Most travelers rush the journey between Kathmandu and Pokhara, missing some of Nepal's hidden gems. The hills that flank the 206km Prithvi Hwy contain some of the most important religious sites in Nepal, but most visitors whistle through on tourist buses and see little of what the area has to offer. We strongly recommend taking at least two days for the journey between Kathmandu and Pokhara to see more of this interesting and unspoiled region.
Heading west from Kathmandu, the first of several possible places to break the journey is the Manakamana Mandir near Mugling, one of the oldest temples in central Nepal and an important destination for Hindu pilgrimages. Further west, Gorkha is the former capital of the Shah dynasty, while the nearby hill town of Bandipur is a living museum of Newari architecture and culture.
As well as these historic points of interest, the highway is lined with modern townships that have sprung up around important road junctions and river crossings. Most are fairly unappealing but there's always the chance you could end up staying overnight while changing buses. Dotted between these settlements are numerous roadhouses where buses stop for snacks and toilet breaks. Where you end up will depend on the bus company but the food is normally hygienic and cheap.
Even if you don't stop between Kathmandu and Pokhara, the scenery along the road is dramatic. The highway follows a series of deep river valleys, passing ancient stone villages, cascading rice terraces, rocky gorges and roaring rapids crossed by precarious suspension bridges. On clear days, most of the way to Pokhara there are views of Machhapuchhare and the Annapurna massif.
Lumbini is the place where Lord Buddha was born. It is also the place were he gained enlightenment and became famous. Buddha is also known as Siddhartha Gautam. Here one can see Maya Devi temple, the place where she gave birth to the lord, and an Ashoka pillar which has inscriptions identifying the spot as the birthplace, ruins of ancient stupas and monasteries, and Pushkarni pond where Queen Mayadevi took bath before giving birth. The Lumbini region has been developed through Lumbini Trust, a none governmental organization. Newer temples and monuments are being developed by foreign pilgrimage here. All temples found in this region form this place a Buddhist pilgrimages destination. The China temple located in Lumbini is a complex of pagodas, prayer rooms and meditation cells developed by the Buddhist Association of China. There is also Myanmar Temple also known as Lokamani Cula Pagoda which soars into the sky. The International Gautami Nuns temple is also found here which a replica of the Swayambhu stupa in Kathmandu is. Many other temples are currently under construction; these include Japan temple, Sri Lanka temple, and Vietnam temple.
Lumbini Museum, Lumbini International Research Institute, and Kapilvastu Museum (situated 27km west of Lumbini in Tilaurakot) are other places see in this region. The Kapilvastu museum has ruins of ancient capital of Sakya kingdom where the Buddha spet his youth as Prince Siddhartha.Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 B.C. in the famous gardens of Lumbini, which soon became a place of pilgrimage. Among the pilgrims was the Indian emperor Ashoka, who erected one of his commemorative pillars there. The site is now being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage centre, where the archaeological remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha form a central feature.
DAY 01: ARRIVAL IN KATHMANDU
Transfer to Hotel in Town.
Just a quick visit of Main tourist hub of Nepal called Thamel and visit of Kathmandu Durbar Square (UNESCO listed, as such, the square remains the traditional heart of the old town and Kathmandu`s most spectacular legacy of traditional architecture. It is east to send hours wandering around the square and watching the world go by from the terraced platforms of the towering Maju Deval. Not only Nepal have countless gods, goddess, deities, Buddha’s, avaters ( incarnations of deities ) and manifestations-which are worshipped and revered as statues, images, paintings, symbols- but it also has real living Goddess. One
Dinner served. One such a legend relates that a pedophile malla King had intercourse with a prepubescent girl. She died as a result of this and in penance he started the practice of venerating young girl as a living goddess. The Kumari is selected from a particular caste of Newari Gold- and silversmiths. Customarily, she is somewhere between four years old and puberty and must meet 32 strict physical requirements ranging from the colour of her eyes and shape of her teeth to the sound of her voice. Her horoscope must also be appropriate, of course. The most spectacular of these occasions is the September Indra Jatra festival, when she travels through the city on a huge temple chariot over a three day period. During this festival she blesses people of Nepal.
DAY 02: KOPAN & NAMOBUDDHA MONASTERY TOUR (B)
A popular center for courses on Buddhism and other Tibetan- related subject, stand on a hill top to the north of Bodhnath. If you’ve ever thought of leaning a little more about Tibetan Buddhism, this could well be the place to do it. The center has short courses on Tibetan medicine, thangka painting and other subjects, but the major attraction for westerner, are the 10-days residential courses introducing Buddhist psychology and philosophy. See p357 for more details. Kopan’s founder, lama Thubten Yeshe, died in 1984, and a young Spanish boy, osel Torres, was declired his reincarnation. The young reincarnation, who was partly the inspiration for Bernardo Bertolucci’s film little Buddha, on onger resides at Kopan. You can visit Kopan on the pleasant walk between Bodnath and the Gokarna Mahadev Temple.
