Historic birthplace of the Buddha
One of the world's most important spiritual sites is home to the historic birthplace of the Buddha. Today you can visit over 25 international Buddhist monasteries, study Buddhism, meditation and visit Buddha's birthplace itself within the sacred Mayadevi Gardens!
Mayadevi Temple is one of the important sites in the Lumbini Garden with many historians and archaeologists referring to it as the place of birth of Lord Buddha. Inscriptions on the Ashoka Pillar also refers the spot as his birthplace. It is said that here the newly born Prince took his first seven steps and gave a peace message to humanity.
This happened in the beautiful Sal grove, which is now the focal point of the Lumbini Garden. Mayadevi, the Queen of Shakya King Suddhodhana of Kapilvastu, while passing through the Lumbini Garden, on the day of Baishakha Purnima (full moon day of May in 623 BC) took a bath in the Pushkarini (the Sacred Pond) and soon after she took support of a tree branch, and gave birth to the Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha.
Visit beautiful monasteries built by different Buddhist countries like China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Germany and observe the different architecture and prayer areas. Soak up the peaceful atmosphere and above all visit the Mayadevi Temple which dates back to 2,200 years, which archaeological evidence proclaim as the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautam or Lord Buddha in 623 BC.
You can walk around the garden or find a peaceful meditative spot to contemplate. The focal point for pilgrims is a sandstone carving depicting the birth of the Buddha, reputedly left here by the Malla King Ripu Malla, in the 14th century, when Mayadevi was worshipped as an incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess. Another main attraction is the Ashokan Pillar, which was built by the great Indian Emperor Ashoka while visiting the birthplace of Buddha back in 249 BC.
One can visit the Panditarama Vipassana Center for some yoga and meditation and interact with the monks, who live in the vicinity of the monasteries , devoting their time to balancing the environment with religious worship.
The Lumbini Garden covers an area of 2.56 sq km or 1 x 3 sq miles and encompasses three zones each covering one square mile connected with walkways and a canal. The area has sub tropical monsoon climate with warm wet season.
If you are planning on traveling to exotic places in South Asia looking to find some Nirvana, then do not miss Lumbini in Nepal.
One of the most popular monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism is the Kapan Monastery which is perched on a hill not far north of Boudha. Each year a large number of foreigners arrive here to study Buddhism and meditation. Kapan Monastery was founded by Lama Thubten Yeshe who died in 1984. Interestingly, a small Spanish boy named Osel Torres became his successor after he was declared a reincarnation of the great Lama. However, the reincarnation does not reside at Kapan anymore.
The spiritual program at Kapan offers introductory level courses in what is known as the Discover Buddhism series, dealing with the basic principles of Tibetan Buddhism and meditation. The series known as the Next Step series, leads on to a deeper exploration of these principles.
Courses deal with Mind Training, Karma, Death and Dying, Bodhicitta, and more. There are 5-day and 10-day courses and a month long course on meditation. There are also short courses on Tibetan medicine, Thangka painting and the very popular 10-day residential courses in Buddhist psychology and philosophy. Courses vary in length and some students spend months at the monastery devoted to their studies. In the past many were housed in tents due to lack of space but now there are enough rooms to accommodate them.
There is a sealed road all the way to the monastery but it is also a pleasant hike from Boudha. People from many different Nepali ethnic groups also join the monastery as young boys to become monks. These young lads get formal education in math, science and other subjects just as their contemporaries in local schools. Kids can join at a tender age and are mostly from families who traditionally send one child to become a monk or a nun.
Kapan Monastery was once open to visitors all week but with too many visitors arriving, entrance has been restricted. There is a library and a large garden with solar lights that light for evenings. A proper restaurant with great views of Kathmandu down below is open to all and serves good meals. During special pujas, large crowds of devotees climb up to the monastery to receive blessings and pay homage.
Having reached Kopan Monastery, you might as well walk along the ridge and visit the Phulhari Monastery which sits on a hill higher than Kapan. The hike takes less than an hour. In between the two is the Vajrayan Monastery. Phulhari is worth a visit for the amazing Thangka paintings that adorn the entire facade and the interiors of the halls. The building was designed by an American architect /Buddhist monk who has combined the best of eastern and western architecture. Even the paintings lean towards more pastel colors rather than the bright colors usually associated with Tibetan Buddhism.
