If you want to travel for a rich sense of culture and religion, you cannot scrap Nepal from your list.
Nepal has so much out there, but one of the places you must visit is Lumbini in the Rupandehi district in the South East of Nepal.
In case you weren’t aware already, Lumbini is the birthplace of Lord Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. It’s an incredibly popular place, so many people travel across the world each year to pay their respects and visit this holy site.
It’s so popular that there is even an international airport that is nearly finished to access the world heritage site more easily.
But, there’s more to the site than just Buddha’s birth spot. There are so many temples and gardens to visit! The site is a city within itself.
24 hours in Lumbini Nepal
I say 24 hours in Lumbini because there’s not much to do otherwise outside that time frame. One of the saddest parts of my visit was that many countries had donated to Nepal towards Lumbini to pay their respects.
So you have a spectacular park full of temples of different countries, Buddha’s birth site, and immaculately kept gardens. On the opposite side is Lumbini city, which in comparison to other areas of Nepal, is run down and has a couple of hotels.
It was truly sad to see some of the locals left behind, amongst all of the investment and development that has been made to the attraction itself.
Where to stay in Lumbini
Depending on what type of traveler you are, you might choose to stay in Lumbini or somewhere nearby. The truth is, Lumbini has a limited amount of hotels and accommodation available to stay in.
I stayed in Buddha Maya Garden Hotel by the KGH Group (a renowned hotel group owned by a famous hotelier Karna Shakya). The Buddha Maya Garden was a safe bet for me as I wanted to be close to the site and didn’t want to be in too ‘local’ accommodation.
Unfortunately, the hotel was run down, and the bedrooms had damp all over the walls. Likewise, dust and stains on the wardrobes and a lack of maintenance throughout the property.
There were squished dead bugs on the walls and plug sockets which did not work. Similarly, the bell boy had his shirt tucket out of his pants when greeting us and didn’t immediately jump to help us with our luggage.
But, for me, that was ok. I knew I was only there for one night, and it was the best Lumbini had to offer.
If you’re a bit of a clean freak and want a hotel with great hospitality, I would suggest you stay in Bhairahawa, also known as Siddharnarthanagar, about a 44 minute drive away.
Buddha’s birth site
The main reason you come to Lumbini is for historical purposes. To visit the birth site and the peace park is a whole day in itself.
To beat the rush, I suggest reaching there around 7:30 am. The site is huge. It’s around 3 miles in length, and it’s best to get a tuk-tuk or hire a bicycle to see it all.
If you stay locally, ask your hotel to arrange a tuk-tuk for you, which will pick you up at the lobby. This is also a great way to stop you from getting scammed by rickshaw drivers if you have a pre-arranged fee.
The first place you will want to go is to the entrance. Here you will be charged a fee based on your nationality, do note if you’re a Saarc member, it’s a certain cost and a different cost if you’re a foreigner.
Once paid, you will have to go to a shoe stand and take your shoes and socks off. Otherwise, you won’t be allowed inside.
Then, you must show your ticket to the guard, run your bag through a scanner and enter. Upon entering, you will come to the Maya Devi temple built over where Buddha was born.
You’re not allowed to take photos inside, but you will see well-preserved ruins and supposedly Buddha’s footprints!
Around this site, there are many monks conducting rituals and worship. Similarly, many people are posing for selfies. Do be warned, Lumbini is close to India, and there are many Indian tourists.
This means, if you’re a foreigner, some try to sneakily take a photo for their own gain. Be cautious.
In addition to the main site, there are many monasteries, temples, and stupas. Many countries have donated money to build their own temple and pay their respects to Buddha. It’s crazy there are more than 25 different temples built by many countries.
It’s for this reason; I recommend you getting transport. As this can take some time to explore on foot. Each country’s temple is unique in terms of its architecture, interior, and visitors. One of the most important temples to go to is the World Peace Pagoda.
Similar to the one in Pokhara, this is slightly bigger and located on the other side of the city, which is why you need a form of transport to get there!
Just like the other temples, you have to take your shoes off and be silent when walking around. Similarly, you must walk around it clockwise. It’s also believed this is a special temple, as it has the remains of Buddha in the foundations and at the top.
If you get temple fatigue, you can also chill in the gardens. It’s amazing how symmetrical they are and well kept, which is a big deal for Nepal!
There’s also a crane sanctuary that you can visit with around 90-100 types of Sarus Cranes nesting.
How to get to Lumbini
While the airport is still yet to be opened, the best way to reach Lumbini is to fly from Kathmandu to Bhairahawa. The flight is around 25 minutes long, and it’s only a short drive from the airport.
You can also take a bus from Kathmandu; it’s around 9-10 hours, and Pokhara it’s around 7 hours.
If you’re in Nepal, Lumbini is a destination you have to visit. It’s not a destination you will want to spend any longer than a day in.
It’s sad to see the lack of development in the town and city, in comparison to the peace park and the site itself.
Plus, if you want to stay in luxury accomodation, then Lumbini is not for you. But, if you want to stay for accessibility, the accommodation is ok to put up with for one night.