Visiting Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Buddha
Honestly, the title says it all. On our Nepal trip, Emmett and I managed to spend just one evening in Lumbini, on the border with India. Lumbini’s main draw is the fact that it is the location of the birthplace of the Buddha. Yes, that’s right: the Buddha. The town itself is dusty and somewhat unappealing, but the park around Buddha’s birthplace is a beautiful, walkable testament to the Lord Buddha himself.
How to Get to Lumbini
Within Nepal: Like most domestic destinations in Nepal, the best way to get to Lumbini is by bus. It’s ten hours from Kathmandu, four hours from Chitwan, and about nine from Pokhara.
From India: You can travel via bus or hired car for 14 hours from New Delhi or 7 hours from Lucknow.
What to Expect in Lumbini
The Southbound buses to Lumbini will all have their last stop at the entrance to the park that encompasses the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Buddha’s birthplace.
A few items to note:
Entrance into the park is free.
Entrance to the Maya Devi Temple (ruins of the site where Buddha was born) are 200 rupees per non-SAARC country nationals. (SAARC countries are South Asian countries such as Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, & Sri Lanka).
The park is massive! We didn’t have enough time to explore the whole thing. I recommend a half a day starting either around 8 AM or at noon. That would be the perfect way to explore Lumbini.
You don’t have to rent/hire a vehicle, bicycle, or pedi-cab to see the park. (Unless that’s your preferred method of transportation). If, like us, you prefer to walk, it is easy to do so. Just politely decline any offers.
There is wildlife that lives within the parks confines! We saw signs warning about the presence of Nilgai (Asian Antelope) within the park.
Highlights of Things to Do & See in Lumbini
There’s a ton to be seen and done within the park’s confines and Emmett & I only barely scratched the surface. Here are some photo highlights from our wander:
Maya Devi Temple
Maya Devi is the real main attraction. The temple sits right next to the actual spot where Buddha was born. The large white building houses ruins of an ancient shrine to the Buddha, which you can walk above and view - but be sure to respect the no photos rule inside. The Sacred Garden area outside of Maya Devi Temple is definitely one of the most serene places in the entire park. When we visited, there were many monks gathered beneath the trees and prayer flags, silently reciting mantras.
Standing Baby Buddha Statue
This shiny, happy statue was a gift to Lumbini from Thailand in order to commemorate Siddhartha’s early years spent in Lumbini.
The Eternal Peace Flame
The Eternal Peace Flame was ignited in November 1986 by a flame brought all the way from the United Nations in New York City. The flames was lit to commemorate 1986 as the International Year of Peace.
The Central Canal
The Central Canal stretches from one end of the park to the other and is 1.4 kilometers (.08 miles) long. There is a small covered motorboat that will take visitors along the canal’s length for a small fee. One end is the Eternal Peace Flame and the other is the World Peace Pagoda.
Many countries from all over the world have set up monasteries on the grounds of Lumbini. These nations are nearly all Buddhist nations from Asia, with the one exception being the European/German monastery (see above photo).
Beautiful Surrounding Wetlands
Perhaps one of the most surprising things to me about Lumbini was the fact that it is located among some truly beautiful wetlands. We ended up watching the sunset from the park and it was really lovely. As it turns out, Lumbini’s second most famous claim to fame is it’s wetlands-based Crane Sanctuary.
Where to Stay
We stayed in a hotel just off of the bus stop that was pretty mediocre. We were just hoping for a place that didn’t have bedbugs - it didn’t - but it did have a moldy bathroom. In short: I wouldn’t recommend it. That being said, there are quite a few other guesthouses just off the main road. I would recommend that you shop around the guesthouses and hotels. Go into guesthouses to ask to take a look in a few rooms / ask the price / then compare prices before staying anywhere. Either that, or ask your guesthouse or hotel in Pokhara or whichever city you stay in beforehand for recommendations.
You can also stay in one of the monasteries in Lumbini, but you should email them asking about their availability ahead of time. It may be tricky to track their info down online - a possible way around this would be to stay a night or two in a hotel in town and then visit one of the monasteries in person to inquire after accommodation availability. The Korean Monastery does have a Facebook page.