There are two routes to Kapan Monastery. The usual route is through Chabahil and it turns left at Chuchepati where there is a statue of Pasang Lhamu the first Nepali female to climb Everest. The other route follows the Ring Road after Chabahil and goes past the Gopi Krishna Radha Cinema Hall. There are buses up to the base of the hill on top of which the monastery is perched. Taxis can be hired from the city. Other alternatives are to hire a motorcycle, mountain bike or just simply walk all the way. Hikes can begin at Boudha and can be combined with the Gokarna hike or even the Shivapuri hike. Walking from the east side of the stupa, the road goes through Phulbari and meets the road coming from Chuchepati. Then it’s downhill and the monastery comes into view.
Namche Bazaar (3,500 m) is the staging point for expeditions to Everest and other Himalayan peaks in the area. It is also is a prosperous market town selling everything from Tibetan artefacts to trekking and climbing equipment. The visitor center at park headquarters has detailed information on various climbs in the area, memorabilia from different mountaineering expeditions, and information on the lifestyle and culture of the Sherpa people.
A historic trading hub, famous for its homemade yak cheese and butter, Namche is situated on the slope of an arch-shaped mountain, which allows you to oversee the sights of glorious mountain peaks throughout the valley, day and night. Once a capital of Khumbu, where Sherpas from neighboring villages and Tibet would gather to trade commodities, and would display their traditional arts and crafts, Namche Bazaar - to this date - hasn’t forgotten its ancient culture and royal hospitality.
The town, maintaining its reputation, is now a tourist hub since it is a gateway to the Himalayas.
One of the popular stops along the Everest route, this little village-town, is a Sherpa dominated trading centre that seems to have it all. Besides a good number of hotels, restaurants and equipment stores, one can even find a proper pub and cyber cafe. It is good to halt here for a couple of days to acclimatize by walking in and around Namche as acclimatization cannot be done in a hurry. A visit to Syangboche or some Sherpa villages such as Thame, Khumjung and Khunde just a few hours walk from Namche are good options for whiling away your time here.
Every Saturday morning, Namche Bazaar lights up with its weekly market gusto. The market is a spotlight in the middle of the town, and traders from Tibet and other villages come with the pieces of arts and goods to attract the hearts of their potential customers.
Bardiya National Park
Ride through the silent jungle catching wildlife by surprise in the largest national park of Nepal in Bardiya or take nature walk under the guidance of expert naturalists with years of experience.
Combine it with white-water rafting in the longest river of Nepal, Karnali, where you could even spot dolphins or gharial on a lucky day. And meet the charming Rana Tharu and Dangora people of southern Nepal to know more about their culture.
A trip to Bardiya is certain to stay in your memory as one of the most enduring experiences in Nepal. These jungles in the south-western parts of Nepal are an hour’s flight away with an incredible variety of mammals, reptiles and birds.
Bardiya National Park is also one of the most undisturbed protected areas in the Terai and is home to the endangered Royal Bengal tiger and Nepal's famous one-horned rhinoceros. The park located in the far western district of Bardiya, is bordered by River Karnali in the west, the Churia range in the north, while the River Babai flows right through.
The varied geographical factors together with the cover of Sal, Savannah forests and grasslands render this region ideal as wild animal habitat. The park hosts 30 different mammals, more than 250 species of birds, and several varieties of reptiles and water animals.
Some of the other animals found here are elephant, swamp deer, blackbuck, gharial crocodile and marsh-mugger crocodile. The exotic Gangetic dolphin is also sometimes seen in River Karnali. Birds include endangered varieties of Bengal florican, lesser florican, silver-eared mesia and sarus crane.
Rara National Park
Sojourn to the Rara region through thick pine and juniper forests and camp next to the sparkling Rara Lake at 2,990 m, walled by green hills on all sides. Boat in the clear waters, hike to nearby hills for nearer views of the mountains and lake, meet the charming local people, or just take a walk around the lake watching out for a wild flower or a rare bird on the way.
The park is surrounded by alpine coniferous vegetation and offers a representative sample of the region's flora and fauna. More than 500 different kinds of flowers, 20 different species of mammals and 214 species of birds can be observed at Rara National Park. As for water life in the lake, the snow trout is the fish variety recorded so far.
The rich vegetation of the park is home to the endangered red panda, musk deer, Himalayan black bear, leopard, jackal, Himalayan tahr, yellow-throated martin, wild dog, wild boar, common langur, rhesus macaque and common otter. During winter the park abounds in bird varieties like coots, great-crested grebe, black-necked grebe, red crested pochard, mallard, common teal, merganser and gulls. Migrant water fowls and gallinaceous birds can also be seen during certain seasons.
