Just forty kilometres from central Kathmandu is the little village of Namo Buddha. Its small size belies its enormous importance to Buddhists, and what a worthwhile place it is to visit to escape Kathmandu for a couple of days. The air is fresher, the skies clearer, exceptional food and accommodation is available, and there are interesting cultural and hiking attractions around town. Namo Buddha itself has two points of interest–the Thrangu Tashi Yantse Monastery (home to around 250 monks), and the Namo Buddha Stupa, downhill from the monastery.
The legend of Namo Buddha is a very important one: Tibetan Buddhists believe that 6000 years ago at this location, Prince Mahasatwo spotted a tigress lying near a rock. He realised that she was dying of hunger, and that if she died, the five cubs she was suckling would also die. Out of love and compassion, Prince Mahasatwo decided to give his own life to save that of the tigress and her cubs: he cut his body and fed the warm blood to the tigers. The tigress accepted the sacrifice, and ate the rest of his body, leaving just his bones. These were brought to Namo Buddha village and placed inside what is now the stupa. Some years later–3500 years later, in fact–Prince Gautam Siddhartha Buddha visited the village and declared that he was the reincarnation of Prince Mahasatwo. Images of the tigress can be seen at various places around Namo Buddha.
Because it is perched high up on a ridge, when facing north, the Himalayan views from Namo Buddha are exceptional. On my recent visit in mid-November, we could even make out Dhaulagiri in the west, which is normally difficult to see from the Kathmandu area because of its position, distance and the quality of the air.
The Namo Buddha Resort is the best place to stay in the small town, with cute little cottages spread out among well-tended gardens. It’s an ideal place just to relax and enjoy being out of the city. The food here is also famous, with people making day trips from Kathmandu just to stop by for lunch. The vegetarian food, which combines Nepali and international recipes, is made fresh from the organic garden, and dessert is served with both dinner and lunch! The menus are fixed so you don’t know what you will be served each mealtime, but it is guaranteed to be excellent.
If staying at the resort you can take short hikes (1-2 hours duration) to neighbouring villages, mainly inhabited by Tamang people. Or, if you have more time, there are some good routes connecting Namo Buddha to neighbouring towns. Starting at Dhulikhel, you can reach Namo Buddha in around three hours. Continuing on to Panauti takes roughly another two.