One of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world, Boudhanath is a major pilgrimage point near Kathmandu. Every day, Buddhists fill the square to light incense, turn prayer wheels, and perform kora—clockwise circumambulations—around the monument. Rebuilt after the 2015 earthquake, the stupa is one of Nepal's most unmissable attractions.
Nepal has been an important base for Tibetan Buddhism since the 1950s, when streams of Tibetan refugees were exiled from China. But Buddhism has always held a vital role in Nepali cultural life. The stupa of Boudha dates back to the 14th century. Along with Lumbini—the birthplace of the Buddha—and the hilltop temple of Swayambhu, it is one of the country’s standout Buddhist sites.
Visitors of all backgrounds can join processions around the stupa and spin the prayer wheels that surround the monument. Tibetan jewelry, handicraft, and thangka painting shops surround the bustling public square—actually a circle—and the city’s best Tibetan restaurants are located nearby. Most guided tours cover the stupa along with several other attractions (like Pashupati or Swayambhu) in the same day, making an ideal introduction for first-time visitors. There are private, small-group, and larger group excursion options available.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Boudhanath is one of the most important religious sites in the Kathmandu Valley.
- Wear comfortable footwear if you plan on making kora around the stupa—108 is the holiest number.
- Unable to walk? Visitors can still partake by lighting incense or a butter candle.
- Don’t miss a taste of traditional Tibetan noodle dishes in a local eatery.
How to Get There
Most tours offer complimentary hotel pickup in Kathmandu—a short distance away. Otherwise, taxi rides can be arranged. Although entirely pedestrian, the stupa of Boudha is easily reached by a main roadway.
When to Get There
On a typical day, most Buddhist worshippers arrive at dawn to circumambulate around the stupa. To soak up the most spiritual ambiance, time your visit with local monks, nuns, and Tibetan residents. In February or March, Boudhanath hosts the Tibetan New Year festival of Losar, and Buddha Jayanti (Buddha’s birthday) is celebrated in April or May during the full moon, an auspicious time for Buddhists.
Get an Eyeful of Tibetan Art
The intricately hand-painted devotional images, known as thangka paintings, are for sale in handicraft shops surrounding the stupa. Colorful and vibrant, they depict Buddhists deities or cosmic realms, painted with an astonishing attention to detail. Pick up your own souvenir painting, or wander the shops to get a firsthand peek at the centuries-old Tibetan art form.