11 days of immersion in the Buddhist history and culture of Nepal, including the trip of a lifetime to visit Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.Departure:
11 Days Best Season:
October to March (Possible all year round)
This tour takes us through scenic Nepal to Lumbini, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautam, The Buddha. We will visit his birthplace at Kapilvastu, as well as Tilaurkot where he spent his early years before leaving his princely life to seek enlightenment.
At Lumbini we will see the sacred pond, Puskarni, where Queen Maya Devi took a bath before giving birth to the Buddha and where the infant Buddha was given his first purification bath. We will also see the exact birthplace of Lord Buddha, marked by a stone slab that was revealed after excavating three layers of ruins over an ancient Maya Devi temple. We see the pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka in 249 BC to commemorate his pilgrimage to the sacred site and the famous bas-relief image of Maya Devi. She is depicted supporting herself with her right hand holding a branch of a Sal tree, with the newly born infant Buddha standing upright on a lotus pedestal in an oval halo. Two other celestial figures are depicted pouring water and lotus flowers bestowed from heaven.
Our tour takes us through some of the most beautiful places in Nepal. We see the ancient pilgrimage sites of the Kathmandu Valley, experience the contrast of the hills and the vast terai plains of Nepal and return via the beautiful hill station of Tansen and enchanting lakeside Pokhara.
BRIEF ITINERARYDay 01:
Welcome to Kathmandu Day 02:
Kathmandu’s ancient pilgrimage sitesDay 03:
Manakamana Temple by cable carDay 04:
Overland to LumbiniDay 05:
Visit the ancient Tiluarkot palace complexDay 06:
Visit Buddhist temples at Lumbini Day 07:
Overland to Pokhara, via TansenDay 08:
Pilgrimage sites in PokharaDay 09:
Fly back to KathmanduDay 10:
Pilgrimage tour in KathmanduDay 11:
Day 01: Welcome to Kathmandu
Upon your arrival at Kathmandu airport we will greet you and transfer you to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time, we can organise some exploring in the afternoon to introduce you to this amazing place and its unique ancient-modern mix. We will explore the ancient bazaars of Kathmandu and introduce you to the unique Buddhist culture of the Newari people of the Kathmandu Valley.
Exploring the old city, you’ll wander through narrow streets and alleyways, discovering hidden temples and meeting the locals. Exotic produce and a bewildering mix of people are everywhere; you're likely to see Ghurkhas, Tibetan women in their striped aprons, traders from India, and sadhus - Hindu holy men - perhaps on pilgrimage to one of the many temples and shrines of the valley. Amongst the bustling Bazaar streets we will glimpse the private courtyards and community temples and visit Seto Macchendranath (Machendra Bahal) and KattiSwayambhu, the replica of Swayambhunath in old Kathmandu.
Day 02: Kathmandu’s ancient pilgrimage sites
This morning you have the option of taking an early morning mountain flight before breakfast – this flight is a truly spectacular 1 hour flight along the Himalayan Range to unforgettable Mount Everest and back!
After breakfast we visit the ancient pilgrimage sites in the Kathmandu Valley, including the sacred Buddhist sites of Boudhanath, Swayambhunath and Patan, said to be the oldest Buddhist town in the world.
This Stupa, 8 kms. east of Kathmandu City, is one of the biggest in the world. It stands with four pairs of eyes in the four cardinal directions keeping watch for righteous behaviour and human prosperity. This Buddhist Stupa was built by King Man Deva on the advice of the Goddess Mani Jogini. Boudanath is part of the shared history of Nepal and Tibet, with Tibet having held ruling privileges over the site until the last century. It is built on an octagonal base inset with prayer wheels and the stupa is ringed by houses of Lamas or Buddhist priests, monasteries and shops.
Located in a hilltop above Kathmandu, this Buddhist Stupa is said to be 2000 years old and is one of Nepal’s most important Buddhist sanctuaries. The oldest inscription discovered dates back to the 5th century and refers to the founding of a monastery.
The Stupa which forms the main structure is composed of a solid hemisphere of brick and earth supporting a lofty conical spire capped by a pinnacle of copper gilt. Painted on the four sided base of the spire are the all seeing eyes of Lord Buddha. The whole hill is a mosaic of small Chaityas (memorials) and temples and it is one of the only places that you can see the Stupa, Pagoda and Shikar style of temple. It is a sacred Buddhist place of worship, but it is also holy to Hindus and you can also find Hindu shrines here – a fine illustration of the religious tolerance found in Nepal.