Rara in the far northwestern part of Nepal is the smallest national park, while the Rara Lake is the biggest lake in the country. The lake is 167 m deep at some places, and drains into the rivers Mugu Karnali via Nijar Khola. Chuchemara Hill at 4,087 m is the best vantage point to get the magnificent views of the deep blue clear lake and the forested hillsides as well as the snow capped peaks around it.
The easiest means to reach Rara is to take a flight from Nepalgunj to Jumla, from where your destination is 2-3 days walk away. You could also start this refreshing trek in the hilly village of Jumla where apple orchards stretch out over the hills.
The trek leads through remote countryside toward the Tibetan border. A journey into the Jumla region and the beautiful Rara Lake, is probably one of the most rewarding and fascinating treks in all the Himalayan range given its un-spoilt splendor of nature.
The best time to visit the park is autumn, spring and summer. As a well-loved tourist region, tourist services and infrastructure have developed over the years. However, for best experience it is still most advisable to be self sufficient if traveling alone. Lake Rara is also a popular pilgrimage site for Nepalis.
Tengboche Monastery is one of the most famous monasteries of Nepal, probably because of its unrivalled backdrop of Mount Ama Dablam. Tengboche Monastery is the leading Buddhist centre in the Khumbu with a residing Rinpoche who blesses pilgrims and travelers to the area.
Every October, Tengboche Monastery hosts the colorful Mani Rimdu festival, which is a culmination of Buddhist celebrations with religious gathering, songs, dances, enactments of legends. Visitors are also welcomed to partake in the festivities. Tours of the monastery are conducted every afternoon.
Atop a hill across Imja Khola, Tengboche is the most common night halt after Namche. The monastery is perched on a high ridge across the canyon from Khunde. This Buddhist monastery was burnt down in 1989 and rebuilt replacing the old building with a more solid structure.
Pines, azaleas and colourful mountain rhododendrons surround the attractive gompa (monastery), which rests amid stunning views of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. Tengboche itself features a rest house and a number of lodges and camping sites.
From Tengboche you can continue on to Pheriche, Kala Pattar and the hamlet of Gorakshep. From here, the site of Everest Base Camp is easily accessible, as is the summit of Kala Pattar (5,545 m), from which much of Mt. Everest is clearly visible. However, you must take time to properly acclimatize as the altitude gains are rapid.
Get charmed by one of the "off-the-beaten-track" destinations in Nepal, the ancient hill town of Tansen. Walk its cobbled bazaar to find a perfect Dhaka topi for yourself. Traverse around Shreenagar Hills, do a day hike to the Rani Mahal on the banks of the Kali Gandaki River or go backpacking along the river trail to find enchanting new routes.
Midway between the Indian border and Pokhara, Tansen's old artistic Newari houses, and cobbled streets, are waiting to be discovered. Palpa was the seat of the Sen kingdom that ruled over this region from 16th century for almost 300 years.
A picturesque hill town lying on the lap of the Shreenagar Hills, Tansen is the headquarters of Palpa district and the hub of the mid west culture of Nepal. The district varies from 250 to 2,000 m in elevation.
The town has houses strongly influenced by traditional Newari architecture. The name "Tansen" has its origin in the Magar language, meaning "northern settlement." Palpa with its diverse culture and religion falls in the twelve Magar regions of West Nepal.
Tansen can be visited at any time of the year. While the climate of Palpa varies from tropical to moderate, Tansen is moderate to warm with temperatures between 28 degree Celsius maximum during summer and 8 degree Celsius minimum in the winter. The months of June and July have maximum rain.
The percentage of the Magar and the Newar population in the district is high. Other inhabitants of Palpa are the Brahmin, Chhetri, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Gurung, Tamang, and Limbu.
Newars, originally from the Kathmandu valley, followed opportunities of trade and craft and migrated to different parts of Nepal. In Tansen they found an important crossroad of trading routes and administrative headquarters.
Though today's migration movement due to urbanization and decrease in agriculture brings people from all ethnic groups to Tansen, the Newari people still make up a high percentage of the population in the core area. There are also predominant Magar settlements in some parts of Palpa district. The Magars are assumed to be the first settlers in this area.
Tansen is in Palpa district, Lumbini zone.
There are regular buses from Kathmandu to Tansen - 296 km from Kathmandu via Butwal and about 324 km from Kathmandu via Pokhara. You can take a daily-scheduled flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara or Bhairahawa. Tansen is conveniently near Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and the popular tourist destination of Pokhara. It is about 3-4 hours drive from either of these cities.
