Kathmandu is no longer the sleepy Himalayan town it was in the 1970s, when it was a major stop on the Asian hippie trail. Today the Nepali capital is a bustling, chaotic metropolis that welcomes over one million visitors each year.
Even if trekking in the Himalayas is what you’re really after, the city’s extensive Buddhist sites are well worth a stopover.
As a testament to Buddha’s teachings, there exist many shrines such as monasteries, sites & vihars in Nepal, the country where Buddha was born over two and a half millenniums ago.
Visiting such places can guide one to a spiritual and religious awakening process; if not, they are still the perfect sites to experience the peaceful and quiet surrounding.
Some of the key Buddhist Sites in Kathmandu are introduced below.
1. | Boudhanath, the Great Buddhist Stupa
When it comes to Buddhist sites in Kathmandu, Boudhanath Stupa is one of the most popular and important sites.
Boudhanath, one of the world’s largest circular stupas and, like Swayambhu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Boudha (short for Boudhanath) is a popular residential center for the Tibetan community. Join the pilgrims circumambulating the stupa, lighting butter lamps, and prostrating on boards laid out around its base.
Located in the northeastern part of Kathmandu, the stupa is believed to be built in the 14th century by a Lichhavi king. The location is also believed to lie in the ancient trade route from Tibet to enter the Kathmandu valley. The stupa is also called Chorten Chenpo which translates as the great stupa. Inside the stupa is the relics of Kassapa Buddha, which is one of the 29 names of Buddha.
2. | Swayambhunath, the Great Buddhist Stupa
When it comes to Buddhist sites in Kathmandu, Swayambhu Stupa is one of the most popular and important sites.
Legend has it that when the Kathmandu valley was a lake, Swayambhu Jyoti (light) was born out of a lotus flower that had bloomed in the middle of the lake. In fact, Swayambhu means the “self-existing” one. This stupa is located at the top of the hill in west Kathmandu.
Built by King Manadeva in 460, the stupa is regarded as one of the oldest, ancient religious heritage sites in Nepal. The Swayambhu complex is also a World Heritage site and is filled with beautiful chaityas, statues and shrines of Buddhist as well as Hindu deities. Visitors are also attracted to this holy site for the panoramic, beautiful scenario of Kathmandu city.
3. | Kopan Monastery, for Buddhist Study, Meditation, Retreat and Practice
The Kopan Monastery was established by the FPMT’s founders, Lamas Thubten Yeshe and Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, who bought the property from Nepal’s royal astrologer in 1969. Its name comes from the name of the hill on which it was built. Kopan has become especially famous for teaching Buddhism to visiting Westerners.
Kopan Monastery has a tranquil and calm environment ideal for those seeking spiritual insight and inner serenity. You will be subjected to the breathtaking sights of the Kathmandu valley as you stroll, as well as an array of stupas, statues, prayer wheels, and other sacred objects.
The monastery offers visitors a unique opportunity to learn about Buddhism and the customs and traditions of the monks who live there.
4. | White Gumba (Seto Gumba), for Buddhist Study, Meditation, Retreat and Practice
Seto Gumba is another famous Buddhist monastery, located at the top of a hill in northwestern Kathmandu. Seto Gumba or White Monastery is also known as Druk Amitabha Mountain. The monastery is a wonderful art of Tibetan architecture filled with various murals, statues and paintings.
After an earthquake in April 2015, the monastery was in maintenance for a few years. Now, it is finally open to the public every Sunday. One can visit the monastery as a part of a small hike or a ride as well. This gumba at the height of 1,500 m is also regarded as the second beautiful spot to view the sunrise and sunset, after Nagarkot.
The beauty of the architecture of the Seto Gumba allows one to snap beautiful pictures as well as learn about Buddhism, meditation and Tibetan architecture in the monastery.
5. | Asura Cave, for Meditation, Retreat and Practice
Asura Cave Temple is nested in a cliff above Pharping in the southern part of the Kathmandu Valley. The cave has an ancient history as it was here the tantric master Padmasambhava attained realization.
To fulfill the 16th Karmapa’s wish, Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and later his son Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche developed the area around the cave to house traditional three-year retreatants, pilgrim guests and other short-term retreatants.
In addition to pilgrims and retreatants, many elderly people come here to spend their last years cultivating love and deeper insights.
The easiest way to reach Pharping is by hire a private car. No matter where you are in Kathmandu or in the surrounding valley, you can easily take a car / jeep to Pharping. The ride from Kathmandu, depending on where you are, will take approximately 1-2 hours.
This is a great place to start for those who have never heard of the town before. In this post, we discussed Top Buddhist Sites in Kathmandu and the importance of the town in Buddhism. We hope that you found this article to be interesting and informative.
To sightsee in clear weather and breathable air, the best travel windows are September to late November and February to mid-April. (Avoid monsoon season, June to July.) Locals call Nepal’s air “the silent killer,” so just in case, wear a mask to guard against pollution. But keep in mind, Kathmandu air going better now.
For the above places to see rent a car on Kathmandu Car Services