Sometimes, life gives people plenty of reasons to want a getaway. To meet this need, many turn to expensive hotels with Wi-Fi service, wild nightlife and hectic traffic. Those looking for a more relaxed, television-less escape should consider a trip to one of the many monasteries located throughout the United States.
Monastic retreats are not for everyone. Most are intended for those wanting to pursue spiritual development amongst members of an ordained community. However, many monasteries do welcome those of different religious traditions to participate in the daily activities and stay on the grounds.
The benefits of staying at a monastery are plentiful:
Overnight rates much cheaper than those at hotels
Guided Spiritual Development
Home cooked meals
Immersion in nature, away from electronics and noise
Attending these retreats is a great way to explore different approaches to spirituality and take time to reflect and unwind. However, people seldom think of monasteries when they imagine their getaways. This is one reason why monastic retreats are some of America’s best-kept secrets.
The establishments below were selected based on retreat offerings, accommodations and the level of immersion and depth of instruction guests receive by visiting or attending. Whether you’re looking for a unique place to stay or a spiritual retreat, below is a list of 30 monasteries to try.
30. Great Vow Zen Monastery – Clatskanie, Oregon
Located on 20 acres of forestry, the monastery is surrounded by a scenic, natural environment conducive to reflection and spiritual growth. The atmosphere is one of silent simplicity. Guests share meals with the community and may participate in meditation, chanting and work. Retreats range from an introductory, one-day Zen practice retreat, to intensive, physically and psychologically challenging sessions where guests will experience reduced sleep, and be expected to meditate in silence for 8-10 hours each day.
29. Quan Am Monastery and Temple – Memphis, Tennessee
Under Mahayana Buddhism, the monks and nuns at this establishment practice meditation, reflection and are deeply committed to service. These individuals strive to provide others with knowledge and understanding of the teachings of the Buddha. As such, the monastery welcomes people of all faiths and backgrounds to visit and learn more. Guests may participate in meditation, yoga, tai chi and mindfulness practice during the center’s various day retreats.
28. Temple Forest Monastery – Temple, New Hampshire
This monastic community celebrates Theravada Buddhism’s simplicity and tranquillity. The monastery acts as a religious center for local Buddhists, and provides training and guidance to those interested in learning more about the practice. Guests are welcome to attend morning and evening meditation sessions. Overnight stays are available for men and women interested in practicing alongside the Sangha. A light breakfast and one main meal is served daily. Guests are expected to participate in all daily activities, including chores and work.
Bedding and towels
Access to all activities of the monastic community
Resting on 400 acres in the Chaparral Mountains, this monastery was founded by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. The establishment offers retreats of mindfulness and day trip opportunities for outsiders to experience monastic life first-hand. Overnight guests stay in shared rooms with a toilet and shower. A typical retreat schedule includes mindful eating, seated and walking meditation, talks and exploration of the expansive grounds.
Camping optional with access to toilets and showers
Vegetarian meals included with registration
26. Abhayagiri – Redwood Valley, California
Under Theravada forest meditation tradition, this monastery is centered on the values of simplicity, meditation and self-discipline. Those within the community strive to minimize their needs. Residents consume one meal daily and possess a set of robes and an alms bowl. They accept medicine when ill, in addition to meditation and rest. Guests are expected to follow the 8 Precepts of Buddhism while visiting. Meals include a light breakfast and one main meal daily.
The Bodhi Monastery is located on 188 acres of woodlands in Sussex County, New Jersey. The aim of this monastery is to promote Buddhism as an integrated whole, rather than breaking the teachings into a particular sect. No retreats are available here, however outsiders are invited to attend daily chanting liturgy sessions every day of the week, in addition to Dharma talks, lectures and meditation sessions held throughout the month.
With a mission to preserve the Theravada forest meditation tradition, this monastery is located in the scenic woodlands of West Virginia and hosts a community in cultivation of morality, concentration and wisdom. Silent retreats are offered to outsiders, featuring days filled with meditation, mindfulness and small daily work assignments. During the day, silent meditation is the primary focus. Meals are served twice daily. At night, guests are invited to wander the grounds, meditate or read in the onsite library.
