Banepa is a small town east of Kathmandu valley, surrounded by hills in all but one direction. Traditionally it is a business hub in the area because of easy accessibility from surrounding cities/villages and being a hub along the trade route from Tibet. The Araniko Highway leads to the Tatopani border checkpoint, where people traditionally brought goods from Lhasa for their business. It lies in the Kavrepalanchok district of Nepal and has a rich culture and tradition. It’s postal code is 45210. It has a couple of ancient temples and hiking trails to view the sunrise. You can access two more cultural cities from Banepa. Panauti lies to the south, and Dhulikhel lies to the east.
Table of Contents:
- How to get to Banepa?
- Best Time to Visit Banepa
- Places of Interest
- Explore the Local Food
How to get to Banepa?
Banepa is easily accessible from Kathmandu through the Araniko Highway. Take a bus through the bus station opposite to the Bir Hospital in Kathmandu. You will find two routes going through Banepa. One is Kathmandu-Banepa-Panauti and the other one is Kathmandu-Banepa-Dhulikhel. You can take either to reach Banepa. You can also hire a taxi from anywhere to get to Banepa. The journey can take approximately 1 to 1 and a half hours, depending on traffic. You’ll reach Banepa after crossing over the circular crossroads of Sanga.
Banepa Bazaar is the first thing you’ll notice when you arrive at Banepa. Being a business hub pulls people from near and far. It is a lively marketplace where you can feel the local culture and observe the local way of life. If you’ve already been to marketplaces in New Road and its surroundings, it’s a similar experience, albeit with fewer people. You will find shops selling everything from handmade crafts to fresh produce.
Best Time to Visit Banepa
Even though Banepa is small, it has an interesting culture and traditions. The main attraction of the city is during the Jatra festival. Around the end of spring, there’s a two-day local festival. This is when devotees carry a chariot through the city to the Chandeshwori temple. You can easily mark this festival on the calendar, as it’s the same day as the birth of Gautam Buddha. In winter, the viewpoints in the Gosainthan view tower and Chapleti give a beautiful view of the sunrise and the mountain ranges.
Places of Interest
Chandeshwori Temple is the patron goddess of Banepa city, so it is one of the most important religious sites in Banepa. The temple is an homage to an incarnation of Goddess Kali, named Chandeshwori — killer of the evil demon Chandashur. The temple dates back to the 14th century, known for its stunning architecture, intricate carvings, and wall art.
It is around 1.5 kilometers north of the Banepa bazaar, just below the foothills of a deciduous forest. The surrounding is quiet, and with fresh air from the forest behind the temple. The location, being further from the city center, serves as a short escapade to destress your mind.
The forest behind it blooms with rhododendron in spring. Rummaging through the woods, searching for and picking them up, is popular among teenagers. People consider Rhododendron to have some medicinal benefits. Some eat it right as they are or dry it for a future ailment.
Dhaneshwar Mahadev Temple
Dhaneshwar Mahadeva Temple is one of the most important religious sites in Banepa. They have been worshipping Lord Shiva in the temple since the Licchavi period. Folklore surrounds the intricate carvings and traditional architecture of the temple. The temple sits on a hilltop, from where you can enjoy views of the surrounding landscape.
It is a popular destination for many Hindu religious festivals. During Shivaratri, it is one of the most sought-after places to visit, with its wooden tower fire and evening festivities.
Gosaithan Tower Hike
Gosaithan is a small temple located high in the Chandeshwori forest. It is about 200m higher than the Banepa bazaar, so getting there is quite a hike. Folklore says the location was a resting point for the god shiva after he suffered from poisoning after the Samudra Manthana. The temple is a hotspot of devotees during the Janai Purnima festival.
A few hundred meters north of the temple is a two-storied Gosaithan viewpoint tower. It is a popular destination for travelers and hikers. The viewpoint tower gives a scenic view of the sunrise and the landscape in the east. You can also glimpse the mountain peaks if the weather is clear, usually during winter. You can reach this viewpoint tower, with stairs behind the Chandeshwori Temple, or through the Budol village, passing the Matsunaga Eye Hospital.
