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This Little Known Travel Tip Can Save You Hundreds on Accommodations

Monastery stays can save you a bundle. And you don’t have to be religious.

If you’re looking to travel on a tight budget, you might consider a monastery or a monastery-turned-hotel, which are available worldwide. Monasteries tend to be beautiful, historical, and low-key. Some have been updated, but rooms typically are on the minimalist side with no TVs. Meals, cell phones, and Internet service may or may not be available, and bathrooms may be communal.

Many monasteries adhere to the rules of St. Benedict, which obligates them to offer shelter to all pilgrims. That means you don’t have to be of any particular religious persuasion, or even spiritual, to book at most monasteries, although they are perfect fits if you are on a religious journey or seeking a spiritual retreat. They often have active religious communities, however, so you do need to be respectful and quiet (if not silent at some times), refrain from drinking alcohol or smoking, and dress modestly. Participation in religious activities is often optional.

Here are some notable monasteries around the world. More can be found at .

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Le Monastère des Augustines

WHERE: Canada

In the heart of old Quebec City, visitors can stay at a French-style monastery that is now a nonprofit modern wellness destination. Founded by the Augustine Sisters, who came from France in 1639 and created the healthcare system in Quebec, Le Monastère welcomes people of all faiths, cultures, and beliefs, and even nonbelievers. The property was left to the public in 2015 with the understanding that it would be a center for wellness activities. The goal is for guests to take a break from their usual life and engage in holistic wellness activities such as mindful walks, tai chi, massages, and yoga to restore their sense of balance and purpose while also enjoying the old city. Healthy meals are included, and breakfast is always silent.

There are no TVs in the rooms, which is simple whether you choose an authentic monastic cell or a contemporary room, but there is Internet service. A fascinating museum on the property also chronicles five centuries of the sisters’ Canadian legacy of giving and service. Authentic rooms have been modernized and start at $95 per person per night, while contemporary rooms, which have en suite bathrooms, start at $110 per person per night. Parking runs about $25 a night.

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Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac

WHERE: Canada

Approximately one and a half hours from Montreal, the imposing Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac was founded by Benedictine monks in 1912 on the shores of Lake Memphremagog in the Eastern Townships region of Quebec province.

Male guests are permitted to stay at the Abbey Guesthouse ($70 per night, call 819-843-4080), while female guests can find accommodations in the Villa Sainte-Scholastique ($65 per night, call 819-843-2340). Rates include three meals a day. Rooms should be booked weeks in advance and are not available for Thursday night stays.

You don’t have to be religious to visit. The short stays are designed to offer time for solitude and reflection. However, internships are offered for young men interested in deepening their spiritual practices and willing to contribute manual labor in exchange for a free stay in the guesthouse.

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Maison Massabielle

WHERE: France

Maison Massabielle is a Christian spiritual retreat center located about half an hour from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport and Gare du Nord and Gare St Lazare train stations. A three-story stone structure surrounded by a seven-acre park, the center has private rooms with and without bathrooms as well as dormitories with eight to 14 beds.

Accommodations are provided when you sign up for one of the many weekends or longer retreats the center runs for individuals, couples, groups, and even families with children. Couples and family therapy are special offerings for those seeking guidance during difficult times.

Overnight fees with dinner start at 75€ per night for adults and 0-55€ for children depending on their age. Parking is free.

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Monasterio de Santa María de Sabrado

WHERE: Spain

Monasterio de Santa María de Sabrado , a Spanish monastery, dates back to the 12th century and is located along the famed Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) trail in northwestern Spain. Catholic monks who live here are of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance as well as Benedictines.

A 98-bed hostel with eight dormitories is located on the ground floor of the building and is largely for the use of persons taking the long journey along the Camino de Santiago, whether for spiritual reasons, self-discovery, or simply the love of hiking and nature. A bed costs €8 per night, with access to a kitchen and dining area, showers, washer/dryers, and internet. Reservations are not accepted unless you are a person with a physical disability. The hostel is open year-round, with the doors opening at 1 PM and closing at 10 PM each day. All guests are required to leave the hostel by 8 AM.

