Monasteries are probably one of the most peaceful places on the earth, where one can find silence, spirituality and solitude in abundance. Reason being that most of these monasteries are located far from the crowded regions, amid nature, surrounded by natural splendour. There are several of these splendid monasteries that are deliberately built at remote locations and some among those are actually impossibly hard to reach. These some monasteries are as off the grid as it gets, built everywhere from cliff sides to volcano tops, and they’re just as stunning as any house of worship.
1. Holy Trinity Monastery — Greece
- Located in: Meteora
- Address: Kalabaka 422 00, Greece
The Monastery of the Holy Trinity is an Eastern Orthodox monastery in central Greece, situated in the Peneas Valley northeast of the town of Kalambaka. This Monastery is very close to the Saint Stephen’s Nunnery and it is perched on a steep and magnificent rock. It had already been organized Monastery since the year 1362 as indicated in a document by Symeon Uressis Palaeologos. Visitors have to follow a pathway that directs them initially to the foot of the rock, before they start walking up around 140 steps. The monastery’s main cathedral was constructed in the 15th century and decorated with frescoes in 1741 by two monks. The wall-paintings surviving today are the work of the hagiographers Antonios the priest and his brother Nicolaos. The chapel of Timios Prodromos (St John the Forerunner), a small circular church with a cupola, rock-hewn, decorated all over with wall-paintings of fine art dating from 1682, is of great interest. Visit this monastery for the adventurous ascent, the striking view and its peculiar architecture. Part of the Monastery was used as the setting for the final scenes of the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.
2. Taktsang Palphug Monastery, Bhutan
Address: F9R7+PCR, Taktsang trail BT, Taktsang trail, Paro, Bhutan
Paro Taktsang, is a sacred Vajrayana Himalayan Buddhist site located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley in Bhutan. It is one of thirteen Tiger’s Nest caves in historical Tibet in which Padmasambhava practiced and taught Vajrayana. Taktsang monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, is located on a precipitous cliff, about 900 m above the Paro Valley in Bhutan. The rock slopes are very steep−almost vertical−and the monastery buildings are built into the rock face. Though it looks formidable, the monastery complex has access from several directions, such as the northwest path through the forest, from the south along the path used by devotees, and from the north. A mule track leading to it passes through pine forest that is colourfully festooned with moss and prayer flags. On many days, clouds shroud the monastery and give an eerie feeling of remoteness.
3. Katskhi Pillar — Georgia
Address: 76P8+X8X, Katskhi, Georgia
The Katskhi pillar is a natural limestone monolith located at the village of Katskhi in western Georgian region of Imereti, near the town of Chiatura. It is approximately 40 metres high, and overlooks the small river valley of Katskhura, a right affluent of the Q’virila. It is a natural limestone monolith located at a height of 130 ft; atop this structure is one of the most isolated churches in the world. It lies 200 km west of Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi, but getting here is no easy task. Only a car or a bus will take you closer and, even then, you would have to break sweat on a trek to reach the pillar.
At the bottom of the pillar is a monastery, with a small chapel on the right-hand side. To the left is a charming 130-foot tall limestone column. St. Maximus, the Confessor’s tiny 12×15 ft church, has been made at the southeast sector of the pillar. At the time of excavations, the team unearthed eight large containers called kvevris, which served the purpose of holding the traditional Georgian wine. The presence of these containers along with the construction of a wine cellar proved to the researchers that the former residents of this place engaged in rigorous austerity.
4. Mount Popa Monastery — Myanmar
Taung Kalat is a Buddhist monastery and temple complex located on Mount Popa in Mandalay Region, Myanmar. The site is built on a tall volcanic plug, and is one of several prominent nat spiritual sites in the vicinity of nearby Mount Popa. The monastery is entirely surrounded by sheer cliff faces and offers stunning views of the surrounding plains and Mount Popa itself. The monastery at Taungkalat is famed for being home to 37 nats (Burmese spirits), which are represented by statues at the base of the volcanic outcrop. From here, you can climb up the 777 steps to the monastery at the top, where you will find a 360 degree panorama and a labyrinth of shrines to explore. If you have the time and the conditions are right, then climbing Mount Popa is well worth the effort; the plunging valleys around the peak are dramatic, and on a clear day you can witness views stretching vast distances; as far as Bagan and the Irrawaddy River, and sometimes beyond. On your way up, you will also find the best views of the Popa Taungkalat Monastery, as well as an impressive array of flora and fauna, including many different species of birds and butterflies in a striking array of colours and sizes. Some scrambling needs to be done in the steep final section towards the 1,518 metre summit, but for the most part it is a straightforward hike of 3-4 hours (one way).