Lumbini is a world famous spot in Nepal for being the birthplace of Lord Buddha. This is the reason why it draws thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year and has now become a UNESCO world heritage site.
Beyond the birthplace, there are also some awesome Buddhist temples and monasteries to visit that have been donated from all over the world! You can visit shrines from Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, even France! It almost felt like I was travelling South East Asia all over again.
I’d say that if you’re not really into your temples or Buddhism in any way, this may not be an enjoyable place to spend your time. Add the fact that the hotels and restaurants in the area are not even close to passable and it may be your worst nightmare!
But, if you’re interested in discovering some Buddhist culture, learn a bit about the history of Buddhism and want to see some pretty architecture, it’s definitely worth a night here (but no more than that!)
Getting here & away
You can approach Lumbini from both Pokhara and Chitwan in a reasonable amount of time by bus. From Pokhara the journey is 5/6 hours and from Chitwan it’s around 3/4.
From Chitwan, there are no luxury A/C tourists buses and so a local bus is the way to go ! We had to catch 2 buses to get there. One from Chitwan to Baiharawa, then we had to make the short journey to the Lumbini ‘bus stand’.
If you want to find out more about travelling in Nepal, you can read my ‘simple and helpful guide to bus travel in Nepal’.
The bus stand in Lumbini is literally just a road and from here there will be a crowd of rickshaw drivers waiting for you. I’d research where your hotel is before you take one.
Stupidly, as I was so hot and delirious from the journey, I agreed to a rickshaw ride for 100 rupees to my hotel, only to find out my hotel was less than 500 meters down the road!
Cheeky guy. But, I negotiated the price of it into my tour which I arranged with him for the next day. Maybe that was his plan all along, who knows.
The ‘bus stand’ in Lumbini, it’s just a road 😉
Where to stay & eat
Oh my word. I cannot begin to tell you how bad the hotels and restaurants were in Lumbini. This is not an exaggeration. I decided to stay in the overpriced ‘Hotel Peace Palace’ and took a gamble. So many reviews of the hotels in the area were terrible. But I was lucky and pleasantly surprised.
I guess I was expecting the worst and anything that looked clean and that I could actually sleep soundly in was a bonus! The hotel peace palace had a spartan room but the facilities were clean and there was good aircon! The bathroom by the end of checkout did have a tonne of flies in it though.
Other travellers I met stayed in some of the monasteries around Lumbini which I would 100% do next time. It was $5 a night for the Korean monastery and you got 3 meals of Daal Bhat included! It’s good to be aware a lot people head out at 5am for temple visits so you may get an unwanted early wake up call! I had no idea you could stay in the monasteries and it sounded a better option. Plus, it will avoid the restaurants in town…
Restaurants in Lumbini were BAD… And I mean really bad! The restaurant in my hotel brought my Thukpa to the table with ants swimming in it! I immediately sent it back and headed outside to try some of the local restaurants.
Third vision restaurant was the only place I would recommend eating. Located on the main bazaar; It was cheap, cheerful and didn’t make me sick. There are A LOT of flies though so be prepared to be joined by them for dinner!
There are literally 5 restaurants on Tripadvisor and all have mixed reviews (google if you don’t believe me). I even asked locals to recommend a good place and they all said there wasn’t one! Haha! So, we tried Third vision as it had a review of it being the only one western restaurant that had a traveller vibe.
This for me was the only let down about Lumbini. I can’t believe how a famous site visited by so many, could be so badly set up for tourists. All the money seemed to be pumped into the temples. But I guess it’s a pilgrimage site and not really a tourist attraction!
In early October, the heat in Lumbini was the worst I had in Nepal. It was sweltering. I couldn’t walk outside without feeling like I was burning.
So, instead of renting bicycles to get around (which is a good option too) we opted for a Rickshaw. You only need around 4 hours to cover all the temples and birthplace of Buddha if you’re getting a rickshaw tour (I’d say you need more if you’re cycling).
I’d start out early to avoid the heat at around 7am. Also, the temples close for lunch at 1pm and then reopen later in the day at 2/3pm until 5pm. So, you need to decide what time of day you’d like to cover them all.
What I thought was cool was that a lot of the rickshaws in the area were donated to Lumbini by different countries. This one below was donated by Japan! It was fun, but was quite snug in the back for two 😉
What to do
In Lumbini there is literally only temples to explore and the whole tour takes roughly 4 hours. That’s why I would personally suggest spending no more than one night here as once you’ve done all the temples, there is nothing else left.
Even the rickshaw driver told us there was nothing else worth seeing and he would charge us for anything he could!