Guest rooms on the second floor can be reserved for longer stays, and a separate house called Casa del Arco, located about 50 feet outside of the monastery proper, can be rented by groups who want a private experience. This house contains seven double rooms and seven single rooms, with a small kitchen and living room and access to all hostel services. Cost is determined at the time of booking.

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Pluscarden Abbey

WHERE: Scotland

This medieval-style abbey, run by 21 Benedictine monks in northeastern Scotland (about four hours from Edinburgh), allows guests to come for self-directed retreats. Pluscarden Abbey doesn’t charge set fees for rooms but asks for donations and participation in daily chores in exchange for accommodations. If nature is your church, this is a wonderful place to stay (although the abbey interiors are quite beautiful, too).

Men and women are housed in different buildings. Women can stay in St. Scholastica’s Retreat, which has 10 rooms. Men are hosted in the 12-room St. Benedict’s guest house next to the abbey. The rooms are simple and sparse, with a sink, dresser, table, and bed; bathrooms and showers are shared (although there is one room on the ground floor with a private bath for guests with disabilities).

Meals are not offered for women, but basic foods (eggs, milk, bread, etc.) are provided in a kitchen area. Men are permitted to have lunch and dinner with the monks but have other meals in the guest house.

Silence is expected in many areas of Pluscarden Abbey, and cell phone service is spotty.

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Santuario di Oropa (Sanctuary of Oropa)

WHERE: Italy

In the Italian Alps, about 4,000 feet above sea level, you’ll find the Santuario di Oropa (Sanctuary of Oropa), a popular pilgrimage site for Roman Catholics. The Sanctuary is a collection of buildings, including the Sacro Monte, a cluster of 12 chapels dating back to the 1600s depicting the life of the Virgin Mary.

In addition to learning about religion and art, the Special Nature Reserve of the Sacro Monte of Oropa is a perfect spot to enjoy outdoor sports, whether (depending on the season) you want to hike, bike, climb, or ski.

The hotel at the Sanctuary has 550 rooms with modern amenities that start at €52 for a simple “tourist” single room. Suites decorated with antique furniture go for €130 and up.

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Holy Cross Monastery

WHERE: New York, New York

Benedictine Episcopalian monks run Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York, a very small rural community (just 547 residents!) on the Hudson River about 90 miles north of New York City. Visitors—who number about 3,000 per year—can come to the monastery for one or more nights for rest, renewal, and reflection. They can opt for individual or group retreats where they commune and pray with the monks and follow their daily agenda, or they can create their own retreats by walking the nature trails or labyrinth on the property and reading in the common room or library. The suggested donation is $110 for Tuesday through Thursday nights and $125 per night for Friday and Saturday nights, with meals included.

Artists and writers can visit for an extended stay in a specially renovated space that includes private rooms, a shared bathroom, a kitchenette, and a lounge. A donation of $500 per week or $1850 a month is requested for these stays. Communal meals are available from Tuesday evening to Sunday morning.

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Sravasti Abbey: A Buddhist Monastery

WHERE: Spokane, Washington

Washington state is home to Sravasti Abbey , one of the first Buddhist monasteries in the United States, located a little over an hour from Spokane. Sravasti was established in 2003 by a Buddhist nun and has no paid employees. All guests—whether new to Buddhism or experienced practitioners—are expected to pitch in with daily chores and participate in all spiritual activities such as meditation, chanting, and spiritual discussions.

Visitors can come for specific courses or retreats or for individualized stays that can be short (a night, a week) or extended to a month. Evenings are silent, and no cell phones are permitted; internet service is also unavailable for guests staying less than five days (the idea is to completely unplug from your everyday life). Men and women sleep in separate areas in simple and usually shared rooms.

Generous donations are requested in lieu of posted fees.

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Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land

WHERE: Washington, D.C.

