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Lumbini, Nepal is the birth place of Lord Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. Today you can still see ruins and the exact spot of his birth marked and enclosed by a temple. The tank next to the Maya Devi temple is said to be where his mother bathed before delivering the miraculous baby, born walking and talking.
The birth site is celebrated with an international peace park. A large rectangular plot where no construction is allowed other than places of religious significance.
Those places of religious significance, built by a multitude of nations, are rather spectacular.
Lumbini is just one of the places that make Nepal so fascinating and diverse. HOWEVER, visiting Lumbini is no walk in the park.
Who Was Siddharta Gautama?
The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, Gautama Buddha was born in modern Nepal in 623 B.C.. He was the son of a king or chief, a prince. His parents may not have been a king and queen, but they are named as King Suddhodhana and Queen Maya Devi.
Queen Maya Devi, Lord Buddha’s mother was away from home at the time of his birth. She was travelling towards her family home in Rangram in Nepal’s Nawalparasi district.
When she felt that her baby was about to be born she bathed in a sacred pond in Lumbini and walked 25 paces into the trees to give birth.
Gautama grew up in luxury inside his father’s palace, shielded from the realities of the outside world. He took a wife and was father to a son but he wanted to see the world outside the palace walls.
He escaped to the streets of Kapilavastu, where he encountered a sick man, an old man, and a corpse being carried to the funeral pyres.
This was when his eyes were opened to the realities of sickness, suffering, old age, and death.
Moments later he met a wandering ascetic, a typical Hindu sadhu. He needed to find a solution to human suffering, so he cut his hair, swapped his royal finery for sadhu’s robes and set out into the forest. He was on his way to establishing modern Buddhism and finding enlightenment.
But Wasn’t Buddha Born in India?
This is widely agreed by scholars that the Buddha was born in Lumbini but others claim the Buddha was born in India.
UNESCO list Lumbini Nepal as Buddha’s birthplace and the Indian government officially state that Buddha was born in Nepal.
How to Get to Lumbini, Nepal?
If you’re not comfortable with solo or independent travel, it’s possible to book a tour of Nepal that includes Lumbini. You can do this before you even touch down in Kathmandu. Take a look at those tours here.
I’ll tell you that booking tours in Kathmandu will test your patience. There is no such thing as a fixed price and every tout and agent will try to squeeze you for extra cash. Know that you’ll have to shop around and beat them down on price. Also be very careful with quality of hotels, buses and jeeps.
You can get to Lumbini by bus from Kathmandu or Pokhara. We crossed to Lumbini from Chitwan.
Chitwan to Lumbini took 6 hours. There was one tourist bus per day which left at 9am.
Lumbini to Pokhara took took 8 hours. There were two buses, a super delux that left early, our tourist bus left at 7am. This was a much better journey than the Chitwan ride.
It’s possible to hire a private driver and vehicle in Nepal.
You can also get to Lumbini by flying part of the way. Butwal Airport ( Gautam Buddha Airport) isn’t too far away and there are a lot of internal flights in Nepal. We’ve flown to and from the Everest region many times, but generally we take buses when travelling in Nepal. To us the buses feel safer than jeeps, but it’s your call. From Buttwall Airport you’ll need to catch a bus, jeep or taxi.
Where to Stay and Where to Eat in Lumbini?
The hotel we stayed in ( opens in new window) wasn’t so great. We booked 2 double rooms with en-suite and had breakfast included for around $50.
The rooms were OK, but we had terrible problems with mosquitos and bugs on our first night.
I think the rooms had been left open by previous guests or staff and the bugs were just waiting for us to arrive. We were bitten to death throughout the night despite the rooms being fully screened and our best efforts to not let any in.
We often travel with a can of bug killer. On this occasion we didn’t have any and really wished we did.