Explore half a day surroundings of Kopan Monastery.
PM: Drive to Dhulikhel to Namobuddha Monastery. The Hike or Mountain bike or by 4 WD Jeep from Dhulikhel to Namobuddha is a fine leg –stretcher. It takes about three hours eachway, so it makes a good day walk. From Dhulikhel the trial first climbs up to the Kali temple and drops down for half an hour to the village of Kavre, by the new road to Sindhuli and follow road by some battered old prayer flags to the village of Phulbari, soon, you crest the hill and in the distance you “ll see Tibetan Monastery atop a hill, with Namobuddha Just below it. Overnight at Namobuddha Monastery – BB basis.,
DAY 03: VISIT OF BOUDDHNATH STUPA (B)
Drive to Bouddhanath Stupa from Namobuddha for next 2 hrs and explore the area covering Tsmchen Gompa (is the only Gompa that opens directly onto the stupa (on the western side). There are some fine paintings and a magnificent ( jampa in Tibetan ) , the future Buddha , covered in beautiful embroideries . Do not miss the massive enclosed prayer wheel on the left of the entrance. The new TAMANG Gompa and Guru Lhakhang are currently built. Visit Eastern side, the Gelugpa SAMTENLING Gompa is the oldest Monastery in Bouddhanath. The Tarik Gompa to the northeast of it and just east of here is Tabsang Gompa a Kargyud Monastery. North of here down a side alley, is the large “white Gompa “of Ka- Nying Sheldrup Ling Gompa “ one of the largest monasteries in Bouddhanath. Northwest of the stupa, the impressive Shechen Tengyi Dargyeling Gompa, which has a large and thriving Community o 180 Monks and is a popular destination for Tibetan piligrames.
PM: Full day sightseeing of Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)
The Great Buddhist Temple of Swayambhunath (entry fees RS. 100 PP), on the top of hill a west of Kathmandu, is one of the most popular and instantly recognizable symbols of Nepal. Legends relate that the Kathmandu valley was once a lake (geologists agree on this point) and that the hill on which Swayambhunath Stupa stands was “self –arisen “( swayambhu) . Much like lotus leaf raised from the muddy waters of the Lake.An inscription indicates that King Manadeva ordered work done here in AD 460 and certainly by the 13the Century it was an Important Buddhist Center.
Look for the trinity of Yellow- and – Red stone Buddhas at the base of the hill. Half a way of the steps there is another small collection of stone work, including a scene depicting the birth of Buddha, with his mother Maya Devi grasping a tree branch and the Buddha taking seven miraculous steps immediately after his birth. As you climb the final (steepest) stretch look for the pair of animals – Garudas , lions, elephents , horses and peacocks- the vechiles of the Dhyani Buddhas. Great Thunderbolt, as well as building the great stairway, King Pratap Malla added a pair of Shikharas ( corncoblike) Indian – style spires ) and the stone snow lions and dorje ( a Tibetan word for this Thunderbolt symbol ).Stupa
Atop the soaring swell of the whitewashed dome, a gold – colored squre depicts the watchfull eyes of the Buddha, which gaze out across the valley in each direction. The question mark like” nose” is actually the Nepali Number one and a symbol of the unity of all life. Between and above the two eyes is a third eye, which symbolizes the Buddhas insight.
Overnight at the Buddhist Hotel in Town – BB basis.
DAY 04: DRIVE TO DAKSHINKALI & PHARPING VIA KRITIPUR CITY (B)
Kritipur stretches across two hills, with a lower saddle between them. The Chilanchu Vihara (built 1515) tops the southeastern hill and consists of a central stupa surrounded by four small stupas, numerous statues and some dilapidated Buddhist Monastery buildings. From the rear of the stupa go right , down to the 16th century stone Shikhara –style Lohan Dehar and left to 12th Century Bagh Bhairab Temple.Pharping is a thriving, traditional Newari town, 19 Km south of Kathmandu and surprisingly untouched by the swarms of tourists that visit Dakshinkali. The town is famous for its pilgrimages sites, the hindu origins of which been largely absorbed by the now predominant Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries. As you enter the town from the main road, take the first right by the foot-ball pitch and head uphill , pass the large Tibetan style Dzongsar Chorten and Sakyapa School Tharig Gompa with its huge chorten.Behind here, at the bend in the road, it is Tibetan monastery signposted “ Pharping Ganesh and Saraswati Temple “ . To the right of this Chapel is the Rizu Phedrang Gompa , Ascend the flight of stairs between the two temples ,past prayer flags and a rock fissure, eventually you will come to the Guru Rinpoche Cave surrounded by the Monastery Buildings. Contd... To the 17th –century Newari Style Vajra Yogini Temple, the tantric Buddhist Goddess, from here. Continue east up a patway to the Nyingmmpa school DO NGAK CHOLING GOMPA.