The cities in the Kathmandu Valley are made up of 3 ancient cities and Patan is located across the Bagmati River to the south of Kathmandu city. Patan is also known as Lalitpur, the city of fine arts. According to legend the founding of Patan dates back to Pre-Christian times. As opposed to the Malla cities of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur that were mainly influenced by the Hindu religion, Patan was for many years a major Buddhist city. It is believed that it was founded in the third century B.C. by the famous Buddhist emperor, Ashoka, who visited the town while on a pilgrimage from Northern India and built four stupas that enclosed the centre of the old town. This would make it the oldest continuing Buddhist town in the world.
We will visit the Patan Durbar Square and see the Krishna Temple built by King Siddhi Narsingh Malla, Hiranya Varna Mabavihar and the Mahadouddha Temple.
This is followed by a trip to the Tibetan Refugee Camp and Handicraft Centre, where you can see the hand weaving of Tibetan carpets and mounding of metal statues.
Day 03: Manakamana Temple by cable car
After breakfast this morning we will leave the Kathmandu Valley and drive to Kurintar for lunch visiting the Manakamana Temple. Manakamana is known as the Goddess of Wishes and we take a cable car up the mountain to her temple! Tonight we stay at the Riverside Springs Resort at Kurintar and enjoy the sandy beaches on the Trisuli River, or take a dip in one of Nepal’s best swimming pools.
People believe Manakamana Devi fulfills the wishes of her devotees and a constant stream of pilgrims visits to pay homage and offer sarifices. The shrine of Manakamana was built in the 17 century and, as it is an immensely popular temple, it has been renovated a number of times over the centuries. It has a four story pagoda style roof with the entrance from the South-West. The shrine is located on a prominent ridge, 1302m above sea level, overlooking the Trisuli and Marsyangdi river valleys.
The unique location is dramatized during winter when the ridge appears as an island above the sea of morning mist. Spectacular views include deep valleys, terraced fields and stunning views of the Manaslu-Himalchuli and Annapurna Ranges. In the past, the only access to the region was by arduous climb of over five hours but one can now visit the shrine in comfort by Manakamana cable car.
Day 04: Overland to Lumbini, birthplace of Lord Buddha
After a delightful breakfast overlookiung the river we continue our overland journey to Lumbini. After getting settled we will take a walk through the sacred Lumbini Garden where the Buddha was born, visiting the Ashoka Pillar, the Maya Devi Temple and bas-relief sculpture of Maya Devi and see some of the temples built by Buddhists from around the world.
Lumbini is a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the Kapilavastu district of Nepal, near the Indian border. It is the place where Queen Mayadevi is said to have given birth to Siddharth Gautama, who in turn, as the Buddha Gautama, gave birth to the Buddhist tradition. The Buddha lived between roughly 563 and 483 BCE.
Lumbini is one of four magnets for pilgrimage that sprang up in places pivotal to the life of the Buddha, the others being at Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar. As of 1997, Lumbini is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The holy site at Lumbini has ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, an ancient bathing pond, the Asokan pillar and the Mayadevi temple, where the precise place of birth of Buddha is located. From early morning to early evening, pilgrims from various countries perform chanting and meditation at the site.
Day 05: Visit the ancient Tiluarkot palace complex
Today we get to know the early years of Lord Buddha, visiting the palace of the ancient kingdom of Kapilvastu. We drive 27 km west of Lumbini, through traditional villages and rice fields, to the immensely important archaelogical site of Tilaurkot. The ancient palace of King Suddodha, Siddhartha Gautam’s Father, is where the Buddha spent his formative years as a prince of the Shakya clan.
Today there are only ruins and we soak up the peaceful atmosphere of the old palace complex and the unique countryside that surrounds it. We will visit the museum nearby before heading back to our hotel for a relaxing evening in the southern plains of Nepal.
Day 06: Visit Buddhist temples at Lumbini
The holy site of Lumbini is bordered by a large monastic zone, in which only monasteries can be built, no shops or hotels or restaurants. It is separated into an eastern and western monastic zone, the eastern having the Theravadin monasteries, the western having Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries.
After breakfast today we will visit many of the temples and shrines built in honour of the Buddha by devout Buddhists in various countries.