The next morning the hotel manager got us a can of spray and we nuked the rooms, it was OK after that but we all had dozens of bites and that’s not good in an area with a slight malaria risk. The southern, flat Terai, unlike most of Nepal, does have a very slight risk particularly during monsoon periods.
No foreign visitor to Lumbini has ever contracted malaria, according to reports we found, but do check with your medical advisor.
Otherwise the Siddharta Guest House (opens in new tab) was OK although I wouldn’t in any way recommend the food.
The location was fine, it’s on the corner or the large rectangular plot that houses the Lumbini Peace Gardens complex. We could walk up to the bus stop and very small main street. A bicycle rickshaw took us there from ” town” for just cents, although we tipped our cyclist well, he was a sweet old guy.
We felt safe at the hotel and the balcony and rooftop were pleasant. Staff were helpful but inexperienced.
The only place in Lumbhini that we’d recommend for food is the air conditioned, glassed in restaurant on the main street, it’s called G and G Cafe and Restaurant and the food was OK. We had Nepali food and Indian. The air-conditioning didn’t work too well but it was a lot better than nothing or eating outside with the millions of flies.
How to Visit Buddha’s Birth Place
The Maya Devi temple, the holy pond and the pillar erected by the Emperor Ashoka are in the heart of this large rectangular plot, the Peace Park.
In this area numerous temples and stupas stand, erected by many nations around the world to honour Lord Buddha.
You will be dazzled by their beauty, don’t miss Myanmar’s Golden Temple, Thailand’s white marble Royal Thai Buddhist Monastery, Vietnam’s Phat Quoc Tu Temple and Germany’s Lotus Stupa . But there are many more and still more under construction.
You should also take a look at the Tibetan temple, this one stands alone, outside the perimiter and to me was the most special. I have a lot of love for Tibet.
To tour the park you will either need to walk, hire a bicycle or take a tuk tuk and driver for the day. The park is big and hot, we’d strongly recommend you pay the $20 and take the tuk tuk. The price is fixed, they all charge the same.
Around Lumbini town, outside the park, you’ll also find cycle rickshaws, these are cheaper and I got the impression that they weren’t allowed inside the park, but I could be wrong.
Maya Devi Temple
You have to pay to enter the compound of the Maya Devi Temple. You will need to remove your shoes, be properly dressed and pass through a security search.
Once inside visitors can enter the Maya Devi Temple itself, no photography is allowed inside, but let me just tell you not to even think of skipping this part because of the admission fee. Being at the birthplace of Lord Buddha, seeing the devotion of the pilgrims around you and feeling the power of this place is an experience not to be missed.
Outside you can walk around the pond, rest in the shade of the sacred bo trees and see Ashoka’s pillar.
The Indian Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini in 249 BC and left tributes to Buddha, There are four stupas and a stone pillar. Ashoka’s pillar is directly outside the Maya Devi Temple.
In April or May, during the first full month of Vaisakh, the Buddha Jayanti festival brings thousands of pilgrims here to commemorate Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.
Is it Worth the Trip from Pokhara, Kathmandu or Chitwan, or Even from India?
It depends how much a trip to Buddha’s birth place means to you.
We really wanted to go and we’re very glad we did but the terrible roads, bad buses and bad conditions in Lumbini made this a challenging trip. This is pretty full-on travel.
You will see very few other western tourists and stand out like a sore thumb among the Nepalis and Indians.
The roads to and from Lumbini were in particularly bad condition and the bus from Chitwan to Lumbini was the worst of our 3 months in Nepal, so yes, it was a mission to get there.
When we were in Lumbini, as well as digging up the roads, they were digging up the sewers and this didn’t positively contribute to our experience. There were a lot of flies and bad smells.
None of us got sick but we’re a pretty tough bunch after spending years travelling in this part of the world, months in Nepal and India. Lumbini certainly felt more like India than Nepal and is no distance from the Indian border.
We adored Chitwan and extended our stay there, but Lumbini, well, we were glad to leave and head back to comfortable Pokhara.