go back

Top 10 Buddhist Monasteries of the World

By Nischhal Pradhan at
Top 10 Buddhist Monasteries of the World

Buddhism is one of the major religions in the world. With its philosophy founded in northeastern India, the religion is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as "the Buddha". Among many important aspects of Buddhism, Monasticism is one of the most fundamental institutions in Buddhism. The residing monks and nuns in the monasteries are more than responsible for preserving and spreading the Buddhist teachings. The monasteries house these monks and nuns as well as educate and guide them so as for them to do so with the other Buddhist followers. Known with many names among the followers of Buddhism depending upon the region, the monasteries are called as Gumba, Gonpa, Viharas, Dzongpa, etc among the followers of various countries. The origins of Buddhist monasteries are thought to have emerged from the practice of Vassa, the retreat undertaken by the Buddhist monks and nuns of South Asian reason during the rainy season. These vassas later developed into Monasteries which turned into centers of learning, and the philosophical principles of Buddhism were developed and discussed. Here is the list of top 10 most famous and unique Buddhist monasteries all over the world.

1. Phugtal Gompa, India

Located in the remote Southeastern Zanskar region, high in the Himalayas, Phugtal Gompa is chiseled out of a cliff face of a gorge which is more or less 3.800 meters high. Presiding over 70 monks, this unique Buddhist monastery was established in the 12th Century by Lama Gangsem Sherap Sampo. An admirable work of engineering, this extraordinary structure has survived hundreds of years despite of being constructed with the raw materials consisting of mud bricks, stones and wood.


2. Bagan, Burma

Bagan monastery, (also spelled Pagan), is located on the banks of the Ayerwaddy River in Burma. It is home to the largest area of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world. Once the capital of several ancient dynasties of Burmese Kings, it was built with roughly 4.400 temples during the height of the kingdom. After the kingdom fell to the Mongols in 1287 and refusing to pay tribute to Kublai Khan, Bagan declined as a political center in Burma but continue to be one of the most reputed place for Buddhist studies and scholarship.

burma pagoda

3. Kopan Monastery, Nepal

A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery located near the massive Bouddhanath stupa on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, Kopan Monastery belongs to the Foundation for Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international network of Gelupa dharma centers and once served as its headquarters.

Kopan Monastery was established by the FPMT founders, Lama Thubten Yeshe and Thubten Zopa Rinpoche after buying the property from the then Royal Astrologer of Nepal in 1969. Named after the hill on which it was built, the monastery has become popular among western foreigners for its Buddhist teachings. The first of what would become annual month-long (November–December) meditation courses was held in 1971. These courses generally combine traditional Lam Rim teachings with informal discussion, several periods of guided meditation, and a vegetarian diet.

kopan monastery

4. Ki Gompa (Monastery), India

Key Gompa or Ki Monastery is a thousand year Tibetan Monastery located on top of a hill at the height of 41,66 meters from the sea level overlooking the Spiti Valley. The monastery has survived numerous attacks during its long history by Mongols and other armies. Similarly it has also ravaged by fire and earthquakes. It is a religious training center for Lamas and has undergone lots of destructions and restorations resulting in to have a box like construction which looks like a fort.

Ki Gompa
Visit our catalog for antique Buddha statues from Burma

5. Thikse Monastery, India

It is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Yellow Hat sect. Thikse Monastery is noted for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Situated at an altitude of 3.600 m in the Indus VAlley, the 12-storeyed complex of the monastery houses several items of Buddhist arts and Buddhist symbols like Buddha Stupas, Buddha Statues and wall paintings. Maitreya Temple inside the monastery is one of the main points of interests which were installed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to the monastery in 1970.

Thiksey Monastery

6. Taksang Monastery, Bhutan

Taksang Monastery or Tiger's Nest Monastery is situated on the edge of a 900 meter cliff. The unofficial symbol of Bhutan, the Tiger's nest creates a wonderful view. Located about 2-3 hour uphill hike from the parking lot to the monastery, the monastery is said to be founded by a legendary Guru Rinpoche who flew on this location from Tibet on the back of a tigress. Taktsang is said to be consecrated to tame the Tiger demon. The first monastery was not built until 1682. Though a tragic fire in 1998 destroyed the most of the original buildings, the monastery has been painstakingly restored to its former glory.

Taksang Monastery, Bhutan

7. Xuan Kong Monastery, China

Xuang Kong monastery or "The Hanging Temple" can be found in China's Shanxi province. This unique monastery is based on a cliff overlooking Mount Heng near to the cliff. This temple is seen to be supported by thin stilts, at the first glance and looks like a strong gust of wind would bring it tumbling to the ground, but a really good structural engineering is the main reason for its survival despite of several earthquakes over the years. It houses extraordinary halls and rooms which follow the craggy contours of the cliff face. This Marvelously built temple was constructed 1400 years ago and is one of the shining examples of extraordinary architectural merits.

Xuan Kong Monastery

8. Taung Kalat, Burma

One of the most unique aspects of the Buddhist monastery of Tuang Kalat is it is buit at the top of an extict volcano plug, which is also one of the most breathtaking sites in Burma. Visitors must climb 777 steps to the summit to reach the monastery. The visitors can enjoy a panaromic view from the top of Tuang Kalat. From the top, one can see the ancient city and monastery of Bagan and the massive conical peak of Mount Popa, the volcano that actually cause the creation of the volcanic plug.

Taung Kalat, Burma

9. Punakha Dzong, Bhutan

Standing on an island between the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo chuu rivers, Punakha Dzong is one of the most photogenic of all of Bhutan's ancient dzongs (Monasteries). Punaka serves several purposes, like any other dzongs in Bhutan, including the protection for the region, as the administrative seat for the government as well as the winter home of the monastic body. Connected to the mainland by an arched wooden bridge, the dzong contains many priceless relics from the days when the successive kings reined the kingdom from this valley.

Punakha Dzong, Bhutan

10. Wat Rong Khun

One of the most unique Buddhist monastery in the world, Wat Rong Khung in Chiang Rai, Thalaind is all white and highly ornate structure gilded in mosaic mirros which is done in a distinctly contemporary style. It is the brainchild of the renowned Thai artist Chalermchai Kostpipat. Still under construction, Wat Rong Khung is expected to be fully completed in another 4 or 5 decades.

Wat Rong Khun


  • Lonely planet Myanmar (Burma)

    Lonely planet Myanmar (Burma)

    ISBN 9781741047189

  • Myanmar Style - Art, Architecture and Design of Burma

    Myanmar Style

    Art, Architecture and Design of Burma
    ISBN 0-500-01890

  • Burmese Buddhist Sculpture

    The Johan Möger Collection
    ISBN 974-8495-53-1

  • Earth to Heaven - The Royal Animal-Shaped Weights of the Burmese Empires

    Earth to Heaven

    The Royal Animal-Shaped Weights of the Burmese Empires
    ISBN 978-9747551204

  • Opium weights / Poids d'Asie


    Opium weights / Poids d'Asie
    Rolf & Ilse Braun

  • Thirty-seven Nats - A Phase of Spirit Worship Prevailing in Burma

    Thirty-seven Nats

    A Phase of Spirit Worship Prevailing in Burma
    ISBN 978-1870838276