Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat

About us

Please Note - If you booking from withing S.Africa, please let us know at office@dharmagiri.org. 
Dharmagiri is a Buddhist inspired retreat centre founded in 2000 by meditation teachers Kittisaro and Thanissara, who trained as monastics in the Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah. It is on the border of Lesotho and South Africa in the mighty Southern Drakensberg Mountains. It is nestled in Mvuleni-Bamboo Mountain (place of rain, also place of openings.) It is a small centre that hosts mindfulness and insight meditation retreats and educational courses.

We offer silent meditation retreats, inter-active workshops, yoga, and shamanic inspired retreats throughout the year led by a range of experienced teachers who support people in their journey of awakening so they can learn, practice, and deepen their understanding of mindfulness, insight meditation, and other complementary practices. Our intention is to help all beings find more peace in their lives and to live more harmoniously with each other, our communities, and the world in which we all live.

Mindfulness is at the heart of insight meditation. It is the practice of being aware moment to moment, without judgment or clinging, so that we can pay close attention to our immediate experience. With increased mindfulness, we can deepen our understanding of our mind, live more fully present in the moment, and see and discern more clearly in order to allow our a deeper intelligence, wisdom and compassion to guide us.

We live at a time when there a great need to recognise our inter-connectedness with the Earth and all beings. The journey of awakening invites a shift from the dualistic mind, that separates everything out, into our deeper heart, which knows the intimacy of all things. A present, aware and listening heart, attuned to the deeper intuitive intelligence of the Dharma - of life and nature - manifests as wisdom and compassion. When this profound listening is cultivated through meditation, it reconnects us with the awakening process and dynamically informs appropriate response within the world. Rooted in the unmoving ground of being -- unshakeable like the Sacred Mountain – and authentic in our truth, mindful and discerning, we can work towards a more conscious world. Dharmagiri offers pathways to mature this process of awakening while aligning with others who love the Dharma, and who seek to express this love through action.

Have no limits, the teaching has not limits, let your mind be limitless. Master Hua

Venue Highlights

Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat grew out of the influence of its co-founders Kittisaro & Thanissara, who trained in the Thai Forest Monastic School of Ajahn Chah, and who cultivated the atmosphere of Dharmagiri over several decades through hosting and teaching long in-depth retreats that generated a sacred stillness and blessing energy that suffuses the centre.
The core ethos of Dharmagiri is one of simplicity and environmental sensitivity within a fairly intimate space where the practice of authenticity, loving kindness, and care for one another is optimised. Its overarching context is the presence of Mvuleni-Bamboo Mountain and the South Africa-Lesotho Drakensberg escarpment.
Mvuleni (Zulu for "place of rain, or place of openings") Mountain is an ancient sacred site, where many moons ago the Bushman painted their depiction of the rain beast that lives within the mountain who their shamans captured and wrestled to ensure harmonious weather.
More recently, in the early 1900's, a Zulu elder, after a great vision on the mountain founded the Church of Light. Still to this day, disciples come from all over South Africa every few years, women dressed in red, and men with a red lapel ribbon, to climb the mountain for blessings.
Those who retreat at Dharmagiri have access to the powerful blessing presence of Mvuleni, and also the experience of the power of the elemental nature of the mountain weather, it's powerful thunder storms in summer, it's change of light, often magnificent sunsets, spread of bright stars, and feel of wilderness, while being comfortable and secure in one's lodging.


  • Free Parking
  • Tour Assistance
  • Coffee/Tea

Menu Types

  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian
  • Gluten Free


We offer simple vegetarian and vegan meals. We can cater for gluten free and vegan.
In the mornings we offer African porridge, oats, muesli, fruit, nuts, toast, spreads.
Lunches are a range of veggie / vegan dishes with salads.
Supper is a soup, salads, breads, cheeses, spreads.
Tea, coffee, herb teas, biscuits are available all day at no extra charge.


At the moment we can house 12 retreatants (we are in the process of building permissions to add more single rooms.) There are 6 single ensuite rooms, that have a shower and bathroom facilities, a bed, writing desk, and wardrobe. The water is both solar heated and backed up by electricity.
There are also two twin rooms that share a bathroom and shower, and an ensuite twin room.
All linen, towels, and basic requisites are available, including hot water bottles for chilly winter nights.
The main meditation room has yoga mats, meditation shawls, benches, sitting mats and cushions available.
There is a well stocked library with audio Dharma talks.
There are also some books for sale.
While there is no spa on site, there is an up market spa and gym 15k's down the road at the Drakensberg Garden Hotel.


