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Guide to Lumbini in Nepal

Birthplace of the Buddha
Updated: June 20th 2016 | Nepal travel guides


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highlights - getting there - map - itineraries - accommodation
 

About Lumbini


Lumbini is located in the Rupandehi district of southern Nepal close to the Indian border. It is renown for being the official birthplace of The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama.

The main site is known as Lumbini Development Zone which is sealed in by a perimeter fence. Bordering the zone is Lumbini Bazaar which is a small village/town where accommodation, restaurants and transportation can be found.

Did you know?

India also claims that by historical maps The Buddha was actually born in India. There are now plans to build a larger Indian version of Lumbini on their side of the border.

Emperor Ashoka visited the birthplace in 249 BC after which the residents built the Ashokan Pillar to symbolise his visit. Since then Lumbini has been granted a tax-free status.

You can read more about the history of Lumbini and Buddha's birth here.


Must see highlights in Lumbini


There are several sections to Lumbini Development Zone. One of the confusing terms is "Lumbini Museum Area". Rather than just a traditional building it is also referred to as the open area that includes Lumbini temple, the sacred pond, the Ashokan pillar and the colorful Bodhi tree.

  • Lumbini Temple/ Temple of Mayadevi: walk inside the temple built over the spot Buddha was born
  • Mayadevi pond: where Buddha's mother is said to have bathed before giving birth to him
  • Bodhi Tree: impressive tree covered in prayer flags beside the sacred pond
  • Ashoka Pillar: stone pillar dedicated to emperor Ashokan
  • Buddhist Temples: 2nd century BC temples to modern day temples
  • Lumbini Museum: historic manuscripts and items from the area

While Lumbini is one of the most important religious sites in the world it doesn't feel or look that way. People walk causally around, rickshaws transport people along the roads and everything is spread out over quite a large area. As such most visitors enjoy the peaceful park like atmosphere Lumbini exudes.


How to get to Lumbini


Lumbini sounds harder to get to than it is. There are basically two main options.

By flight: Fly to Bhairahawa from Kathmandu then take a bus, taxi or rickshaw to Lumbini which is about 30 minutes away. Airfares vary but for foreigners it's usually between $180-220 one way.

By Bus: This is the cheaper and more frequent route to Lumbini. From Kathmandu it's 6-9 hours, 700-800 rupees. From Pokhara it's 6-9 hours, 700-800 rupees. From Chitwan/Sauraha it's 5-6 hours, 500 rupees. From any of those starting destinations you can take a bus to either Bhairahawa or the border town of Sunauli (getting off in Bhairahawa which the bus passes through). From Bhairahawa take a bus, taxi or rickshaw to Lumbini.

Bus stops to Lumbini in Bhairahawa are not marked out so the easiest thing to do is simply ask a local where the next bus to Lumbini is. Generally speaking though buses drop people at the T junction in Bhariahawa so buses in either direction will be found on one of those roads. Buses do leave frequently, are large old style buses and cost about 10-15 rupees for the 20-30 minute journey to Lumbini. Do tell the driver you want to get off at Lumbini Bazar!

As Lumbini is close to the border town of Sunali if you are coming up from India to visit Nepal it makes sense to stop over in Lumbini rather than travel all the way to Kathmandu and back. Do check out the India to Katmandu overland guide for more on this route.

Alternative my guidebook to Lumbini below covers this in detail.


Entrance fees for Lumbini


There is only one ticket price plus a video camera ticket available at the main gates. Lumbini entrance fee is 200 rupees. Free for Nepalese. 16 rupees for Indians. Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan pay 100 rupees.

Video camera fee for foreign nationals: 750 rupees. Professional filming 37,000 rupees.

Still Camera fee for Nepalese & Indian Nationals: 15 rupees.

Video camera fee for Nepalese and Indian nationals: 200 rupees. Professional filming 5,000 rupees.

As you can see the pricing structure is a bit convoluted. It doesn't help that the Nepalese tourism office have slightly different fees listed in Kathmandu. Basically as a foreigner you need to pay 200 rupees which includes your still camera. Any updated fees are written clearly in front of the main ticket office at the entrance to the Lumbini Development Zone.

If your camera takes video don't mention it otherwise you might end up having to pay the video fees above. There haven't been any reports of this happening, but I wouldn't start showing my camera off at the ticket counter just in case.

Additional costs/options

Bicycles can be hired out at about 200 rupees for the day. These can be arranged from your hotel. The area if very flat so it's not difficult to cycle. Rickshaws with a driver are available outside the main entrance to Lumbini along the road and also inside the park at the end of the main entrance road.

Rickshaw prices are to be bartered but a full monastery tour which lasts the best part of a day can cost up to 800 rupees but in the off season can come down to 400 rupees. While it is possible to go below 400 keep in mind the work involved by your driver and the chances are it might be his only work in days.

If cycling or taking a rickshaw bring plenty of water and a packed lunch as there's not much available once you get into the development zone.

