Make this year the year you go beyond Bhaktapur’s touristic façade

Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley’s ‘third kingdom’, is revered for its cultural charms, yet it is a city seldom visited by valley denizens. True, many devotees flock the city to see important jatras. The upcoming Bisket Jatra is slated to attract throngs of devotees, tourists, onlookers and DSLR-laden photography enthusiasts. Yet, how many of us truly stray from the well-beaten path and set out to really explore this magical land?

 

The answer is: not very many. Bhaktapur is a permanent fixture on itineraries of tourists; its serene car-free streets are a perfect escape for visitors overwhelmed by Basantapur and Mangalbazar’s hullabaloo. The history-soaked gallis and cultural cornerstones like the picturesque Durbar Square, the towering Nyatapole and the enigmatic Dattatreya Temple make for a fun-filled and intriguing day out.


Yet, beyond milling about the city’s main attractions, Bhaktapur is a city seldom explored, and for that reason there are many gems that lie in wait, pining to be discovered.


Make this the year that you go beyond Bhaktapur’s touristic façade and truly explore its effusive charms. The recent highway (Nepal’s lone Autobahn) has made the 20-kilometer commute both pleasant and quick.
Bhaktapur is now intimately close and welcoming with open-arms those who have grown weary of Kathmandu and Patan’s oft-visited thoroughfares. Whether it be a romantic getaway or Friday night out with your buds, this year make Bhaktapur your destination of choice. And while you are there, make sure you unearth these five hidden (and not so hidden) gems.

 

Bhaktapuri Bara
Bara is a sought-after staple at any Newari eatery. No immersion in the Newar culture, however short or prolonged, is complete without this traditional delicacy. Like no trip to Mangalbazar is complete without stopping by at Honacha or Kwacha, or trips to Basantapur are hollow without diving into Maru’s mixed baras, Bhaktapur too has its forgotten gallis flaunting the delicious offering.


For the perfect Newari fix in Bhaktapur, head north from the Durbar Square, enter the first alley you see on your right hand side and enter the local eatery there. You will walk into a world of traditional gastronomical delight, and in a way that only Bhaktapuris can conjure. The service here is prompt, the food is amazing. Make sure you savor every bite!

 

Khwapachhen for a Traditional Feast
Its rich culture is Bhaktapur’s USP. Its jatras make the city vibrant and happening. Bisket Jatra is celebrated with fervent passion in Bhaktapur and the traditional Newari bhoj of Bisket Jatra is one thing you should not miss. Yet, not everyone has a friend from Bhaktapur who can invite them to the bhoj. So, Khwapachhen Restaurant and Guest House is a year-round friend for those who wants to participate in a traditional Newari feast. You do not need to necessarily wait for the Bisket Jatra, you can enjoy it anytime when you make a booking at the restaurant. All you need is a group of at least 25 people.


The restaurant tells a visual story of the enigmatic city. Displayed here are photographs of Bhaktapur captured by local photographers during various occasions. Newar functions like eeh, bel bibaha and various other traditions are very well documented in these photographs. They can be portals that peak your interest as you explore the fascinating traditions of the city.


The restaurant also houses a bahal, a courtyard that has been maintained since antiquity. Bahal was a safe place for children to play. Now it serves as a space for various activities hosted by the restaurant. The restaurant also has a terrace from where you can watch the ancient settlement of Bhaktapur amble by.

Khwapachhen Restaurant and Guest House
Contact: 6616325, 6616326

 

Bird’s Eye View from Sweet Home Bhaktapur
Eating out at the roof-top restaurant at Bhaktapur Sweet Home is a real treat. The restaurant is situated near the Durbar Square and the view you get from here is to die for. Enjoy the continental, Chinese, Tibetan and Nepali cuisine along with the spectacular view of the ‘third kingdom.’

Sweet Home Bhaktapur
Contact: 6616762

Bhadgaon Restaurant for a Closer Look
If you want a detailed view of the Nyatapol temple, Bhaktapur’s crown jewel, Bhadgown Restaurant is by far the best option. Himalayan Java Coffee, which greets you at the doorstep of the restaurant, is an added bonus. You can enjoy the international cuisine at the restaurant on the ground floor and after you are done wolfing it all down, go to the terrace to enjoy the view of the Nyatapol temple. The temple can be studied in more detail from the terrace of the Bhadgaon Guest House.
Bhadgaon Guest House
Contact: 6610488