Visit to Kathmandu, Pokhara and Lumbini in Nepal


This was basically my first visit outside of India. But in a way Nepal cannot be said to be totally different from India. Strongly connected by the Hindu and the Hindi roots, you are likely to feel very much at home in Nepal. But despite all this connect Nepal is very much another country. It all starts in the Airport itself. Thanks to the heavy passenger traffic in Delhi it took us more than two hours to finish the check-in in New Delhi Airport. That’s the first lesson in International Travel. It’s not as smooth as domestic travel. It’s advisable for you to reach the airport about four hours early. According to the schedule the Jet airways was supposed to take two hours to reach Kathmandu but they were about 25 minutes early. So it’s basically a short flight from Delhi. The scenes were magnificent towards landing.

Kathmandu Airport is very small. Since this is an international flight it takes longer to check-out too. The airport has only 4 conveyor belts. So you’ve to wait agonisingly long to pick your baggage.

Kathmandu Airport

Taxis are quite expensive in Nepal. Per kilometer charge from Airport is almost 50 Indian rupees. Indian currency is perfectly acceptable in most of the Nepal shops. But we still exchanged Indian currency of 5000 to Nepal Rupees 8000. You can do it in the Airport itself. We had booked our room near the Airport itself (about 4KM). Since we had luggage and also that it was afternoon, we had to take a Taxi. But if you get used to the route and local public transport you can do without Taxi and save yourself quite a bit of money. We had booked our room through Airbnb and I should say we got a pretty good room for around 800 Indian rupees. Pashupatinath Temple is at a walkable distance from that room.

Kathmandu is very dusty. Most people here wear masks and it’s sensible too. Kathmandu needs a definite improvement in infrastructure. Hotel food is mostly expensive. You’ve cheaper options too but any decent looking hotel is likely to give you a price shock. It’s not just for the tourists, even the locals need to pay just as much to eat outside food. Of course it’s not that expensive that you should be scared. 4 small Puris + 1 sweet + cup of curd + curry costs around 85 Indian rupees. It’s near the temple. In the main road two idlies will cost you around 100 Indian rupees. We didn’t experiment too much with food. It’s better to be little circumspect with food in a new place especially when you need to do daily travel.


It was quite cold in the night with temperature touching as low as 4 degrees towards morning. Days are usually warmer but it gets colder towards night.

We visited the Pashupatinath Temple the next day morning. The temple area is really Serene. You can feel definite calmness here. Mobile is allowed inside but photography is not allowed. There are lot of monkeys inside the temple campus. The temple strikes you with its beautiful design. Just like the Kedarnath Temple which withstood the heavy deluge, the Pashupatinath main Temple has withstood the recent earthquake. The neighboring Temple has been broken to pieces but Pashupatinath is not affected a least bit. It could be a Wonder for non-believers. The Pashupatinath idol is a combination of both a Lingam and face of Shiva. You can have darshan from all the four sides of the temple. It really helps in fast movement of the devotees. We both felt that the idol here is definitely special and that there’s a definite presence of Divine in this place. Pashupatinath leaves an indelible impression on your mind.

Pashupatinath Temple Main Entrance
Sideview of the Pashupatinath Temple

There are dedicated places around the temple to do Shraddha (Obsequies) for the departed souls. There’s also a cremation ground right next to (I should rather say, below) the temple. Both me and Vishuddha lost our fathers about one and half years back. Having gone through all that we didn’t feel any resentment towards the cremation ground but rather we remembered Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of death. We very well know that’s the eventual end for everyone.

