Inside Kopan Monastery, thangka and Buddha statues
Kopan Monastery: A Perfect Retreat to Unwind and Rejuvenate

Kopan Monastery

Kopan Monastery has a tranquil and calm environment ideal for those seeking spiritual insight and inner serenity. You will be subjected to the breathtaking sights of the Kathmandu valley as you stroll, as well as an array of stupas, statues, prayer wheels, and other sacred objects.

Shailesh Bashyal
Author | Shailesh Bashyal Date Published:
A chaitya in Kopan Monastery

On top of the Kopan hill, 3 km north of Boudha, lies the serene Kopan Monastery. This spiritual sanctuary is a must-visit destination for those looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With a breathtaking view of the Kathmandu valley and surrounded by lush greenery, Kopan Monastery is a perfect place to relax, meditate, and reflect. The monastery is a representation of the rich Buddhist culture and traditions and is renowned for the courses it offers on Buddhism. Visitors from all over the world come here to attend courses and enjoy the spiritual atmosphere of the place for study and practice.

Kopan Monastery is the biggest Gelug monastery in Nepal and is home to more than 360 monks, lamas, teachers, and workers. The monks come from all areas of Nepal and Tibet and have devoted their lives to the study and practice of the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, with special emphasis on the teachings of Lama Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelug Lineage. Following the guidance of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the monastery is dedicated to helping all beings develop their full potential of infinite wisdom and compassion as taught by its founder, Lama Thubten Yeshe.

The monastery offers visitors a unique opportunity to learn about Buddhism and the customs and traditions of the monks who live there. With awe-inspiring shrines, paintings, thangkas, statues, and stupas of enlightenment, Kopan Monastery is a representation of the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. The monastery has a gompa named after the Buddha of compassion - Chenrezig gompa - where regular courses for visitors are held. One can freely visit inside and reflect if there are no ongoing courses. The prayer wheelhouse with beautiful paintings makes the place even more enticing.

small statue of buddha

One can relax, meditate in the peaceful gardens, listen to the morning puja, have a glance at the spectacular view of the Bouddhanath Stupa, and admire the beauty of the place. The history of the monastery adds to its allure. Once the home of the astrologer to the king of Nepal, the hilltop monastery preserves the history and tradition of this region. The magnificent bodhi tree dominates the hill, and the clean air and magical view across the valley only add to the monastery's serene atmosphere.

At the core of Kopan Monastery's mission is the belief that through the study and practice of Mahayana Buddhism, individuals can cultivate qualities such as compassion and wisdom and ultimately reach their full potential to serve others. This is why the monastery offers various opportunities for individuals to engage in prayer sessions, group retreats, and community service projects. By creating a harmonious environment that encourages a sense of collective duty, Kopan Monastery strives to help all beings reach their full potential for the betterment of others and society.

The affiliation of Kopan Monastery with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) adds to the significance of the place. FPMT's devotion to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation, and community service is reflected in the courses offered at the monastery. The integrated education provided by FPMT aims to transform the minds and hearts of people into their highest potential for the benefit of others, inspired by an attitude of universal responsibility. By visiting Kopan Monastery, one can experience the serenity of the place and contribute to the propagation of Buddhist teachings and values worldwide.

Whether you are a Buddhist pilgrim, a spiritual seeker, or simply looking for a place to relax and unwind, Kopan Monastery is the perfect destination. Kopan Monastery is an ideal place to reflect and rejuvenate with its peaceful atmosphere, awe-inspiring architecture, and breathtaking scenery. Kopan Monastery is conveniently located within a 30-40 minute walk from Boudha, making it easily accessible for visitors to experience its magic firsthand.