Drive back to Kathmandu by Evening The Small Chovar Gorge is 1 KM southeast of Chovar Village, where the Bagmati River cuts through the edge of the Chovar hill. Down by the river, just south of the gorge, is the important Jal Binayak Temple ( 1602 ) one of the valleys most important Ganesh Shrines.
Overnight in Buddhist style Hotel in Thamel.
DAY 05: DRIVE TO SHIVAPURI - NAGARJUN NATIONAL PARK & NAGI GOMPA
Shivapuri National Park upgraded in 2002, the valleys main water source, as well 177 species of birds, orchids, rhesus monkey and even, it is alleged, leopard and bear. Several good hikes and mountain-bike routes criss –cross the park.The Tibetan nunnery of Nagi Gompa is perched 3 km from the main gate. ome Bouddhnaths Ka- Nying sheldrup ling gompa holds retreats here for foreign students every November. It’s a very bumpy 30 minutes 4 WD or a 2 hrs hike upto the nunnery, which has lovely views and is home to about 100 nuns. An excellent alternative is to walk down hill from Nagi Gompa to Budhanilkantha, or to continue down the ridgeline south to Kopan (three hours) and Bouddhanath.
Drive back to Kathmandu / Overnight.
DAY 06: DRIVE FROM KATHMANDU – LUMBINI (BIRTH PLACE OF LORD BUDDHA)
As the historical birth place of Gautam Siddhartha Buddha, Lumbini is one of the most important religious sites in the world. The Man who would later achieve enlightenment under a bodhi Tree, inspiring a global philosophy of peace and reflection, was burn under a sal tree in Lumbini in the month of May in 563 BC.Despite being an important destination , pilgrims here come in a slow, respectful trickle and many stay on to meditate in the Monastries surrounding the sacred site. The Center of Lumbini is s the Maya Devi Temple, which marks the exact spot where Queen Maya Devi of Kapilavastu gave birth to Gautam Siddharta. Surrounding the temple is a sacred Garden containing the piller of Ashoka as well as the ruined foundation of Dozens of ancient stupas and Monasteries. Extanding for miles around the sacred garden is a huge park known as the Lumbini Development Zone, designed by Japanese architect kenzotenge in 1978. It’s a work in progress but the grounds are already full of landscaped lakes and Buddhist Monasteries, constructed by Buddhist communities from around the world.
DAY 07: EXPLORE LUMBINI/ OVERNIGHT IN LUMBINI
Maya Devi Temple.Oppostite the temple are two small Buddhist monasteries The Dharma Swami Maharaj Buddha Bihar was constructed by Pilgrims from Mustang in Nepal, while the Nepal Buddha Bihar was constructed by Monks from Bihar in India. Ashokan Pillar The Indian emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini in around 249 BC, leaving behind an inscribed sand stone piller of commemorates the occasion.
Since the Lumbini development Zone was founded in 1978, Buddhist Nation from around the world have constructed extra vagant monasteries around the birth place of Buddha.
DAY 08: DRIVE FROM LUMBINI - POKHARA
Upon arrival welcome drink & short briefing about activities and facilities.
Quick visit of Lakeside in Pokhara
Overnight in lakeside.
DAY 09: FULL DAY POKHARA
Cross the Phewa lake by boat (en-route visit Tal-barahi temple) and hike to the Stupa (Monastery) situated on the top of the hill. Trek to Pame, enjoying magnificent views of Mt. Fishtail, Annapurna and Dhaulagiri and Lunch en-route.
Drive from Pame to Pokhara and Overnight at the hotel – BB basis.
Karma Dubgyu Chokhorling Monastery : Overlooking Pokhara on the east side of the Seti River, this huge gompa is worth visiting just for the views. The main prayer hall has a gilded statute of the historical Buddha and Bhadrakali Temple a two –tiered Newari –style temple dedicated to the eight armed Bhadrikali, to get here , walk east from the Karma Dubgyu Gompa.
Walking to the World Peace Pagoda
Balanced on a narrow ridge high above Phewa Tal, the brilliant white world peace pagoda was constructed by Buddhist monks from the Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji Organization to promote world peace. There are three paths upto the pagoda and several small cafes for snacks and drinks once you arrive.
DAY 10: POKHARA – KATHMANDU
Drive to Kathmandu
DAY 11: KATHMANDU DEPARTURE
Breakfast and Drive to Kathmandu airport for onward Journey.