After taking a look in and round the Pashupatinath Main Temple we had our breakfast in a nearby hotel. During this time we were approached by a marketing woman who wanted to sell Rudraksha Beads.  One of my friends wanted a Rudraksha bead so we went to the shop but didn’t feel like purchasing there. The Pashupatinath temple is surrounded by many shops that sell the Rudraksha Beads.  Just on our way back, we took a selfie with Sampada, a local boy 🙂

Myself, Sampada and Vishudha Kumar Mohanty (friend from Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh)

From here we wanted to go to Muktinath. To reach Muktinath from Kathmandu, we needed to go to Pokhara and from there to Jomsom. Vishudha was slightly unwell after reaching Kathmandu and hence we just delayed our journey to Pokhara.  We can reach Pokhara by flight also. But we thought of taking the Bus since that would also give us an idea of Nepal’s geography in addition to cost saving. Pokhara is around 220 KMs from Kathmandu. But it takes nearly 7 hours by road. The road isn’t bad as such.  It was bad only till we came out of Kathmandu. From there the road is very good but it is narrow and hence overtaking is difficult. This reminded me of Uttarakhand. It looked very much the same. We didn’t travel by Bus but by local shared taxis. It cost us around 350 Indian Rupees. We had bought some Oranges from Kathmandu. That really helped a lot during our journey.  The Oranges of Nepal is very sweet.

These Oranges were really good.

We reached Pokhara around 11:00PM. By the time we took a local taxi and reached our lodge it was 11:30PM.  One restaurant was open next to our lodge. We had our dinner here. Our next journey was to Jomsom.

To go to Muktinath, we need to take a Travelers’ Pass from the local travel authority. It costed an expensive 600 Indian rupees. It is even more if you are from a non SAARC nation.  The hotel manager got us flight tickets to Jomsom. In the evening we went to see the Fewa Lake.  Fewa Lake is large and beautiful. We hired a boat which was steered by a woman. Women do everything here. They steer boats, run shops and what not! They easily outnumber men.

Boat riding in Fewa Lake
Fewa Lake is just too good
We took a boat ride on this. This is the view from the Varahi Mandir

In the mid of the Fewa Lake is the Varahi Temple. It is really peaceful and serene.  The complete boat ride takes close to two hours.

The Vaarahi Devi temple in the middle of the Fewa Lake

Pokhara is a very neat city. It is only here that you will get a feeling that you have come to a foreign country. The roads are exceptionally clean, well lit, and they have very good public transport facilities here. It is not so expensive. In fact the lodging cost here is much lesser than in many of the Indian cities. Even food cost was okay.

Pokhara is exceptionally clean
Fewa Lake
Local bus. They are quite frequent in Pokhara and they stop wherever you want 🙂
Another view of Fewa Lake and the Varahi Mandir

The next day we had to catch our flight to Jomsom at 6:30AM. We reached the Airport around 5:15AM. The Airport was still closed. They started operations around 6:00AM.  We were told that due to inclement weather conditions, our flight will be delayed and eventually at 9:30AM, we were told that our flight has been canceled and that we can take full refund from the person from whom we bought our tickets! We came back to the Lodge and took our refund. Even for the next day the Jomsom flight was canceled. So Muktinath was totally ruled out. But since we had two full days, after thinking a bit, we decided to go to Lumbini, the birthplace of Bhagavan Buddha.

From Pokhara we decided to take a flight to Siddharth Nagar.  It is just a 30 minutes flight. This is the only way in which we could save some time. Most of these local flights costs anywhere between 2200 to 3500 Indian Rupees.  But considering the hardships in the road travel and also the time that it takes (the average speed is only around 30kmph), I would say travelers to Nepal should make complete use of local Airlines here. To my surprise, I found that there are as many as 8 airlines in Nepal!  This is quite as many as we have here in India. Siddharath Nagar Airport is very small. It resembles one of our Petrol Bunks :). But now they are constructing one International Airport there.

