Nepal’s strong ties to Hindu and Buddhist traditions have made it an ideal destination for meditation retreats. Follow Culture Trip’s guide to the best ones around the country.
When choosing a meditation retreat to attend in Nepal, it’s a good idea to look into whether they cater to advanced practitioners or those with a casual interest in meditation. While you may hear about meditation retreats at monasteries all over the country, many of these are based on long-term goals (think, three years-plus) for monks in training and aren’t open to beginners. Those listed here cater to short-term needs and follow various traditions or styles of practice.
Kopan is a popular place to head to in Kathmandu for an educational and spiritual retreat. The monastery and attached guesthouse is located on a hill above Boudhanath and has views across western-central Kathmandu. The monastery follows the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and is home to 360 monks from Nepal and Tibet. They are affiliated with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, an organisation devoted to the transmission of Mahayana Buddhism through teaching, meditation and community service. Kopan’s teachings are divided into courses and retreats and both are run throughout the year. Their popular ‘Discover Buddhism’ course, which includes instruction on meditation, is open to beginners who are simply curious to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism. Their group retreats are designed more for advanced practitioners and they also offer private retreats.
The Kagyu Institute of Buddhist Studies (KIBS) aims to ‘provide a venue conducive for followers from any part of the world to gain spiritual knowledge and enhance their spiritual development’. KIBS was founded by Shangpa Rinpoche, a monk from Dolpo in Far-Western Nepal, near the Tibet border. The courses and retreats held here are intended for serious practitioners of Buddhism and they offer short and long courses, both in groups and personalised to each participants’ needs. In the remainder of 2018, they will be holding retreats focused around fasting, chanting and Tantric meditation. They’re located in the town of Kirtipur, to the south of central Kathmandu. Accommodation is basic but adequate and the food is good. Past participants have praised the high-quality teaching at KIBS.
Tushita is one of the more spiritually inclined yoga retreats in Nepal and places a strong emphasis on Vedic philosophies and rituals (the Vedas being an ancient body of work originating from the Indian subcontinent). Their retreats near Pokhara combine yoga and meditation, so they are best suited to travellers who are interested in both practices. They hold beginner, intermediate and advanced retreats, with the longer duration tailored more to advanced practitioners. Retreats include a range of activities, including yoga asanas, music and mantras, guided meditation and jungle/mountain walks, as well as time for reflection and reading.
The Panditarama Lumbini International Vipassana Meditation Center is one of several Vipassana retreats throughout Nepal. Others are in Biratnagar, Birganj, Chitwan, Surkhet, Kathmandu, Kirtipur and Pokhara, but we have included the Lumbini location as there’s something special about practicing meditation in the place where Buddha was born. Vipassana is a form of meditation that claims to allow practitioners to ‘see things as they really are’. It is taught all over the world at 10-day retreats in which participants learn the basics and practice enough for it to be beneficial. The courses are free of charge, funded solely through donations. Vipassana retreats include sitting and walking meditations and are perhaps best known for their requirement that participants remain silent. The centre in Lumbini includes daily talks in English and retreats are offered year-round. Private programmes can also be arranged, with meditation taught in English, German, French and Burmese. Participants are expected to practice for 12-14 hours per day, sleep for 4-6 hours and perform all activities in slow motion. Communication with the outside world is restricted and socialising with other participants is discouraged.
This retreat is the oldest in Pokhara and has been operating for the past 20 years. While they are primarily a yoga retreat centre, Sadhana Yoga Retreat also offers a two-day, one-night yoga and meditation package that includes hiking around Pokhara, a full-body massage and a steam or mud bath. Visitors can make a booking for any day of the week, making it a good option for those that are short on time and would like to indulge in multiple activities.
Like the Kopan Monastery, the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Center is affiliated with the International Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. They often work with Kopan Monastery and also host teachers from abroad. The centre offers weekly guided meditations, monthly pujas on important Buddhist holidays and monthly Dharma classes in Nepali. They also work with tour company Dharma Adventures to provide tours to Buddhist sites around the Kathmandu Valley, such as Patan, Bungamati, Pharping and Namo Buddha. While the centre is located in the Naxal area of Kathmandu, their numerous activities take students around the city.
Unlike some other meditation retreats in Nepal, Osho Tapoban is less suited to casual practitioners and more to dedicated spiritual seekers with some familiarity with Osho’s philosophies. Osho, also known as Rajneesh, was an Indian mystic and religious leader born in 1931 and is said to have attained enlightenment at the age of 21. He attracted followers from all over India and the world and although he was a controversial figure during his life, his teachings have been influential to Western New Age thought. There are over 30 ashrams (or communes) around Nepal that follow Osho’s teachings and meditation styles, with Osho Tapoban in the Nagarjun Hills on the edge of Kathmandu being the best-equipped to welcome both locals and foreigners. Osho Tapoban runs seven-day ‘Transformation Meditation’ camps and 21-day ‘Intensive Transformation Meditation’ retreats, as well as other courses on yoga, meditation, psychotherapy and alternative healing. There is an on-site spa, dedicated to Ayurvedic principles, as well as a library containing Osho’s English and Hindi books, a sculpture garden and extensive lush grounds with waterfalls. Accommodation is provided for residents as well as for participants of meditation camps.
Lawudo Gompa offers off-the-beaten-path meditation retreats. Unlike every other retreat on this list, this one is quite a trek to get to. The monastery can be reached by flying from Kathmandu to Lukla (home of ‘the world’s most dangerous airport’), trekking for about two days along the main Everest Base Camp trail to reach the Sherpa town of Namche Bazaar and then, trekking for another day to reach Thamo, in the Thangme Valley. Lawudo Gompa is located about a 90 minutes’ walk above Thamo, at 4,000 metres altitude. Casual visitors can drop by while basic retreat rooms are also available for those who want to engage in some long-term meditation practice. Making bookings and payments with the monastery’s Kathmandu office is recommended.