Nalanda ruins

Founded in the fifth century AD by the Guptas, the great monastic Buddhist university of Nalanda attracted thousands of international students and teachers until it was sacked by the Afghan invader Bhaktiar Khilji in the twelfth century. Courses included philosophy, logic, theology, grammar, astronomy, mathematics and medicine. Excavations have revealed nine levels of occupation on the site, dating back to the time of the Buddha and Mahavira in the sixth century BC. The site is strewn with the remains of stupas, temples and eleven monasteries, their thick walls impressively intact.

Nalanda: A destination that whispers stories of an illustrious past

Nalanda is now part of the modern Buddhist pilgrimage circuit, one of the most important in India. But even casual tourists will appreciate taking the time to walk through the extensive site, or climb its massive 31m stupa for commanding views. Informative booklets available at the ticket booth render the numerous guides unnecessary

Nestled in the verdant plains of Bihar, lies Nalanda, a destination that whispers stories of an illustrious past and stands as a testament to the pursuit of knowledge and intellectual brilliance.

As you wander through the ruins of this ancient city, it's impossible not to be enchanted by the rich history and cultural significance that permeate every stone and brick. Join us on a journey to Nalanda, where the echoes of wisdom still resonate, and embark on a captivating exploration of one of the world's oldest centres of learning.

Planning a visit here? Talk to one of our local experts.


Nalanda ruins © Shutterstock

Best things to do in Nalanda

From the Nalanda Museum to a treasure trove of architectural marvels, these are the best things to do at Nalanda.

#1 Visit the Nalanda Museum

Nalanda Museum houses antiquities found here and at Rajgir, including Buddhist and Hindu bronzes and a number of undamaged statues of the Buddha.

#2 Brush up on Buddhism at Nava Nalanda Mahavihara

Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, the Pali postgraduate research institute, houses many rare Buddhist manuscripts, and is devoted to study and research in Pali literature and Buddhism.

#3 Step inside Nalanda University

At the heart of Nalanda lies the prestigious Nalanda University, a renowned centre of learning that flourished from the 5th to the 12th century CE. A melting pot of knowledge, this institution attracted scholars, intellectuals, and students from all corners of the ancient world.

As you step onto the grounds of Nalanda University, you can almost feel the intellectual energy that once thrived within its hallowed halls.

#4 Discover ancient ruins

The ruins of Nalanda are a treasure trove of architectural marvels, showcasing the sophisticated craftsmanship of ancient India. Explore the remnants of monasteries, temples, and lecture halls that once adorned the sprawling campus.

Marvel at the intricately carved sculptures, ornate stupas and the remnants of library structures that housed countless volumes of sacred texts.

#5 Dig deep in the Archaeological Museum

Delve deeper into Nalanda's past at the Archaeological Museum, which houses an impressive collection of artefacts excavated from the site. Admire ancient sculptures, exquisite metalwork, and relics that offer insights into the lives of the scholars and monks who once inhabited this intellectual hub.

#6 Explore the Xuanzang Memorial Hall

Pay homage to the renowned Chinese scholar Xuanzang, who travelled to India in the 7th century CE and spent several years studying at Nalanda. The Xuanzang Memorial Hall is dedicated to his remarkable journey and contributions to Buddhist philosophy. Explore the exhibits, photographs, and artefacts that tell the story of this pioneering pilgrim.

#7 Venture out into the region

Venture beyond the ancient ruins and immerse yourself in the present-day life of the Nalanda region. Take leisurely walks through the nearby villages, interact with the locals, and gain a deeper understanding of their traditions, art, and handicrafts. Engage in conversations that bridge the gap between the ancient and the contemporary, appreciating the living heritage that thrives in the area.

Vishwa Shanti Stupa Rajgir in Bihar india © Shutterstock

Vishwa Shanti Stupa Rajgir in Bihar india © Shutterstock

Best places to stay

To make the most of your visit, here are the best areas to stay in Nalanda, where you can immerse yourself in its historical ambience and enjoy modern comforts.

Nalanda Town

For those seeking proximity to the magnificent ruins and a vibrant local atmosphere, Nalanda Town is a perfect choice. The town serves as the gateway to Nalanda University, a UNESCO World Heritage site, allowing you to explore its remarkable archaeological remains at leisure.

Accommodation options in Nalanda Town range from cosy guest houses to comfortable budget hotels, ensuring a pleasant and convenient stay.