Table Of Content

Table Of Content

    Facts about Kopan Monastery


    Kopan Monastery


    Budhanilkantha Municipality, Kathmandu

    Situated 3 km north of Boudha

    Established Date

    Early 1970s



    Founded by

    Thubten Yeshe and Thubten Zopa Rinpoche


    Traditional Tibetan style architecture

    Monastic Events

    • Monlam (The Great Prayer Festival)

    • Losar (Tibetan New Year)

    • Surkor Puja

    • Rigjung Debate

    • Lama Tsong Khapa Day

    • Buddha Jayanti

    • Saka Dawa

    Nearby attractions

    • Boudhanath Stupa

    • Phulbari Monastery

    • Kunsang Choling Nunnery

    • Simaltar Seto Gumba

    • Pashupatinath


    Easily accessible via all modes of transportation

    The Early Years of Kopan Monastery

    Kopan Monastery has a rich and fascinating history that spans several decades. After escaping from Tibet in 1959, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe found their way to Nepal in 1968, accompanied by their first disciple, Zina Rachevsky. Initially settling near Boudhanath stupa, the lamas were eventually able to purchase an old house on Kopan hill in 1971. The land used to belong to the astrologer to the king of Nepal, and with the help of their increasing number of Western disciples, the lamas constructed the first temple in 1971-72.

    The establishment of the Nepal Buddhist Mahayana Center Gompa at Kopan Monastery was the brainchild of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Their vision was to produce individuals with a good heart and the wisdom required to serve others all over the world. Lama Yeshe envisioned a monastery for young Himalayan monks and nuns, as well as a center for foreign students to study and practice Tibetan Buddhism, and he tirelessly worked to bring his vision to fruition.

    Young monk boys

    The first monks to join the monastery were mostly young boys from the Solu Khumbu and Manang area of Nepal. Many of them were sent to Kopan by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who was at that time re-establishing the Lawudo Retreat Center. At the same time, the lamas began giving Dharma talks to Western students who had heard about them at Kopan. Weekly classes were held, and the first one-month meditation course took place in the spring of 1971.

    The number of students attending the courses grew exponentially, with 200 students attending the twice-yearly one-month courses by 1973. These students lived under harsh conditions, sleeping on the floor on straw mats and relying on a local spring for water supply. However, the popularity of the courses continued to increase, and foreigners disillusioned with materialism in the West flocked to Kopan in search of spiritual meaning. Many of them took ordination vows and formed a small Western sangha community under Lama Yeshe's guidance.

    Over the next three decades, Kopan Monastery developed into one of the largest Gelug monasteries in Nepal, with 380 monks and 360 nuns. The annual one-month course that began in 1971 is still happening today, attracting over 250 participants each year. In 1994, the nuns moved into their own place within the monastery and engage in intensive practices such as the annual Nyung ne retreat.

    Extensive building projects from the 90s to the present day have improved living conditions for the monks and nuns and provided better accommodations for the many foreigners who come to Kopan every year to learn about Buddhism. The story of Kopan Monastery is truly one of perseverance and dedication to the spread of Tibetan Buddhism around the world.

    kopan monastery

    In the years since its founding, Kopan Monastery has become a beacon for Buddhist practitioners and seekers from all over the world. Its popularity can be attributed to the visionary leadership of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Today, Kopan Monastery continues to offer a rich program of teachings, retreats, and community engagement. Thus, it remains an important hub for the propagation of Buddhist teachings in Nepal and beyond.

    Mission and History of FPMT

    In the early 1970s, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche traveled to Australia and the USA, where they were invited by their students who had set up centers there after their stay at Kopan Monastery. This inspired Lama Yeshe to establish an international organization in 1974 - the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). The FPMT is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values across the world through teaching, meditation, and community service.

    The FPMT is committed to creating harmonious environments and helping all beings develop their full potential of infinite wisdom and compassion, inspired by an attitude of universal responsibility. It is based on the Buddhist tradition of Lama Tsongkhapa of Tibet, as taught by the founder Lama Thubten Yeshe and spiritual director Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. The organization provides integrated education on a global scale that aims to transform people's minds and hearts into their highest potential for the benefit of others.

    Through its network of centers and programs, the FPMT aims to provide individuals with the tools and resources necessary to lead a more compassionate and meaningful life while working for the benefit of others and the world.

