The Greater Lumbini Area (GLA) covers an area of 5260 sqkm and includes Rupandehi, Nawalparasi and Kapilvastu districts in the southern plains of western Nepal. The area is a home to many archaeological and religious sites relevant to Lord Sakyamuni Buddha’s life, including his birthplace Lumbini. Besides Lumbini, which is in UNESCO World Heritage list, the Greater Lumbini Area (GLA) includes three other important Buddhist sites; Tilaurakot, Devadaha and Ramagrama. Considering the archaeological and spiritual values, Tilaurakot and Ramagrama are enlisted as Tentative World Heritage sites by UNESCO.
Rupandehi : Lumbini in Rupandehi district of Nepal is the epicenter of the Buddhism. In addition to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Sakyamuni Buddha, other Buddhist heritage sites worth to visit in Rupandehi district include Devadaha, the maternal hometown of Buddha’s mother Mayadevi and Sainamaina, an archaeological site considered to be of Buddha era. Similarly, major interesting cultural, historical and natural sites in Rupandehi district are the surrounding rural villages with rich Tharu cultures and Viraha song; historic site of Jitgadhi fort at Butwal; religious sites such as Paryowa Dham at Sainamaina and Siddhababa temple and beautiful wetlands and rivers such as Gaidahawa lake, Gajedi lake, Dano river, Telar river etc. There are other beautiful sites with mild climate in the Siwalik range including Nuwakot Durbar, and recreational and educational parks including Mani Mukunda Sen Botanical Garden.
The major gateways to Lumbini; the immigration check point at Belahiya, Sunauli and the only airport in the region, Gautam Buddha Airport (being upgraded as an international airport) are located in the Rupandehi district. Bhairahawa and Butwal are two buslting cities of the district with several business, tourism and entertainment activites. Butwal also serves as a gateway to popular mountain tourism destinations such as Tansen, Pokhara and Mustang.
Kapilvastu Ancient : Kapilavastu or the present day Kapilvastu district is the hometown of Prince Siddhartha. It is also the birthplace of two earlier Buddhas, who descended to the mortal world, attained enlightenment and entered to nirvana before Lord Sakyamuni Buddha. Krakuchhanda Buddha was born in Gotihawa whereas Kanakamuni Buddha was born in Niglihawa. Hence, the Greater Lumbini Area may be called as the Land of Buddhas or the Birthplaces of three Buddhas.
Kapilvastu district is an open museum as it alone houses more than 130 important archaeological sites, directly or indirectly related to the life of Lord Sakyamuni Buddha and Buddhism. Important Buddhist heritage sites worth to visit in Kapilavastu district include Tilaurakot, Kudan, Gotihawa, Niglihawa, Araurakot, Sagarhawa and Sisaniya, each sacred site bearing its own distinct religious and spiritual value. Other interesting sites for visitors in Kapilavastu include Bikuli Kot, Jagadishpur Reservoir (listed as a RAMSAR site), Touleshwor Nath temple, Ramghat, Laxman Ghat, Kapila Dham, Shring Rishi Ashram, Kailash Ashram, Shivagadhi etc. Gorusinghe of Kapilavastu district is the gateway to other popular sites; Supa Deurali Narapani hill station, Khanchi Kot, Argha Kot etc.
Nawalparasi : The present day Nawalparasi district is the part of the ancient Koliya Kingdom, the maternal hometown of queen Mayadevi, the beloved mother of Lord Sakyamuni Buddha. Nawalparasi district consists Ramagrama Stupa, one of the most sacred relic stupas of Lord Sakyamuni Buddha. Also listed as one of the Tentative World Heritage sites by UNESCO, the Stupa is believed to contain the only body relics of Lord Sakyamuni Buddha in the entire world.
Another important site related to the life of Lord Sakymuni Buddha is Panditpur, which has been claimed, by some archaeologists, to be the palace site of ancient Koliya Kingdom. Daunne hill, which is a very popular highway retreat for lunch and snacks among travelers on the East-West Highway, also houses some monasteries and temples. A recent book published by a Japanese author mentions Daunne as the meditation center of queen Mayadevi. Triveni Dham, located 23km to the east from Parasi Bazaar of Nawalparasi district, is another important site from religious, archaeological and tourism point of views. It is the confluence of three holi rivers; Sapta Gandaki, Sona and Tamasa. There are several Hindu temples, Gajendramokchha Dham, and the Balmiki Ashram. Located inside the Chitwan National Park, the Balmiki Ashram bears several archaeological ruins related to Balmiki Rishi (the author of holy book Ramayana), Sita (the consort of Lord Rama), and her two sons; Lava and Kush. The adjoining districts Palpa, Gulmi and Arghakhanchi, which are located in the northern hilly region, are also equally potential for tourism. Popular sites in these districts include the typical Newari settlements (including of Sakyas) in Tansen, Shreenagar hill, Ranimahal, Ridi-Ruru Kshetra, Resunga, Supa Deurali, Arghakot-Khanchikot, Narapani hill station and several temples. Likewise, Chitwan National Park, Banke National Park, Bardia National Park, Sworgadwari and Pokhara are the popular tourist hubs that can be combined in a tour while visiting with the sites in the Greater Lumbini Area.