Panauti is a town tucked away in the valley, just two hours from Kathmandu and is infamously known by Nepalese as having escaped the two big earthquakes which rocked Nepal. As an ancient city in Nepal, the fact its main monuments did not encounter damage during the earthquakes, is astonishing and many view it as a miracle. Locals claim its unbreakable foundation is due to the fact the town is built upon a rock. But there’s more to Panauti than that– it’s also an ancient Newari town which takes you back in time with its unshakable spirit.
Panauti is somewhere in-between village and urban, so that travelers can feel removed without a loss of comfortable. It’s a charming mid-sized town surrounded by hilly countryside farms, but also buzzing and lively with Newari culture and children. It’s close enough to Kathmandu where Panauti locals will commute to work or universities; meanwhile, it will attract travelers, who want to experience a peaceful oasis. It dangles between the best of both worlds.
Watch the Experiential version of this Panauti Travel Guide
Places in this video:
01:00 Bus Station
01:08 Old City
03:58 Indreshwar Temple Square
04:08 Indreshwar Mahadev Temple
04:16 Panauti Museum
05:13 Pungamati River
05:56 Panauti Countryside
24 Hours in Panauti | What to Do, See & Eat
I spent a little over 24 hours in Panauti (I wish it were more, but my blog group had to move on). The first part of my day was filled by learning about Panauti Community Homestay, my host family (Anee-ta and her mother, Nirmala) and Newari cooking. Not to mention the fact, it rained. But after the rain quickly cleared, I got to explore Panauti.
Here’s a Panauti travel guide of what to do, see and eat if you only have 24 hours in Panauti, the unbreakable ancient Newari city.
I stayed in one of the local homes through the Panauti Community Homestay program (read my review). My host house was located the outskirts of the city, among the farming community. I was a 8 minute stroll to a small town street where I arrived to and then another 8 minutes to the heart of Panauti, where activity started abuzz (you can see it in my video).
This was sheer bliss for me. The surrounding hills of the countryside are rolling with lush farming staples of wheat, rice and potatoes (all three are important to the Nepalese food menu). During crop season, farmers are busy working in the fields. You’ll see bright saris dotting the landscape just like the colorful houses in the backdrop. It’s hard to imagine anything really bad happening here.
At night, all is dark and you can hear the barking of neighborhood dogs, occasionally, the faint voices of people. It’s worlds away from the urban chaos and dusty noise of Kathmandu. It is a tranquil getaway from the madness and dust of Nepali road traffic.
The New Town of Panauti
After getting help from Anee-ta to buy my Nepali SIM (I forgot to pick one up at the airport) from the local telcom shop, we whizzed past the active part of Panauti town, watching locals shop for their market produce or a new gas tank for their stove. With an active farming community nearby, tractors are occasional vehicles you’ll want to sidestep. The bus station is also located in this area
The Old Town of Panauti
Crossing the bridge from new town, you’ll enter into Panauti’s ancient town.The old town is worth walking through with a camera. Known as a Newari town, Panauti has traditional roots going back to the 13th century.
Originating from Newari traditions, you’ll find wonderful old architecture similar to the wooden craftswork of Bhaktapur. While the streets are not as maze-like as Bhaktapur, there’s still many alleys in which you can get lost exploring the architecture. You’ll certainly feel like you’re stepping back into time here. Today, you’ll see women in saris and older men wearing traditional topi hats.
You’ll find an unusual abundance of ducks in Panauti. Ducks are a mascot of Panauti as symbolic animals who once pulled Shiva’s chariot.
Indreshwar Temple Square
The most important site of the town is the Indreshwar Temple Square. It’s consists of the Indreshwar Mahadev Temple and a cluster of ancient temples situated near the river. It’s located furthest from the main entrance (and towards the backend) of Panauti’s Old Town. If you have little time, put this spot at the top of your ‘must see lists’ and start there. The Indreshwar Mahadev Temple is a pagoda temple dating back to the 15 century and is the oldest and most famous temple, built for Shiva.
Admission: 300NR for Foreign Travelers, 100 NR SARC countries. You can pay in the museum. The money goes to heritage conservation and this is a good cause.
Pungamati /Joshi River and its 12th year confluence.
Panauti generally has two rivers, Roshi and Pungamati rivers. However, there is a third river and confluence which comes around every twelve years. On the twelfth year, a festival is held and people from all over Nepal come to take a dip in the river to absolve themselves of sins. When I was there, Anee-ta said it was in the sixth year (six more years to go for absolution!)
At the entrance of the Indreshwar Temple complex, sits the Panauti Museum. The museum is small and only one room (you’ll need to pay admission to Indreshwar complex here), but it holds an interesting collection of historical artifacts from the area with woodcarvings, brass and information about the town history. It even explained that ducks are a mascot of the town (which satisfied my curiosity as to why I saw so many ducks everywhere).
Must try Foods
While you’ll find Panauti sharing most Nepali dishes, the town itself is known for its potato farming. So trying the potatoes is a definite must. Here are other Nepali foods to try.
Ananda Cafe, located near the west wing of Indreshwar Temple, is a vegetarian cafe which serves vegetarian noodle and rice dishes, as well as, Nepali food as thali (gundruk and dhindo, khichadi, shukuni). It is listed in Happy Cow.
Safety Tips for Solo Travelers
The most threatening thing that’s happened to me in Panauti city is jumping out of the way of a farming tractor. It landed my shoes in the splash of mud.
It’s hard to imagine anything dangerous happening in Panauti as the community is small enough, where people know people. Walking around Panauti as a female traveler, I felt safe. Of course, I had Anee-ta as a guide and was under the safety of Panauti Community Homestay program, which impacts the community and their women in an empowering way. With a grapevine of 15 participating families, I knew I had watchful eyes through the city, about caring for the success of happy guest. So I’d recommend the homestay as the highest form of travel safety, food safety as well as itinerary fun.
If a travelers wanted an independent trip, I’d still say Panauti was a safe community. There are many women visible in the community and Nepal is a country I’ve always felt fairly safe in, even in blackout periods. Yet, threat can take many forms and I always advise solo travelers to take safety precautions and practice street smarts anywhere they go.
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Getting To Panauti
Panauti Bus Station lot is centrally located right outside old town Panauti. The town is a commuter town and gains good access to other cities like Kathmand, Bhaktapur, Dhulikhel. If traveling Kathmandu, you can take Ratna Bus Park (Thamel).
What do you think of this Panauti travel guide? What would you do with 24 hours in Panauti?
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