Through study, meditation and work, this abbey cultivates an uplifting, reflective atmosphere for residents and retreatants alike. The abbey hosts a monthly “Sharing the Dharma Day” to introduce newcomers to Buddhism. Additionally, a number of Dharma programs are available throughout the year, including one for young adults. Most of the time spent here will be in silent reflection, unless otherwise advised. There are multiple opportunities for volunteer work here, including cleaning, maintenance and transportation services.
22. Crestone Mountain Zen Center – Crestone, Colorado
This Buddhist monastery and retreat center provides visitors and resident monastics with a place to meditate and further develop their practice. Zen practitioners have the option to visit as students or apply for seasonal practice periods, weekend sittings, seminars and work practice weeks. Individuals may also rent cabins throughout the year for some time of silence and isolation in Colorado’s Crestone Mountains. Group retreats may include a variety activities, including yoga, dance, wilderness expeditions and psychotherapy.
Walking trails, fresh air and expansive grounds make for a serene environment of spiritual growth. Guests may visit for one day, or come for one of the many retreats hosted by the monastery. Guests will practice sitting and walking meditation and mindful eating, and will listen to teachings by resident monastics. Those who wish for a long-term experience may participate in the work exchange, year-long residential practice and five-year monastic programs. The monastery also offers a program for young adults.
Camping allowed between April and October with access to bathrooms and shower facilities
20. Zen Mountain Monastery – Mount Tremper, New York
Located in the Catskill Mountains of New York, the monastery offers Zen monastic training to those wishing to engage in the dharma through retreats and residential programs. The property is surrounded by woods, ponds and greenery for a natural getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. Guests may stay for a term as short as one weekend, or as long as one year. The experience at one of the monastery’s retreats is one of silent reflection, meditation and spiritual growth.
Following the Soto Zen tradition of reflective meditation, this Abbey houses male and female Buddhist monks and lay people. From spiritual counselling, to retreats, outsiders have access to a wide range of services for spiritual development and reflection. Meditation instruction, a tour of the grounds and introductory retreats are all offered to those new to Buddhist traditions and meditation practices.
Saint Joseph’s Abbey hosts a community of Trappist monks leading lives dedicated to prayer and work, silence and solitude. Retreats, open to men and women, are available to help everyday people unwind and find spiritual growth. Guests experience a generous allotment of time for prayer, reading and contemplation, and also have access to conferences and other religious services.
17. Holy Trinity Monastery – Jordanville, New York
A typical day at this monastery begins with song and prayer. Later in the day, the monks begin their work in a number of vocations, including book making, baking and craftsmanship, to support the establishment and experience the benefits of daily labor. Each day concludes with an evening prayer before monks go their separate ways for more prayer or reading. For those wishing to immerse themselves in this reflective atmosphere, a guest house is available at a rate of $25 per night. The monastery also offers open houses to introduce newcomers to the monastic way of life, as well as a summer youth program.
16. Holy Resurrection Monastery – Saint Nazianz, Wisconsin
The Holy Resurrection Monastery is a relatively small monastery with only four fully professed monks and two novices. Under Catholic Canon Law, this community strives to contribute prayer, work and hospitality for the betterment of the greater whole. The monastery hosts a number of prayer weekend retreats between September and December to guide the spiritual development of others. Retreatants are immersed in traditional Eastern monastic prayer and learn more about life in the monastery. Day retreats for groups or individuals are also available year-round.
15. Monastery of Christ in the Desert – Abiquiu, New Mexico
A life free from attachments is the ultimate aim of the monks within this Benedictine community. The monastery only houses men, but invites people of all genders and backgrounds to attend retreats in the guesthouse. The monks work in hospitality and craftsmanship and their creations are sold at the monastic gift shop. The establishment is surrounded by miles of desert wilderness, ensuring plenty of solitude for those who seek it. Preached retreats, self-directed retreats, day visits and overnight stays are all offered throughout the year.
