19 Holy Places Where You Can Connect With Nature

Meteora Monasteries in Greece
The site of the Meteora Monasteries in Greece was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

Bernard Gagnon / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Temples, monasteries, and other spiritual sites can be excellent places for connecting with nature, especially with breathtaking landscapes as the backdrop. Many holy places have rich cultural histories; some bear stories of conflicts and tragedies, some were constructed in celebration centuries ago, and some are shrouded in mystery. Sacred settings are often popular destinations that people can visit to commune with others, pray and worship, or just take in the beauties of the environment.

Here are 19 holy places around the world where visitors can connect with nature.

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Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot Temple in Bali, Indonesia

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Pura Tanah Lot, which translates to "Land in the Sea," is one of seven temples off the coast of Bali, Indonesia. This site is thought to have been constructed in the 1400s and 1500s after a monk named Dang Hyang Nirartha journeyed through and called for a shrine to be built to worship the Balinese sea gods. A concrete fence around the temple's perimeter protects it from erosion and trespassing.

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Kyaiktiyo Pagoda

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Mon State, Burma

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The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda or Golden Rock Pagoda is a Buddhist pilgrimage site that sits precariously atop Mount Kyaiktiyo in Mon State, Myanmar. Named for the luminous boulder painted in gold leaves on top of which a small pagoda sits, the sight of this holy place tends to resonate even with nonspiritual visitors. No one is sure when this monument was built, but legend says the rock hasn't fallen because it contains one of Buddha's hairs.

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Our Lady of Covadonga Monastery

Our Lady of Covadonga Monastery in Asturias, Spain

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Located in the village of Covadonga in Asturias, Spain, Our Lady of Covadonga is a shrine to the Virgin Mary. The basilica was built to house a statue of Mary that was thought to have helped Christians triumph in a battle against the Moors in the 700s. This holy place nestled in the scenic mountains of Spain has become a Catholic pilgrimage site where people make a long journey to the remote location to worship the Marian shrine.

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Meteora Monasteries

Meteora Monasteries in Greece

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Translating to "in the heavens above," this group of six Eastern Orthodox monasteries was built on the sandstone pillars of central Greece that reach into the clouds. 24 of these monasteries were built in the 1400s. The rock pillars served as protection for monks against Turkish invasions, but after the invasions and the bombings of World War II, only six remained. Today, for its cultural and archaeological significance, Meteora is an official UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Tiger Cave Temple

Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi, Thailand

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Wat Tham Suea (Tiger Cave Temple) near Krabi, Thailand, sits on top of a limestone cave. Tiger paw prints in the cave hint at the presence of tigers at one time, seen by a Buddhist monk when they were meditating. Visitors to this compound often come to see a large footprint said to belong to Buddha. The sweeping view of the forests of the Kiriwong Valley and its centuries-old trees is well worth the 1,272 steps to get to this holy place.

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Borobudur Temple

Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Indonesia

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Deep within the Kedu Valley of Magelang, Indonesia, between two volcanoes and two rivers reigns the world's largest Buddhist temple. Built between AD 750 and 842, the Candi Borobudur in Central Java is an architectural feat: Nine platforms with 72 tiered stupas on top, the whole structure covering a total area of about 2,520 square feet. The history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is somewhat murky, but most scholars believe it was abandoned between the 10th and 15th centuries before being discovered again in the 1800s.

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Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, Japan

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Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion) is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, that is surrounded by classic Japanese strolling gardens. The temple was built to be an extension of the outside world and a private paradise as well as a work of art, with different architectural styles for each of its three floors. It was built for shogun Toshimitsu Ashikaga and left as a Zen temple after his death.

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Taung Kalat Monastery

Taung Kalat Monastery on Mount Popa in Central Myanmar

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With 777 steps to the summit, Taung Kalat Monastery sits atop an inactive volcano called Mount Popa. An oasis in the arid region of central Myanmar, the temples are dedicated to "Nats." In the Burmese Buddhist tradition, Nats symbolize human spirits, and Buddhists believe there are 37 Nats occupying Taung Kalat. Visitors can honor these spirits with offerings and feed the many macaques that surround the temple. If you ever decide to visit, refrain from wearing red, black, or green out of respect for the Nats.

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Byodo-In Temple

Byodo-In Temple in O'ahu, Hawai'i

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Situated in the gorgeous Valley of the Temples Memorial Park in O'ahu, Hawai'i, the Byodo-In temple is surrounded by koi ponds, Japanese gardens, and reflecting pools and nestled against the Ko'olau mountains. A replica of a 900-year-old temple in Uji, Japan, of the same name, this is a non-denominational sanctuary that anyone can visit. It was built in celebration of Japanese culture in 1968.

