Top Spiritual Places to Visit in Nepal
Whenever I have heard Nepal stories, it has always been about enchanting Himalayan ranges adorning the highest peaks, beautiful scenic landscapes, great adventure place and a trekker’s paradise.
And, It has been my dream to visit this beautiful neighbouring country to my heart’s content, but kept on deferring some way or the other. This year, as if my stars were aligned and I got the golden opportunity to visit Nepal as a part of media delegate along with 40 others world renowned bloggers/ influencers. Although, as an adventure junkie, I also wanted to opt for a trek as one of the option but due to certain physical conditions, I went to opt for another itinerary which included a culturally immersive trip to experience the heritage and spiritual places around Nepal.
I thanked my stars for doing so, as I realised that there is so much more to see and to soak in Nepal.
To talk about the topography of Nepal, it is 800 kms long and just about 150 kms in width. And in this small width area, Nepal has some low lying areas from 60 metres upto highest mountain ranges measuring 8848 meters above sea level, The Everest. And, the climatic conditions vary from sub-tropical in the Terai region to subzero winters in the upper mountains that too all within a span of few kilometers. Nepal is also referred as the meditation and yoga capital of the world. So, whether you are at the mountain top doing meditation or visiting one of the several temples, stupas or pagoda, Spirituality will always be an integral part of this only Hindu Nation. Nepal has more than 125 caste and ethnic groups, and 123 spoken dialects, and is characterized as naturally pure, tranquil and culturally unique.
Talking about being the only Hindu Nation, I have witnessed the best amalgamation of Hinduism and Buddhism here. For travelers who aim for a self-transformation on the spiritual path, can choose to visit the various Hindu temples or meditate in the birthplace of Lord Shakyamuni Buddha. In the mystic land of Buddhism and several deities/ demons, the traveler or the pilgrims (should you choose to become one) can experience the spiritual upliftment through the practice of yoga and meditation as well.
My Experience on Spirituality in Nepal
Sacred land of Lumbini
Being an ardent follower of Buddhism myself, I have always based my life modules on the principles of creating causes and reaping effects. And, with that, a thought of meditating in the Birthplace of Buddha have ever since intrigued me. So, on a quest to my spiritual journey, I landed in the birth place of Siddhartha Gautama, who later became Shakyamuni Buddha.
Lumbini, located in the southern part of Nepal is the major pilgrimage destination which attracts a huge number global Buddhist tourist. With more focus on Spiritual tourism, a noble initiative by Nepal Tourism towards Vision 2020. The surge of spirituality with a right blend of tourism have seen a massive growth over the years in Nepal.
“After I am no more, O Ananda! Men of belief will visit the place with faith, curiosity and devotion.
Lumbini, the place where I was born. The path to ultimate peace is spiritual discipline”-Shakyamuni Buddha
Lumbini which is a UNESCO world heritage site has various religious sites comprised of several religious monuments and temples, amongst which, a massive peace pagoda, a Japanese Buddhist temple and the sacred Maya Devi temple are the most popular.
Maya Devi Temple is the holy birthplace of Shakyamuni Buddha, where Queen Maya Devi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama who is also known as the last reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. And, hence Lumbini is also important destination among the Hindu pilgrim circuit.
World Peace Pagoda is another prominent place in Lumbini. Nearly, all the spiritual places in Nepal has a peace pagoda which is also considered a symbol of welcoming peace. This grand pristine monument surrounded by lotus pond which signifies purity and prosperity, was built by Japanese Buddhist organisation. The area often witnesses locals, who flock in here to secure their quest for peace and also the monks who come to offer their prayers in the nearby Buddhist temples. The sight of them chanting reverberated my ears to the penultimate solitude, while I was gazing at the beauty of this place.
Japanese Temple is one of the prominent temple situated next to the Peace Pagoda, this is where you can find someone chanting at all times. Hence, simply meditating and soaking the positive vibe here will lead you to a whole different level of satisfaction. In addition, if one has time, can go exploring all the monasteries and temples built by several nations like Myanmar, Japan, Korea, Canada.
Nepal is definitely one nation which stresses on the importance of spirituality in all its endeavour. It is quite evident from the fact each house/shops and building do have a symbol of a sun god right in front of the entrance as a sign of devotion. The fact that Nepal shares its border with India, China and Bhutan, hence the history is also deep rooted based on spiritual connection with its neighbouring religious countries.
Pokhara does not only attracts hippie nomad’s/adventure travelers but also is considered to be a place to meditate, do yoga or to learn more about the history and culture of Nepal. A beautiful sleepy hill town, gorgeously perched around the lake Fewa, also has many spiritual places apart from quirky cafes, bars and shopping places.
Hiking upto the World Peace Pagoda, in Pokhara will be worthwhile after you get to see the panoramic view of Lake Fewa and the entire Pokhara town. I had my meditative moments in front of the giant Buddha statue which helped me channelize my energy.
Tal Barahi temple, is a small pagoda style temple which is located in the center of Lake Fewa and can only be accessible by boat. It is considered to be a sacred temple which is dedicated to Goddess Durga which is in shape of Barahi. This temple is very well renowned among thousands of devotees for its sacredness and is one of its kind in Nepal.
So ideally, this idyllic destination is also a hub for the kind of travelers who are seeking for spiritual empowerment and is constantly developing into one of the most desired international tourist destination in Nepal.
Also read: Things to do in Aritar.
Melting Pot of Diverse Culture and Religious beliefs.