14. Saint John’s Monastery – Goldendale, Washington
Saint John’s Monastery is a Greek Orthodox establishment with 20 nuns and novices and is completely dependent upon the sisters’ handmade goods and donations. For those vising the monastery, special dress regulations are in place for both men and women. Visitors may stay for up to two days to enjoy an escape from everyday life and participate in prayer, seclusion, self-denial and chastity.
13. Benedictine Sisters Sacred Heart Monastery – Richardton, North Dakota
The monastery, located amongst the rolling hills of North Dakota, makes for a relaxing getaway for women through its sabbatical escapes. These retreats immerse guests in nature and help them seek peace. Volunteer opportunities are also open to women who wish to assist the sisters’ mission of spreading prayer and good works.
Prayer and service are the two main focuses at this Benedictine monastery. For service, the monks often work in schools, nursing homes, the Maple Tree Childcare Center and the onsite retreat center. The monastery welcomes people of all faiths to attend one of their self-directed or guided retreats for the purpose of spiritual growth. Men and women both enjoy the benefits of the simple, relaxing atmosphere. Volunteer opportunities are open to people in the St. Paul community who wish to assist the sisters in tasks ranging from maintenance to kitchen work.
Through prayer, meditative reading, work and hospitality, the monks of Mepkin Abbey seek spiritual growth under the rule of Saint Benedict. The abbey hosts guided tours for those hoping to learn more about the day-to-day experience at the monastery. Multiple retreat options are available, including private retreats, directed retreats and prayer retreats. The monastery offers volunteer opportunities for those wishing to remain involved.
Desk, reading chair and private bath in all rooms
Bed linens, towels and soap are provided
Opportunity to attend any prayer services and spiritual counselling
10. Sisters of Saint Benedict – Beech Grove, Indiana
The sisters within this community lead lives dedicated to prayer, work and hospitality. Located on 50 sprawling acres of scenic grounds with walking paths and benches, the monastery offers a place of peaceful reflection for people of all backgrounds. The monastery has 45 bedrooms dedicated to hospitality and a chapel open to guests. Retreatants enjoy full food service and dining areas. Rates vary by bedroom size.
The monks within the Gethsemani community are dedicated to prayer, work and sacred reading. This monastery is in the Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance under the Roman Catholic Church. Retreats are offered throughout the year for those hoping to get away from city-life for some time. Speaking is allowed in certain areas, however most of the time spent here will be in silence. The abbey offers several acres of wooded land for guests to explore. Retreats are undirected unless a private consultation is requested. Women are able to attend two weekend and two weekday retreats per month; the rest of the openings are only available to men.
8. Monastery of the Holy Spirit – Conyers, Georgia
More than 40 monks make up this community. The monastic institute offers numerous opportunities for outsiders to participate in prayer, reflection and education regarding the monastic life. Leaders of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit invite guests to stop by for a day, or participate in an immersive retreat experience. Guests enjoy scenic views, stunning Gothic architecture, bonsai gardens and an abbey store. A visitor center is available for new visitors to learn more about the monastic tradition.
7. Saints Mary and Martha Orthodox Monastery – Wagener, South Carolina
A relatively new Orthodox Christian monastery for women, this establishment currently consists of a scenic stretch of land with a doublewide trailer serving as the monastic space. The trailer will soon become a guesthouse with the completion of the monastery, which is currently being constructed. The monastery does offer spaces for individual retreats, mother and daughter retreats and small group retreats for women of all ages, however space is limited and reservations must be made in advance. A hermitage is also available with the option for guests to bring their own food for an experience of complete solitude, or enjoy picnic basket meals and supper with the monastics.