    Exploring the Sacred Shrines of Kopan Monastery

    Kopan Monastery has a tranquil and calm environment ideal for those seeking spiritual insight and inner serenity. A leisurely stroll around the property is one of the highlights of a journey to Kopan Monastery. You will be subjected to the breathtaking sights of the Kathmandu valley as you stroll, as well as an array of stupas, statues, prayer wheels, and other sacred objects.

    Starting from the main gate, visitors can embark on a journey of discovery through the various shrines and temples. On the right-hand side, the Tara Shrine welcomes you as the first statue offered to the monastery when it was established. Adjacent to it is the debate house, which boasts beautiful statues of the eight Nalanda masters and 21 emanations of Tara.

    statue of tara in kopan

    Moving forward, entering the main temple presents you with striking paintings of the four Dharma kings of Tibet, considered the protectors of the region. A notable feature on your left is a large painting of the Wheel of Life. Moving deeper into the temple, you will be awestruck by the 20-foot statue of Lama Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelug tradition. On either side of the Lama's statue stand his two main disciples. The left side altar houses Shakyamuni Buddha, with Maitreya Buddha on his left and Manjushri on his right. The walls feature the thangkas of the eight Indian masters who established the Buddhist philosophical system.

    After leaving the main temple, walking down the steps, and turning right onto the lower road, you will encounter the Tantric College where 60 monks are being trained in Buddhist rituals and mandalas. Outside the college, walk around the eight stupas of Enlightenment that symbolize the eight great deeds of Shakyamuni Buddha.

    As you walk up the steps and turn left into a narrow lane, you will see the Chenrezig gompa. The Gompa is where regular courses for visitors are held. On the uppermost floor of the Chenrezig gompa, you will find the relic shrine of Khensur Lama Lhundrup, the previous abbot.

    sacred statues in kopan

    Continuing up the steps to the upper road, you will encounter the Enlightenment Stupa in memory of the previous abbot, Khensur Lama Lhundrup. Next to it stands the Great Thousand Buddha Relic Stupa, which has a circular pond in front of it with a statue of the Buddha of Compassion, Chenrezig.

    On your way back towards the main gompa, past the debate hall, take a moment to explore the big prayer wheel containing millions of mantras of the Buddha of Compassion, Chenrezig. Even turning it once is said to bring immense benefit and Dhamma. Inside the prayer wheelhouse, the beautiful paintings of the Buddha of Compassion and the twenty-one Taras are not to be missed.

    A walk around the holy objects and sacred shrines at Kopan Monastery provides not only physical exercise but also a spiritual journey. It offers a glimpse into the rich Buddhist culture and tradition, providing an opportunity for reflection and self-discovery. The experience of making this circumambulation of the holy objects at Kopan should be dedicated to the merit accumulated throughout the journey.

    multiheaded buddha statue

    Visiting and staying at Kopan

    Whether you're seeking to join a course, do a retreat, or take some time for self-study and reflection, Kopan Monastery is the perfect place for you. Here, you can extend your course or retreat course by a day or two at the beginning or end. Moreover, Kopan also welcomes groups to participate in their courses, and ample notice is needed for group bookings.

    If you are interested in a day visit, you are welcome to visit between 9 am - 5 pm. Don't miss the Daily Dharma Talk at 10.30 am (Monday to Friday) and stay for lunch in the Kopan cafe. To check what events are happening that day, you can call the reception of the Monastery.

    For local group visits, Kopan Monastery welcomes groups from local schools, organizations, and overseas visitors. For travel agents, it is important to note that large groups and tourist buses for day visits are only accepted after making an appointment with the reception office. Without an appointment, your bus might not be able to enter the monastery.

    Kopan Monastery provides a range of stay options that can be customized according to your preferences. You can choose to attend a course, participate in a retreat, or have a private stay for self-study or reflection. Whatever your choice, you will experience the serene atmosphere of the monastery, where you can meditate and find inner peace.

    monk walking on stone pavement

    It is recommended to inform the monastery's reception if you plan to stay for multiple days or have any special requirements. This ensures that your needs are met and you have a comfortable and fulfilling stay at Kopan Monastery. Come and immerse yourself in the tranquility of this spiritual sanctuary.

