Perched high on mountains or situated on remote and rocky cliffs, the world’s loneliest monasteries are both difficult to reach and marked by historical events spanning thousands of years. These monasteries were built in secluded locations to provide a quiet place for devotees to meditate and escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Their unique architecture and breathtaking natural scenery make them impressive to behold, and today, they are popular attractions for adventurous tourists.
One example of such a monastery is the Holy Trinity Monastery in Greece. Constructed in the 15th century, this Eastern Orthodox monastery overlooks the Peneas Valley in central Greece and is perched precariously on a giant sandstone block known as Meteora, which means “floating in the air” or “heavenly stone pillar” in Greek. However, visitors who wish to explore this remarkable monastery must climb up to 396 meters, including 140 steps.
This monastery dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries, making it one of the six oldest monasteries still standing today. It has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and has become a popular scenic spot and symbol of Greece.
The Holy Trinity Monastery was even featured in the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only and served as the setting for the Eyrie Castle in Game of Thrones.
Located on top of a 40-meter high stone pillar in western Georgia, the Katskhi Pillar Peak Monastery resembles a giant stick. It was adopted as the first church in the 7th century after Georgia embraced Christianity as its state religion in the 4th century.
The area underwent several destructions due to wars in previous centuries but was restored in the early 2000s by indigenous monk Maxim Qavtaradze, who moved in and started a new wave of religious activism. Nowadays, not everyone can climb to explore the monastery.
The Mount Popa Monastery in Myanmar is an awe-inspiring sight to behold. A vibrant yellow stupa-like structure is perched atop the impressive volcano. The mountain is surrounded by numerous legends that represent a blend of animist beliefs and Buddhism localized to Myanmar’s culture.
In Myanmar, Buddhists believe in Nat gods, who are a group of various protectors and forest gods taking on human form. To admire the breathtaking view of this place, one must bravely climb 777 steps while being entertained by wild monkeys on the way up.
The Paro Taktsang Monastery in Bhutan, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, is situated on a cliff that stands 3,000 meters above sea level. This holy site is located in the scenic and historic Paro Valley.
The name of the monastery is derived from the fact that it is built around a cave that is said to have been used by Guru Rinpoche, a famous Buddhist master, who rode on the back of a tiger to reach this location. The Paro Taktsang Monastery is considered to be one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan and attracts visitors from all over the world.
Numerous mountain roads provide access to the monastery, but reaching it is not an easy feat. The local government has created several ways to reach this location, with various paths leading in from different directions such as the northwest path through the forest or the south-facing trail commonly used by devotees.
These paths are colorfully decorated with many flags. Upon arrival, visitors can explore the complex, which includes four main temples, an inner courtyard with prayer wheels, a meditation cave, and more.
The Monastery of St. George, located on a small island in the Bay of Kotor, was constructed in the 12th century. The island itself is relatively small, with a cemetery for the nobility of old in Perast built as a beautiful park. Unfortunately, tourists are unable to visit the monastery due to special reasons, but they can admire it from afar.
The Monastery of St. George in Israel can be found in the Judean Desert between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. It was constructed in the 5th century by John Thebes, a hermit. This orthodox monastery’s library was later named after its most famous monk, Gorgias.
If you’re interested in visiting a holy site dedicated to a Christian saint, the only way to enter is through the bridge that connects Wadi Qelt, also known as the “Valley of Darkness.” Many believe that Wadi Qelt is the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” mentioned in the Bible.
St. George Monastery is a unique place that welcomes both female pilgrims and tourists nowadays, which was not the case in the past. This precedent was set by a noble woman from Byzantine who claimed that Our Lady had instructed her to visit the monastery to cure her incurable disease.
On the other hand, Key Monastery, located in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, India, is a significant Buddhist monastery. It serves as the gateway to the Western Himalayas in northern India and sits at an altitude of over 4,100 meters, dating back to the eleventh century.
The three-story structure houses several Buddha statues, ancient texts, and murals, making it a must-visit destination for tourists and pilgrims alike.
The appearance of the monastery is more akin to that of a defensive fortress rather than a traditional Buddhist temple. Nowadays, it serves as a renowned center for Buddhist training in India, where many famous Indian lamas have resided and studied over the years.
For those adventurers who seek to discover some of the world’s most isolated monasteries, these seven mentioned above would make for an ideal destination.
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