Take a spiritual journey through Buddhist India with this itinerary that will take you to some of the most important places in Buddha's life. The birthplace of Buddhism, India is home to some of the religion's most significant sites, including the place of Buddha's enlightenment at Bodhgaya, his first sermon at Sarnath, and last sermon at Vaishali, all easily accessed with a weeklong trip out of Delhi.

Highlights

  • Experience the ghats of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges river
  • See the archaeological sites at Sarnath & Nalanda University
  • Visit the Mahabodhi tree and Mahakala Caves in Bodhgaya
  • Descend into the Barabar Caves and Lakshmi Narayan hot springs

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Varanasi Varanasi
Day 2 Varanasi to Sarnath Varanasi
Day 3 Sarnath to Bodhgaya Bodhgaya
Day 4 Explore Bodhgaya Bodhgaya
Day 5 Bodhgaya to Barabar Caves & Rajgir Rajgir
Day 6 Rajgir to Nalanda Patna
Day 7 Nalanda to Vaishali & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Varanasi

Varanasi on the banks of the Ganga
Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges

Welcome to India! Your trip begins in Varanasi, the oldest living city in the world. Also known as the city of temples, Varanasi is where Buddha is believed to have gone after attaining nirvana in search of his five disciples. The city is most accessible via a flight from Delhi.

You'll spend your first day in the city visiting its important landmarks and the bathing ghats (platforms down to the river). You can also add on a visit to the Manikarnika burning ghats, riverside cremation sites. In the evening, attend the Ganga Aarti at the Dashashwamedha Ghat.

Day 2: Varanasi to Sarnath

Sarnath ruins
Sarnath ruins

Start your day with a boat ride on the Ganges river to enjoy the sunrise and the tranquility of the holy river and town. Once you're back on land, you'll visit the Sarnath Deer Park, where the Buddha gave his famous first sermon preaching the Middle Path to Nirvana. There are a number of other monuments, temples, monasteries, and stupas in the region that you can visit as well, should they pique your interest.

Day 3: Sarnath to Bodhgaya

Young monks at the Mahabodhi Temple
Young monks at the Mahabodhi Temple

Take a short flight or a six-hour drive to Bodhgaya, considered one of the most important Buddhist places in the world. You'll have two days to explore this city and its many Buddhist monasteries, temples, and museums.

Day 4: Explore Bodhgaya

Mahabodhi Temple

 

Continue your explorations of Bodhgaya today at your own pace. Pay a visit to the Mahabodhi tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment or the Mahakala Caves where Buddha came to realize the Middle Path philosophy. If you're in search of artistic creations, stop at the Buddha statue or the Buddha stone seat.

Day 5: Bodhgaya to Barabar Caves & Rajgir

View of the Griddhakuta Peak
View of the Griddhakuta Peak

Make your way to Rajgir today, starting with a detour into the Barabar Caves. Travel through the Barabar and Nagarjuni hills to reach some of the oldest rock-cut caves in India, dating back to the 3rd century BCE, and admire their ancient polish and the resonant echo effects.

Continue to Rajgir, an important site for both Buddhism and Jainism as both Buddha and Mahavira are believed to have spent time there. Visit the Buddhist sites including Venuvana, the Vishwa Shanti Stupa, and Buddha's cave on Griddhakuta Hill. Then wash off some of the road dust with a dip in the hot springs at the Lakshmi Narayan Temple.

Day 6: Rajgir to Nalanda

Nalanda University ruins
Nalanda University ruins

Drive to Nalanda this morning for a visit to the archaeological ruins of the ancient Buddhist university, one of the oldest and greatest universities in the world. Experience its grandeur and learn about its history as you walk amidst the ruins of stupas, temples, and monasteries.

Day 7: Nalanda to Vaishali & Depart

Stupa in Vaishali
Stupa in Vaishali

Get up early on your last day to head to Vaishali, a small town set in the midst of rice fields, banana plantations, and mango orchards. Vaishali was the first place Buddha visited after leaving home and also where he gave his last sermon at Kolhu. The town is also important to Jainism, as it is believed to be Lord Mahavira's birthplace and home to the only complete Ashok pillar on earth, as well as some important stupas.

After you've finished exploring the area, you'll head to the airport to catch your flight home or on to your next adventure.