An hour east of Kathmandu is the small resort community of Nagarkot. The road to reach the town is steep, twisty, and rough, making a stop at the Buddha Peace Park a welcome respite. Hikers may choose to finish the journey to Nagarkot by taking the eight-kilometer Peace Park Hiking Trail into town. The trail offers even more panoramic views of the Kathmandu Valley and the Himalayas beyond.
Carved out of the side of the Himalayan foothills, the park can be reached by climbing a series of steep steps, but the vista is well worth the effort. Buddha looks over a valley with Kathmandu on one side, and the dazzling curvilinear striations of extensive terrace farms on the other. Behind the park, at the top of the hill, and above the clouds, the Himalayas are on full display.
The golden statue positioned on the central plinth is a depiction of the “Earth Touching Buddha,” also known as the Buddha exhibiting the “Bhumisparsha Mudra.” In this pose, Buddha’s right-hand reaches toward the ground, and his middle finger touches the ground symbolizing the moment of his enlightenment.
According to the backstory, while Buddha was meditating under a Bodhi tree, he was harangued by the demon Mara. Buddha called to the earth goddess to witness his enlightenment. The goddess responded by sending a flood to wash away Mara and allow Buddha to complete his spiritual journey.
The earthly landscape surrounding Buddha is covered in picturesque terraced farms. In a country where crop yields are low and food insecurity is high, more than 13 million Nepalese depend on sustainable terrace farming. When viewed from a distance, the beauty and romance of the farms hide the incredibly hard work it takes to create and maintain the fields—work that is done entirely by hand and mostly by women.
The nearby town of Nagarkot provides luxury hotel accommodations, as well as views of six of the world’s 14 highest mountain peaks. A special viewing platform was constructed specifically to watch the sunrise over Everest. Here, meditating visitors can replicate Buddha’s earth goddess invocation and absorb the unrivaled views.
Know Before You Go
The park is free to visit and is open 24 hours. If visitors are so inclined, they may plant a tree in the park in honor of a special occasion or in memory of a loved one. The cost is modest, $3-$4, and the park will nurture it to maturity.