Just how isolated should a monastery be? Well, that depends on what monastery you are talking about. Monasteries believed to be centres of deep spiritual training and thus have to be isolated to give the monks and nuns and everyone in there, a quiet place for peace to discover themselves. Deep reflection and mental peace are the essential aspects of training in a monastery, which is why most religions prefer having them isolated. Occasional hooting cars, rumbling trains, and noisy passersby are not welcome. These 10 monasteries, however, took isolation one step too far.
Popa Taung Kalat Monastery, Myanmar
People who manage to visit the Popa have their heads held high in the clouds literally. The Monastery is located up a 2,400 ft (737 meters) cliff face in the Mandalay region of Myanmar. It is one of the most remote places in the world visible only when you climb mount Popa. It is one of the most famous Nat spiritual sites in the world housing 37 Magagiri Nats, also called the spirits of the deceased.
It is a popular site for Buddhist pilgrims and sometimes thrill-seekers. It also overhangs a volcano, now dormant, but believed to have been active when it was constructed. To reach Popa Taung Kalat, you have to climb all the 777 steps up the cliff. You also can’t have any food on the steps as the macaques are known to grab sandwiches from visitors.
St. George Monastery, Israel
The Monastery is located in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. It is a 6th-century Christian monastery that is accessible to pedestrians only via the Wadi Qelt bridge. Many people say it is the Valley of the Shadow of death highlighted in the Old Testament because of the scary drop on one side of the monastery. The Monastery is located near a cave that many 4th century monks considered to have significant spiritual value. The cave was believed to be the place where the ravens fed the prophet, Elijah.
St. George Monastery has, however, not always been peaceful as it tends to be nowadays. After its construction, Persian raiders passed through the Valley and slew more than 14 monks. Their remains can still be seen within the hallowed walls of the Monastery. It is now very isolated and only accessible to a few pilgrims who are not afraid of heights.
Metéora, Greek for the middle sky, is a Monastery high up on the sandstone pillar in the Plains of Thessaly, central Greece. It is the Monastery that is considered to have the coolest story of origin on the planet. The Eastern Orthodox Church monastery is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The story goes that the founder, St. Athanasius, was carried to the height by the eagle to plant his religious flag in the sandstone. To reach the Monastery, one has to climb to the top using the steps curved by humble visitors over the years. Until the 1920s, the Monastery was only accessible using the ropes and pulleys. During the construction of the Monastery in the 14th century, nets and ladders were deployed to move the materials over the 500-meter height. The Monastery is known worldwide for featuring in James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only.
Xuan Kong Monastery, China
It is the famous Hanging Temple found in Shanxi province in China. The Monastery is found on the cliff overlooking the nearby Mount Heng. It is supported by thin-looking stilts giving the impression that a strong gust of wind would bring it rambling to the ground. The Xuan Kong Monastery has survived many earthquakes over the years, which is why many think the gods hold it or a great structural engineer was behind its construction. The building is famous for its peculiar rooms and the halls that look like jagged contours. It was constructed over 1400 years ago.
The Monastery of Ostrog, Montenegro
It is one of the miracle Monasteries built by nature and, of course, a little human effort. The Serbian Orthodox Church monastery is located high in the rocks facing the famous Ostroska Greda that were carved out of the stone. It is the most famous pilgrimage site in Montenegro, attracting thousands of both local and foreign tourists annually. The founder of this Monastery was the metropolitan bishop of Herzegovina, Vasilije, from the 17th century. Many people from around the world visit this Monastery because they believe that praying close to the body of Vasilije reduces one’s life difficulties and cures their ailments.
Sümela Monastery, Turkey
The Monastery is one of the Black Sea highlights sites. It is the Greek Orthodox monastery of the Virgin Mary popularly known as the Sümela Monastery. The Monastery is more than 1,600 years old built in one of the most isolated places in Turkey. The Monastery was founded in 4th century AD. However, it was abandoned in 1923 when the Turkish republic was created and the exchange of populations. The Sümela Monastery was constructed on the rocks located 1,200 meters up the cliff in Turkey’s Altindere Valley.
The only way to the Monastery is through a winding rock stairway through the forest. It is currently a museum and remains a famous tourist attraction site in Turkey, loved for its mind-blowing location, structures, and beautiful surroundings. Since its abandonment in 1923, the first Orthodox Mass was held in Sümela Monastery in 2010 with the Turkish government’s permission.
Phugtal Gompa, India
Phugtal Monastery or Phuktal Gompa is located in the remote south-eastern Zanskar and Kashmir region of Northern India. The monastery is hidden in the remote region of Zanskar high up in the Himalayas chiselled out of a cliff 3,800 meters high. It is one of the most unique architectural structures in the world constructed at the entrance of a natural cave on the cliff that faces River Lungunak.
The monastery looks like a honeycomb from a distance. It was founded in the 12th century by a disciple of Gangsem Sherap Sampo. It was one of the most hidden treasures in the world till 1826/27 when a Hungarian explorer. It is the home for more than 70 monks. The only means of transport to the Monastery is by hitching a ride on a donkey or horse or walking through the barren mountains.
Buddhist Monastery Of Ki, India
The Monastery looks like something out of Lord of the rings. The Monastery is located 13,668 feet above sea level in Lahaul Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh in North India. To find it, you have to walk to the remote Ki Village in the Himalayas. The Ki Monastery is the largest Centre of Tibetan Buddhist learning in the Spiti Valley. It was constructed more than 1000 years ago. The centre was founded by Dromton, a popular disciple of teacher Atisha of the 11th century. It was also a home for more than 350 Lamas.
Paro Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan
It is a small monastery that hangs off a cliff overlooking a spectacular 3,000-meter upper Paro Valley, Bhutan, in the Himalayas. The Monastery is one of the most sacred and prominent places in Himalayan Buddhism reckoned as a place where Guru Padmasambhava first landed in Bhutan during the 8th century. It is also one of the thirteen Tiger’s Liars where Guru Rinpoche, the precious Master, also called the second Buddha of Bhutan used to meditate.
The Monastery was a cave in a cliff where the Guru allegedly landed on the back of a tigress to pray and meditate. Paro Taktsang Monastery was built in 1692 and was renovated in 1998. The Monastery is restricted to practising Buddhists only. The only way to reach this place is if you are going by mule or on foot.
The Kozheozersky Monastery is a Russian Orthodox monastery located close to lake Kozhozero found in the Northwestern region of Russia. This is one of the remotest areas on earth. It was founded in the 1500s, and its one of the hardest places to reach or access because there is no road going there. Visiting this Monastery is complicated. First, one has to board a train to Nimenga Station, hitch a lift up a forest track with a lumber truck and walk the last 32 kilometres on foot. There is still an obstacle as you have to cross the lake. The travellers need to light a fire and wait for a boat to be sent over from the other side of the lake. The isolated Monastery has no electricity, internet access, or network coverage.