One of the most unexpected monastery stays available in the United States—a one-person retreat—can be found in Washington, D.C. The Hermitage is a tiny modern house set into the woods on the 42-acre property of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land , which is located near the Catholic University of America and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The house has a bed, desk, kitchenette, bathroom, and deck and is wheelchair accessible.

Long considered a “hidden treasure” in the capital for its architecture, flower gardens, shrines, and sculptures, the monastery also has ample free parking. The nightly fee is $120, with stays typically lasting one to seven nights, although longer retreats can be requested. Meals are not included.

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Franciscan Spirituality Center

WHERE: La Crosse, Wisconsin

Another Franciscan monastery, run by nuns and open to male and female guests of any religious or cultural heritage, is the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. You can register for a program and stay at one of the center’s 32 bedrooms, starting at $65 a night. The rooms are homey and have been remodeled recently, and now include en suite bathrooms and showers. Rooms can be shared and are wheelchair accessible. There’s a kitchenette for use by overnight guests, and meals are available for an extra charge.

It’s also possible to rent one of three hermitages (cottages in the woods) from April to November to engage in a solitary spiritual retreat for $70 a night. There is a minimum two-night stay. The cottages, named Chiara, Sophia, and Thea, are located about 15 minutes from the Franciscan Spirituality Center. They each have twin beds, chairs, and tables, plus bathrooms and kitchenettes. Guests are expected to provide their own meals.

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Holy Name Monastery and Saint Leo Abbey

WHERE: St. Leo, Florida

The city of St Leo in central Florida is home to both Holy Name Monastery , run by Benedictine nuns, and Saint Leo Abbey, run by Benedictine monks.

Holy Name has a new guest wing comprised of 10 air-conditioned rooms with two beds and en suite bathrooms. Guests can come to enjoy an unstructured relaxing “time out” at the monastery or create a private retreat schedule with the option to engage with the nuns or stay to themselves. Other options include directed retreats with a spiritual director from the monastery. Visits cost $45 a night for single occupancy with no meals and $80 with meals.

Saint Leo Abbey, which offers adult, youth, and group retreats, has a guesthouse that is located near a lake. Lodging and meals start at $75 a night for a solo occupancy small room with a single bed, desk, and rocking chair. A larger room with a queen-size bed goes for $85 a night for single occupancy or $95 for double occupancy.

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert

WHERE: New Mexico

Located in northern New Mexico in the town of Abiquiu (home of the famous Ghost Ranch partially owned by painter Georgia O’Keefe), about 60 miles north of Sante Fe, the Catholic Monastery of Christ in the Desert sits in a canyon carved into the red rock mountain landscape. Stillness pervades the government-protected wilderness around it—a great area for hiking. The property features a pueblo-style church and meditation garden.

Individuals, couples, and small groups of adults are permitted to stay in the monastery’s guesthouse for at least two days and two nights; a full week is recommended to fully unwind from everyday life. Guests are expected to engage in a self-directed retreat but may attend services and perform manual labor. Silence is requested after evening services until morning, and there is no cellphone service.

Rooms are rustically styled and contain one or two single beds, and are heated during colder months. Meals are included with overnight stays, and kitchen facilities are also available. A s uggested donation starts at $70 per night.

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WHERE: South Korea

South Korea has a unique cultural program called Templestay , designed to provide insight into Korean culture and Buddhism through participation in meditation, chanting, conversations with monks, and Buddhist meals.

The program offers the opportunity to visit and stay at one of close to 30 temples, including seven in Seoul. Stays typically last one or two days but can be up to 10 days and can be spent engaging in structured or customized programs. The choice of a temple to visit can be geared to special interests—for example, a desire to participate in meditation programs, rest in nature, experience Korean temple food, or go hiking. Guests are not required to participate in all temple programs.

Typically, accommodations are in shared spaces, but men and women are not allowed to room together. Depending on which temple and which retreat you select, fees can be as low as $45 a night.  Private rooms may be available at some temples for an added fee.