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Buddhist Travel in Nepal – Birthplace of a Religion

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Buddhist sites, destinations, festivals and history

Nepal may be a majority Hindu country, but did you know that Lord Buddha himself was born here? Hindu and Buddhist communities have lived peacefully side-by-side for many years in Nepal, and the country is filled with beautiful stupas and some of the most important sites in all of Buddhism. Whilst neighbouring Bhutan and Tibet offer colourful Buddhist travel experiences, Nepal takes you back to where it all began.

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The birthplace of Buddha

Lumbini is a village in the Terai plains in what is now southern Nepal, and was the birthplace of Gautama Buddha (or Siddhartha Gautama) back in 624 BC. As a young man, he left his wealthy family behind and spent his time wandering, begging, meditating and eventually attaining spiritual enlightenment, or nirvana. He went on to teach and formed the basis of what is now the Buddhist religion – followed by some 400 million people worldwide to this day.

He became known as the Lord Buddha, and his birthplace in Lumbini became one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the world, with well over a million visitors every year. The village itself is a complex of shrines, monasteries artwork dedicated to Buddha, and visitors can see the Lumbini garden where Maya Devi gave birth to the boy that would become Lord Buddha.

Maya Devi temple in Lumbini
The Maya Devi temple in Lumbini - named after Lord Buddha's mother

Interestingly, Hindus also revere Lord Buddha, regarding him as the 9th reincarnation or Lord Vishnu – a god in their own religion.

It’s a fascinating, peaceful and deeply spiritual place, whether you follow Buddhism or not. Pilgrims walk next to the origins of their religion, whilst Buddhist monks debate and meditate in the shade of the trees and fluttering prayer flags.

Lumbini prayer flags
Prayer flags in Lumbini - birthplace of Gautama Buddha

Other important Buddhist travel destinations in Nepal

Boudhanath Stupa
Boudhanath Stupa at night

In the western part of Kathmandu, Boudhanath Stupa is one of Nepal’s most famous Buddhist sites. Situated on an ancient trade route from Tibet, a number of Tibetan gompas (monasteries) were built around the giant white dome and golden spire.

Monkeys at Swayambhunath
Monkeys at Swayambhunath in Kathmandu

Another important Kathmandu stupa, Swayambhunath is known to many tourists as the Monkey Temple thanks to the hundreds of monkeys that hang around here. More than just a stupa, it’s surrounded by a complex of shrines and temple and sits on top of a hill in the east of the city, providing an excellent view of Kathmandu.

Seto Gumba
The view from Seto Gumba

Also known at White Gumba and Druk Amitabh Monastery, this peaceful Tibetan Buddhist monastery isn’t far from Swayambhunath in east Kathmandu. It was damaged quite badly in 2015 earthquake, but has been restored and is open to the public once again.

Tengboche Monastery
Tengboche monastery skyline
Tengboche monastery skyline

Situated in the beautiful Sagarmatha National Park some 3,870m above sea level, this is perhaps the Khumbu (Everest) region’s most famous Buddhist sites. It’s a place of huge importance to the Sherpa community, and a popular stop on the Everest Base Camp Trek.

World Peace Pagoda
The Peace Pagoda on Lake Phewa
The Peace Pagoda on Lake Phewa

Also known as Shanti Stupa, this more recent Buddhist site was built to promote world peace in the aftermath of World War II. It’s also easily accessible from Pokhara, and provides a wonderful view of the city and the beautiful Phewa Lake.

Mahaboudha Temple

One of the most striking and beautifully crafted Buddhist temples in Nepal is Mahaboudha, located to the south of Patan Durbar Square. Built in 1585, it is made up from 9,000 bricks, each holding an image of Buddha. It’s affectionately known as “the temple of a thousand Buddhas”.

Halesi-Maratika Caves

A natural cave in the Khotang district of eastern Nepal, this site holds importance for Buddhists and Hindus alike. For Buddhists, it is the legendary place where Guru Padmasambhava and Dakini Mandarava achieved immortality, whilst Hindus regard it as a sacred place associated with Lord Shiva.

Shey Gompa

At 4,200m above sea level in the mountainous Dolpa district, Shey Gompa is one of Nepal’s most remote and peaceful Buddhist sites, requiring days of trekking through dramatic landscapes and traversing the 5,151m Kanga La pass to reach it. It’s been around since the 11th century and is an important place of spirituality.

Buddhist festivals in Nepal

Nepal is a land of colourful festivals, both Hindu and Buddhist. Some of the most important Buddhist festivals celebrated include;


This marks the start of the new year and usually falls in February or March, primarily over 3 days but with celebrations stretching over 15 days in total. Expect to see plenty of dancing, feasting and elaborate outfits, wherever you are in Nepal.

Buddha Jayanti

A day to celebrate the birth of Lord Buddha, usually falling in April or May. Buddhist sites are adorned with prayer flays and thousands of pilgrims travel to Lumbini to pay their respects.

Mani Rimdhu

This festival usually falls in November or December, and is celebrated by Sherpas in the Khumbu region around Mount Everest. Monks perform dances to mark the victory of Buddhism over the indigenous Bon religion that used to dominate here.

Tiji festval

Usually falling over 3 days in May, Tiji is celebrated by the Lhoba people in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal. It’s a colourful, lively festival which celebrates the story of a son defeating his demon father and saving the people of Mustang from destruction.


This festival marks the end of summer and lasts for 3 days in July in the town of Ranipauwa, Mustang. It comprises a royal day, a monks day and a day for ordinary people and tourists. The highlight for most is the thrilling horse racing competition that takes place around the town.

Buddhist travel and retreats in Nepal

Whether you’re a Buddhist yourself or just want to experience the culture, sites and communities associated with it, Nepal offers countless opportunities to get in touch with the origins and teachings of Buddhism.

It’s easy enough the visit major Buddhist sites such as Kathmandu’s Bhoundanath Stupa as part of a larger itinerary, and even the birthplace of Bhudda in Lumbini can easily be reached by air or road.

There are numerous spiritual and Buddhist retreats scattered through Nepal in stunning countryside locations, including silent retreats, yoga retreats and Buddhist meditation retreats. One of our favourites is the Kopan Monastery, where you can live alongside the monks to study Buddhism, learn meditation or simply escape from the modern world for a while.

monks at Kopan Monastery
monks at Kopan Monastery

If you’re looking for a tour that’ll give you a good insight into Buddhist culture and history in the Nepal, we’d recommend this unique Pikey Peak Trek in the Everest region, with Royal Mountain Travel. It passes through a region full of remote monasteries and Buddhist history.

Himalayan landscapes on the Pikey Peak Trek

We work with expert local travel planners who’ll help tailor a trip just for you, and can take care of all your hotel, transport and tour bookings too. Just get in touch if you’d like to start creating your perfect Nepal adventure.

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