The birthplace of Lord Buddha and Peace Gardens
This was the highlight for me on my Lumbini adventures. We headed here first to beat the crowds despite our rickshaw driver advising otherwise. I didn’t mind some crowds but I heard it just gets over packed and I really wanted to enjoy it!
This is the only temple in the whole site that charges for a visit, all the rest are free. Tickets for foreigners are 200 rupees and for locals/SAARC countries it’s 30 rupees.
You cannot wear shoes inside and so you need to put your shoes in a hold outside the entrance. The grounds are pretty hot and gritty, so this is another reason to go early.
Once you get inside, you can hear the beautiful chanting from all the monks and pilgrims who visit. You’ll see big groups of people visiting to learn from Buddhist teachers and those who came for meditation.
Most base themselves around the sacred Bodhi tree to learn as this is the exact birthplace where Buddha was born. Make sure you light an incense stick and circle the tree clockwise for a small donation.
For more information, see here.
What I loved is the beautiful colours from the monks clothes, to the flags and the people around it!
The bathing pond is so beautiful in the middle and it has cute little turtles who swim in there. Turtles are a sacred animal in Buddhist scriptures, so this is why they are placed near the site.
The temple opposite is also worth a peak inside and was the first temple ever built here. You can see some of the excavation works which revealed some ancient stone carvings. Photography is strictly prohibited inside and you must keep silence in the temple.
I really loved visiting here as it just felt so calm and peaceful. If you do nothing else in Lumbini make sure this is it !
Buddhist temples from all over the world
The next coolest thing to do in Lumbini is to visit all the temples which have been donated here from all over the world! The complex is split between the East and West monastic sites and is easy to explore by bike, foot or by rickshaw.
My first long term backpacking trip was to South East Asia two years ago and so, for me, it brought back a lot of good memories! I could visit Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar all in one day! And, I didn’t need to pay for expensive Visas to boot.
All the temples have their differences but they all centre about a place to worship Buddha and a peaceful oasis from the city outside.
It’s good to note that the temples are not open all day. Most open from 6am to 1pm then 2pm to 5pm.
Buddhist temple donated from Germany
Cambodia (this temple is still under construction until 2018)
Little Buddha & Peace flame
Directly opposite the entrance to Buddhas birthplace is the little or baby Buddha. This gold statue points towards the birthplace and was donated by Japan. Of course, you can get a cheesy photo of you doing the same pose here! Most just get a selfie and leave.
The Eternal Peace Flame is a constant flame which is guarded and burns here at the start of the river, 24 hours a day, 364 days a year. It burns to symbolise world peace and is very pretty when the sun goes down to see the full effect.
A boat ride on the river
The monastic sites are huge and so it’s worth finding a quick way around to avoid the strong heat here. One of those ways is the cute little boat ride that can take you from one end of the park to another.
From the peace flame side, you will get incredible views as you head towards the Peace Pagoda. My favourite part was seeing the reflections of the numerous bridges that provide a crossing on the river. You can wave at the locals and feel the breeze in your hair.
It’s also quite beautiful as you head back at night time as you can see the peace flame and other temples lit up against the night sky.
It’s a sharing boat ride and will cost 50 INR or 70 NPR each person, each way.
Peace Pagoda or Shanti stupa
Met this little guy when taking photos ! 🙂
If you have time, it’s well worth heading to the peace pagoda for sunset. Although it doesn’t have as great a vantage point as other Shanti Stupas in Nepal, it’s a beautiful and peaceful place to watch the sun go down. During the mornings and afternoons there are no mats to place your feet and so be prepared for the floor to feel like lava! It’s best either early morning at sunrise or sunset.
This is around midday and it was already like walking on hot coals
Here, you will see people meditating, strolling clockwise around the Stupa and relaxing in the cooler temperatures. It’s quite a far way out in the monastic areas so it’s best to cycle or get a rickshaw there.
Lumbini was a mixed place to visit in my books. On the one hand you had these beautiful Buddhist temples from all over the world to explore and on the other the hotels and restaurants (and bugs) were so bad, I wanted to get out as soon as I could.
I don’t regret my visit as I loved learning about Buddhism and the peaceful vibes but next time I wouldn’t spend a night there, I would just do a day trip.
I’d say that it definitely worth a short visit if you feel drawn here to learn about Buddhism and visit the birthplace of Lord Buddha. But, if you’re not into your temples or are a little bored of them in Nepal, you may find it won’t be your cup of tea.
Want to read more?
I’ve summarised a lot of my travel tips and tricks for visiting Lumbini in my article 17 Unique and Honest travel tips for visiting Lumbini the Birthplace of Buddha. Comment and let me know what you think!
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