Taktsang Dzong, Bhutan

Top 10 Cliff Hanging Monasteries

World’s Top 10 Cliff-Hanging Monasteries

Mountains give an exhilirating sense of reaching the heavens. These elevations are astounding settings for monasteries because of the peace and tranquility that a mountain provides. Such silence in solitude is necessarily sought after by monks and devouts for reflection, meditation, and prayer. The desire for this inner peace moved the people across all cultures and regions to build grand monasteries in mountains of all places. Since mountains are challenging terrain, these are less trudged and better preserved. Also, the combination of structure and altitude simply makes for a wonderful view. These cliff-hanging monasteries are the world’s finest epitome of true and rare beauty. And backpackers, with their adventurous spirits, don’t ever pass on an opportunity to ascend a tall mountain, see a stunning monastery, or lavish on both. 1. Taktsang Dzong, Bhutan

Taktsang Dzong, Bhutan

A journey to Taktsang Dzong, Bhutan is a marvelous introduction to the delightful experience of reaching this mesmerizing monastery which not only has grandeur in its structure, but in its very location. As the trekker approaches it, he will pass by a monastery which is on the same level as the village. As he looks back, the Urugyan Tsemo Temple is seen perched on a plateu. The Tiger’s Lair is composed of 8 shelters or caves which are believed to have been Guru Rinpoche’s place of meditation. Though situated on a rocky, almost vertical cliff, it has many access points that lead to the monastery shelters.

2. The Monastery, Jordan

The Monastery, Jordan

If the trek to Taktsang leaves us enamored by nature, the path towards Petra in Jordan is breath-taking, literally and metaphorically. A challenging cleft is the only way towards the monastery. Called the siq, it leads to the famous treasury which used to be a shrine for the Holy Grail that symbolized the favor of God. The path to Petra is a merciless mix of rocks, sand and dry riverbeds that would leave one grateful for the occasional asphalt roads that punctuate its length.  Hailed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, this ancient capital city is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site 3. The Datong, China

The Datong, China

A Buddhist temple built on land may look a little too commonplace in China. But when these beams and grand rooftops are seen perched above stone cliffs and among magnificent crevices, a new image of beauty emerges. One of these works of art and spirituality is the hanging monastery at Datong, Mt. Henshan, China. Built in the 5th century, it was established and maintained by the Ming Dynasty. A view of the Datong hanging temples from the bottom of the mountain is a favorite among photographers and enthusiasts who go there to take a look at this very significant structure in Oriental history that was built to last thousands of years. 4. St. George’s Monastery, Israel

St. George's Monastery, Israel

A building complex sheltered among rocks and crevices, St. George’s monastery is a sight to behold. It sits distinctly among huge walls of stone, and to its far left is flowing water from a spring. Anyone passing by will certainly take a second look and then gaze at its captivating gray stone barricades capped by a few sky-blue domes. 5. The Sumela, Turkey

The Sumela, Turkey

Atop the towering cliffs of Turkey lies a monastery so well-established in grandeur and timeless structure. One would conclude with strong resolve that this building is an unshakeable part of the Altindera cliff. The Sumela Monastery was built in honor of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It serves as the shrine of a black statue of the iconic mother who serves as inspiration for many throughout the ages. The statue is believed to be one of the many Madonna sculptures built in the tradition of Georgian art. It is known today as the Meryem Ana, and is now preserved as a cultural heritage of Turkey. 6. The Rossanou, Greece

The Rossanou, Greece

The Monastery of Rossanou was established mid-16th century, in honor of Saint Barbara.This monastery is perched atop a massive sandstone rock structure that seems to have been designed using huge diagonal brush strokes. The Rossanou is one of the monasteries in the complex called “The Meteora”. Listed under several criteria of the UNESCO World Heritage List, The Meteora is composed of Eastern Orthodox Monasteries in Greece. 7. Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas, Greece

Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas, Greece

The Agios is a tower upon a tower. The building is a strong appendage to the natural stone structure which does not provide enough space for width expansion, thus, the height of the Agios. Frescoes found in one of the chapels inside this monastery support the former presence of its early occupants-hermits. Among the six remaining monasteries in the Meteora complex, the Agios holds utmost significance. It bears cultural and historical treasures: the paintings of the Cretan leader, Theophanes. The frescoes show events from the Bible like Christ’s Passion, the Last Judgment, Mary praying and even Jonah and the Whale. 8. The Kipina, Greece

The Kipina, Greece

A first look at the steep cliffs near the Arachthos River might fool one into thinking that it is simply a bed of rocks on the side of the road. This is how neatly the structure of the Kipina Monastery is integrated into the walls of the Atamanika Mountains in Greece. The sturdy structure prying the rocks open was built in the 18th century. Evergreen mountains surrounding it only enhance the beauty of the monastery. The Kipina monastery is even more striking if the presence of the nearby Arachthos river is kept in mind. Passing by the Ionnania prefecture, it is a scenic introduction to what amazing cliffs lie beyond and around it. 9. The Simonopetras, Greece

The Simonopetras, Greece

An imposing barricade of massive towers lurks among an emerald ravine. In spite of its manmade intricacy, the cliffs uphold it like it were its own. Adding to its marvelous presence, a choir’s singular voice is heard reverberating in the halls of this ancient structure. They sing recent Byzantine chants, providing the monastery a diverse mixture of ancient architectural art and modern musical renditions. Founded by Simon the Athonite, this group of towers was built in honor of the nativity of Jesus. Though burnt by three incidents of fire, it was restored in the 19th century and now stands proud and still at the side of Mount Athos. 10. The Panagia Chozoviotissa, Greece

The Panagia Chozoviotissa, Greece

The Panagia is a building complex which creeps mysteriously on the cliffs of Amorgos, Greece. It is a gigantic structure seen only from the seaside. 300 meters above sea level, it was named after a place in the Holy Land. Like a misplaced primitive castle, the Panagia is in stark color contrast to the surrounding rocks. It has, however, become an inseparable part of the cliffs and a constant and marvelous sight by the ocean. It is said to have housed the legendary icon of Panagia in the 9th Century A.D. It was then renovated by the Byzantine empire led by Komninos. Thousands of tourists visit the Panagia every year. It is home to classic antique items used in the Greek Orthodox traditions. These towering places of worship seem to embrace their very locations and have practically become part of the geography of the country they are ground. The beauty and opulence of these breathtaking architectures are in solemnity and harmony with its milieu, that no longer can they be viewed apart from the nature that enshrines them. Without a shadow of a doubt, a visit to these ten monasteries can and will alter perspective and life, as we know it.


Josh Boorman


Backpacking Addictz



Twitter: @backpackaddictz

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Joshua Boorman

Joshua Boorman

Founder & Editor in Chief at Backpacking Addictz
Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.
Joshua Boorman
About The Author

Joshua Boorman

Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.

1 Comment

  • Jet-off traveler

    December 27, 2013

    Good post, interesting attractions. So far, I’ve only been to Meteora, Greece.
    The first and the fourth photos here are my favorites. Would love to visit Bhutan…

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