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Sant Miquel del Fai

Sant Miquel del Fai in Catalonia, Spain

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This immense structure blends into the Cingles de Bertí cliffs in Catalonia, Spain. The monastery, thought to have been erected in the 10th or 11th century, was closed for restoration in 2017 and reopened to the public in 2020. Visitors can hike from the nearby Riells del Fai village to explore the grotto chapel and nearby caves, admire the site's ancient architecture, and view the nearby waterfall of the Riera de Tenes river.

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Bagan Temples

Bagan Temples in Bagan, Myanmar

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A collection of sacred Buddhist temples lies beside the Ayeyarwady River of Myanmar in an ancient city known as Bagan. Temples, stupas, pagodas, and other hallmarks of Theravada Buddhist architecture can be seen on this sprawling landscape. Today, 3,595 of the original monuments remain in the arid plains, having survived many earthquakes and likely to withstand many more. Bagan is another UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors can take guided tours or explore this unique sacred city on their own.

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Paro Taktsang

Paro Taktsang in the Paro Valley of Bhutan

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Paro Taktsang or the Taktsang Palhug Monastery in the Paro Valley of the Paro District in Bhutan is a Himalayan Buddhist religious site. The divine being Padmasambhava came here to teach Vajrayana Buddhism. This holy site was erected around the caves he meditated in, and monks today live and worship in these as well. Visitors can take one of three symbolic paths to get here. Those who make the difficult trip to this remote site are rewarded with a bird's-eye view of the lush mountain landscape and may have profound spiritual experiences.

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Tatev Monastery

Tatev Monastery in the Syunik Province of Armenia

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Built in the 9th century on the edge of the Vorotan River gorge in the Syunik Province of Armenia, Tatev has been an important site for Armenian scholarship and worship for many centuries. This holy place is perched at the edge of a canyon overlooking a vast plateau, making it an ideal place for artists and thinkers to connect with nature and create. Today, visitors can access the monastery via the longest-running reversible cable car on the planet, called the "Wings of Tatev."

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Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple in Bali, Indonesia

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Ulun Danu Beratan Temple appears to float atop Lake Beratan in the Bedugul Regency of Bali, Indonesia. This lake, referred to as the Lake of the Holy Mountain, is the second largest lake in Bali. Built in 1663, this Shaivite Hindu water temple is one of four temples dedicated to the worship of different Hindu deities. Pura Ulun Danu is used to make offerings to the Balinese water goddess, Dewi Danu.

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Baekyangsa Temple

Baekyangsa Temple in Jangseong County, South Korea

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Baekyangsa Temple was built by a Zen Buddhist master in 632 C.E. in the forest of Naejangsan National Park. It is located in Jangseong County, South Korea in the Jeollabuk-do and Jeollanam-do provinces. The name Baekyangsa translates to "White Sheep Temple" because, as the story goes, a white sheep used to come to listen to sermons and it reached enlightenment. This holy place has offered a serene mountain retreat where ancient and modern Korean Buddhists have worshipped for centuries.

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Mount Athos

Mount Athos in northeastern Greece

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A large Chalcidice peninsula that hangs over the Aegean Sea in Greece, Mount Athos is a World Heritage Site with a rich cultural background. This is not only a sacred place where Orthodox Christians worship and live monastic lifestyles but also an artistic site where historic paintings and architecture are preserved. Mount Athos features a collection of 20 monasteries that are home to approximately 1,400 monks. Only cisgender men with permits from the Mount Athos Pilgrims' Bureau may visit, a rule established in 1046.

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Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery in the Trabzon Province of Turkey

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At an altitude of nearly 4,000 feet, this Greek Orthodox monastery in the Trabzon Province of Turkey has a spectacular view of Altindere National Park. Thought to have been constructed in the third or fourth century, the Sumela Monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and showcases a statue of this religious figure. According to local legends, this icon was built by the Apostle Luke and later discovered by two priests, who erected the holy site around it.

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Mount Emei

Mount Emei in the Sichuan Province of China

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A sacred Buddhist Mountain, Mount Emei in China's Sichuan Province is home to the first Buddhist temple built in China as well as the world's largest Buddha. This is called the Giant Buddha of Leshan and it is about 230 feet tall. Spotted with more than 30 monasteries of different sizes and styles, Mount Emei is a place for spiritual enlightenment and convening with the Earth. Visitors can go to immerse themselves in China's natural wonders, including over 3,200 species of plants, while looking out over a sea of clouds.

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Key Monastery

Key Monastery in the Spiti Valley of India

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This Tibetan Buddhist monastery is believed to have been built in the 11th century. It is found at an altitude of over 13,500 feet and its structures wrap around a hill in the Spiti Valley of India. The Key Monastery or Gompa has endured Mongol attacks, fires, earthquakes, and more due to its location. In addition to providing Buddhists with a beautiful sacred place to pray, meditate, and attend ceremonies led by monks, Key Monastery houses ancient manuscripts and priceless art.

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