If you have a romantic notion of Kathmandu as a spiritual, traditional, mediaeval, and relaxed sort of place, just change that notion to Bhaktapur. This, the 'City of Devotees, is what you hoped Kathmandu would be like.
In many ways, a visit to Bhaktapur is akin to stepping back in time. We would suggest that a visit to Bhaktapur Durbar Square be at the top of your 'must visit' list. See if you can find a copy of the excellent film Baraka. Those dreamy opening scenes of a misty, ethereal dawn with an intricate backdrop of mystical temples and a handful of traditionally dressed locals quietly and slowly going about their daily routines were filmed in Bhaktapur.
Our best suggestion is to start your trip to Nepal in Kathmandu but end in Bhaktapur. That way, you'll truly appreciate just how special Bhaktapur is.
Time-wise, it's just about the same distance to Kathmandu International Airport from Bhaktapur as it is from central Kathmandu.
For sure, there is a timeless air about Bhaktapur, and most of the old city is traffic free too. It's certainly also a lot cleaner than Kathmandu, as well as a much, much more pleasurable place to explore. You can almost breathe the calm in comparison.
As well as a Durbar Square and temples aplenty, there are even erotic elephants (look for them carved into the Shiva-Parvati Temple). The Nyatapola Temple is a wonderful example of Nepalese pagoda architecture, and at approx 30m high, it's the highest too. The Golden Gate (Sun Dhoka) and the 55 Window Palace are perhaps the best examples of art and architecture in the Kathmandu Valley. Of course, there is the famous Peacock Window.
Compared to Kathmandu, Bhaktapur is smaller and quite compact, making exploring Bhaktapur on foot delightfully easy.
Although not as busy as Kathmandu, most tourists coming to visit Bhaktapur are day trippers from Kathmandu.
That's why we genuinely believe that the best way to enjoy Bhaktapur Durbar Square is to actually stay overnight here.
We recommend getting us to arrange a morning Guided Tour of Bhaktapur with a specialist Bhaktapur Guide.
Our guides will show you around the principle sights, but also the 'secret' places and 'open doors' that you'd likely not open yourself. Bhaktapur is renowned for its pottery, and for certain, you'll visit Potters' Square and perhaps have a go yourself. Here you'll see pottery being made as it essentially always has been. Hidden behind 'that door' is a family hard at work making beaten rice and rice flour.
Our guides will take you in, and you can see for yourself what otherwise you'd not see. Not only that, our guides are also a walking encyclopaedia of all things Bhaktapur. They live there!
Now that you're familiar with Bhaktapur, you can head out in the afternoon and discover even more independently. Usually by late afternoon, the day trippers have returned to Kathmandu, and this is when Bhaktapur becomes a world all of its own.
Just pick a quiet place and watch Bhaktapur's life pass you by. It's quite magical, especially in the evenings.
The people of Bhaktapur are very friendly; there's none of the "Kathmandu Hustle". It's just a special place that is best enjoyed by going for a walk and looking around.
The beauty of staying in Bhaktapur is just being able to enjoy watching Bhaktapur be Bhaktapur. We know just the place to do this. From the rooftop of our recommended Bhaktapur Guest House you can watch life go by as if you were invisible.
The guest house looks right over one of the main squares, with the Nyatapola Tower as your neighbour. There are stupendous views of the soaring pagodas and temples, too. Get up early and experience your own Baraka moment as Bhaktapur wakes up and calmly and slowly goes about its day. If it's clear, you can usually see the peaks of the Ganesh Himal glow as the sun goes down.
Of course, if you need further convincing that Bhaktapur is more than worth a visit, then just take a look at our image gallery of Bhaktapur below. Hopefully the old cliche that a "picture paints a thousand words", will help you decide.