Ratna Ling Spiritual Retreat on California's Sonoma Coast
There's no need to leave the United States for a relaxing religious retreat. In Northern California's Sonoma County, you'll find the misty fog-covered Ratna Ling Buddhist retreat tucked away on a redwood-forested ridge just a few miles from the Pacific coast. Though not a monastery, the retreat follows the nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. All meals are strictly vegetarian.
Guests don't have to be Buddhist but simply seeking out "a quiet natural beautiful place to experience what it is like to be without distraction, and get a sense of your own breath, eating mindfully, applying attention to your own steps, applying attention to your own balance," retreat manager Chelsea Rappel said. With a printing press on site, guests can also learn ancient Tibetan book-binding processes.
The retreat is about a 2½-hour drive from the Golden Gate Bridge. Some visitors come for the day, but overnight visits are encouraged.
Telephone: 510-809-4987 or 510-809-4995
Park Hall Country House in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, England
Medieval mystery and history are part of a vacation at the Park Hall Country House, a former monastery dating to 1360, though it's believed to have been built over an earlier structure. The recorded history of the land dates to 1016. During renovations of the property, false walls were uncovered that led to the discovery of Middle Age paintings, including one of the Virgin Mary surrounded by Latin prayers, seated on a throne. Other treasures on site include urns commissioned by King Henry VIII.
Today, the hotel is surrounded by extensive gardens and farmland, and only a few minutes drive from the Essex seacoast. It's about an hour and a half northeast of central London. Guests can stay in the main house in antique-filled spaces like the romantic Bishop's Room, a favorite of newlyweds, or in scattered cottages and buildings on the grounds. One of these buildings, the Cart Lodge and Hay Barn, features a soaring half-timbered loft space, giving a true medieval feel.
Telephone: +44 (0)1255 820922
Hotel Klosterbräu in Seefeld in Tirol, Austria
Portions of the 100-room Hotel Klosterbräu date back more than 450 years to its former life as a monastery. A new five-star luxury hotel has been built within the grounds of the complex in a traditional Alpine style.
The town of Seefeld is one of Austria's most popular resorts, about a half-hour from the Innsbruck airport. The bucolic mountain setting gives the property a "Sound of Music" sensibility. The hotel can arrange tennis and golf outings at nearby venues, and for ski buffs, an adjacent ski resort is a five-minute walk away.
The newest part of the hotel is the 4,000-plus-square-meter Spiritual Spa, which takes cues from the site's history as a monastery and the rituals of the monks who once lived here.
The spa's themes are ruled by what the resort calls "10 pillars of contemplation" such as health through fire, which involves hot saunas and open fireplaces, or health through stone, using stones and crystals for massage therapy. Best of all is the Augustinian Beer Bath, where guests are doused in beer while drinking a glass.