There’s more to Nepal than Kathmandu, Everest and yak cheese (but yak cheese is a good place to start)…
Here is a short low-down of my favourite small towns in Nepal that make great stops between the Indian border at Sunauli, Pokhara and Kathmandu.
Bandipur is a tiny hilltop village between Pokhara and Kathmandu that you can walk around in its entirety in about 20 minutes. It’s a beautifully quaint place to spend a couple of days soaking in the distinct Newari houses (which look pretty Wild West to me with all the wooden shutters and beams) and going for short walks in the surrounding countryside. With lights out by about 10pm, though, and a lack of must-see sights, two days is plenty of time to get a feel for the place.
Temples and gateways around the village.
Our creaky but cute guesthouse (Khadgamai Guesthouse) had shutters and a reading seat in the window, which was great to people watch from, especially under a pile of blankets in the morning chill. Power cuts were pretty regular but the candlelight made our wooden room even more atmospheric and mildly thrilling (will we set the place alight? Will we run out of matches? The entertainment you can create when you have poor wifi is really quite astonishing).
The narrow streets with cafés spilling out of the shopfronts almost felt Italian. No gelato here, though, just muesli with hot milk and a lot of layers!
Views from the backs of the cafés on the main road.
From Bandipur, you can hike for about 2 hours to Ramkot, a much smaller farming community. Although it’s just one main track you follow, it’s not signposted and we ended up chest-deep in an unknown spiky plant. The walk has good views of the valley below on a clear day and makes a nice day trip from Bandipur. There was one place to eat and sleep but it was quite overpriced, so it’s better to return to Bandipur for the evening.
There are roundhouses and lots of villagers milling about with chickens and goats, wondering why you’ve come to gape at their humble homes.
After a week of being in Pokhara with all the restaurants and Coldplay cover bands you could ever want, Begnas Tal was a chilled out break where literally all there was to do was drink coffee, admire the view, walk and read. And it was great.
Begnas Tal is a 40 minute bus journey from Pokhara and was described to us by locals as what Pokhara looked like 20 years ago. We stayed in Begnas Coffee House, which had a fantastic view of the lake and the three peaks in the Annapurna mountain range. They also served coffee with honey made from their own coffee beans and bees!
A temple on a walk overlooking the lake.
Tansen (also known as Palpa, because that’s not at all confusing) is a hilltop town that we stopped off at on our way to Pokhara thinking we would just be passing through. We ended up staying longer than we’d planned (as the man running our guesthouse and tourist information centre told us we would) and it was by far my favourite place in Nepal.
We stayed at City View Homestay, which, unsurprisingly, had great views from our rooftop bedroom window of Tansen and the mountains framing the town. Sitting in bed under piles of blankets with a cup of tea and the windows open to the crisp mountain air was a highlight of my trip (anything that involves tea and not moving generally is).
Walks in the surrounding forest to a viewing tower were a gentle introduction to hiking in Nepal, with clear views of the Annapurna mountain range.
Temples about town.
There were so few tourists about that we were celebrities for the day at the local museum (NB, the museum is actually just an empty building with a patch of grass in the middle so can’t say I’ve learnt loads about the town except that the kids love a selfie and the momos-steamed dumplings-are about the cheapest I’ve found in the country).
So they’re my faves… Make sure to include some small towns in your trip to Nepal to get a flavour for life outside the big cities!