    Exploring the Symbolism

    A traditional Tibetan Gompa is a rich embodiment of Buddhist symbolism, evoking the teachings of the Buddha and the hope of enlightenment. The gompa typically features various symbols and ornaments that represent compassion, wisdom, harmony, and peace.

    At the entrance of the temple, the Dharmachakra, or the wheel of Dharma, is prominently displayed over the front entrance or on the roof. This symbol represents the three turnings of the wheel of the Dharma by Shakyamuni Buddha and the three higher training on the path to liberation from samsara. The rim of the wheel represents higher training in concentration, while the spokes signify higher training in analytical wisdom, and the hub represents higher training in ethics. The eight spokes represent the Buddha’s noble eightfold path, leading to the destruction of obscurations to liberation and omniscience.

    doors of kopan

    Flanking the Dharmachakra are two deer, considered to represent compassion and peacefulness. The male and female deer symbolize harmony, happiness, and fidelity. These magical creatures have a single horn and are known as the Tibetan unicorn, and they are said to manifest only in the presence of great teachers. The deer gaze up at the Dharmachakra, symbolizing the aspiration for the Dharma.

    The interior of the temple features a range of symbolic representations, including the statue of Lama Tsong Khapa, a 15-foot statue filled with the symbols of the vajra body, speech, and mind of the Buddha. The carved images of a traditional altar surround the statue, while silk thangkas are displayed on the side railing, representing the two supreme masters and seven sage ornaments, as well as Manjushri, Maitreya, White Tara, and others. The four pillars of the temple represent the four pearls of wisdom, which one must acquire on the path to enlightenment.

    The windows around the top of the temple are symbolic of the wisdom eyes, representing the all-seeing, omniscient quality of the Buddha. The statues on either side of the main statue are representations of Shakyamuni Buddha, Maitreya Buddha, Tara, Atisha (who brought the Dharma to Tibet), the two disciples of Lama Tsong Khapa, Medicine Buddha, and at the far end, a life-size statue of our founder, Lama Yeshe. The temple is also blessed by the presence of the Tibetan canon of the Translated Word (Kagyur) and Translated Commentaries (Tengyur), which represent the Buddha’s holy speech and the collected works of the great Indian Pandits, such as Nagarjuna, Asanga, Chandrakirti, and so forth.

    bronze deers on top of kopan monastery

    A traditional Tibetan temple is a fascinating embodiment of Buddhist symbolism, featuring a range of decorative elements and ornamental representations of the teachings of the Buddha. The temple holds the hope of enlightenment and offers a space for teachings, empowerments, blessings, tantric pujas, and retreats, extending the opportunity of truth to all who would hear.

    Things to do at Kapan

    As soon as you arrive at Kopan Monastery, take a deep breath and let go of your daily stress. The monastery offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere with plenty of Dharma-related activities throughout the day, but not limited to it.

    Kick off your day by attending the morning puja of the priests in the main prayer hall or meditating in the lush gardens. Take a stroll around the various stupas, spin the prayer wheels, and admire the breathtaking views of the Kathmandu valley, Boudha, and nearby monasteries.

    garden in kopan

    For book lovers, the library is a perfect place to explore Buddhist literature, and for souvenir hunters, the gift shops offer a variety of keepsakes to take back home. The on-site cafe is an excellent spot to grab a quick bite or check your email in the digital cafe.

    In the evenings, watch the priests engage in prayers and debates and let their energy inspire you. With the right mindset, all of these activities become virtuous actions aligned with Dharma. Kopan Monastery strives to make your stay enjoyable and enriching. Kopan welcomes everyone to come and experience the peace and spirituality that the monastery offers.

    Significance of Kopan Monastery

    Kopan Monastery is one of the most significant Buddhist monasteries located in Kathmandu, Nepal. The monastery has played a vital role in the spiritual and religious lives of the people in Nepal, as well as in the wider Buddhist community. The monastery is renowned for its peaceful and spiritual environment, making it a popular destination for tourists seeking a serene and spiritual experience.