There are a number of good to moderate hotels and lodges in Tansen to suit every budget and need. The hotels and lodges are clean and the staff hospitable. The modern restaurants serve excellent Nepali meals and some even serve continental cuisine.
Living Goddess Kumari
Want to experience divinity in real life? Welcome to Nepal, the land of living gods and goddesses. Kumari is derived from the Sanskrit word Kaumarya, which means princess. Learn the historical significance of worshiping a girl as a goddess; be a part of the tradition that dates back to the 17th century where two of the world’s oldest religions Hinduism and Buddhism interlink.
As the selection process of a Kumari resembles that of Tibetan Lamas, like the Panchen Lama or the Dalai Lama. Visit the Kumari Ghar, situated at Basantapur, where the goddess resides and to get a glimpse of the goddess.
If you are visiting around late August or early September, then be sure to be a part of the biggest and most vibrant festival in Nepal called Indra Jatra, where the Kumari, is paraded across the city, in her golden palanquin. It is quite a sight to behold, as hundreds of masked men and devotees dance to traditional Newari music and pull on the chariots of the Lord Indra and Kumari.
Trek through the hidden valleys of Dolpa, visit the ancient Shey Gompa (The Crystal Monastery), touch the icy waters of Phoksundo Lake, see yak caravans cross high-Himalayan passes, visit some of the highest settlments on earth like the Dho-Tarap valley; Dolpa will never cease to amaze you.
Dolpa or Dolpo was popularized by the film “Caravan” which showcases the extraordinary untouched beauty of the region.
It is remote and fascinating, confined by the Dhaulagiri range in the south and east, the mountains Sisne and Kanjiroba in the west and Tibet towards the north. Lake Phoksundo with its turquoise waters is the major attraction in Dolpa.
The people of Dolpa generally settle at altitudes of 3,660 m to 4,070 m and these are probably one of the highest settlements in the world. There are 130 gompas in Dolpa which speaks volumes for the religious nature of its inhabitants.
The trek is enlivened by the sight of yak caravans that even today travel long distances through difficult terrain to barter goods.
Closely linked with Tibet, the people speak Tibetan, have strong Mongoloid features, maintain their Tibetan culture with monasteries that follow closely the Buddhism of Tibet.
The proximity with Tibet has ensured that little has changed since their forefathers crossed the border into Nepal. This trek is an opportunity to meet people who follow a lifestyle that goes back centuries.
These unexplored, high altitude valleys were not opened until 1989. Isolated by the difficult topography, the people in this region have preserved their lifestyle, remaining almost untouched by the trappings of modern society.
Dolpa falls among Restricted Areas. Therefore, trekkers require Trekking Permit from the Department of Immigration in addition to the TIMS card to trek to this region. Trekkers should be physically fit as there are long and strenuous stretches en route.
Gokyo valley lies towards the west of the Khumbu region. In this serene valley, there are abundant pastures for yaks to graze during summer and the pristine turquoise lakes are breathtaking. Gokyo can be visited after trekking up to Everest Base Camp by adding another five days to the itinerary.
If Gokyo is the main destination, then the trek goes up the Everest trail only as far as the teahouses at Kenjoma (where the trail from Khumjung joins the main trail). From this point, the trail leads up towards Mong La pass before dropping steeply back down to the banks of the Dudh Koshi River. The trail then leads past rhododendron and oak forests and waterfalls which are often frozen. A couple of hours on this enchanting trail and Dole is reached, where you spend the night in a teahouse.
From Dole, it takes only four hours to reach Machherma. The valley that leads west above Machherma is worth a visit, and can be done in the afternoon. The valley is dominated by the unclimbed Mt. Kyojo Ri. The final trail up to Gokyo goes past teahouses at Pangkha and up the terminal moraine of the Ngozumpa glacier, which is the largest glacier in the country. Finally, just above the moraine you see the crystal clear waters of the first of the glacial lakes for which Gokyo valley is renowned.
From Gokyo, the eight-thousander Cho Oyu (8,153m) is seen towards the north. There are many great views around the valley. The most popular of them is seen by ascending a ridge for 2-3 hours to the north-west to reach a small summit. From here the view is a stupendous panorama extending from Cho Oyu and Everest, to Lhotse, and all the way to Makalu. This view is arguably better than the one above Gorak Shep.
There are two high passes leading out of the Gokyo valley, the Cho La pass being the most traveled, connecting with the Khumbu valley near Lobuche while the other is Renjo La pass that joins the trail between Thame and Nangpa La pass. Following the Everest trek route one takes the alternative exit route as far as Phortse.
