Pilgrimage escape is the excellent way to explore the Himalayas’ pilgrimage destinations. Life here revolves around an intricate intermingling of ancient Hindu and Buddhist religious rituals. As Nepal has several ancient pilgrimage sites and they all are attached to the legend that glorifies the miraculous powers of its deity. Likewise, Bhutan, the most sacred religious sites in the world, has tens and hundreds of monasteries, monuments and sacred religious sites. Apart from Mt. Kailash and Lake Mansarovar, the Buddhist monasteries like Drepung and Jokhang are some of the holiest sites in Tibet. Similarly, being a religious land, India is home to innumerable temples, and other religious structures. For the pilgrims Himalayan mountains are the most sacred and revered mountain ranges in the world. Here are depicted the top 8 pilgrimage escapes in the Himalayas.
1. Jomsom Muktinath Trek, one of the most important pilgrimage sites of Nepal for both Buddhists and Hindus, reaches to the site of hundreds of years old monastery, caves, local tribes and scenic beauties of the different landscapes of Annapurna region. Each year it witnesses thousands of devotees flocking for worship in a hope to receive salvation. The temple of Muktinath is in the Annapurna region at an altitude of 3800 meters from the sea level. It is a gate way to Mustang from Manang in famous Annapurana circuit Trek route. The holy shrine at Muktinath includes a Buddhist Gompa and the pagoda style temple of Vishnu Temple. The Hindus call it Muktichhetra (Place of salvation). Many Shaligrams (Ammonite) found here are considered by Hindu as incarnation of lord Vishnu and worship them. For Tibetan Buddhists, it is a very important place of Dakinis, goddesses known as Sky Dancers and one of the 24 Tantric places. They understand the murti to be a manifestation of Avalokitesvara. This pilgrimage trek makes an adventure starting from world’s deepest gorge Kali Gandaki Region into world’s highest regions passing through an almost tree-less barren landscape, and panoramic views of Nilgiri, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and several other peaks. The sacred temple has 108 waterfalls.
2. Buddhist Cultural Tour in Nepal, one of the top pilgrimage escapes in Nepal for Buddhists, takes you to some of the most important Buddhist sites in the world, including the birthplace of Buddha – Lumbini. For those who are curious about Buddhism, this tour is made to provide them the opportunity to get to know the details about Buddhism and its culture. It takes you to the major Buddhist pilgrimages in the valley and to the birth place of Lord Buddha to Lumbini. In the valley you will visit Swoyambhunath, Boudhanath listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO and Lumbini (birth place of Lord Buddha) out of the valley. During the trip, you can see the Buddhist devotees chanting religious hymns in their religious attire totally devoted to Buddhism.
3. Kathmandu Tour revolves around the cultural and religious sacred sites of City of Temples. Kathmandu has its own brand of cultural life which is based on unique mixture different religions, faiths, and practices including Hinduism and Buddhism. The valley holds a considerably high number of places recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. It contains three medieval cities famous for their arts and architectures – Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. Each has an artistic exposition of graceful temples, elegant palaces, brick-paved courtyards and quaint streets. One is sure to be enchanted by the multi roofed temples, exquisite monasteries, stone carvings and wooden carvings, and the age-old traditions and religious festivals. All these sites in the Kathmandu Valley are related to the spiritual traditions practiced in this Himalayan region.
4. Phuentsholing to Paro Tour covers cultural and religious highlights of Bhutan. The tour begins from Phuentsholing which is a main commercial hub in south-west Bhutan. The long uphill journey to Thimphu will be exhilarating and on the way you come across tiny villages, waterfalls and animals. In Thimphu, you stroll around various landmarks of Bhutanese capital and even try to intermingle with the locals in the town. On your journey to Punakha, you enjoy the incredible vistas of the Himalayas from Dochula pass. Likewise, in this tour you also visit religious sites in Punakha and Paro. Including the breathtaking Tiger’s Nest Monastery above the Paro Valley, Punakha Dzong-the most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan, Chimi Lhakhang-the temple dedicated to Devine Madman, and Kichu Lhakhang-the oldest monastery in Bhutan will be the other attractions of this pilgrimage escape in Bhutan.
5. Bhutan Insight Tour gives you cultural, natural and religious exposure to Bhutan’s rugged terrain and steep mountain valleys. You travel around the monasteries, dzongs, temples, chortens and museums of Bhutan during this tour. Besides observing the unique Bhutanese culture, you will also experience the various breathtaking views of Himalaya mountains. The Paro Valley, capital Thimphu and the central Bhutan are the major attractions of this Insight Tour. In this tour you also cover Punakha to have with unique Bhutanese culture and lifestyle. Moreover, you enjoy the hike to Taktsang Monastery – Bhutan’s most famous monastery situated at a height of above 3120 m. Similarly, strolling through the traditional market places, observing Bhutanese handicrafts and household items, discovering unique religious festivals and gaining firsthand experience of proud Bhutanese people enhance you to intermingle with nature, religion, language and culture of Bhutan.
6. Mount Kailash Yatra and Parikrama of Lake Mansarovar, one of the holiest paths to Nirvana, takes you to one of the most revered places in the Himalayas. Mansarovar and Mt. Kailash are two of the holiest pilgrimage areas to devotees of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Bonism and many other faiths. Each year thousands of devotees undertake the treacherous and rigorous journey through the mountains of Himalayas to reach this sacred land. For Hindus it is the holiest of the holy place as the abode of Lord Shiva. It also has geographical significance as four great rivers flow from it: the Karnali, the Indus, the Sutlej and the Brahmaputra, which drain the vast Tibetan Plateau to contribute to the Ganges in India. Kailash is an object of devout pilgrimage also for the Buddhists. Likewise, Lake Manasarovar is one of the highest sacred lakes in the world. The sacred lake is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Hindus, as it is believed that bathing in the holy waters will cleanse one’s sins.
7. Explore Lhasa, one of the top pilgrimage escapes of Lhasa, is very popular amongst international travelers. The journey begins and ends in the heart of Tibet, Lhasa, and covers popular landmarks of this beautiful city such as the Dalai Lama’s Potala and Norbulingka Palaces, the Tibet Museum and Barkhor Bazaar. You also visit a number of impressive Tibetan monasteries in Lhasa like Sera Monastery, Drepung Monastery and Jokhang Temple. They are all amazing monasteries with a religious relevance of their own. This escape also takes you further to the outskirts of Lhasa where you visit the 15th century Ganden Monastery and explore the Drayerpa Cave, which is still a meditative sanctuary for Tibetan monks.
8. Impressions of Ladakh, one of the top pilgrimage escapes in the Indian Himalayas, gives you an impression of age-old centre of Buddhism. India’s Ladakh is the northernmost tip of India, sandwiched between the Karakoram and the Himalayas. The Ladakh Leh Region is also one of the most popular areas for pilgrims. The people of Ladakh are predominantly Buddhist and practice ‘Mahayana’ Buddhism tempered with the old Bon animistic faith and Tantric Hinduism. It was brought Buddhism to Tibet and Ladakh during the 7th century AD. In the 11th century the Buddhist scholar Rinchen Tsangpo established 108 monasteries in the region. The Gompas at Lamayuru and Alchi are said to date from that time. The influence of Buddhism can also be seen in the capital of Ladakh, Leh.