Most popular Buddhist pilgrimage sites of Nepal

Nepal is the birthplace of Buddha and an ancient existing living Buddhist heritages. Isolated valleys of the Nepalese Himalayas were a safe haven for Buddhism while its neighbours went through a long period of political strife and occupation.

The Himalaya has always been sacred for spiritual masters to go on a retreat. There are several meditation caves, relic stupas and archaeological sites pious for Buddhist pilgrims.

Tour of Lumbini development zone - Sacred garden, monastic zone and new tourist village

Lumbini the birthplace of Buddha

Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, is the most important Buddhist site in Nepal. It has been developed in an area of 12 X 2 km after it was declared as UNESCO world heritage site in 1997. The sacred garden consists of Pushkarini pond (where Buddha and his mother took bath after the birth), ancient monastery runes and the Mayadevi temple housing the ancient temple and the market stone pinpointing the exact birthplace of Buddha.

Tilaurakot palace ruin
The eastern gate ruin of the Tilaurakot palace from where Buddha embarked on a journey to seek enlightenment.

Ramgram Stupa, Tilaurakot Palace and Kudan monastery

A greater Lumbini Buddhist circuit tour also includes few other important archaeological sites from the ancient Kapilavastu kingdom. The Ramgram stupa is the only undug Buddha relic stupa among the first eight. Tilaurakot palace is where Buddha spent 29 years as Prince Siddhartha and the Kudan monastery (Nigrodharama monastery) is where Buddha gave 5 sutta teachings.


Halesi or Maratika cave of Guru Rinpoche
Maratika cave of Halesi where Guru Rinpoche got teachings of Buddha Amitayus.

Maratika Cave (Halesi)

 The Maratika cave or Halesi cave is believed as a place where Guru Rinpoche ( Padmasambhava ) got teachings of Buddha Amitayus. He with his consort princess Mandharava  attended the level of Vidyadhara with power of immortality. Padmasambhava took the royal princess Mandarava as his consort, and they then went to the Maratika cave, where for three months they practised the sadhana of longevity. The Buddha of Limitless Life, Amitayus appeared, empowered them with longevity, and blessed them as inseparable from him. They both accomplished the second vidyadhara level, ‘vidyadhara with mastery over life’. Maratika is also blessed by the families of three protectors Manjushree, Vajrapani, and Avalokiteshvara.

Yangleso cave of Guru Rinpoche
Guru Rinpoche attended the wisdom of Mahamudra at Yengloso, Pharping.

Yangleso and Asura Cave of Pharping

Yangleso and Asura caves of Pharping in the south of Kathmandu valley is where Guru Rinpoche attended the third level of Vidyadhara, the wisdom of the great seal of Mahamudra. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche practices Sadhana of Yangdak Heruka with his consort princess Shakyadevi. With the Tantric practices of dharma protector Vajrakilaya against the great obstacles, they finally attended to the wisdom of Mahamudra. He then composed the Sadhana of Yangdak and Vajrakilaya. The Asura cave also has a handprint believed to be of Guru Rinpoche. 

Namo Buddha Stupa.
Lord Buddha, in one of his previous lives, sacrificed himself to feed starving tigress and her cubs.

Namo Buddha Stupa

Namo Buddha Stupa built over the bones and hair of the prince Mahasattva is the third important Buddhist stupa in Nepal. The Jataka stories and several Sutra teachings mentions the Prince Mahasattva as Shakyamuni Buddha's earlier incarnation. The stupa is a symbol of great compassion and selflessness. The prince sacrificed himself at the site to feed starving Tigress and her five newborn cubs. The hilltop still has a den temple with a stone tablet engraved with the scene of Bodhisattva offering his flesh to the Tigress.
Namo Buddha stupa is situated at 1800 m ridgetop some 40 km east of Kathmandu valley. The place is also a serene vantage point to look into the lush valleys with Himalayas in the backdrop, making it a perfect refuge into nature and spirituality. The monastery guesthouse provides accommodation and a rare opportunity of eating and praying with monks.

Hiranyavarnam Mahavihara known as golden temple.
Hiranyavarnam Mahavihara also knonw as Golden temple from 8th Century.

Kathmandu, a living Buddhist heritage

In the citadel of the Himalayas, the Kathmandu valley has been a safe haven for Buddhism since ancient times. Chronologies have mentioned some of the Stupas of the valley as from the Emperor Ashokan time. The valley in the juxtaposition of the trans-Himalayan trade between India and the silk road, was an important hub of Buddhist studies and pilgrimage. Over 300 medieval monasteries are still scattered around Kathmandu valley. The most important are the Charumati Vihar (Chabahil), believed to be built by Emperor Ashoka's daughter Charumati; Hiranya Varna (Golden Temple), Rudra Varna and Vikramashil Mahavihar are some of the important Newari Buddhist monasteries established between 5th to 12th century AD. Many Tibetan scholars came to Kathmandu valley to study and translate Buddhist scriptures into Tibetan during the period of 8 - 15th century. The two Stupas of Swayambhunath and Boudhanath and the meditation caves of the 11th century Tantric Buddhist masters, Naropa and Tilopa at Pashupatinath have been a must to visit places for Buddhists from around the globe. There are also meditation caves of Milarepa and the 3rd century Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna. Most importantly, one can see the medieval Buddhist practices in the day to day life of people making it the living Buddhist heritage.

Helambu, a beyul valley of Nepal.
Helambu is the closest Beyul from Kathmandu with wealth of monasteries, caves, and naturally arisen remnants of the Precious Master, Padmasambhava.

Travel to Beyul's of Nepal

Beyuls are hidden valleys in the Himalayas blessed as refuges by Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). which are highly conductive to insight and realization. He concealed these places as safe haven for Dharma practitioners in times of conflict. They are places where physical and spiritual worlds overlap, and effectiveness of Tantric practices increases with multiple perceptions and dimensions.

Beyuls are believed to be hidden not only because of its inaccessible landscape, but also because it is guarded by Mahaguru himself. His protective forces manifested as snowstorms, mists and snow leopards keep the sacred land untouched from human contamination. Pilgrims who travel to these wild and distant places often recount extraordinary experiences similar to those encountered by Buddhist spiritual practitioners on the path to liberation.
Earthly Beyuls share significant characteristics with Shambhala.
Beyuls are sacred lands where forest, mountains, rivers are considered deities keeping the natural harmony undisturbed. With the Mahaguru's blessings pilgrims or practitioners in Beyuls will be empowered to tap into the sacred environment and receive its blessing.

Beyul's in Nepal are Helambu, Langtang, Nupri valley ( Manaslu ) and Everest region. Helambu is the nearest Beyul from Kathmandu which could be accessed by vehicle and then day walks from 3 days to one week.


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Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour

This was one of a lifetime tour! I took the Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour and I will never forget about it.
Rabi is super professional and flexible to adapt to each person needs and wishes. He has a deep knowledge of the places and I really enjoyed our philophical discussions of Buddhism, Hinduism, life, destiny and Karma!
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