Many people go on Buddhist retreats to take a break from their busy and noisy day-to-day lives. It allows them to search for inner peace and tranquility and relax in an environment far removed from their norm. People often feel more grounded, calmer, and in touch with themselves during and after a retreat. Many people also find a sense of community during their retreat as they are surrounded with like-minded people all searching for similar things.

Buddhist retreats often involve intensive meditation, periods of silence, yoga, and other activities such as talks, workshops, and study groups. You will perform activities designed to deepen your awareness of yourself, other people, and the world around you. As such, a retreat can be a challenging, life changing experience.

As Jack Kornfield, a meditation teacher and author of the books, “The Wise Heart” and “Bringing Home the Dharma” says, “Every wise culture knows that there are times that are important to walk out in the desert or in the mountains, or go on retreat and listen.” Although certain aspects of the retreat may seem difficult, such as periods without speaking, not eating meat, or not sleeping in, Kornfield says, “It turns out in almost every case that they love it. Things that seem like they might be difficult… turn out to be right away a splendid gift.”

You can find retreats all over the world from California to France to India to South Africa. Here are a few of the best retreats around the world:

Spirit Rock, California: Located north of San Francisco the hills of Spirit Rock and where Native Americans used to hold spiritual rites. These are residential retreats which are held throughout the year and run as long as two months.

Plum Village, France: This monastery in southern France is home to Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk whom Martin Luther King Jr. nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Plum Village welcomes visitors of all ages and features one lazy, unstructured day per week.

Ananda in the Himalayas, India: Set in the foothills of the Himalayas, Ananda offers one-on-one guided meditation sessions tailored to each guest’s individual needs. Sessions can incorporate Buddhist teachings or yogic breathing techniques.

The Middle Way Meditation Retreat, Thailand: Here you’ll practice Dhammakaya meditation, a form of Tibetan Buddhist practice that focuses on the center of the body as both an energy center and a gateway to higher consciousness.

Be aware that these are not spas. If you’re looking for luxurious accommodations and 5-star treatment, Buddhist retreats are not for you. If you want to be challenged and try new activities while searching for inner peace, then perhaps you should look into retreats. During a retreat, you can find a greater depth and intensity of spiritual practice than you are likely to have experienced before. You will be shown facets of reality, and of yourself, that may surprise you. You don’t have to be a practicing Buddhist or even spiritual in any traditional sense of the word to go on a retreat — it can be for anyone. Will you be one of them?