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12 Must-see Monasteries in the World

Amita Ray Mar 13, 2024
Monasteries have always attracted people from all faiths and walks of life. These places of worship have one thing in common, their unique location. They are generally located at high altitudes, in places where there isn't much human intervention.

Meteora Monastery, Greece

Location: Near Kalabaka in Thessaly
Best Time to Visit: July to October

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Crowning the heads of rock pillars are the four monasteries of Aghios Stephanos, Aghia Trias, Varlaam, and Meteoron (UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites). These massive rock figures proudly overlook a picturesque riverine forest. These monasteries can be reached by a fairly easy hike.

Key Monastery, India

Location: Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Best Time to Visit: May to October

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This three-storeyed Buddhist monastery was founded in the 11th century by Buddhist master Dromton and is the largest training center for lamas. It is famous for its murals and paintings that depict its Chinese-influenced monastic architecture. The Tangyur room with its beautifully painted murals is alone worth the visit.

Paro Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan

Location: Paro Valley
Best Time to Visit: March to April (For the Tsechu festival)
Also called the 'Tiger's Nest'. It comprises eight caves with four temples that contain paintings depicting its legend. The hike to the complex (about 3,000 ft above the valley) can be done mostly on horseback.

Xuan Kong Monastery, China

Location: Datong City, Hunyuan County
Best Time to Visit: April to September
This hanging monastery was built in a cliff near Mount Heng, 1500 years ago, by Liao Ran. The entire complex contains 40 gravity-defying halls, making it an architectural wonder.

Taung Kalat, Burma

Location: Bagan, Mandalay Province
Best Time to Visit: All year round
Situated atop the volcanic mountain Mount Popa, this monastery has 777 steps and a scenic view leading to the top. This oasis in the arid heart of Burma is believed to have erupted from the ground in 442 BCE . Mount Popa Nat Festival in March, and the Mount Popa Mahagiri Nat Festival in December are special occasions when numerous pilgrims visit the place.

Montserrat Monastery, Spain

Location: Catalonia
Best Time to Visit: All year round (May - June, ideal weather)

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Located in the serrated mountains of Montserrat, it is Catalonia's most important religious retreat enthroned by the Virgin of Montserrat. The Escolania, one of the oldest choirs in Europe, sings here everyday. This monastery has a museum that houses the works of El Greco, Picasso, Monet, etc.

Ganden Monastery, Tibet

Location: Dangze County
Best Time to Visit: May to October
The primary monastery of the gelung sect, was constructed in 1409 by famous Tibetan philosopher Tsongkhapa. The Lagyi hall is the largest hall, while the Yangbagyain hall holds silver stupas of all the abbots. The Chitokang hall enshrines the belongings and the stupa of the founder. The Ganden thangka festival is celebrated around July/August every year.

Yumbulagang Monastery, Tibet

Location: Yarlung Valley, NĂªdong County
Best Time to Visit: May to October
Overlooking lush green farmlands, this palace-turned-monastery stands tall since the 2nd century BCE, and was constructed by the first Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsenpo. Along with the gorgeous panoramic view from the watch tower, and the murals depicting its history, the statues of Buddha and the kings are its highlight.

St. George's Monastery, Israel

Location: West Bank
Best Time to Visit: March to May and October to November

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Set in the biblical desert of Wadi Qelt, this ancient monastery was constructed by Christian monks during the 4th century. The ancient feel of this cliff-hanging complex with its mosaic flooring, preserved bodies of monks, and paintings will surely transport you back in time.

Erdene Zuu Monastery, Mongolia

Location: Ovorkhangai Province
Best Time to Visit: May to August
It is the oldest Buddhist monastery in Mongolia and was built by ruler Abtai Sain Khan in 1585. The outer wall has around 108 stupas resembling the rosary of the Buddha. A number of temples like the Laviran temple span the premises of this monastery that echo an amalgamation of Chinese-, Tibetan-, and Mongol-inspired architecture.

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Kiev Pechersk Lavra

Also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, it is an Orthodox Christian monastery founded on 1051and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Pochayiv Lavra

Located on a 60 m hill in the town of Pochayiv, this monastery has been the primary religious and ideological center of many Orthodox denimations.