Bhaktapur (भक्तपुर) a city in Nepal known variously as City of Culture, Living Heritage, Nepal's Cultural Gem, An open museum and a City of Devotees. Bhaktapur is an ancient city and is renowned for its elegant art, fabulous culture, colourful festivals, traditional dances and indigenous lifestyle of the Newari community. It is just 12 km east of Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, but gives the feeling of prehistoric times given the ambiance of traditional homes, lifestyles and environment. The conch shaped historic city is spread over an area of 6.9 m2 at an altitude of 1,401 m. The city was founded in the 12th century by King Anand Dev Malla. Bhaktapur was the capital city of the Greater Malla Kingdom in the Kathmandu Valley till the 15th century AD. The many of Bhaktapur's greatest monuments were built by the Malla rulers of that earlier time.
Bhaktapur has more temples per square foot than Patan or Kathmandu and is far enough out of town to keep the crowds away. As a World Heritage site listed by the UNESCO, Bhaktapur has been heavily restored since a 1934 earthquake severely damaged the city. To further restoration and preservation there is an entrance fee for visitors. In December 2011 this was either NPR1100 or USD11 for foreigners. If you plan to visit for several days, you can ask the counter to add a note to permit access to the city with the same ticket (at most one week). Visitors from SAARC member countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) and China pay NPR100.
If you are not arriving as part of a tour group, you may take mini bus (bound for Kamal Binayak stop in Bhaktapur) or big bus (bound for Chyamasingha stop in Bhaktapur) from Bus Stop near Bhadrakali. You can save time by taking Express Bus (this does not stop in between except in Maitighar and Sallaghari) from Bagbazar in Kathmandu. Recently, micro buses also started service of shuttling between Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, which provide a fairly quick way to get to Bhaktapur.
For those who haven't experienced a public bus in South Asia, it will be a way to (literally!) rub shoulders with locals. In either case the ride takes about 40–60 minutes and drops you off just outside of town. The fare from Kathmandu to Bhaktapur was approximately NPR35 in Sept. 2009 by bus for local people. The average cost for a one way taxi from Thamel to Bhaktapur is NPR800-1000 for the 16 km drive. You can easily hail a taxi or pick up a return bus to either Patan or Kathmandu just outside of the first main gate that leads into the city.
Once in Bhaktapur, walking is the best way to experience the quiet, dusty lanes squares. There are no rickshaws, tuk-tuks, or taxis allowed inside the city—an inconvenience more than made up for by the quiet and clean air.
The primary reason for visiting Bhaktapur is because its Durbar Square is one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Khatmandu Valley. There are other very worthwhile things to see as well, so see details below.
- Bhaktapur Durbar Square was the seat of royalty before 1769 AD. The building now houses the National Art Gallery. It has a famous Golden Gate dating back to 1756 AD and is the entrance to the marvelous Taleju Temple Complex and number of artistic courtyards including the Royal Bath pond. The Big Bell in the square was erected by Ranajit Malla (1722–1769), last Malla king of Bhaktapur and was used for paying homage to Goddess Taleju and for assemblies of general public.
- Taumadhi Square's Nyataponla Temple dates back to 1702 AD. The colossal five-storied edifice is the country's tallest pagoda temple. The struts, doors, windows and tympanums, each embellished with attractively carved divine figures, perfectly portray the creative tradition of Newar craftsmen. The temple is dedicated to the Goddess Siddhi Laxmi, the manifestation of female force and creativity. Next to the Nyataponla Temple is the rectangular shaped Bhairavnath Temple. It houses a gilded bust of Bhairav, the ferocious manifestation of Lord Shiva. The three-storied pagoda was razed to the grounds by the 1934 earthquake, and its latest renovation was undertaken by the Bhaktapur Municipality in 1995 AD.
- Dattatreya Square has the Dattatreya Temple is the main attraction of the Square. Constructed by King Yaksha Malla, the giant three-storied temple is believed to have been built with the stem of a single tree. Having defied a series of calamities, it still bears testimony to the incredible achievement made in those regal days of Nepalese history.
- Pottery Square
- The Peacock Window, one of Nepal's signature sights
- Hanumanghat: a collection of lingams (including Nepal's largest) and riverside cremation ghats.
- Changu Narayan, Changu (4 km to the north of Bhaktapur and 22 km east of Kathmandu.), ☎ +977 1 6614788. the oldest temple in the Kathmandu Valley. Listed in the World Cultural Heritage List, it is also a scenic spot situated at an altitude of about 1700 m. The most authentic inscription located in the precinct of Changu Narayan is dated 464 AD and is accredited to the Lichhavi King Mandeva. Changu Narayan Temple, located high in the hill just to the north of Bhaktapur, is the oldest existing pagoda temples in Nepal . The temple was dedicated to Lord Vishnu by the Lichhavi King in the 5th century. It is said to be the oldest temple in the Valley. It was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.