Day 07: Overland to Pokhara
After breakfast we bid farewell to Lumbini and Nepal’s southern plains, driving up into the beautiful hill station of Tansen for lunch. At an altitude of 1343m, Tansen is a popular summer retreat, with mountain views and a charming old town, palace and bazaar.
After lunch we continue on through lush valleys to Pokhara, a stunning lakeside town with incredible mountain views, 200km west of Kathmandu.
The rare combination of snow-clad peaks and snow fed lakes and rivers has helped to make the valley of Pokhara (210kms/131 miles from Kathmandu) one of the most picturesque natural attractions in Nepal. It is virtually in the centre of Nepal and, while it is only 800m above sea level, it has stunning close up views of the Himalayan Range, in particular the famous Annapurna massif.
There are really two towns here today; one is the busy section, with hotels and restaurants down by the lake that most tourists find themselves in, and the other consists of the noisy back streets of the fast diminishing old town. Here you will find the old bazaar, with traditional buildings built by Newari artisans who migrated westwards from Kathmandu three hundred years ago.
Day 08: Guided tour in Pokhara
This morning we will get up early - before dawn - to make the journey by jeep/van and a short walk to the hilltop village of Sarankot. Here, with breakfast being prepared for us, we revel in the sight of one of Nepal's most famous vistas – the stunning sight of the Annapurnas and Machhapuchhare emerging from the morning mists as the sun rises.
After breakfast we will take in the sights of Pokhara, including the Devil’s Falls, the limestone caves at Mahendra Gufa and Binde Basini Temple. In the afternoon, you can go for a leisurely boat ride on Phewa Tal, the lake beside which Pokhara lies, basking in the splendour of this gorgeous setting; you can take a walk up to the World Peace Pagoda; or you can get wild and go paragliding and Para hawking!
Day 09: Fly back to Kathmandu
After an early breakfast this morning we head for the airport for our flight back to Kathmandu. This is a truly stunning flight, taking half an hour along the Himalayan Range from the Annapurnas, past Manaslu and Ganesh Himal to Langtang.
From the Kathmandu airport we will head up to Nagarkot to enjoy a relaxing afternoon in a comfortable resort in this charming town on the rim of the Kathmandu Valley.
Nagarkot is one of the most scenic spots in the Kathmandu Valley and beyond. Situated about 35 km east of Kathmandu, on the valley rim, you can have excellent views of the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan Range. It is a favourite place to relax and pamper yourself and to enjoy the spectacular sunrise and sunsets over the snowy peaks.
Day 10: Pilgrimage tour in Kathmandu
After an early start to view the stunning sunrise, followed by a hearty breakfast, we depart to visit Changunarayan Temple. This is the oldest temple in the Kathmandu Valley (and some say the oldest in Nepal) and has unique designs and carvings, different from others in the Valley. We will drive a short way and then have a scenic 1 ½ hour walk down to the temple through forest and villages.
We will have a packed lunch overlooking the Kathmandu Valley at Changunarayan before we visit the unspoiled villages of Khokana and Bungamati.
Changunarayan Temple is situated on a ridge overlooking the Kathmandu Valley. One of the finest and oldest specimens of pagoda architecture, the temple is said to be the oldest pagoda style temple in Nepal built sometime back in 323 A.D. It is dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu – the Preserver. The ancient complex is one of the Kathmandu Valley’s 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From the temple you can have amazing views of farming land and villages in this end of the valley against the backdrop of the Himalayan Range.
Khokana / Bungamati
The twin villages of Bungamati and Khokana date from 16th century and are typical ancient Newar Villages. They are located south of Kathmandu down a rutty road dotted with chaityas, very appropriate for an ancient procession route.
Bungamati is famous as the winter home of the Red Machhendra god of Patan who resides every winter in a powerful, Shikhara-style temple. Its spacious courtyard is often used for spreading grain to dry in the sun at harvest time.
Khokanalies next to Bungamati and in between the two villages is the temple of Karya Binayak . Like Bungamati, Khokana is a compact village, with a wide main street running through it. In the middle of the street is the temple of Sikali Mai, Khokana's guardian mother goddess. Khokana has long been famous as an oil-pressing centre where mustard seeds are pressed using traditional methods and if you are lucky you will see traditional weaving done by elderly ladies in the sun on the street and courtyards.
Day 11: Farewell Nepal
After breakfast at your hotel, you are free until it is time for us to transfer you to the airport in time for your flight home.