Boudhanath (also known as Boudha, pronounced 'Bo-da') is 7 km east/northeast of Kathmandu. It is home to one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world, built during the 5th century AD.
For centuries, Boudhanath has been an important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists and local Nepalis. It is located on what was a major trade route between Nepal and Tibet. Many traveling merchants used it as a resting place. It is also a popular tourist site. In 1979, Boudha became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Great Stupa of Boudhanath is the focal point of the district. There are at least 29 Tibetan Gompas (Monasteries & Nunneries) around Boudhanath. The culture is very much Himalayan with a strong presence of Tibetans & Sherpas, as can be evidenced by the number of restaurants selling momos, thukpa & other Tibetan favourites. Many maroon-clad Tibetan Buddhist monks & nuns can be seen walking around Boudha, especially at the Stupa. As a daily ritual, many people walk three or more times around the stupa while repeating the mantra 'Om Mani Padme Hum' either quietly or aloud. During the days of & surrounding the full moons, the air is often thick with incense & mantras sung by monks, & the number of people visiting the Stupa increases significantly, along with the intensity of their mantras & prayers. Boudha is a fascinating & very spiritual area. Most of the restaurants & shops are closed by 20:00.
- Boudhanath: The Great Stupa by Keith Dowman. A translation of the legend of the great stupa as disclosed in a hidden treasure teaching of Guru Rinpoche.
From the Kathmandu airport, or from Thamel, expect to pay Rs250-350 (rupees) (2011). If you are coming to see the Boudha Stupa, tell the taxi driver that you wish to go to Boudha Stupa Main Gate.
There are also a number of local buses and vans that carry passengers in the Kathmandu Valley around the Ring Road (which loops around Kathmandu & the Kathmandu Valley) to Chabihil for Rs15 to 20. From Chabihill, one can take one of the many buses/vans to the 'Bouda Stupa Main Gate' for Rs15, or walk for 20 min up the Boudha road to the Stupa.
From Jamal Bus Stand (north of Rani Pokhari Lake in Ratna Park), white micro-buses and regular buses ply the Boudha route and stop outside the main gate of the stupa. There are no English signs on the buses, but they remain at the bus stand until full and so there is time to ask the conductor - fare Rs25.
Most of the sites of interest are located near the stupa and can easily be reached on foot. Taxis are available on the main road by the main stupa gate, until around 20:00.
- 1 Boudhanath Stupa. According to legend, Boudhanath Stupa was built during the 5th century AD, by an old poultry woman who asked the king for land to construct a shrine to the Buddha. The king agreed, and offered her as much land as she could cover with the skin of a water buffalo. The woman proceeded to cut a buffalo hide into thin strips, and placed them end to end to form a huge circumference. The king realised that he had been tricked by the old woman, but he adhered to his word, and the stupa was constructed according to these dimensions. Nowadays, the stupa is the most popular site for Buddhists in Nepal, and throughout the day pilgrims can be seen circumambulating the structure chanting mantras. It is especially spectacular at night when adorned with butter lamps. Remember to walk around the stupa in a clockwise direction and also to spin the prayer wheels clockwise. There is a small entry fee (Rs150) to enter the stupa area. This can be waived for guests of hotels at the other side of the stupa. See also: Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent
Monasteries & nunneries
- Dilyak Monastery, PO Box No. 4512, Boudha, Kathmandu, Nepal, ☏ , . Dilyak Dabzang Monastery is the oldest original Karma Kagyu monastery in Boudha, Nepal. The monastery was established by Very Ven. 7th Dabzang Rinpoche year 1963 near the great stupa of Boudha.
- Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery (The Kopan Nunnery), Boudha, Kathmandu, Nepal, ☏ . Khachoe Chakyil Ling Nunnery (Kopan Nunnery) is the largest Tibetan nunnery in Nepal with over 400 nuns. The nunnery provides full scholarship for the nuns, which includes education, accommodation, health care & food. With help of generous supporters, the completion of its building plans, Kopan Nunnery will be the largest Tibetan nunnery in the World – able to house a thousand nuns. The aim is to create a place study and practice for nuns - a supportive & stable environment for women who wish to pursue a spiritual life.
- Khawalung Monastery, Boudha-Simaltar (take a taxis from Hyatt Hotel about 10 min drive), ☏ . A beautiful Tibetan Monastery near Boudhanath Stupa. It is inaugrated by Trulshik Rinpoche and Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche in October 2005. The monastery has an elementary and a training school. It consists of monks from remote region of Nepal and Tibet. There are many exquisite Tibetan Buddhist wall paintings.
- Kopan Monastery, North of Boudhanath (go north from the Stupa - ask anyone - 40-min walk or take taxi), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Kopan is a thriving monastery of 360 monks, mainly from Nepal and Tibet, and a spiritual oasis for hundreds of visitors annually from around the world. Nearby is Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery, home to 380 nuns. The monastery and the nunnery are under the spiritual guidance of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and the care of the abbot, Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lhundrup Rigsel. And it is the wellspring of the FPMT, a network of some 140 centres and activities world-wide, themselves expressions of the Buddha activity of Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Kopan offers study and meditation for serious students, casual visitors and retreaters.
