Nepal’s most important historical site and one with profound religious significance is Lumbini, birthplace of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. Just shy of the Indian border and well within the steamy terai, Lumbini is one of Buddhism’s cardinal pilgrimage sites, with temples and retreats established by several Buddhist nations, extensive gardens and most of the facilities required by a constant influx of modern visitors.

Yet despite the modern, if not slick veneer, it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site: excavations have revealed the remains of long-documented structures such as the Shakya Tank (where Buddha’s mother bathed before giving birth), the 3rd-century BC Maya Devi Temple, ancient viharas, or monasteries, and most notably, the sandstone Ashoka pillar marking the famed Indian emperor’s visit in around 245 BC.

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