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Asia travel

IN PICTURES: why Patan is the perfect starting point for your next Nepal adventure

More authentic and laid back than Kathmandu’s touristy Thamel, and with a beautiful historical old town that’s easy to negotiate on foot, Patan is a great alternative base in Nepal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 April, 2016, 12:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 October, 2017, 1:21pm

The third largest city of Nepal after Kathmandu and Pokhara, Patan is located in the south-central part of Kathmandu Valley, just half an hour from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. And while Thamel is the most popular base for backpackers and tourists, Patan is an underrated gem for its rich cultural heritage, beautiful architecture and tradition of arts and crafts.

“I believe Patan reflects the true nature of what Nepal and Nepalis are all about,” says Patan-based sustainable development consultant Aradhana Gurung. “It’s very relaxed, peaceful and with lots of stories and history to be discovered.”

Gurung, who worked with the United Nations for over a decade, is an aid worker who raised money to build 50 transitional homes in Halchowk and Nuwakot after the April 2015 earthquake. From the historical Patan Durbar Square and renovated boutique heritage hotels to trendy local food joints and coffee shops, she shares her insider’s picks for a stay in Patan in the following photos.

A woman prepares samya baji, bara (lentil pancake) and aloo mama (potato and bamboo shoots soup) at Nandini Food Court in Swotha Chowk, Patan. “Traditional street food joints like these are becoming more trendy among the local youth here,” says Gurung.

The ruins of a crumbled temple in Swotha Chowk, Patan. Community clubs are working with the government and NGOs to rebuild buildings destroyed in the April 25 2015 earthquake.

A year after deadly earthquake, impatient Nepalis take rebuilding into their own hands

The interior patio of Cozy Home Guest House, one of many boutique heritage hotels in Patan. While ancestral homes are being demolished to make way for big, modern houses, a growing number of home owners are renovating based on the original structure in an effort to preserve traditional architecture. Staying in one of them not only helps support their efforts, it gives you a more authentic, friendly experience than you’ll get at the big hotels.

Watermelon soda at Kar.Ma Coffee in Gyan Mandala, Patan. The place also serves locally grown organic coffee, an emerging trend among Patan youth, and reuses it in as many ways as possible: coffee filters are transformed into lampshades, grinds are used to make body scrubs and there’s even a delicious coffee-infused honey.

Traditional saris and fabrics on sale in Gabahal, Patan.

T-shirts and notebooks from local artist Prasad, at a monthly art market showcasing local and international arts and crafts at The Yellow House, Sanepa, Patan, which also hosts weekly farmers markets. “Platforms like this have immensely boosted the creativity and the sense of entrepreneurship among young Nepalis,” says Gurung.

A fresh fruit stall in Jawalakhel, Patan, where you’ll find both locals and expats buying the local produce.

Locals work on reconstruction in Gabahal, Patan. “In spite of generous global efforts by individuals and organisations the pace at which progress is being made is very slow,” says Gurung. “Most of the affected have started rebuilding their homes on their own in the cities. Meanwhile, the affected families in the villages are gearing up for another brutal monsoon under temporary shelters.”

Five ways you can help Nepal recover from devastating 2015 earthquake

Street food: momos (Nepalese dumplings) and bread pakodas. Momos are a popular snack in Nepal, and come steamed, fried or in a soup.

The view from the terrace at Cafe du Temple, Patan Durbar Square. Most things close at 10pm in Patan but people gather in the square, and this restaurant is the perfect spot to have a glass of wine, a local curry set and watch the temples light up as the sun goes down.

Sustainable development consultant Aradhana Gurung lives in Patan with her four-year-old daughter, Zoya.