Rajgir is a tranquil retreat located just a short distance from Nalanda. Known for its spiritual significance and natural beauty, the town offers a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life with its handful of charming resorts and guesthouses.


Pawapuri offers a clutch of simple yet comfortable accommodations, allowing travellers to immerse in the spiritual ambience of this revered pilgrimage site located near Nalanda.

Things to know before visiting Nalanda

Visiting Nalanda can be overwhelming for first-time visitors, to get the most out of the ancient site, follow these tips.


To enter the archaeological site of Nalanda, an entrance fee is applicable. As of the time of writing, the fees for Indian nationals are INR 15 per person, while for foreign nationals, it is INR 200 per person. Keep in mind that the fees contribute to the preservation and maintenance of this historical site, enabling future generations to continue to appreciate its heritage.

Opening hours

Nalanda Archaeological Museum and the Nalanda ruins have specific opening hours for visitors. Generally, they are open from 10am to 5pm, Tuesday through Sunday.

Guided tours

A guided tour can be a valuable addition to your visit. Knowledgeable guides can provide insightful commentary, unravelling the tales hidden within the ruins. Nalanda Archaeological Museum offers guided tours; ask about their availability and timings upon arrival. Additionally, several local tour operators in the region organise guided tours to Nalanda, which can be pre-booked for a more comprehensive experience.

If you want to book a guided tour here, talk to our local experts.

What to wear

When visiting Nalanda, it's essential to adhere to a modest dress code out of respect for the cultural and religious significance of the site. Both men and women are advised to dress modestly, covering their shoulders and knees.

It's preferable to wear comfortable clothing and footwear suitable for walking; exploring the sprawling ruins may require some physical exertion. Carry a hat, sunscreen and water bottle. The weather gets blisteringly hot, especially during summer months.

The ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara, Nalanda University Excavated Site, India © Shutterstock

The ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara, Nalanda University Excavated Site, India © Shutterstock

How to get here

There are numerous ways to arrive at Nalanda, but most travellers will fly here or get the train.

By plane

The nearest major airport to Nalanda is Patna's Jay Prakash Narayan International Airport (PAT), located approximately 98 kilometres (61 miles) away. This well-connected airport serves domestic and international flights, making it a convenient gateway for travellers.

By train

Nalanda is well-connected to the Indian railway network, and the nearest railhead is the Rajgir Railway Station, located about 15 kilometres (9 miles) away. However, Rajgir is a small station with limited train connections.

Alternatively, opt to travel to the larger Patna Junction for better connectivity and more frequent train services. From Patna Junction, you can catch a local train or hire a taxi to Nalanda. The train from Patna to Rajgir takes approximately 2-3 hours, followed by a short road trip to Nalanda.

By bus

Nalanda is well-connected by bus. The Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC) operates regular bus services from Patna to Nalanda, offering a budget-friendly option for travellers.

The journey by bus takes around 3-4 hours, depending on traffic conditions.

By car

If you prefer more flexibility and comfort, you can hire a private taxi or use ride-sharing services to reach Nalanda. Major highways, such as NH31 and NH20, connect Nalanda to nearby cities and towns.

Best time to visit Nalanda

The winter months, spanning from October to February, are undoubtedly the best time to explore Nalanda. During this period, the weather is pleasant, with cool temperatures ranging from 12°C to 25°C (54°F to 77°F), providing a comfortable atmosphere for sightseeing. Wander through the ancient ruins of Nalanda University amid clear blue skies and gentle breezes. It's a fantastic time to immerse yourself in the region's rich heritage.

For those seeking a vibrant cultural experience, November is an excellent time to visit Nalanda. The grand celebrations of Chhath Puja, a significant Hindu festival dedicated to the Sun God, take place this month. Join locals gathering along the banks of rivers and lakes, offering prayers and performing traditional rituals. The atmosphere is electric, with decorations, melodious folk music and awe-inspiring evening processions.

As Nalanda sees the arrival of spring, the landscape comes alive with vibrant hues and fragrant blossoms. From March to April, the weather gradually transitions from cool to pleasantly warm, with temperatures ranging from 18°C to 35°C (64°F to 95°F). This is an ideal time to explore the surrounding natural beauty, such as the Rajgir hills and the picturesque Nalanda Lake.

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Andy Turner

written by
Andy Turner

updated 19.05.2023

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