Lumbini is the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama- the Lord Buddha that became a place of faith for millions from around the world. This Mecca for Buddha devotees and believers is located in the Rupandehi District in the Terai lowlands of Nepal.
It is a significant pilgrimage place with significant historical, cultural, religious, and national significance and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lumbini is blessed with a range of attractions relating to the major events of Buddha's life, including diverse sites, monuments, and shrines.
People come here because it marks one of the most important sites for their faith. Some come for a brief visit and concentrate on prayer in the Sacred Garden while some visit and stay for longer to gain spiritual experience. Whatever the reason is for them to visit here, it should be a life-changing experience inspired by the Buddha’s life and teachings.
While visiting Lumbini, there are numerous things to do in the region that are not confined to visiting the Sacred Garden or seeking a spiritual experience. So, take a look at our list of the best things to do in Lumbini and use it as a guideline to help you decide what is ideal for you.
Top things to do in Lumbini
1. Explore the Sacred Garden
The first thing first comes is the Sacred Garden while visiting Lumbini. The Sacred Garden is located in the heart of Lumbini, and it is here that the most important sections of the site may be found. The Ashoka Pillar in the garden built by the Indian emperor Ashoka to commemorate his visit to Lumbini states that Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Prince Siddhartha in this location in 623 BC.
When you enter the garden, you will immediately feel the weight of your surroundings. Pilgrims sit in peaceful prayer beneath prayer flags strung amongst the trees. The garden's center point is the enormous Sacred Pond named Pushkarini Pond, where Queen Mayadevi is claimed to have bathed before giving birth and where she gave her son his first purification wash.
The Mayadevi Temple, on the other hand, is the most prominent archaeological, historical, cultural, and spiritual site in the garden. The big white temple structure visible from the outside is actually a newer structure, having been completed in 2003. It's just there to protect what's within, and it's unimportant in and of itself. When you get at the Marker Stone and take a minute to reflect on what it means, you've completed the physical journey that the Lumbini site's architects planned.
The ancient ruins of stupas and monks in maroon congregating under a sprawling Bodhi Tree draped with colorful prayer flags are another notable thing inside ‘the Sacred Garden’ on Lumbini.
2. Explore Lumbini Monastic Site
Lumbini’s sacred site is surrounded by a huge monastic zone where only temples and monasteries are present to provide insights into Buddhism, its propagation, and the system of belief that acts as a common thread to help maintain harmonious associations between several countries. No stores, motels, or restaurants are permitted in the area. The zone is divided into an eastern and western monastic zone by a lengthy water-filled canal. Theravada Buddhism dominates the eastern zone while Vajrayana and Mahayana dominate the western part.
I. East Monastic Zone
The eastern monastic zone of Lumbini represents Theravada Buddhism which means "elder's teachings," with the elders being senior Buddhist monks. This school of Buddhism considers itself to be the most faithful to the Buddha's original teachings. Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar are the epicenters of Theravada Buddhism which is also known as ‘Southern Buddhism’.
So being dominated by Theravada Buddhism, Eastern Monastic Zone houses the temples and monasteries built by the Southern Asian countries such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, etc. Visitors will not only get to learn about this Buddhism but also admire the fascinating different architectures. The temples, monasteries, and a Vipassana center in this zone are:
A. Royal Thai Buddhist Monastery
B. Myanmar Golden Monastery
C. Mahabodhi Society Temple of India
D. Dhamma Janani Vipassana Center (Nepal)
E. International Gautami Nuns Temple (Nepal)
F. Sri Lankan Monastery
II. West Monastic Zone
The western monastic zone of Lumbini has fourteen Mahayana Buddhism where Mahayana and Vajrayana practices are followed and two Vipassana Meditation Centers. Mahayana Buddhism is the largest Buddhism sect in the world and Vajrayana Buddhism is a branch of Buddhism that is believed to have started from Mahayana practices. These practices are followed at zeal in Tibet, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Mongolia. Some of these along with other countries such as France, Canada, Germany, Austria, etc. have built monasteries and meditation centers in the zone. They are:
- A. Zhong Hua Chinese Buddhist Monastery (China)
- B. Dae Sung Shakya Temple (South Korea)
- C. Geden International Monastery (Austria)
- D. Urgen Dorjee Chholing Buddhist Centre (Singapore)
- E. French Buddhist Association (France)
- F. The World Linh Son Buddhist Congregation (France)
- G. The Great Lotus Stupa (Tara Foundation) (Germany)
- H. Vietnam Phat Quoc Tu (Vietnam)
- I. Thrangu Vajra Vidhya Buddhist Foundation (Canada)
- J. United Tungaram Buddhist Foundation (Nepal)
- K. Drubgyud Chhoeling Monastery (Nepal Mahayana Temple)
- L. Dharmodhaya Sabha Nepal (Swayambhu Mahavihara)
- M. Karma Samtenling Monastery (Nepal)
- N. Manang Samaj Stupa (Nepal)
- O. Pandirarama Lumbini International Meditation Center (Myanmar)
- P. Drigung Kagyud Meditation Centre (Laddakh)
3. World Peace Pagoda
The World Peace Pagoda is located at the site's northernmost point. The pagoda was built in the early twenty-first century by Japan to promote the value of peace and love. It is one of the most popular destinations in Lumbini. This magnificent stupa is white in hue with the tree level of staircases. There are four massive golden Buddha sculptures facing four different directions.
