Monasteries are places of peace, worship and tranquillity – and for the avid traveller, they’re set against some of the most beautiful backdrops in the world.
Paro Taktsang, Bhutan
Secluded on this breathtaking mountainside, this iconic monastery has been around since 1692. It gained status as the tiger lair in which the literary figure Padmasambhava (or the ‘Second Buddha’ of Bhutan) is said to have meditated for 3 years in the 8th Century.
Today, the monastery continues to rest on the side of a cliff that is over 3,000 metres high – and visitors can still enjoy tea at the top.
Nilov Monastery, Russia
On Stolobny Island sits the stunning Nilov Monastery, which was built in 1594. After undergoing various Neoclassical additions in the 17th to 19th Centuries, it was used as a POW camp, a hospital, a house for orphans, a retirement home and a hostel. Today it has been reinstated as a monastery.
Taung Kalat, Myanmar
It looks regal sitting atop Mount Popa – an extinct volcano. Yet reaching the Taung Kalat Monastery means climbing around 777 steps! Surrounded by monkeys, this monastery was built in the 19th Century and remains a popular site for both locals and tourists.
Melk Abbey, Austria
Founded in 1089 as a Benedictine Abbey, this gorgeous monument sits next to the Danube River, near the town of Melk. It continues to operate as a school and inside, you can visit room like the marble hall, the church and the famed library.
The Abbey is open all year round, but you’ll need to take part in a guided tour to enter.
Sumela Monastery, Turkey
In Pontic Mountains of Turkey, this incredible Orthodox monastery was built into the side of a rock overlooking the Altindere Valley below in 386 AD. Inside, the structure has been transformed into a museum, where you can still see the original frescoes that feature images of Christ and the Virgin Mary.
Thikse Monastery, India
A significant monument linked to Tibetan Buddhism, the Thikse Monastery or ‘gompa’ is located in the Indus Valley and was established around 1433. It contains 10 temples, a monk residence, a nunnery and an assembly hall – all of which is spread over 12 levels.
Vydubychi Monastery, Ukraine
This beautiful green and gold-topped monastery can be found in the capital of Kiev and is over 900 years old. Founded by Vsevolod I, the Prince of Kiev, the monastery today is governed by the Orthodox Church – which still runs regular church services and choir performances.
Santa Maria de Montserrat, Spain
Travel about 45km north of Barcelona, and you’ll come across this beautiful Benedictine monastery with gorgeous Catalonian views to offer. Originally constructed by the Romans, it housed several hermit monks before being officially established in 1025.
As well as touring the amazing interior, you can also see great works of art here by famous artists like Dali and Monet.
Barsana Monastery, Romania
Nestled amongst rolling green hills near Sighetul Marmatiei, the Barsana Monastery is one of the prettiest in Romania. Unlike many other monasteries, it is made from wood and looks like it could have come out of a fairy tale.
Today, it continues to operate as a nunnery and visitors to the destination are welcome.