Some people choose to walk around Lumbini. If you are planning this then you'll need to be quite fit and be prepared for a full days walking. In the hot season there is very little shade. Bring sunscreen and plenty to drink.

* Please note, it is now mandatory to remove your shoes when entering Mayadevi Garden. It's worth lodging a complaint about this as the regulation is impractical.


Map of Lumbini & suggested itinerary


Lumbini is huge with a lot to see if you are into Buddhist temples. If you are not into visiting Buddhist temples or monasteries then it's basically a half day at best. But as there's not much else to do in the area and buses rarely leave during the day it's best to stretch it out for a full day anyway.

About one third of the temples/monasteries are also still under construction while many others may not be open on the day you visit. Don't worry though as most of the popular ones will be open.

The Lumbini Development Zone is basically a large rectangle. The southern half is dedicated to Buddha's birthplace and old temple foundations. While the northern half is split into a west and east section. To the west are Mahayana and Vajrayana temples/monasteries while to the east are Theravadin temples/monasteries.

Full map of Lumbini

Zoom in or out on the map of Lumbini so see the highlights. Click and drag over the map to move around. The blue marker going around the complex is the suggested route to follow via rickshaw or bicycle.


Suggested route for viewing Lumbini

As you can see the Lumbini Development Zone is huge. It is however quite flat and using a bicycle is quite easy if it is not too hot. However it will involve a full days cycling and you will need a bag to carry water along with some food. Hiring a rickshaw is a far more enjoyable day out for temple spotting.

Start the day early by buying your ticket and making your way along the first long road up to the Lumbini Development Trust Office which will be at the end of the road on your left.

Straight ahead is the main museum area where Buddha's birthplace is. To get there simply keep going straight and take a left at the junction. Go straight and look out for an entrance gate to your right. Take this route if you only want to see this area or are short on time.

If you have a full day I would suggest you leave Lumbini museum until last. If you take this choice then turn right along the road opposite the Lumbini Development Trust office (this is the route rickshaws will take you on a full day out). Keep going along this slow winding road until you reach the eternal flame.

At the eternal flame take the left hand road along the central canal. All to your left you will see several small paths. Wait until you see a wider main road to the left and turn down it. Along this section of road are where you will find the majority of monasteries. Pick and choose which monastery you'd like to visit. Some might be closed but the main ones are usually open. This is where you will spend the majority of your time in this tour. Here's an interior photograph of the Tibetan Temple as an example of what you might expect to see.

For those looking to cycle or explore further go back to the main road along the canal and head north. You'll soon come across the south pond. Continue north until finally you come to the large Lumbini Pagoda. It's quite a long journey with little to see enroute but the pagoda is quite nice if you've not visited one before.

Once you have finished visiting the temples and monasteries head south again along the canal past the eternal flame. Keep going straight until finally you come across one of the larger entrances to the Lumbini Museum area. Your original ticket to Lumbini Development Zone will need to be shown here.

Inside the Lumbini Museum area you may wander around freely. If there is no queue into Lumbini temple when you arrive go in then otherwise it tends to fill up quickly if a tour bus arrives. Inside the temple there are plenty of signs saying "no camera". If you are tempted to take a photo then be prepared to be scolded by a security guard should they spot you. When inside you'll see excavation work on the original area where Buddha was born. In one section you may view down a protected area which is said to be the exact spot where Buddha was born.

Outside the temple be sure to visit the Ashoka Pillar. While nearby is Mayadevi pond and the colorful Bodhi tree. It's not appropriate to bath in the pond however it is perfectly acceptable to sit under the tree or others in the area. History buffs might find the surrounding foundations of old monasteries interesting though they are not well documented.

During your full day out in Lumbini do be sure to bring water and food with you. There is one small area in the Lumbini museum complex selling local food and some bottled drinks (see map). Other than there you will be hard pressed to find refreshments.

Before you go do remember that Lumbini is a sacred area so appropriate attire is a must. Long sleves and long trousers should be worn. Don't climb over the old ruins or try to enter closed temples. Walk around stupas and sacred obects clockwise.


Accommodation in Lumbini


Unless you are a guest at one of the Buddhist monasteries (The Korean Monastary is known to accomodate travellers or Buddhists for a small donation) you will find most of the accommodation options located along the single road known as Lumbini Bazar directly opposite Lumbini Development Zone.

During Buddhist festivals accommodation does fill up rapidly in all of Lumbini to the point of not being able to find any place to stay. While many hotels in the outskirts of Lumbini will offer you a room prices are also at a premium. The next nearest town where you can find tourist accommodation is Bhairahawa. There are also some hotels along Taulihawa Road.

Hotels along Lumbini Bazar often give discounts in the off season so do try to bargain. Very few of the hotels in Lumbini are of outstanding quality but they'll certainly do for a night or two.

Looking for accommodation in Lumbini? Try my hotel search below for the best rates, guaranteed!


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The colorful Bodhi Tree

Bodhi Tree Lumbini, Nepal
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