The moment I stepped out of Tribhuvan International Airport, I was delighted with the first sight of sacred Pashupatinath Temple. Once you stepped into Kathmandu, the Capital of Nepal, you are welcomed with largely two things- the warm smile of the locals and several sights of Newari styled architectural temples and Monasteries in and around Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu is a home to many ancient temples and monuments which makes a peaceful coexistence between Hinduism and Buddhism. As Buddhism is considered to be an off-shoot of Hindu religion because Shakyamuni Buddha is considered the last reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. Of the numerous temples and Buddhist monasteries to visit from, PashupatiNath Temple, Swayombhunath Temple and Boudhanath are some of the major attractions among the spiritual and as well as for general tourist. People come from all around the world to offer prayers towards their respective beliefs.
An Evening in PashupatiNath Temple
One of the most sacred and famous temple dedicated to Lord Pashupatinath, which is another name of Shiva. Lord Pashupati is also revered as the National Deity of Nepal. This largest temple complex is located in the heart of Kathmandu city and it stretches on both side of Bagmati river. Evening Aarti near the burning ghats will take you on a ceremonious journey about the evolution of birth and death. There are several pagoda style temples inside the complex, which although allows only Hindu devotees inside to offer prayers.
Tranquility at Swayambhunath
Also known as the monkey temple, is located on the western part of Kathmandu Valley, and is known as the holiest Buddhist sites in the country. As per the legends, Swayambhu means “self-occurring”. As it is believed that it all started with an occurrence of a large lotus flower which had an illusion of Shakyamuni Buddha. As the Buddhism is largely based on the philosophy of cause and effect, therefore the lotus flower also signifies the phenomena of creation in its own, as it is the only flower which seeds and blooms at a same time. How mystic!!! Visiting this sacred site which is perched on the hilltop with a beautiful backdrop is a total bliss.
Omnipotent Boudha Eye- Boudhanath
I was, fortunately, staying at Hotel Tibet International, which is at an arm’s distance from one of the largest stupa in Kathmandu. It is believed that the eye of the stupa is the symbolic representation of wisdom, truth and protection. The stupa is surrounded by Tibetan monasteries and cultural centers. Built-in the shape of mandala, this giant stupa was built by the Tibetan legends, as the same is believed to be situated in the ancient trade route from Tibet. The colourful fluttering prayer flags and prayer wheels around the stupa gives a surreal feeling of divinity. Given a chance, I would have love to spent hours just to gaze at the mystic beauty of this gigantic monument.
Opulence of Bhaktapur
Out of my tight schedule from attending Himalaya Travel Mart 2019, which was held in Kathmandu in association with Nepal Tourism Board and PATA Nepal Chapter to promote tourism in Nepal, I got the opportunity to visit one of the three royal cities of Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur which was also a former capital of Nepal during the Malla Kingdom. It is located an hour’s distance from the main city. Bhaktapur- the place of devotees, as they call it, is famous for its best kept architectural wonders. It is filled with religious pagoda styled Hindu temples and Buddhist shrines. The former courtyard and the durbar square depicts various stone carvings of Hindu deities which bring out many mythological stories. The Bhaktapur Durbar Square is also listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Definitely not to be given a miss, if you want to delve deeper into the cultural and mythical facts about Ancient Nepal.
Salvation in the lap of Himalayas -Muktinath Temple
One of the most beautiful and sacred pilgrim sites in the lap of Upper Himalayas is Muktinath which also means “place of liberation” amongst the Hindu’s and a place for Goddesses known as Skydancers, as per Tibetan Buddhist beliefs. And, this temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. A visit to this place will be worthwhile, as the same being the temple which is perched at the highest altitude in the world, measuring 3710 m.
So, whether you are an avid adventure seeker, or an enthusiast nature lover or perhaps a devout devotee, trekking up to such an altitude will definitely make all efforts go worth the same.
To Buddhists, Muktinath is also a place where the great sage guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) came to meditate.
Yoga and Meditation for mental rejuvenation
Apart from several temples and monasteries, it is also a hub for yoga meditation seekers. The spiritual relevance between Hinduism and Buddhism have made this place, a perfect destination for meditation retreats. Several resorts and hotels have tied up with multiple yoga experts to offer world class service. Vipassana is a form of meditation that claims to allow practitioners to ‘see things as they really are’. It is taught in 10-day retreats in which participants learn the basics and practice enough for it to be beneficial. Vipassana retreats include sitting and walking meditations and are perhaps best known for their requirement that participants remain silent.
Concluding to what I feel:
I do feel, that to make travel as an integral part of our lives to educate and empower ourselves with deeper knowledge about sustainable and responsible tourism, it is important to also have an altruistic approach to analyse each and every situation with a holistic approach. And spirituality have just added a new dimension to travel . It not only empowers your own self but also helps to unite with the very environment you are in.
Here is a short video , I have posted about the spiritual aspect of Nepal:
An outlook towards the spiritual tourism in Nepal
Nepal do places itself as an important destination in promoting spirituality all around the world. An initiative to promote and encourage spiritual tourism was envisaged as the theme for #VisitNepal 2020 in the Himalayan Travel Mart 2019, where over a 800 delegates gathered from all around the world to discuss the impending need of spirituality in everyone’s lives.
So what do you think? Do you take spirituality seriously . If you are a believer or an atheist or a practitioner , do let me know if you like my post on spirituality in the comments below.
Note: I was invited by the Nepal Tourism and PATA Nepal Chapter to attend the ITBMC conference on the theme #VisitNepal2020 at the Himalayan Travel Mart 2019 coupled with a FAM trip around Nepal. However, the views and opinions expressed are based on my own thoughts. All photographs are copyrighted with the author of this blog, hence copying of the same is strictly prohibited.