    The monastery's importance extends beyond Nepal's borders, as it is a hub for Buddhist teachings and practices for followers from all over the world. Many people come to the monastery to study Buddhism, learn about the principles of meditation, and to gain a deeper understanding of the Buddhist way of life. As a result, the monastery has become an essential destination for those seeking spiritual and mental well-being, as well as those interested in exploring Buddhism's teachings.

    Kopan Monastery is also significant in the context of Nepal's cultural heritage. The monastery is an excellent example of traditional Nepali architecture, with beautiful temples and intricately carved wooden doors and windows. The monastery's annual festivals and ceremonies, such as the Tibetan New Year and Buddha Jayanti, are significant cultural events in Nepal, attracting visitors from all over the country.

    kopan monastery

    Additionally, the monastery has contributed significantly to the social and economic development of the local community. The monastery runs various community development programs, including healthcare, education, and environmental protection initiatives. These programs have helped improve the lives of people living in the surrounding areas and have promoted sustainable development in the region.

    The study of the mind is a foundational principle in Tibetan Buddhism, and the various courses and practices available can help individuals improve their understanding of themselves and their relationships, leading to a happier and more fulfilling life. In conclusion, the Kopan Monastery's significance extends beyond its religious and spiritual importance. Its cultural heritage, social contributions, and global influence make it an essential destination for visitors seeking a meaningful and enlightening experience.

    Month-Long Course: Find Your Inner Harmony

    In Tibetan Buddhism, the study of the mind is considered a crucial component of the practice. It is believed that one's mind determines the quality of their life and relationships. Through the study of the mind, one can understand the root causes of their problems and find ways to lead a happier and more meaningful life.

    Whether you are going through a time of transition, experiencing emotional turmoil, or simply curious about Buddhism and its benefits, understanding your own mind is of utmost importance. Fortunately, Kopan Monastery offers a range of courses and practices that cater to various levels of interest and knowledge.

    The Course Program offers introductory and intermediate courses, as well as intensive explorations of the philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism. The focus is on the practical application of the teachings in one's daily life. By learning new skills and approaches, students can improve their understanding of themselves and others and ultimately enhance their overall well-being.

    Retreats, whether taken in a group or individually, provide an opportunity for intensive practice under experienced guidance. In addition to the courses and retreats, Daily Dharma Talks offer a glimpse into the Buddhist viewpoint and allow visitors to experience the joys of meditation. I would suggest reaching out to the monastery's reception desk for more information tailored to your specific needs.

    How to reach Kopan Monastery

    Kopan Monastery is situated on the outskirts of Kathmandu, 3 km north of Boudhanath. It is approximately 11 km from the city center and 6 km from the airport, with accessible roads all year round. Although Kopan Monastery can be reached via various routes, the most interesting option would be to walk from Boudhanath. The 40-minute walk begins from the east of Bouddhanath and passes through Phulbari Gumba before meeting Chuchepati's road. From there, you can catch a glimpse of the monastery downhill.

    Another route is to turn left at Chuchepati towards Chabahil, where you will find the famous statue of Pasang Lhamu, the first Nepalese female to climb Mt. Everest and pass through Gopi Krishna Cinema Hall. Although there are no signposts, you can ask for directions by asking about Kopan Gompa or simply using google maps.

    Local buses and taxis are available for those who prefer shorter commutes, while motorcycles and mountain bikes can also be rented. Public buses are available that run directly from Ratna Park to Kapan village. Once you reach the village, it will take you around 10 minutes of uphill walking to reach the monastery. You can hire a taxi from any location in the valley, and consider using ride-sharing apps to determine a reasonable fare.

    Please note that the gate is closed promptly at 5 pm every day. To avoid any inconvenience, we recommend scheduling your arrival during the office opening hours, which are from 9 am to 11.30 am and from 1 pm to 4.30 pm.