- Pullahari Monastery & Retreat Centre, P.O. Box 11015, Jagdol, Ward Kopan, Kathmandu, ☏ . Pullahari is the seat of His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche in Nepal, located in the foothills north of the Great Stupa of Boudhanath. In the secluded serenity with spacious views, the age-old tradition of prayers, rituals, training, and education of monks continues in the monastery, and also in the Mahamudra retreat centre. In addition, residential courses for lay practitioners are offered at the Rigpe Dorje Institute, and the facilities for individual retreat are open throughout the year.
- Shechen Monastery in the alleys near the stupa. A very spacious and beautiful temple founded by the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. There is a garden restaurant near the monastery guest house.
- 2 Thrangu Monastery, Boudha (facing the Great Stupa of Boudhanath), ☏ . Thrangu Monastery is the centre of monastic life for nearly 250 monks. They receive training in ritual practices, study Dharma & learn to read and write in Tibetan & English. The older monks take turns annually learning different jobs in the monastery. The monks chant special prayers as requested & often go to private homes to do pujas for the deceased, for new homes, etc. There are many monks under the age of 18 and most of these boys are from rural areas of Nepal, particularly the mountain areas bordering Tibet. From an early age, they learn to develop the good habits and discipline.
Temples and museums
- 3 Pashupatinath (5 km north-east of Kathmandu Valley, or 20-minute walk past several temples from Boudhanath). An important Hindu temple to Shiva in the form of Lord of the Beasts. It's the location of cremation ghats (steps) on the banks of the Bagmati River. You will also see sadhus, a busy market for religious items and a holy cave. Morning is the best time to visit. While entrance to the temple is allowed for Hindus only, the surrounding forest area provides much to explore. Rs1,000.
- Taragaon Museum, Boudhnath, Tridevi Sadak (In the compound of the Hyatt Regency Kathmandu stands the former Taragaon Hotel,), ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 10:00-17:00. turn it into a do umentation centre documenting what artists, photographers, architects, anthropologists and Samskritists from abroad had contributed in the second half of the 20th century to identify, highlight and preserve the cultural heritage of the Kathmandu Valley.
- Circumambulate the stupa (walk clockwise - ie keep the stupa on your right side). This is the main activity of pilgrims and many tourists too. One lap is about 150 m. At the far side from the main gate entrance it is possible to walk up on to the stupa itself during the daytime.
- Monastery tour: please practice good manners. Ask the first monk or nun you see at the place (monastery or nunnery) you wish to visit for permission, before wandering around their home grounds. Some (not all) encourage the public to visit by offering guided tours, classes, puja services, meals, & gift shops. While on their sacred grounds, be respectful, don't smoke, turn off mobile phones, lower your voice, leave your shoes outside before entering any temples or buildings, & get permission before taking pictures. Bear in mind that monasteries & nunneries are sanctuaries for inner practice, not tourist attractions. Most (if not all) of them welcome donations.
- Kopan Monastery. Founded by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa as the core of what has become an international network of Gelugpa dharma centers, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). Located near Baudha, Kopan offers ten-day meditation courses regularly throughout the year, and a month-long course (for which it is famous) every November-to-December. Reservations are necessary
- Rangjung Yeshe Institute. An international institute for Buddhist higher studies, modeled on a traditional Tibetan Buddhist College. The institute is affiliated with Kathmandu University, and is located on the premises of the monastery Ka-Nying (short for "Kagyu and Nyingma") Shedrup Ling. It offers bachelors and masters degrees in Buddhist Studies with Himalayan Language (Tibetan, Nepali, and Sanskrit), as well as six week stand alone intensive courses in each.
There are many handicraft shops around the stupa. This may be the best place in Nepal for Buddhist & Tibetan related items - statues, prayer flags, Tibetan incense, etc.
- Himalayan Singing Bowl Centre (Shanta Ratna Shakya), Boudha Stupa, Kathmandu (One of the many shops directly infront of the Great Boudha Stupa), ☏ . Sells hand-made singing bowls.
- Boudha Stupa Restaurant & Cafe (Veg & Non-veg meals), Boudha (Inner circle, Boudha Stupa), ☏ . 12. Specializes in Nepali and Tibetan cuisine. Clay overn pizzas. Views over the stupa. Rs200 for meal.
- Happiness Vegetarian Restaurant, Inner Circle, Boudha Stupa (on the inner circle of the stupa, opposite side on the main gate), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Chinese and Nepalese vegetarian cuisine. Excellent views over stupa. Quick service. Discount for monks. Rs150-250.
- Himalayan Cafe, Boudha Stupa (from main gate to the stupa, walk anti-clockwise around the stupa 3/4 of one lap - HC is on the left), ☏ . Clean cafe offering traditional Tibetan & Western breakfast, lunch & dinner. Cafe is above Buddhist shop & is on 3, 4 & 5th floors overlooking the stupa. Excellent veggie burger with fried for Rs120. Small pot of milk tea Rs75. Wi-Fi.
