In the places where nature and spirituality meet stand temples, monasteries, shrines and places of holy pilgrimage. There is a undeniable link between spirituality and nature so it’s only natural that those with an affinity for communing with both, choose places where Mother Nature’s work Is at her finest. If you’re feeling like a trip to a higher plane, come with me on a tour of some amazing and beautiful places where nature and spirituality meet. Prepared to be wowed!
1. Key Gompa, Spiti Valley, India
Key Gompa is a Tibeten Buddhist monastery sitting in the Spiti Valley in India. The valley is hauntingly empty and has withstood fire, earthquakes and Mongolian attacks since the 11th century. This is partially due to the fact that it sits at an elevation of 13,668 ft. It is one of the gorgeous places where nature and spirituality meet and is reminiscent of the buildings in the Lord Of The Rings.
2. Tanah Lot Temple, Bali, Indonesia
There are seven temples that sit off the coast of Bali, and this one is particularly beautiful because it is perched upon a chunk of rock that makes up its own island. If you had a strong arm, you could throw a rock from one side of the island and hit the sea on the other side. The name of the temple “Pura Tanah Lot” translates into "Land in the Sea," The trees and greenery on the island simply add to its beauty and mystique.
3. David Gareja, Eastern Georgia and Agstafa Region of Azerbaijan
Sat upon rolling green hills, this is one of the many holy places connected with nature that lies in Georgia. Part of it also sits in the Agstafa region of Azerbaijan. The Orthodox monastery site itself is humble, but the view is stunning, plus it is often bathed with sun, which is a bonus.
4. Leh Temples, Ladakh, India
In between two mountain ranges is an oasis land that holds the Stakna Gompa – translated as the Land of High Passes. The oasis is known as the Tiger’s Nose. The water, greenery and openness is complemented by the surrounding mountains looming over the temples in the area.
5. Sumela Monastery, Trabzon Province, Turkey
This is a fantastic Eastern Orthodox monastery in Turkey that sits 4,000 feet high, balanced on the side of a mountain. From it you can see the Altindere National Park and the mountains are smothered with unmapped caves. The monastery was built in 386 in honor of the Virgin Mary.
6. Baekyangsa Temple, Jeolla Province, South Korea
This was built in 632 by a Zen master, ergo it is truly one of the places where nature and spirituality meet, and it sits amid the trees and mountainous slopes of the Naejangsan National Park. It looks especially beautiful at the beginning of autumn when the leaves begin to change color.
7. Batu Caves, Malaysia
This shrine is near Kuala Lumpur and is a dedication to the Hindu god of war Lord Murugan. The Malaysian Nature Society organizes tours of the caves and surrounding nature. There is exquisite greenery poking out from the jags in the cold rock, and rock formations created by hundreds of years of dripping water in the cave. The shrine itself is a thing of magnificence, as it holds a very large golden statue.
8. Mount Emei, China
In a range of tall mountains in China, where the trees are almost always covered with snow, sits the tallest of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains. The mountain itself has over 76 Buddhist monasteries, and even though getting there is difficult, it is worth the trip.
9. Tiger Cave Temple, Thailand
This temple is near Krabi in Thailand. Firstly, it is sat upon a limestone cave, and within the stone you can see the carved tiger paw prints that are almost as old as the temple itself. Secondly, the Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Suea) is very high above the cave, with 1272 steps leading up to it and a glorious view of the mountains and forests.
10. Golden Rock, Mon State, Myanmar
This is the Golden Rock Pagoda (Kyaiktiyo Pagoda), and should not be confused with the Golden Rock hotel that sits nearby (as pretty as the hotel is). There is literally a golden rock there, and even though it is in a very remote location it still receives quite a few visitors every year. If you are wondering how this is one of the better holy places connected with nature then you should Google Map it. The pagoda sits high above miles and miles of lush green forest that is covered with a misty haze every morning.
11. Mount Athos, Greece
This is said to be the holiest mountain in Greece, which explains why it has 20 Eastern Orthodox Monasteries on it. It is a World Heritage Site that you can only access by ferry. One of the monasteries rises up through the rock almost as if it were carved into the mountain. From the monasteries, you can see the sea and surrounding greenery.
12. Tiger's Nest, Bhutan
The Taktsang Palhug Monastery is one of the true places where nature and spirituality meet. It is in the Paro Valley in Bhutan and is extremely sacred to Himalayan Buddhists. It sits on the side of a cliff and looks like something reminiscent of the “Spirited Away” movie. Even the surrounding mist is haunting--especially since the temple is so remote and inaccessible.
13. Hanging Monastery, Datong, China
Possibly one of the more famous on this list. It is a monastery that is built into the side of cliff that is 75 meters above the ground. It was made famous for just how precarious the buildings appear--especially since they are propped up with rocks and wooden beams. They look as if they may blow off any minute. They were built to avoid floods and snowfall and are now a massive tourist attraction. The greenery below is nice, but the real force of nature comes from the fact that this monastery is almost carved into the cliff rock. From the monastery you can see the surrounding cliffs and rocks, which look a little intimidating and dangerous when the snow falls in winter.
14. Tatev Monastery, Syunik Province, Armenia,
It looks like something built for a Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter Movie. It was built in the 9th century and is planted on a mountain range of exquisite beauty. It is so inaccessible that invaders have been unable to capture it, although these days it is accessible via the world’s longest-running reversible cable car, which also allows you a look at some of the stunning views.
15. Metéora Monasteries, Central Greece
The monasteries are a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are twenty of them that were originally built in the 11th century. They sit nestled amongst trees, cliffs and mountains, with massive rock pillars as far as the eye can see. You may only access them via a network of ladders and nets, so you will have to leave your donkey (or Land Rover) at your hotel. There are six in total that are built on sandstone pillars and are said to be the most inaccessible monasteries in the world. Their name translates into “suspended in the air,” which is close to being true.
16. Puru Ulun Danu Temple, Bali, Indonesia
Here you find a temple atop a lake. The lake is called Lake Beratan, which is also known as the Lake of the Holy Mountain. One section of the temple is eleven stories high, and is certainly the sort of building you do not see every day.
17. Our Lady of Covadonga Monastery, Covadonga, Spain
The site was discovered by Christians in the 8th century, and the building that stands there now was built in the 16th century. It was built by the Spanish Catholics as a shrine to the Virgin Mary. It is not known, but the structure, or parts of it, may date back to 722. It is built on a very large green hill, with rolling clouds that oft kiss the peak.
Stunning aren’t they? Imagine what these places were like in their early years, isolated from crowds of curious tourists and inaccessible to but a few. Could you ever see yourself retreating from the world to a place like these?