booking.com list of hotels to get the cheapest pricing.
We recommend staying at Peaceful Cottage because they have a cafe overlooking Nagarkot, with the snow-capped mountain range in the background. On a clear day, the tip of Mt. Everest can also be seen from here (a very small dot in the horizon). The most visited view point in Nagarkot is at Nagarkot View Tower. You may rent a taxi to bring you up there before sunrise. Hiking is also possible but it will take quite a few hours. Hiking at different nature trails is also a great activity to do here. There are established trails with varying difficulties and length. Just ask your hotel or guest house for some help with the guide.
- Accommodation: 1000 Rs/night in Bhaktapur for a basic 2 single bed room with heater, 1,500-2,000 Rs/night for a mountain view room in Nagarkot
- Transportation: 1,000 – 1,500 Rs Taxi to Bhaktapur, 1,000-1,500 Rs Taxi ride to Nagarkot (one-way fare), 1,000 Rs Taxi ride to Nagarkot View Tower (round-trip fare)
- Food: Peaceful Cottage rates 300 – 600 Rs per meal
- Entrance Fees: 1,000 Rs/head Bhaktapur Durbar Square entrace
- Do not forget to haggle! We really recommend haggling especially when taking the taxi or buying souvenirs.
- During Nepal’s dry winter season, temperatures can go as low as 5-10 degrees. Make sure to bring enough layers of clothing, specially if you decide to watch the sunrise.
- When taking a bus or taxi, be prepared to hike for 10-15 minutes up to your hotel.