4. Visit Lumbini Crane Sanctuary
The Crane Sanctuary is located next to the World Peace Pagoda. This wetland was established to provide a haven for native birds, especially Saris Cranes. These world’s highest-flying birds are estimated to be 100 couples in the sanctuary. They are particularly significant in Lumbini because of their unique connection to the Buddha's life story. You can also sight some antelope-like blue bull, Indian spotted eagle, gyps, owls, etc. And for the spectacular views of this reserve, you can walk over to the watchtower.
5. Visit Tilaurakot
Tilaurakot is about 25km west of Lumbini. It is an important archaeological site that houses an ancient palace, where the Buddha spent his 29 years as a Shakya Prince before he embarked on his journey to become the Buddha. It is believed that the Lord Buddha as Prince Siddhartha stood at the eastern gate of Kapilavastu from where we can see the farmlands before taking that first step toward enlightenment.
And while you are here, take some time to roam around and take in the ambiance. There is also the Kapilvastu Museum near Tilaurakot. The museum houses pottery, jewelry, and ornaments of that period.
6. Visit Ramagram Stupa
Another thing to do during your Lumbini journey is to visit the Ramagrama Stupa. It is one of the eight places where the Buddha's relics were placed following his cremation. It is also the only one that hasn't been opened by Emperor Ashoka because he got a vision of a snake deity telling him not to meddle with the site when he arrived.
The Ramagrama Stupa is on a Tentative List for nomination as a new UNESCO World Heritage site because of its significance.
7. Meditation Retreat
Buddhism places a high value on meditation. Buddha himself practiced meditation to achieve enlightenment. So, you can also meditate deeply in one of the meditation centers in Lumbini in the hopes of experiencing the same enlightenment that converted Prince Siddhartha into Lord Buddha. You can also meditate under the Bodhi tree in the Sacred Garden.
8. Boating in Central Canal
The water of the central canal flows through the monastic sites and connects the village area to the Sacred Garden. It is an excellent location for boating activities and viewing the surroundings. You can find modest outboard motorboats that conduct trips at each end of the canal. Otherwise, you have the option of walking down the canal's side, which is supposed to resemble a pilgrimage. Alternatively, you can cycle through one of the site's monastic zones.
9. Cycling Around Town
Cycling is a great way to get closer to the heart of local culture in Lumbini. It is affordable as well as simple to ride because the roads are flat with less traffic. You can enjoy the acres of land covered in mustard flowers and rice paddies. You will be able to observe ancient living styles and people with big smiles.
10. Visit Lumbini Museum
The Lumbini museum is tucked away in the compound’s northern end in the cultural zone. The museum is dedicated to the Buddha’s life and houses an enormous collection of artifacts and images portraying both Lumbini and Lord Buddha. The complex also maintains religious manuscripts, terra-cotta fragments, stone and metal sculptures, and rare and ancient Mauryan and Kushana coins.
When to Travel to Lumbini?
Lumbini is accessible throughout the year and visiting here at any time of year will be a rewarding experience for devotees of Lord Buddha. However, if you’re unsure when to visit Lumbini or come when it’s at its best to fully immerse yourself in the experience without having to worry about inconveniences, here’s a detailed guide about the ideal time to visit Lumbini.
Autumn (October – mid-December)
The greatest time to visit Lumbini and discover its landmarks and architecture is in the autumn. The post-monsoon month, October has a clear sky and clean atmosphere. The temperature also begins to cool off which makes the travel to Lumbini very convenient. The sunrise and sunset views are at their most stunning during the autumn season. The temperature ranges from 12°C to 28°C, which is rather pleasant.
Winter (mid-December – March)
Winter is harsh in Lumbini. The temperature can get as low as 2°C. And the mornings are foggy and weary because of excessive humidity, limiting a good sightseeing experience.
