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Retreat and Reflect: Bhutan's Top 5 Meditation Monasteries in 2024

Gangtey Monastery

The Land of Thunder Dragon and the Last Shangri-La, Bhutan, is known for its scenic beauty, rolling hills, and peaceful monasteries. Bhutan offers some of the best meditation monasteries around pristine cliffs, hills, and mountains.

Bhutan has everything from the breathtaking 3000 ft cliffside Paro Taktsang to the remote Lhuentse Dzong and one of the oldest Tango Monastery. These monasteries hold historical and religious significance and display teachings of Buddhism dating back to the earliest centuries. 

Most monasteries are dedicated to Buddhist deities or Guru Padmasambhava, with murals and statues depicting their significance and teachings. 

The monasteries are tranquil with the sound of nature and fluttering prayer flags, which are further enhanced by the chants of the residential monks. 

Out of the many, the following are the top 5 meditation monasteries in Bhutan: 


1. Paro Taktsang/Tiger's Nest Monastery

Historical and religious significance

Paro Taktsang, also known as the Tiger's Nest Monastery, is a sacred Buddhist site in the Paro Valley of Bhutan. Offering serene views of the valley from the cliff top, the Monastery's history dates back to the ancient 1600s when it was built under the guidance of spiritual leader Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. 

It is said that the revered Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava), also known as the second Buddha in Bhutan, flew on the back of a Tigress and landed on this site for meditation. Due to this spiritual significance, Paro Taktsang is considered an ideal meditation place. 

How to get there

One of the most iconic landmarks of Bhutan, reaching the Monastery on a 3000 ft cliff takes nearly a 2 to 3-hour hike. Walking through thick forest lines passing waterfalls, the path leads to a fantastic view of the Himalayas. 

Architecture

The Bhutanese craftsmanship is depicted in the intricate paintings of deities on the Monastery's walls. Murals and a golden statue of deities around the prayer halls display rich heritage and regard for religion. 

After spinning the giant prayer wheel, find an isolated spot to continue with your meditation. You will find like-minded individuals and monks following meditation. Enjoy the tranquil atmosphere to introspect and contemplate this sought-after destination. 
 

2. Gangtey Monastery

Historical and religious significance

Gangtey Monastery, one of Bhutan's most revered monasteries for meditation, is located in the Gangtey Valley, Wangdue Phodranf district. Established in the early 17th century by Gyalse Pema Thinley, grandson of a Bhutanese saint, it is dedicated to the teachings of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. 

Gangety Monastery welcomes monks to sit and meditate in the vicinity and tourists who want serenity found in the valley's lush green, untouched natural beauty. 

How to get there

To reach the Monastery, you must take a scenic drive from Thimphu to the countryside in the Gangety Valley. Then, the hike takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to reach the top of the hill, passing by silent villages and a green trail.  (Please delete this sentence.  No need to hike to reach Gangtey Monastery). 

Architecture

Gangtey Monastery is known for its amazing woodwork, colorful murals, and a serene courtyard. Prayer wheels surround the Monastery, and the murals of the famous black-necked crane in the Monastery bring cultural significance.

 The ambiance of the remote Gangtey and surrounding Phobjikha valley makes the Monastery a must-visit place if you are planning a meditation journey. The spiritual connection with nature and the pristine forest nearby gives a fantastic experience, along with the chants of the monks. 

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3. Lhuentse Dzong Monastery

Historical and religious significance

Lhuentse Dzong Monastery, one of the spiritual heritages of Bhutan, was established in the 17th century by Trongsa Penlop Chogyal Minjur Tempa.

The fortress-monastery is known to be dedicated to the Guru Padmasambhava, who is known to have spread Buddhism in Bhutan.

The remoteness and tranquility of the fortress make it interesting for tourists, monks, and pilgrims to visit. Many also visit the place to learn the teachings of the Padmasambhava. 

How to get there

The Monastery is located in the northeastern region of Bhutan, etched on top of a hill overlooking the Kutichu River. It is a long but interesting hike that takes you through the rolling hill and eventually offers breathtaking views of the valley. 

Architecture

The fortress is rich in craftsmanship and woodwork. It is characterized by the colorful windows surrounding the Monastery. Vibrant murals of Padmasambhava and other deities cover the walls. 
The serene courtyard also offers views of the entire valley, making it ideal for meditation.

Lhuentse Dzong Monastery is one of Bhutan's best places for meditation. Hence, you'll witness monks engaging in deep meditation practices, chanting sacred mantras, and performing rituals passed down through generations.

Escape from the hustle and bustle of the world by enjoying the peaceful isolation in the Monastery. 

4. Tango Monastery

Historical and religious significance

Tango Monastery one of the oldest monasteries established in the 13th century, founded by Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa, is one of the top meditation monasteries. Tango is a sanctuary for Buddhist traditions and religion dedicated to the deity Avalokiteshvara.

The deity is known to be the embodiment of compassion. 

Monks thus practice the ancient teachings of mind and body meditation daily and often visit during different festivities like Lhosar and Lhakar. 

How to get there

Located on the outskirts of Thimphu, getting to the Tango monastery takes a bit of a drive and then a hike to the hilltop, which takes 1 to 2 hours through a well-marked trail. At a distance, you will already witness the Monastery. 

Architecture 

Tango Monastery is a beautiful monastery adorned with colorful windows and prayer wheels. Prayer flags surround the area, murals are painted on stones and walls of the Monastery, and brass and gold-plated statues of different forms of Buddha are worshipped. 

Tango Monastery is known for its tranquil environment due to the surrounding deep forests. Along with the monks, you can engage in meditative practice along with their guidance as they follow age-old rituals. Secluded in the oasis, it is a profound spiritual experience.


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5. Cheri Gompa Monastery 

Historical and religious significance

 Cheri Gompa Monastery is another remote monastery from the 17th century. It was founded by the unifier of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who dedicated the Monastery to Guru Padmasambhava. 

Sitting on the Cheri Mountain makes the Monastery a tranquil haven for meditative practices. Following the Padmasambhavas teachings offers a must-have spiritual journey. 

How to get there

Reaching Cheri Gompa Monastery requires driving to the starting point from Thimphu. After reaching there, you need to take a 1.5 to 2-hour hike. Winding through lush woodlands offers a glimpse of nature's beauty and wildlife. 

Architecture

While the Monastery is made similarly to the other monasteries, the stone carvings of lord Buddha and other deities make it unique.

The steep steps leading to the different parts of the Monastery are also unique. Feel free to touch the large prayer wheel on the ground and enjoy meditation while witnessing the amazing view of Cheri Mountain and the views of Thimphu Valley. 

Cheri Gompa Monastery's peaceful setting offers a profound spiritual connection with the mountain. 





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