Thailand has many spiritual retreats and temples where you can learn various methods of meditation, yoga, and healing practices. These temple retreats are great for those who are interested in learning such techniques. However, we consider Thailand spiritual retreats not as a places to learn a new skill (regardless of how beneficial it may be), but as places where you can grow spiritually on your own, while being inspired by the beauty of nature, sacred art work and architecture, and feeling a kinship with the spiritual sojourners of the past.
That is why we consider the Northeastern province of Sakon Nakhon to be a “Thailand Spiritual Retreat” destination. The history of Sakon Nakhon stretches back 3,000 years to the time of the Khmer Empire and its iconic Hindu belief system. Later the province became known as a “Dharma Basin,” with lush mountains and forests that inspired the monks who founded the Thai Forest Tradition of Theravada Buddhism.
Today, Sakon Nakhon is filled with hundreds of temples set amidst nature. We have visited over 150 of these Buddhist temples, which are filled with a mixture of Buddhist and Hindu iconography, and we can say definitively that Every Sakon Nakhon Temple is Different. However, one aspect that each temple shares is that they all are inspiring in some way.
So, we would like to share with you our choice of Sakon Nakhon temple grounds that will provide you with spiritual rejuvenation over the course of 7 days. All temples are within an hour’s drive of downtown Sakon Nakhon, and can be reached by taxi, car rental, or motorcycle rental. Tourists are rarely seen, except perhaps for a few local Thais, thus providing you with a quiet, undisturbed setting to pursue your spiritual growth.
There are 3 Nong Han lakeside temples in the Thai village of Ban Tha Wat. These temples are in locations where ancient Khmer communities once existed, and are within walking distance of each other. If you start Wat Pa Eo Kan (with its gorgeous orange color scheme), you can then walk 1.9 km to Wat Klang Si Chiang Mai to meditate along with the mythical Naga serpents, followed by a 700 meter walk to the majestic Wat Maha Phrom Photirat. This could easily take up your entire morning. In the afternoon, you can take a Ban Tha Wat Raft onto the lake, contemplate the temples on the shoreline, and feel your connection with all things spiritual.
The Phanna Nikhom district of Sakon Nakhon is home to two mountaintop temples that could well be described as spiritual retreats. These are the ancient Khmer temple ruins of Phra That Phu Phek, and Wat Tham Kham, a favorite meditation space of venerated Buddhist monk Ajarn Fan Acharo. We suggest climbing the steep mountain stairway to Phra That Phu Phek to begin Day 2 of your spiritual journey. If one of the wild peacocks is waiting for you at the top of the stairs, you’ll know that the gods are smiling upon you. In the afternoon, you can travel to Wat Tham Kham, which is only about twenty minutes away. If you are riding a motorbike, you’ll love riding the winding mountain roads, which have little to no traffic.
On Day 3 of your spiritual retreat week in Thailand, you’ll be wandering the beautiful woods of Wat Kham Pramong. These 20 acre temple grounds have great healing energy, as the temple is a retreat famous for helping cancer patients by using traditional, natural methods and meditation. The abbot of the temple, Ajarn Panonpatchara, cured his own case of cancer with a traditional Thai method in 1996. This sacred Thai forest temple is also filled with Buddhist and Hindu statues that are both beautiful and thought-provoking.
Wat Doi Dhammachedi is famous for discouraging tourists, welcoming only those visitors who will treat it as a genuine Thailand spiritual retreat. Therefore, despite its stunning architecture, sacred art work, and sculptures, you will not find this Thai temple filled with tourists snapping photographs. Instead, the few people that you may encounter will be (like you) on their own spiritual journey, treating the temple grounds with the deep respect it deserves
Wat Tham Pha Daen is a massive temple complex that covers over 1,000 acres atop the Phu Phan Mountains in Sakon Nakhon. The temple has some massive sculptures that are genuinely awe-inspiring. Of all the places listed here as Thailand spiritual retreats, this is the one that can be most classified as a tourist attraction. However, if you go on a weekday, you often can have the temple grounds virtually entirely to yourself, excepts for the resident monks, groundskeeper volunteers, and local Thais visiting to make merit. Here you will find some of the most beautiful views of Sakon Nakhon province, and many natural wonders to inspire you on your continued spiritual journey in Thailand.
Tham Thoeng Nak Nimit Priest’s Camp Site is our favorite “Thailand Off the Beaten Track” destination, when it comes to spiritual retreats. We can almost guarantee that you will have the long, winding mountain path (with occasional sign posts offering inspirational messages) entirely to yourself, unless a resident monk happens to greet you unexpectedly. The cement path that winds its way through the forest is truly gorgeous, being appropriately weather beaten, and covered in moss, as it leads you on a magical journey through the mountainside. Being a winding path, it is very easy to travel on foot, even if you are not at peak fitness. The base area of the “camp site” or monastery also has some wonderful sacred statues, including a large Laughing Buddha.
We reckon that Day 7 of your spiritual retreat in Thailand will be only a half day (if that), as you’ll be flying back to Bangkok before returning to your home country. You don’t want to leave the city and province before feeling the energy of its most sacred temple site, Wat Phra That Choeng Chum. The footprints of all four incarnations of the Buddha (Phra Kakusantha, Phra Konakom, Phra Kassapa, and Phra Kodom) are said to have been in made in the soil below the temple’s tall white Chedi. If you have some additional time, we suggest also visiting the nearby city temple Wat Pho Chai, with its intriguing artwork and statues.
After taking this 7 Day Spiritual Retreat journey through Sakon Nakhon, we are confident that you’ll feel spiritually rejuvenated, with new (enlightened) perspectives on life, and your purpose within the world. Having taken your spiritual journey completely in your own hands, with no spiritual guru to guide you, you’ll feel stronger and more self-reliant, able to handle whatever life throws at you, knowing you have the power with yourself to overcome anything.