Chapleti is a popular morning walk destination for exercise enthusiast in Banepa. It is a little further than Gosaithan View tower. You just have to follow the road through the Chandeshowri temple to Ravi-Opi village. The scenery is similar to what you see in Gosaithan view tower but with less obstructing mountains towards the north. While the distance of Chapleti is further than the view tower, it is less demanding. Gosaithan view tower needs quite a steep hike, but chapleti is a route along the asphalt road with slow rise in altitude. It is suitable for people who want some exercise done with a nice view at the destination.
4. Near the city
Dhulikhel is a hilltop city with an unobscured view of landscapes in the north and a little the east. The geographical location allows travelers to view some scenic beauty of the Himalayas in the north and the landscape in the east. It is full of hotels and resorts for its location.
You can see even more landscapes if you hike up the Devisthan dada (hill). It’s about half an hour’s hike from the city area. The hilltop has a temple and is a popular destination for couples and travelers seeking a peaceful retreat.
Panauti is a town where three rivers meet, also called a Triveni in Nepali. It has significant religious importance in the Hindu religion and traditions among the Nepali people. Many temples lie on the bank of the amalgamation point. Because of its significance, devotees believe it helps pass the departed souls to heaven. A large festival comes to Panauti every 12 years, wherein devotees believe performing a ritual (shraddha) will help their departed relatives find peace in the afterlife.
Namobuddha Monastery is a serene Buddhist monastery. You can make the passage through Dhulikhel or Panauti. The monastery lies on the premise where Bodhisattva offered his body to a hungry tigress. Visitors can explore the monastery and learn about Buddhist culture and philosophy. The monastery seems isolated in a small village surrounded by forests. It offers visitors a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Jatra is a traditional festival in the Newar community in Nepal. Every city with a historic majority Newar population celebrates it. Banepa also celebrates its own Jatra, easily marked on the calendar starting with the Buddha Purnima.
On the morning of Buddha Purnima, a procession of light takes place. We call this event as Mata Puja in Newari. Mata means light and puja means worship. People who wish to take part carry an oil lamp on a bamboo stick from the Banepa bazaar to the Jasigal Mahadevsthan. Hundreds of people carry the lights along the road, creating a sight to behold. Anyone can join the procession as well. People consider it auspicious if you can carry the light from start to finish. The light should not go out before your destination. If it does, one must leave the lamp stick, safely, by the road where it goes out.
Wood artisans build a chariot in the city center for this festival. The chariot does not have wheels, so people carry by their hands and shoulders. This happens amidst great fanfare and traditional music that follows the chariot. Devotees carry this through the city to the Chandeshowri Temple. At the temple area, as per traditional customs, they put the shrine of goddess Chandeshowri on the chariot. The people then carry the chariot with the shrine of the goddess and bring it back to the city. The whole city celebrates this festival with a lot of enthusiasm.
Kanya Puja is the festival of worshipping little girls in the town and surrounding villages. In Nepali, Kanya means girls, and puja means worship. The Newar community organizes and celebrates this festival. Any girl who hasn’t passed puberty can join in this festival to receive gifts and anyone can distribute gifts to the girls. As far as I can tell, children need to register their names beforehand.
Girls who wish to join this festival line up the edge of the streets. This line starts from the old bazaar to however many children that can join this festival. Then the people who wish to distribute the gifts queue up and give them to the girls one by one. The gifts can include sweets, chocolates, biscuits, juice and food items.
Janai Purnima is a festival that brings large crowd in the Gosaithan Temple area. On this day, people with Brahmin heritage in Nepal replace their Janai strings. A Janai is a thin string tied around the body to bind them with the Hindu spirituality.
People gather around the Gosaithan area to worship god Shiva and watch the shamans perform their ritual around the lakes. People set up small shops, booths, and carnival games along the pathways behind the temple area for fun.
Explore the Local Food
Banepa is not very popular as a food destination. You can find the regular hotels and restaurants as you would expect in Kathmandu. There are many restaurants serving hot momos and usual Newari and Nepali dishes. Some of the popular restaurants in the area are Jhigu Momos, Newa Kitchen, and VIP Foodland. Visitors can explore these local restaurants and taste authentic Newari cuisine.