At the Southern corner of the Buddhist archeological complex of Taxila lies the Kalawan Buddhist Stupa and monastery complex.
Why is Kalawan Stupa unique?
Kalawan monastery is different from the rest because it is high in the mountains of Taxila and hasn’t been developed yet, and you can see Heavy Industrial Complex (HIT) from the top.
Taxila complex is part of UNESCO world heritage but Kalawan is just part of many sites.
Difficulties in reaching Kalawan Stupa
The only problem is that it is hard to find and there is nothing to eat or drink there.
Kalawan Stupa Google Map location
Google maps do not show the site, so follow this map.
Kalawan Stupa Buddhist history
Kalawan means “caves” in local lingo and the cave is hard to reach. This stupa is actually from the 2nd century AD.
Kalawan stupa is a Vihara kind of Monastery that is part devotional and part residential complex.
One relic found from the site states that it was a gift to the Sarvastivadin school of Buddhism dated the year 77 CE.
Kalawan Stupa layout
It is a two parts complex.
The first part is about 100 feet above the road level and the second part is about 100 feet further above.
Because of dense vegetation, the actual venerated caves are hard to see, but they are there.
The second part is hard to get to because there are still birds and snakes in the bushes here.
Then the old lady living in the makeshift hut below gets upset when outsiders catch a glimpse of the ladies in her household below the monastery.
How to reach Kalawan Buddhist Stupa
There are no signposts to show you exactly where kalawan stupa site is, so pay attention and follow my map.
The good news is that the Punjab government has allocated some money to renovate and at least clean these ancient Buddhist sites from the 2nd to 5th century AD. So, now at least there will be signboards.
To get to Kalawan Stupa, you must drive on the GT road, take a right turn toward HIT university road, reach Taxila Museum and turn right at the gate towards Shahpur road the leads to Karmwal village.
Cross Karamwal village and turn right at the irrigation canal. Follow the canal until you reach the mountain road that drives along the mountain edge.
There is a non-descript entrance to the walking track that leads you to the Kalawan Buddhist site on the left side of the road.
The best time to visit Kalawan Stupa
The best time to visit Kalawan is in the winters when it is cool and enjoyable to hike to the top.
PRO TIP 1
Don’t forget to wear jeans, tough outer fabrics, and hiking shoes as the vegetation is very thick there and it can tear your clothing and prickly thorns can enter your shoes.
Any ordinary car with a high suspension can get to the site but only in dry weather as the road gets muddy in the rainy season.
Motorcycles will have no problem getting to the site.
Best thing about Kalawan Stupa
The best part of visiting Kalawan Buddhist site is the clean air, gorgeous sun set view and freshly baked tandoori roti from the driver hotels near Taxila Museum.
- Also, it is just one hour’s drive from Islamabad, that is 37 km, and who doesn’t like a bit of ancient history now and then.
- The area is safe for women and children, except for the occasional wild birds that suddenly fly out of bushes.
- There are eight Buddhist archeological sites around Kalawan, but it is better to enjoy one site at a time and absorb the beauty of the place
- Kalawan is probably one of the biggest Buddhist monastic sites of the Gandhara era.
The Buddhist site is called Kalwan but the village close to it is called Karamwal, so look for that on Google maps.
You should try Kalawan Buddhist site only if you are interested in ancient monuments, otherwise better not disturb the dead. You never know what lurks in the chambers.