Placed on the tops of mountains, perched on steep hillsides, and nestled among sharp rocks, the precarious location of these monasteries offered protection from invaders and the chance for worshipers to feel close to god. By modern-day standards the construction of such compounds seems daunting – but imagine how difficult the task of building these churches was to ancient monks! Painstakingly designed and supplied by treacherous paths, ropes, and pulleys, these cliff-side monasteries are shrouded in mystery and intrigue.

1. Paro Taktsang or “Tiger’s Nest” – Bhutan

Image: azwegers/Flickr

2. The Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas and the Holy Monastery of Rousanou – Meteora, Greece

Image: Lanka005/Flickr

3. Popa Taungkalat orMount Popa” – near Pagan, Burma

Image: exfordy/Flickr

4. Sümela Monastery- Trabzon, Turkey

Image: rward2008/Flickr

5. Dhankar Gompa – Spiti, India

Image: Lihi Koren/Flickr

6. St. George Monastery – Wadi Kelt, Israel

Image: Ester Inbar/Wikipedia

7. Xuan Kong Si or “The Hanging Temple” – Datong, China

Image: ponderspider/Flickr

8. Blue Domed Church – Santorini, Greece

Image: jorge-11/Flickr

9. Sant Miquel del Fai – Bigues i Riells, Spain

Image: SBA73/Flickr

10. Sigiriya or “Lion’s Rock” – Colombo, Sri Lanka

Image: whl.travel/Flickr

11. Madonna del Sasso – Locarno, Switzerland

Image: Patrick Theiner/Flickr

Article by Rachel Greenberg, originally written for NileGuide