Spring (March – April)
After the harsh winters, the temperatures begin to rise, and the fog lifts, leaving you with a bright and colorful atmosphere ideal for stepping out to explore. The big festival of Buddha Purnima is also held in April or May when hordes of believers and visitors flock from all over the world to commemorate Buddha's birth in his country.
Summer/Monsoon (Late April-September)
Temperatures begin to climb significantly in late April and May, reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius. The monsoon season starts in mid-to late-June and can persist until September. While the rains provide some reprieve from the oppressive heat, the humidity levels are still too high to enjoy any outdoor strolls or sightseeing.
How to get to Lumbini?
The major gateway to enter Nepal is Kathmandu because it houses the only International Airport in the country. The other ways are via the Nepal-Tibet border or the Nepal-India border. So, to get to Lumbini these three ways are open for international travelers.
Being Kathmandu the major spot, let’s take a look at the options from Kathmandu to Lumbini
- Getting Lumbini from Kathmandu
Lumbini is about 270 kilometers away from the capital Kathmandu. Both air and road options are available from Kathmandu to Lumbini. A charter flight is a quickest and most comfortable option, but it is also the most expensive. For the budget options, you can either take the public vehicle transfer or tourist bus transfer.
Flying is the quickest method to get to Lumbini from Kathmandu. And there are daily flights from Kathmandu to Bhairahawa (Gautman Buddha International Airport) which take around 30 minutes. Buddha Air, Yeti Airlines, and Shree Airlines are the only airlines that fly between these two cities. Lumbini is about a 28-kilometer/30 minutes drive from the Gautam Buddha International Airport by taxi or public transfer.
(Note: Depending upon the visitors’ budget and interest, a chartered helicopter flight is also possible from Kathmandu to Lumbini.)
The road is the most common way to get to Lumbini from Kathmandu. The drive on the tarmac road might last 7-10 hours depending upon the traffic. The drive is scenic where you will go from the hilly region to the Terai plains and notice a dramatic shift in the landscape. The level of comfort may vary on your road trip, depending on your mode of transportation but none of the ground transportation options will match the comfort of a flight, maybe due to time constraints. However, the cost is more comfortable when traveling via road than via flight.
If you are planning to travel via roadways, here are the options to choose from.
• By Private Transfer
A private transfer from Kathmandu to Lumbini is the next most comfortable option after flying. You can eat and rest anywhere you want and have frequent rest stops. The cost of hiring the private transfer may vary based on the vehicle model, size, and seat numbers.
• By local/tourist bus
Local and tourist bus services are only recommended if you are on a tight budget or experience the local way of traveling.
Tourist buses are a little more expensive than the local ones with services like air conditioning, comfortable seats, and sufficient lunch and comfort stops. The prices might again vary depending upon the ongoing market value and pre-booked tickets are also not compulsory. However, your seats will be secure during the peak season and traveling with a large group if you book the ticket in advance.
Being the cheapest in all, local vehicles/buses are loud and crowded with no air conditioning and no comfort stops. Sometimes, the seats are broken and the buses are overloaded and you have to eat at local eateries along the highway.
Another downside of traveling via local and tourist vehicles is that they won’t drop you off at the Lumbini Bazaar but at Buddha Chowk from where you have to take another vehicle to reach Lumbini Bazaar.
2. Getting Lumbini from Nepal-India Border
There are 8 open Nepal-India borders from where one can travel from one country to other. If you want to travel to Lumbini from India, Sunauli, around 30 kilometers away from Lumbini, is the closest border crossing. After arriving in Sunauli, you can take a rickshaw or available public vehicle to Buddha Chowk, where you will see the buses waiting to go to Lumbini Bazaar. You can also hire a private transfer which is more expensive but more convenient.
3. Getting Lumbini from other places
• Lumbini is about 170 kilometers from Pokhara. You can either take a flight, a private vehicle, or a public transfer to get to Lumbini from Pokhara city.
• It is just 130 kilometers from Chitwan National Park. And it is the closest place to visit from. You can opt. to drive on a private jeep or car or a local bus.
4. Getting Lumbini from the Nepal-Tibet border
Travelers traveling from the Nepal-Tibet border have to drive to Kathmandu and opt. to choose to drive or fly from Kathmandu as above mentioned.
Lumbini is full of history. It tells a lot about the Lord Buddha’s life. It is where the people seek spiritual experience. It is the place where people go to find nirvana.
Choose anything from the above list of best things to do in Lumbini and make a tribute to the creator of philosophy, whose goal was to eradicate suffering from human life.