From here walk along the eastern side of the valley through the village of Konar. There are no facilities available on this side of the valley until the small teahouses at Nah, a six hours trek from Phortse. Nah is a good place for camping, but for proper accommodation you need to walk another four hours to reach Pangkha. From here follow the route described previously.
Throughout the Kathmandu Valley centuries-old traditional artisan skills continue today. Take a course in woodcarving, stone masonry, pottery or learn delicate Thangka painting from artisans who have been practising this skills for generations.
Nepal is made of Gods and Goddesses, temples and palaces, arts and crafts, music and war history. However, there is one skill, which is common in every quarter, and that is 'hands of skilled workers'.
Nepal is the birthplace of Araniko, a famous artist, of the late 12th century, from the Kathmandu Valley who would travel miles to China, Beijing and build famous White Stupa at the Miaoying Temple. He is a key figure in Chinese culture because it's him who had introduced pagoda style architecture in China, for the first time and the rest is, merely, history.
Nepal's temples and statues of gods, and other figures are, simply, standards of the perfection of handicrafts. From the very typical households to melting iron for making the world-famous knife, Khukuri, Nepalese artists are masters of their own. Nepalese cultural craft is, especially, noble for considering the varieties of recognizable artisan inhabitants. For example, Nepal is famous for Carpets, Thanka (Painting of Gods) Newari Wood Carving, Himalayan Nepalese Paper, Tibetan Handicraft, Buddhist and Hindu statues, Mithila Wall Art, Bamboo knitted umbrella, and for its indigenously crafted household items.
Nepal's most known dishes are probably dal bhat (rice and lentils) and the popular momos. And besides the international dishes from continental to Asian, Nepal that are available in the touristic areas, Nepal has a wide variety of local dishes to discover.
There is no better way to understand Nepal and the Nepali people, than through their kitchen. Nepal does not have a distinct cooking style. However, food habits differ depending on the region. Nepali food has been influenced by Indian and Tibetan styles of cooking. Authentic Nepali taste is found in Newari and Thakali cuisines. Most Nepalis do not use cutlery but eat with their right hand.
The regular Nepali meal is dal (lentil soup), bhat (boiled rice) and tarkari (curried vegetables), often accompanied by achar (pickle). Curried meat is very popular, but is saved for special occasions, as it is relatively more expensive. Acquired from Tibetans, momos (steamed or fried dumplings) deserve a mention as one of the most popular snack among Nepalis. Rotis (flat bread) and dhedo (boiled flour) also make meals in some homes.
Wherever a self may go, his exploration would be incomplete without getting an opportunity to taste the local food of the destination. Nepal is the land of delicious, cuisine. Varieties of cuisine are available upon categories of ethnicity, geography, and climate of the country. Rice is the major source of energy in the country, where - everywhere - Nepali people love to consume two times a day, as lunch and dinner, every day. However, side dishes may vary from lentils to vegetable curries to meat curries to extremely spicy pickle.
Rice remaining constant, the side dishes is the excitements of the Nepali cuisine. Depending upon culture and ethnicity, chef of the Nepali houses (mothers especially) tend to settle curries with complex spices that she had learned from her mother, which traditionally has been in survival for centuries. Nepal's cuisine is mostly, but not all of them, spicy, however on request, spices can be reduced without compromising the taste of the dish.
Newars, indigenous to the Kathmandu Valley, cater the best snacks in the country. Their cuisine makes much use of buffalo meat, however, their vegetable soup, made of potato and bamboo shoot, is simply tempting.
People of mid-hills of Nepal are renowned for their heavy cum delicious lunches. Especially, Thakalis are notable for producing high-grade rice, lentils, vegetables, and curries in the country.
The Himalayan cuisine of Nepal is much influenced by the Tibetan culture. Exquisite yak cheese of the Himalayan region is notably famous in all over the country, and beyond. Butter tea and noodles are often consumed in this region.
The lowland of Nepal, Madhesh (Terai), is the grain vault of the country. Much of the food and fruits of Nepal are produced in this region. Tharu, indigenous the Terai make the delicious food of 'chicher' and they, relatively, make the delicious fish curry in the country.
Nepali people, normally, have their lunch before leaving for work, school, or colleges. So, there is a system of having healthy and heavy, alike, breakfast or high tea during the lunch time. At this time, since Nepali people love eating in their own traditional manner, much of hybrid dishes like momo - which is believed to Tibetan dish, but after mixing with Nepali spices - becomes the Nepal momo cha religiously served at every second party and by every restaurant is almost like the national dish and is highly recommended.