Fireplace in the hermitage
Monastery store with various books, candles and home décor available for purchase
6. Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey – Wrentham, Massachusetts
Saint Mary’s Abbey is the first monastery of Cistercian Nuns in the United States. The sisters of this abbey participate in prayer, reading of scripture and monastic work each day. Single, Catholic women between the ages of 20 and 40 may attend a monastic weekend retreat of immersion in prayer and the daily activities of a nun within the community. Those who wish to visit for private group or individual retreats may stay in one of two retreat houses with a recommended donation of $55 per day. Day retreats are offered for a suggested donation of $25.
Access to abbey church between 6 am and 7:30 pm
Access to a dining room and kitchen stocked with food staples
5. Saint Vincent Archabbey – Latrobe, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1846, the Saint Vincent Archabbey is the first Benedictine Monastery in the United States and is also one of the largest monasteries in the world. The archabbey uniquely offers a theology program for students preparing for priesthood at the nearby Saint Vincent College. Monks of the community participate in apostolic vocations ranging from accountants to firemen. Those interested in learning more can participate in one of the monastery’s “Come and See” retreats, a no-commitment opportunity to observe a day in the life of a Benedictine Monk within the community. The archabbey also welcomes Christian men and women to visit for preached group retreats between May and July. Self-directed getaways are also available.
Meals included in group retreats
Linens and towels provided
Access to Saint Vincent Fitness Trail and Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve
4. Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America – Washington, D.C.
The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America is home to exquisite architecture and extensive gardens in the heart of Washington, D.C. Guests may sign up for tours of the grounds to see the property first-hand and learn more about monastic life. In addition to numerous volunteer opportunities, the monastery hosts a single-person excursion. This experience takes place in a private building surrounded by nature, while still centrally located near The Catholic University of America and the D.C. Metro. The retreat is $70 per night and generally last from 1-7 nights.
Kitchenette, bathroom and outdoor deck in hermitage building
Bed linens, towels, cooking utensils and free parking included with retreat
Daily Mass and confession
Access to gardens and chapel
Extensive library with photographs, books and more
3. Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph – Detroit, Michigan
The friars that reside at this monastery strive to provide service to those in need of assistance. Outsiders are encouraged to participate in volunteer opportunities, including clothing and food drives and neighbourhood clean-up. In addition to service opportunities, the monastery offers several Capuchin retreats, available to both men and women, in the meadows of the Michigan woodlands. The aim of these retreats is to promote Catholic Franciscan spirituality and contribute to peace of mind. Options include a weekend retreat ($160), day or evening retreats ($20-$25), private retreat ($70 per day) and directed retreats ($80 per day). Individuals of all religious traditions are invited to attend.
2. Our Lady Guadalupe Trappist Abbey – Carlton, Oregon
For more dedicated retreaters, this abbey provides thirty-day Monastic Life Retreats, with emphasis on immersion and spiritual development. Each retreat allows a maximum of three retreatants per program, and retreats are offered on an as-needed basis. Guests are expected to participate in daily work to earn room and board for the duration of the program. The abbey also offers undirected private retreats at the guest house for a suggested donation of $50 per day, and day rooms are available for a suggested donation of $20 per day. While the thirty-day retreat is only available to men, women are invited to visit the abbey for private retreats.
Library with audio tapes
Meals included for thirty-day retreat and day room packages
Saint Andrew’s Abbey is a Benedictine monastery, offering retreats to visitors for a refreshing escape from city-life. This monastery hosts preached and private retreats, in addition to one-day workshops. Located in the foothills of San Gabriel Mountains, guests enjoy scenic views, a tea garden and a guest lounge with complimentary wireless Internet. The abbey welcomes people of all faiths.
Arts & crafts center
Private bathrooms, patios, small desks and heaters available in each room
Katie is a freelance writer based out of Kansas City. She is an avid traveler and loves discovering new places to explore. Katie believes that the experience is the most important aspect to travel. She enjoys running around new cities, exploring nature and meeting new people. She has written for a number of companies, including Elite Daily and College Rank on travel-inspired topics.