- Regency is in the back streets about a two-minute walk from the stupa (with the stupa on your right, turn left into alley after passing Stupa View Restaurant, and take the next right. The restaurant is few doors down on the right) and is where many locals eat. The food is good and you can easily satisfy your appetite for well under Rs100.
- Stupa Dining Restaurant With Garden, Boudha, Dhara Tole, before turning to Hyatt Road. Local restaurant with good, clean, cheap food, and with live music.
- Stupa View Restaurant is a vegetarian restaurant that offers views over the stupa. It's a little expensive (from Rs400 for a meal), but the quality of the food and service is good. Decor is dated.
- Three Sisters also offers views overlooking the stupa and kora. The food is cheaper than at Stupa View (from Rs120 for a meal), but the quality of the food and service is also a little lower.
- Flavors, Inner circle, Boudha Stupa, (taking the main gate to the stupa as 6 o'clock, Flavors is at 10 o'clock), ☏ . Mostly outdoor seating. Good coffee, Excellent food
- Himalayan Java Coffee, Inner circle, Boudha Stupa. A large and chic cafe, offering views over the stupa. Excellent coffee.
- Roadhouse Cafe, Inner circle, Boudha Stupa. A warm cosy cafe, with rooftop seating. Views over the stupa.
- Sattva, the Coffee House, Boudha Stupa (overlooking the stupa, opposite side from main gate). Great coffee, desserts, and uninhibited views over the stupa.
There are dozens of hotels & guesthouses not listed here. Check bulletin boards in cafe/bakeries for individuals offering rooms for rent by the week or month.
- Dragon Guesthouse, Mahankal, Boudha (Behind Shechen Monastery). A pleasant guesthouse with garden, restaurant, and free Wi-Fi. Convenient for Boudha Stupa. Rs850 for single.
- Samdrup Guest House, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Mostly used by Tibetans on pilgrimage or visiting family, and hence is a very cheap, but basic hotel (though more deluxe accommodation is available on the upper floors). The hotel is across from the main gate at Boudha Stupa. Has a gift shop on the 1st floor.
- Tharlam GuestHouse, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Some of the rooms are nice and clean but the ones downstairs, with kitchen, not so much. They have rats and little cockroaches. It's at the end of a very narrow and dark alley, and there have been lots of robberies at night. Not recommendable. Beside/affiliated with the beautiful Tharlam Sasang Namgyal Ling Monastery. One bedroom for 1 person: Rs400; twin beds or double bed for 2: Rs$800; Suite or bedroom with kitchen: Rs1200; (prices: 2011) about 100 m NE of the Boudha Stupa.
- Shechen Guest House, ☏ . In the grounds of Shechen Monastery in Boudha has clean & good quality rooms with private bathrooms for about USD10 (2011). Guesthouse also has garden with restaurant/coffee shop facilities & is within a five minute walk of Bodhnath Stupa.
- Gangchen Guest House opposite Hyatt East Gate. Tel: 4470505, Room rates Rs800-1800.
- Hyatt Regency Kathmandu, PO Box 9609, Taragaon, Boudha (10 km from the city centre of Kathmandu, on the road to Boudhanath Stupa), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 5-star hotel with 290 rooms & suites. The hotel offers a health & beauty spa, swimming pool, wading pool for children & an outdoor whirlpool. It's 4 km from Tribhuvan International Airport & within walking distance of Bodhanath Stupa.
In the vicinity of sacred sites:
- Wear clothing that expresses respect for the sacred nature of the site.
- Take your shoes off before entering temple buildings and some shops. Follow the lead of the locals.
- Circumambulate the stupa & other sacred objects in a clock-wise direction.
- Preserve the peace and tranquility.
- Do not climb onto statues or other sacred objects.
- Do not take pictures of people without their permission.
- Fatima Healing Centre is on the first floor of a beautiful mansion. They treat most common health issues. Dr Fatima (from Llasa Tibet) heals with traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture & herbal medicine. They also offer therapeutic/healing foot baths, facials & massage. A 15-min walk North of the Stupa. Closed Saturday & Sunday
- Kanti Dental Clinic does general dental work including cleanings for Rs450. Located off the main road into Boudha, less than 100 m east of the Stupa main gate on the same side of the road. Open 7 days a week.
- Shechen Monastery operates an efficient, hygienic & friendly clinic offering treatments using Western & traditional Tibetan medicine, homeopathy & also sometimes massage & acupuncture. It is a good place to seek treatment for both acute & chronic ailments. The clinic is in an alley across from Shechen Guest Houses.
Most cafes & coffee shops in Boudha have free wifi for the convenience of customers. There are many internet cafes near the Stupa.
- Changunarayan - small village and home to the ancient temple of Changu Narayan which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Kathmandu Valley. It's possible to catch a public bus to the beginning of the ascend to Changunarayan and then just hike it towards the top of the hill for half an hour.
- Pashupatinath. An important temple to Shiva in the form of Lord of Animals. See monkeys, cremation, sadhus and a holy cave. The temple is a short taxi ride, or 20 minute walk past several temples, from Boudhanath. While entrance to the temple is allowed for Hindus only, the surrounding forest area provides much to explore. Rs1000.
- Pharping. A sacred site one hour from Kathmandu.