by Penny Walker, The Telegraph, May 30, 2018
A new law in Japan will soon make Buddhist temple stays in the country far more accessible to foreign visitors, with Terahaku aiming to become the Airbnb of temples this summer.
While Japanese temple stays, or shukubo, are not a new thing (there are over 50 in Mount Koya alone), a law that has restricted them from marketing themselves as commercial accommodation will be lifted on June 15.
Monastic and temple stays are not always the easiest to find and Terahaku is putting itself ahead of the game by teaming up with Airbnb and Booking.com to make tourists more aware of the opportunities that are available for those seeking a more spiritual experience.
If you find yourself in need of a week of restful reflection, we’ve hunted down some spiritual places to spend the night from across the globe to get you inspired.
Shunkoin Temple, Mount Koya, Japan
While accommodation at places such as Shunkoin Temple in Myoshinji Temple is fairly basic, with tatami mats for beds, a stay here offers an insight into Zen meditation and a taste of Buddhist temple life.
Augustine hotel, Prague, Czech Republic
Built in the 13th century as a monastery, the exterior of the 100-room Augustine hotel remains much the same as it would have done 600 years ago. Yet the interiors have been completely reimagined – inspired by 20th-century Czech Cubism. A working community of Augustinian friars still live here, offering a taste of what life here was once like.
Read the full review: Augustine, Prague
Bailin Zen Monastery, China
One of just a handful of Zen temples in China to allow foreign guests to live with the monks, Bailin Zen Monasteryoffers weekend stays but with a few touches of Western luxury – such as soft beds, hot water and flushing toilets. Here, you can share in the daily lives of the monks, praying, meditating and even eating with them as you learn the basics of Zen.
Fontevraud Abbey, Loire Valley, France
Although the Fontevraud Abbey on the borders of Anjou, Touraine and Poitou is now a luxury hotel with contemporary rooms, the exterior still shouts ‘monastery’. It is, in fact, one of the largest monastic sites from the Middle Ages. Vaulted halls, a tangle of cloisters and the Romanesque abbey church are constant reminders of the building’s fascinating past.
Read the full review: Fontevraud L'Hotel
Wat Pah Nanacha, Thailand
If you are up for a challenge, Wat Pah Nanachat offers the chance to experience life in a traditional forest monastery – no private meditation teachings or retreats and courses in meditation, just seven days of living life as a Buddhist monk. With rules that request that you refrain from eating after midday and give up luxuries such as music, makeup and games, it’s a ‘learn on the job’ type of experience.
Le Monastère des Augustines, Quebec City, Canada
The first Augustinian hospital to be established north of Mexico, today Le Monastère des Augustines is a hotel, but much of the original 17th century character has been preserved. Original religious artworks, antique furniture and the Sisters’ belief in mindful eating is still very much a part of any stay here – even breakfast is eaten in silence.
Read the full review: Le Monastère des Augustines
Church stays, UK
‘Champing’ (that’s right – Church camping) has risen in popularity across the UK in recent years, with 25 functioning churches in England and one in Orkney offering the opportunity to stay overnight. There are also a number of converted churches that you can stay in, such as The Chapel at Walcot Hall .
The world's best monastery hotels Ecce Homo pilgrim house, Jerusalem, Israel
An active working convent for the sisters of Notre Dame de Sion and the community of Chemin Neuf, a stay at Ecce Homo pilgrim house is, as you would expect, relatively basic. With a simple basilica found within the complex, visitors are welcome to sit and pray or reflect on life.
Kopan Monastery, Nepal
Offering a range of courses, retreats or simply a private stay for a period of reflection, Kopan Monastery is a monastery in the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. While it may not look like much from the outside, the interior is brightly coloured and supremely serene.
Tabo Monastery, India
Founded by a Buddhist king rumoured to be descended from Tibetan royalty over 1,000 years ago, Tabo Monastery is believed to be one of the oldest working monasteries in the world. The Sarai building offers visitor accommodation with a small library and peaceful setting offering an insight into this ancient way of life.