    Tips and guides

    If you're planning to visit Kopan Monastery in Nepal, it's important to be aware of the monastery's rules and etiquette. As a place of spiritual and cultural significance, the monastery expects visitors to respect its traditions and maintain a suitable demeanor. In this section, we provide some useful tips and guidelines to help you make the most of your visit while also showing respect for the monastery and its community of monks.

    Planning your visit:

    Kopan Monastery is open to visitors and tourists all year round, except for the month of November to December when the annual month-long meditation course takes place. It is recommended to check the monastery's website or contact the reception desk before planning your visit to ensure it is open.

    Respect the local culture and customs:

    It is important for visitors to dress appropriately when visiting Kopan Monastery. The monastery is a sacred site, and visitors should be mindful of the local customs and avoid littering or causing any disturbances for those worshipping on the premises.

    Respect the monks:

    It is crucial to avoid any disruption or disturbance to the monks, who live to their vows and adhere to strict discipline. Strive to be courteous, considerate, and sensitive to the needs of others. Refrain from indulging in idle conversations and always show reverence towards the monks and their religious commitments.

    Dress properly:

    The monastery is strict about the dress code, so make sure to dress appropriately. Wear non-revealing clothing, such as long or short-sleeve shirts covering the upper body and shoulders, and pants, long shorts, or dresses that are roughly knee-length.

    Mindful behavior:

    Visitors are asked to avoid picking flowers or damaging branches from the trees in the garden as they are considered an offering to the Buddhas. Pets are also not welcome at the monastery if you’re going for a stay. 

    Maintain the peace:

    Do not play music anywhere. If you are listening to teachings or music, please do so with earphones only. If you bring a musical instrument, it will have to be stored in the reception during your stay.

    Reach reception

    If you are interested in staying at Kopan Monastery, or in attending any puja ceremonies or teachings, it's recommended to inquire at the reception desk for more information. They can provide you with the schedule and details on how to participate in these events.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • What is Kopan Monastery famous for?

      Kopan Monastery is primarily famous for teaching Buddha’s teachings to visit foreigners from the west. It is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. It is renowned as a center for the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism, particularly in the Gelug tradition. 

    • How do I get to Kopan Monastery?

      Kopan Monastery, is located 3 km north of Boudhanath and approximately 11 km from Kathmandu city center. A 40-minute walk from Boudhanath through Phulbari Gumba and Chuchepati's road or take a left turn at Chuchepati towards Chabahil and pass by the famous statue of Pasang Lhamu. Additionally, public buses are available from Ratna Park to Kapan village, followed by a 10-minute uphill walk to reach the monastery. Taxis can also be hired from any location in the valley or through ride-sharing apps.

    • How old is Kopan Monastery?

      Kopan Monastery was established in 1969 by Lamas Thubten Yeshe and Zopa Rinpoche, two spiritual leaders who were seeking to provide Westerners with access to the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. Over the years, it has grown in both size and popularity, attracting visitors from all over the world who are interested in learning about Buddhism, meditation, and mindfulness.

    • How to live with monks in Nepal?

      To live with monks in Nepal, one can join courses at Kopan Monastery. The monastery offers various programs catering to different levels of interest and knowledge. Inform the reception if you plan to stay for multiple days or have any special requirements. Retreats complement the teachings with intensive practice under experienced guidance. Public buses and taxis are available to reach the monastery. The best option would be to walk from Boudhanath to experience the local sights.

    • Can I take pictures at Kopan Monastery?

      Yes, photography is allowed in most areas, but it's important to be respectful and not disturb ongoing religious ceremonies.

    • Which is the oldest Buddhist temple (gompa) in Nepal?

      Swayambhunath and Boudhanath Stupas are both believed to date back to the 5th century and are considered the oldest Buddhist temples in Nepal. Both are highly significant from Nepali social and cultural perspectives and are highly recommended destinations for visitors to Nepal.

    • Is Kopan open all day?

      Kopan Monastery is open to visitors every day, with opening hours from 09:00 am to 11:30 am in the morning and 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm in the evening. However, visitors are not allowed to enter the monastery after 05:00 pm. It is important to note that the monastery is closed to visitors from November to December as the monthly course takes place during this period.


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