- Surya Vinayak is situated at the walking distance of about 2 km to the south of the city and is the holy shrine of god Ganesh (God of well beginning and successful completion of work). The temple of Ganesh is placed in such as so as to catch the first rays of the rising sun. It is a good picnic spot flanked by many attractive landscapes.
Bhaktapur is a significant pottery centre. You will see it everywhere, drying in the sun, displayed on tables and shelves in front of shops and homes. The town is equally famous for artistic masks made from black clay with colourful decoration. The masks portray various gods and deities and carry special significance in festivals.
Thanka, a traditional type of painting, is also created in the town. Metalwork and jewellery can also be found, but there's more selection on Patan's backstreets.
Don't leave Bhaktapur without trying some of their famous yogurt with local honey—Juju-dhau, literally the "King of all yogurt."
Tourist restaurants can be found in almost every building surrounding Durbar Square.
Small local restaurants can be found on the main road into town, but they will probably only serve Dhal Bhat Takari (lentils, rice, and mild vegetable curry) or Newari food (Samay Baji - flattened rice, marinated meat (usually buffalo, often odd organs), lentils, pickled vegetables, potatoes, bamboo shoot curry, and more), tea, and momos.
- Bara-wa (An alley behind the five story temple in Taumin Square, in front of Black Olive restaurant).
- a local Newari joint (exiting Taumani square northeast, along the main road, in an alley to the right, after the camera shop, on the right side with curtains covering all openings).
- Cafe Beyond, Itachhen-15, Bhaktapur (Just outside of Durbar Square walk for 3 minutes after the front gate. Walk along the main street for 1 block, you can find it on your right hand side.). 0700 to 2000. Mainly Korean cuisine; most vegetables grown in the local garden Mains NPR250.
- Shiva's Cafe Corner, Durbar Square, Bhaktapur, ☎ +977 1 6610740. 7:30-21:00. Cappchino, espresso, Americano and iced coffee. Also serves Nepali dal bhat, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Indian and Continental cuisine. 2-6 USD.
- Black Olive (Near the Nyatapola Temple). Rooftop beer garden; serves food as well
- SBC Store, Suryavinayak, ☎ +977 1 076450, +977 1 171733. 10am-10pm. All kinds of imported and domestic wine, whisky, beer. They can deliver.
Bhaktapur can be a good alternative to Kathmandu for staying overnight because of its quiet streets and unique ambiance. Furthermore, it is located close to the Kathmandu international airport and on the road connecting Kathmandu and Kodari (Chinese border), which makes it particularly suited for spending the first night in Nepal.
- Nyatapola Guesthouse, Pottery Square , Bhaktapur, ☎ +977 1 6614599, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A simple and clean bed-and-breakfast run by a family of woodcarvers on the upper floors of a traditional house on top of their art shop. Located in a small street connecting Pottery and Taumadhi squares in the heart of the old town. Semi-private doubles from NRP600
- Shiva Guest House 1&2, Durbar Square11 , Bhaktapur, ☎ +977 1 6613912, fax: 977-1-6610740, e-mail: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12PM. A traditional Newari house. Offers 24 rooms in two buildings, most with attached bath. Restaurant serving Nepali Dal Bhat, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Indian and Continental cuisine. Free Wi-Fi
There is an ATM next door, and the guest houses accept Visa but will add a small percentage to cover bank charges.
- Pagoda Guesthouse & Cafe, Taumadhi Tole (Near Five-storied Temple), ☎ +977 1 6613248. Offers a rooftop restaurant; Wi-Fi s/d US$20-30; without bathroom s/d US$15.
- Golden Gate Guest House, between the Durbar and Taumadhi Squares. Tel: 977-1-6610534, 6612427; Fax: 977-1-6611081, 6612607; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bhaktapur Guest House, P.O. Box 49, Bhaktapur, ☎ +977 1 610670, +977 1 661325, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Peacock Guest House, Dattatraya Square, Bhaktapur (Dattatraya Sq and Bhimsen temple), ☎ +977 1 6611829. Check-in: 12PM, check-out: 12PM. Located at Dattatraya Square. Peaceful with attractive 15th century architecture. USD7-10.
- Cosy Hotel (1300m), Pottery Square, Bhaktapur 12 (In the city center, Pottery Square), ☎ +977 1 6616333. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 11:00. phone:- +977 9841231795. USD40.
- Nagarkot is nestled on hill at altitude of 2,195 m to the north east of Bhaktapur at a distance of 18 km. It is famous for its panoramic view of mountains, sun rise and sun set. Nagarkot has availability of different types of accommodations of Five star hotels to small cottage lodges. Its one of the most scenic spots in Bhaktapur district and is renowned for its spectacular sunrise view of the Himalaya when the sky is clear. It also offers an excellent view of the Indrawati river valley to the east.
- Thimi - a town between Kathmandu and Bhaktapur well known for its pottery work. In addition to pottery, Thimi is known made for the age-old art of making colourful masks of various deities, demons and animals. Thimi also produces many of the fresh vegetables in the Kathmandu valley.