In earlier days, tourism in the region was purely based on educational tourism, as Bihar was home of some prominent ancient universities like Nalanda University & Vikramaśīla University. Bihar is one of the most sacred place for various religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Islam. Mahabodhi Temple, a Buddhist shrine and UNESCO World Heritage Site is also situated in Bihar. Mahatma Gandhi Setu, Patna, was one of the longest river bridges in the world in early 80s.
Lord Buddha lived and preached in Bihar and from Bihar Budhhism spread out into the world. It is from this land of learning that people took great ideas and came to learn at universities like Nalanda, from treatsies like the Arthashastra. It is this land of Viharas where buddhist monks prayed and spread the message of Ahimsa and Love. This is a land full of pilgrimage places for not only Budhhists but also Jains, Sikhs and Hindus. Bihar’s Tourism Industry has great importance mainly due to Bihar’s long and illustrious history. Laying along the eastern Gangetic Plains in North India Bihar has a distinction of being birth place of two great religions of Buddhism and Jainism. The state also boasts of some of the finest monuments of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain architecture. Bihar’s ecological wealth range from the foot hills of Himalayas, to the vast and fertile plains of the Ganga, hills, forests and wide plateau. An epitome of diversity Bihar has enchanting land and people, fairs and festivals, arts and crafts, flora and fauna of Bihar and that is what tourism in Bihar is all about.
The Sonepur Mela held around November is the largest cattle fair in Asia. It is 25 km from Patna. People from all over the country flock here to sell their livestock. Agro basex exhibitions are also held here. People from far and wide visit this mela. Sonepur has a temple of Hariharnath that is greatly revered by the Hindus who also take a holy dip at the confluence of Ganga and Gandak.
Bodhgaya is where the Buddha attained enlightenment and gave the world a great religion like Buddhism. It is very near the capital city of Patna. At a distance of around 125 km one can easily drive down from Patna. The Mahabodhi Temple is where Buddha attained enlightenment. It has a Peepal tree that is said to have been grown from the branches of the famed tree. The town houses, an Archaeological Museum and monasteries built by people of many Buddhist countries are the main Tourist places in Gaya.
At 90 km from Patna, Nalanda is again a days trip from Patna. Nalanda University was one of the greatest centers of Buddhist learning in ancient times and scholars from far and wide came here. Important attractions of Nalanda are the ruins of the Nalanda University, the Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall, the Surya Mandir, the Nalanda museum, and the Nav Nalanda Vihar.
Vaishali is an important spiritual place for both Buddhists and Jains. Vaishali is at a distance of 55 km from Patna. Named after King Visala of Ramayana, Vaishali has the distinction of being the capital of one of the first republics in the world run by the Lichchavis. It is here that Lord Buddha preached his last sermon and announced his approaching Nirvana. Lord Mahavira, the 24th Jain Tirthankara, was born here in Kundligrama (Vaishali) in 599 B.C. Tourist attractions are the Vishwa Shanti Stupa, the Ashokan pillars, and many Buddhist and Jain structures.
Sasaram houses the grand and beautiful mausoleum of Sher Shah, the man known for building the Grand Trunk Road across the whole of North India, that included Pakistan at that time. The mausoleum is located in a beautiful lake and looks like a floating structure. Sasaram is 148 km from Patna.
At a distance of 102 km off Patna, Rajgir is a well-known pilgrimage destination of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism alike. Before Pataliputra (Patna), Rajgir or Rajgriha was the capital of Magadh. The Swarna Gufa, Griddhakuta Parvat, hot springs, and the Vishwa Shanti Stupa are some of the tourist attractions here.
Gaya is a Hindu pilgrimage center. Gaya too is easily accessible from Patna at a distance of only 112 km. Gaya houses the Vishnupad (Vishnu footprints) Temple, built by Rani Ahilya Bai of Indore in the 18th century.