Here they have many smaller aircraft
Siddharth Nagar Airport

From Siddharth Nagar to Lumbini is 30KMs. Local Travel here is quite as bad as that of our rural Uttar Pradesh and roads are also quite similar.  We had to wait for a long time to get a local bus.  It was one hour journey from Siddharth Nagar to Lumbini. We reached there in the afternoon. Except for Pokhara, it must be said that Nepal is very dusty. It may have something to do with the clay soil.  Now they are working on the roads. Hopefully in another 2-3 years it will be much easier to travel there by road. We got a room in Lumbini in one of the smaller lodges. Compared to Kathmandu and even Pokhara it must be said that Lumbini lodges are a bit expensive and not that well maintained. We had an option to stay in a Guest House run by the Lumbini Trust. But it was quite far and weren’t too sure of getting a room there. So we decided to stay in the Lumbini Town itself.  We got one good small vegetarian restaurant here.  Most of the restaurants in Lumbini serve Buffalo Meat. The owner of Vegetarian Restaurant (apparently a Hindu) is a fine person. He spoke well and always looked happy. He runs the restaurant with the help of his wife and two of his other relatives. He said that Bhagavan Buddha was such a noble man who taught the equality of all beings but people in Lumbini, his very birthplace have spoiled all of it. He also referred to Buddha saying that your Self is also present in all Beings and that you shouldn’t hurt any being. He wanted to live up to the precepts of Buddha’s teachings by starting a vegetarian restaurant here. Franky, this was the only Vegetarian Restaurant we could see in Lumbini. It is just 100 meters from the Bus Stand.

We hired an Electric Bike from our Lodge at 300 Indian Rupees for half a day and went to see the famous Lumbini Garden where Bhagavan Buddha was born. The Lumbini Campus is being maintained by the Lumbini Trust. The Campus is very huge (heard it is more than 200 acres). To see the Lumbini Campus in full takes at least a full day if you want to explore it in deep. This Campus has many Buddhist Monasteries and Monuments (some are called Stupas).  Almost all Buddhist nations have built one in Honor of Lord Buddha here. Some structures are really wonderful. The Campus as a whole is very serene and blissful. Also that we visited this place towards the evening made it extra special.

Conveyance to explore Lumbini

Towards the end we went to the Maya Devi temple. This is the place where Bhagavan Buddha was born. It is said that Maya Devi, Buddha’s mother took bath in the pond nearby (it is still there) and later gave birth to Buddha at this place. They have erected a monument here. Many people were paying their respects to Bhagavan Buddha here.  We spoke to the monks of the Buddhist order there and one of them advised us to visit Kapilavastu, which was ruled by Buddha’s father.  Kapilavastu is about 35KMs from Lumbini.  After a memorable visit to Lumbini, we came back to our room. We had our food in the same Vegetarian Restaurant.

Buddha’s birthplace

The next day was Shivaratri. Our plan was to be present in the great Pashupatinath Temple on the night of Shivaratri. We had booked our flight from Siddharth Nagar (also known as Bhairahawa) in the evening. Most of the local flights here take 30 minutes at the most. The next morning also we went to the Lumbini Campus but this time by walk. We wanted to see the few places that we couldn’t see in the previous evening. I was also happy to find Vipassana Meditation Center here. Vipassana Meditation Technique was discovered by Bhagavan Buddha. Since I was also a student of Vipassana, it was a nice feeling to visit this place. You can read my blog on Vipassana here.  Another place that interested us here was one Temple built by the Srilankan Government. It has Buddha’s life painted on the walls and also the idol of Buddha here is very appealing. Basically Lumbini is one of the very important historical places which in my opinion is a must visit. Lot of improvement in the infrastructure can be expected in the next few years here.

As advised by the monk the previous day we thought of visiting Kapilavastu. But the local transport here is quite horrible. We had a flight to catch in the evening. We thought we could make it to Kaplivastu and come back comfortably. Even the bus conductor told that we can do that. Instead of taking a Taxi, we took that bus. The bus took nearly 2 hours to reach Kapilavastu. So all the plans were going into a toss.  We couldn’t afford to miss the flight as our whole plan was to be in Pashupatinath that night.  We had a quick view of Kapilavastu and also went near the local Shiva Temple. There was one bus to Airport but we couldn’t risk the journey in the bus. The bus would have taken approximately three hours from Kapilavastu to Lumbini Airport but we had to reach in maximum 90 mintues. People told us that there are no Taxis in Kapilavastu. We were in a big fix! We checked the Traffic Police and even he told that there are no Taxis in Kapilavastu! Ha ha! But he showed us into a Travel Agency nearby and told us that they may be able to help us. Thankfully he was able to get us one Taxi.  The Driver was a very good man and drove us to Airport just in time. But funnily, our Flight got delayed by two hours almost :). Anyway we made it to Kathmandu around 8:30PM and we saw a very long queue extending for few Kilometres to visit Pashupatinath! We proceeded to our room to get fresh and visit the temple later. In any case our plan was to be in the Temple the entire night.

