While meditation can be done practically everywhere, including every place where a traveller might end up, some places either have a physical environment or a cultural tradition which makes meditation more gratifying.
These are locations where you can attend guided and self-led meditation retreats. They all provide environments that are supportive of being in retreat: minimal distractions, few activities and concerns, basic needs fulfilled, and ideally affordable. This list was originally compiled with the Buddhist meditation practice of Shamatha in mind, but these locations should be conducive to any type of meditation that requires a similarly supportive environment.
- Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka - More than 300 centers in 109 countries.
- Many Buddhist temples in South Korea offer temple stay programmes to tourists, which allows them to experience the life of a Buddhist monk, but requires you to book in advance. Those who participate in such programmes are expected to follow a strict daily routine and show a degree of respect for the customs, which includes waking up early for prayers and meditation, as well as eating vegetarian food.
- Taiwan's Fo Guang Shan monastery located near Kaohsiung has rooms available for visitors who wish to learn Buddhist meditation.
- Himachal Pradesh - Deer Park Institute - Part of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche's organization, it serves as a place of study running different short courses. It is located 3 hours from Dharamsala in a small Tibetan Settlement called Bir (about 12 hours by bus from Delhi). It is an old, but nicely renovated monastery with a temple with three halls. Single rooms are 7-8 sq. meters, furnished, with attached bathroom with wardrobe. Linen is provided. The costs Rs.400/day, with a 20% discount for people who stay more than a month. There are people talking and taxis coming and going. The food they provide for Rs.50 per meal is nice. Morning: porridge or veg-rice, toast with jam and butter, banana or egg. Lunch: rice, dahl, chapati, veggies Dinner: veg soup, pizza or noodles or fried rice, dessert, veggies. Apparently there is no self-catering possibility.
- Uttar Pradesh - Shravasti Korean Temple - Stay for donation, wake at 4am to recite the heart sutra in Korean, eat delicious Korean food, drink lemongrass milk tea with a genuine Zen master.
- Kathmandu - Kopan Monastery - An iconic Tibetan Buddhist monastery established in the 1970s by Lama Yeshe Rinpoche and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Has many retreats and events, including the famous November Course, an intensive month-long Lam Rim retreat. Rooms also available for private retreat.
- Bhaktapur - Thrangu Sekhar Retreat Center (map) - Colloquially known as Bhaktapur Retreat Center. Well-equipped rooms with kitchenette and private bathroom with hot water. 500 NPR per day (2013 price) with 3 meals delivered at your door. Great views of the valley. It seems now there are many westerners doing 6 year retreat. Contact in advance (firstname.lastname@example.org) to book a room. The main teacher Drupon Rinpoche is there 6 months each year. You can do your own retreat and ask questions or receive teachings from him.
- Simalchaur Shyampati - Namobuddha - Part of the Thrangu Rinpoche centers. A lovely monastery and a place for pilgrimage. They have simple and deluxe rooms. Info here: http://www.rinpoche.com/guesthouse/guesthouse4.htm It’s great place, but a bit more noisy and distracting than the Bhaktapur Retreat Center because there are many visitors.
- Lumbini, Nepal - The Panditarama Lumbini Vipassana Center International Vipassana Retreat Center is an excellent serious place to go deep into the Mahasi Sayadaw method.
- Nilambe - Well-known among seasoned Asia hands, people have been known to spend 10 to 12 years practicing intensively there, for costs of around $3 a day total. The facilities are simple but relatively comfortable and it is one of the very few places in Asia where men and women are treated equally and where one it not locked into a formulaic method of practice (Mahasi, Goenka, etc.).
- Information about Meditation Centres in Sri Lanka - A list compiled by the Buddhist Publication Society intended for “less experienced, short term visiting lay practitioners.”
- Buddhist Forest Monasteries and Meditation Centres in Sri Lanka - A list compiled by the Buddhist Publication Society intended for “Western bhikkhus, those who aspire to become bhikkhus, and those who are experienced lay practitioners.”
- Mawlamyine - Pa-Auk Forest Monastery (Main Center) - The main monastery of the Pa-Auk Group, a Buddhist monastery in the Theravāda tradition, with emphasis on the teaching and practice of both Samatha and Vipassanā meditation. This is the largest center, with 500 to 1000 residents including foreigners.
- Pyin Oo Lwin - Pa-Auk Tawya Meditation Center - A newer Pa-Auk monastery near Mandalay, with parts still under construction.
- Than Lyin - International Buddhasāsana Meditation Center - Pa-Auk Tawya Branch
- Yangon and Bago - Panditãrãma Shwe Taung Gon Sasana Yeiktha - Established in 1990 by Ven. U Panditabhivamsa for locals and foreigners to practice Vipassana meditation. Foreigners may mediate at the main center in Yangon and the branch center in Hse Main Gon (south of Bago), with other branch centers open to locals only (Pyin Oo Lwin, Mawlamyaing and Than Lyin). For information about their 60-day retreat visit saddhamma.org.
- Meditation in Thailand
- Ko Pha-ngan - Kow Tham (Mountain Cave) International Meditation Center - 10-day meditation retreats from the 10th-20th of each month.
- Ko Samui - Dipabhāvan meditation center - 7-day meditation retreats from the 3rd-10th, and 20th-27th of each month.
- Mae Hong Son - Tam Wua Forest Monastery [dead link] - In the Thai forest monastery tradition, retreatants follow the daily schedule of meditations. A cabin (kuti), and food is provided (only fruit juice for dinner). Guests are asked to wear simple white clothes, and to follow a daily schedule, which starts at 5AM. Alt website.
- Pak Chong District - Thai Plum Village International Practice Center - Meditation center in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh open to foreigners for 1-2 week retreats starting every Friday (longer retreats available on request).
- Phuket - Dharana Phuket Meditation Center - Various meditation courses and retreats.
- Surat Thani - Wat Suan Mokkh International Dharma Hermitage - 10-day meditation retreats from the 1st-11th of each month. Teachings in english. Individual rooms available.
- Ubon Ratchathani - Wat Nong Pah Pong [formerly dead link] - Established by Venerable Ajahn Chah Subhaddo in 1954 for monks, nuns and laypeople.
- Ubon Ratchathani - Wat Pah Nanachat - Established in 1975 by Ven. Ajahn Chah (1918-1992) as a branch monastery close to his own traditional forest monastery Wat Nong Pah Pong (see above), with Ven. Ajahn Sumedho, an American disciple of his, as the first abbot.
- Lot-et-Garonne - Plum Village - Europe’s largest monastic community, founded in 1982 by Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Organizes many retreats and programs.
- Centro de Retiros de Luz de Compasion Retreat Center - Tibetan tradition center in the Mexican State of Durango.
- Redwood Valley - Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery - Established in 1996 by Ven. Ajahns Pasanno and Amaro in the Thai forest tradition.
- Valley Center - Metta Forest Monastery - Established in 1990 by Ajaan Suwat Suvaco, in the Thai forest tradition.
- Temple - Temple Forest Monastery - A monastery in the Thai forest tradition of Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho.
- San Lorenzo - Southwest Sangha - Theravada-inspired (but nonsectarian) place for solo retreat that consists of a central building housing a kitchen and shrine room plus bathrooms and 4-5 "kutis" which in reality are just mobile home trailers with nice awnings built for shade. It has operated successfully on a pure dana basis for decades.
- Newport - Sravasti Abbey - an American Buddhist monastic community where nuns and monks and lay students learn, practice, and live the Buddha’s teachings.