Kapilavastu, of which I read in my school days
With the localites of Kapilavastu in front of Thouleshwar Mahadev Mandir. People here are very helpful

After getting refreshed in our room that was booked through AirBnb (the same room that we stayed when we came to Kathmandu), we proceeded towards the Temple. Here a friend of mine whom I had only met in Facebook was waiting for us. Due to the delay in flight and also because I wasn’t carrying a local SIM, I couldn’t communicate with him. He is Pushkar Adhikari, a very fine young gentleman who is also a volunteer in Kathmandu Ramakrishna Math. He was also a volunteer in Pashupatinath Temple and he had volunteer passes with him. That meant we could just bypass a Kilometre Long queue and have the Darshan of the Pashupatinath in under 20 minutes!

Shivaratri in Pashupati Nath Temple

As I said earlier, Pashupatinath is a very delightful temple. There is an air of divinity here. We were thankful to Pashupatinath that we could make it to the Temple that day which looked quite unlikely from Kapilavastu. Just as we entered the temple premises we were greeted by the sight of the Naga Sadhus of whom we had read a lot. The temple was full of devotees who had all assembled there to worship Lord Shiva on the great night of Shivaratri. Heavy pieces of log where lit and people were sitting around it. Kathmandu was very cold as it was still winter. People were all chanting the name of Lord Shiva. There was practically very little space to move around or sit anywhere in the temple premises.  Myself, Vishudha and our new friend Puskar Adhikari made some space with Sadhus and devotees who were sitting on the temple side with a fire log burning in front of them. It was slightly congested but that was the best we could get there that day. We passed the night chanting the Rudra and Chamaka Prashna from the Vedas and singing few hymns on Lord Shiva. It started to get extremely cold towards the morning. But we persisted and after having an early morning darshan of Lord Pashupatinath, we reached our room around 5:30AM and took some rest.

The person on the right is Puskar Adhikari
The queue got cleared by 2:00AM
Side view of the Pashupatinath Temple seen from a distance
Kathmandu was decorated for Shivaratri, the great night of Lord Shiva

After resting for few hours, we thought of taking a look around Kathmandu.  Our schedule was to start from Kathmandu to Kolkata next day.  Even though we wanted to visit Janakpur, the birthplace of Mother Sita, it appeared difficult to come back to Kathmandu next day. So we thought of doing local sightseeing in Kathmandhu. We were also tired after the previous night’s Jaagaran (keeping vigil in the night).  We visited the famous Swayambunath temple of Buddha in Kathmandu. By name it sounded like Shiva Temple but it is dedicated to Bhagavan Buddha. From here we can get a very good view of the Kathmandu City.  Swayambunath is quite far from the Kathmandu Main City. It took more than an hour and half to reach there.  By the time we completed seeing this place it was night.  Traffic gets eased towards the night in Kathmandu so much so that it is difficult to get any public transport after 9:00PM. Somehow we reached our place around 10:00PM.

Swayambunath Square

The next day we visited an important Guhyeshwari Shakti Peeth in Kathmandu. It is one of the revered 51 Shakipeeths of the Hindu Religion.  Temple is nice and powerful. After visiting this temple we had some time and we used it to visit the Pashupatinath Temple again for one last time. After bidding adieu to Pashupatinath and thanking him for the safe completion of our journey, we went back to room and started to the Airport.  As said earlier Kathmandu Airport is quite small. Since it is an International Airport, it is quite busy also. Our flight got delayed by about an hour. The flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi was awesome. It was a bright day and we could see the Himalayan Mountains very clearly. It was a great sight.

Guhyeshwari Shakti Peeth
Guhyeshwari Shakti Peeth in Kathmandu
Great sight of the Himalayan mountains enroute Delhi
Back to Delhi and that is the end of our Nepal visit. From here we proceeded to Belur Math, Kolkata.
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