Our nearest airport is Durban.
You can reach Durban from Johannesburg, it's an hour's flight. (Check Kulula and Mango.co.za are domestic budget airlines.)
We have a shuttle service that is R1,500 ($130) per person, or if shared by one other, R750 ($65) each, or by two others, R500 ($45) each.
Greyhound buses are also available from all major cities, and many other smaller towns. You need to aim for Howick or Pietermartizburg. The are a very reasonable rate. For example - Johannesburg or Pretoria to Howick, our nearby larger town, is about $30 - $50.
A shuttle from Howick to Dharmagiri is available for about $30.
Post booking for a retreat, the office will help you with your travel arrangements.

Tags: buddhist practice dharma practice eco-activism health and healing insight dialogue insight meditation mindfulness non dual psycho-spiritual work qigong self retreats shamanism therapeutic process vipassana yoga

  Write a review - tell others about your experience.

  • Durten Rohm   March 21, 2018

      A protected and nurturing setting

    Dharmagiri is a special sacred place where you can deepen your practice and renew a seeker’s commitment and devotion. You find sincerity and simplicity in a protected and nurturing setting. The strong and ever-changing presence of the mountain certainly supports and inspires your practice.

  • Christopher Higgo   March 15, 2018


    I have found Dharmagiri to be a blessing: an authentic place of retreat. The organisation's heart is in the right place. Simple, straight forward, open, a place of holding for the inner journey. Dharmagiri offers a place where I can be quiet and listen deeply. This support is wonderful. The spirit of the place is peaceful and strong. I look forward to returning many more times :)

  • Mary Pipes   March 15, 2018

      Deeply Memorable

    In the last 25 years I've been blessed with being able to join retreats in many wonderful places in different parts of the world, but Dharmagiri's Sacred Mountain Retreat is the one that occupies the biggest place in my heart - it has slipped inside and even seven years after I stayed there, it still finds me at least once a week - reconnecting me with the wonderful nature that holds and surrounds it, reminding me of the power of the Sacred Mountain that stands over it, of the depth, heart and clarity of the teachings that were offered there, the simplicity and comfort of the rooms, the companionship of the other retreatants, and the way in which we were all so well taken care of in so many ways. It is a place where goodness gathers and truth finds you.

  • Barbara Gerber   March 04, 2018

      Dharmagiri: A heartful space

    Its difficult to write about my experience of Dharmagiri without sharing what happens deep within my body. A gentle settling, a sense of coming to rest, a breathing out as I am welcomed into a sacred space that is both safe and kind. The mountain, the little shrine room and the meditation room all provide a nurturing container for healing at many levels. Kittisaro and Thanissara's exquisite teachings touch my heart in a deeply sacred, often challenging and always joyful way. The quiet ongoing support of the staff, the wisdom of other teachers and of course the nourishing food adds a richness to my expereince. Each time I leave Dharmagiri my heart is full, there is a lightness in my step and I feel refreshed. I am so grateful and feel blessed that Dharamgiri is part of my life

  • Yong Oh   March 02, 2018

      Profound Experience

    I've had the opportunity to retreat twice at Dharmagiri, and was profoundly changed by my experience at this beautiful retreat center. The land, the mountain, the teachers and teachings, the lovely staff and accommodations all contributed to a truly wonderful and transformative experience. I look forward to returning and would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about practicing here.

  • Sebene Selassie   March 01, 2018

      Sacred Experience

    I had one of the most beautiful and profound retreat experiences I've ever had at Dharmagiri. The energy of the mountain mixed with the serene and simple retreat center was a powerful combination for inward reflection. The staff were attentive and kind and almost seemed to be on retreat with us even while doing their jobs. There is something incredibly sacred about this center and you can feel it in the private and shared spaces. The accommodations are comfortable and well taken care of and the meals are nourishing and wholesome. i'm planning to come back (from the U.S.) next year for another retreat and would recommend it to anyone.

  • Peter Woods   February 28, 2018

      Ancient energies converge in African Wilderness

    I have been retreating to Dharmagiri for many years and still cannot adequately describe the transcendent, transcultural but above all transformational energies inherent in the Mvoleni (Zulu=Place of Rain) mountain. What Kittisaro and Thanissara have created here as the fruit of their Buddhist monastic practice and quintessential humanity taps into and continues centuries of shamanic activity in this valley. This legacy continues in a lineage of creative residential and visiting teachers offering profound teachings and also on silent, solitary self-retreats. The comfortable accommodation and lacto-vegetarian menu enhance the homecoming to your true self. In the end, you will simply have to come and experience the magic first hand.

  • Moyra Keane   February 28, 2018

      Finding a place of belonging

    Dharmagiri has been a place of extraordinary connection to nature, Africa, the Dharma and Sanga. I find staying there profoundly affecting while at the same time homely and welcoming. Kittisaro and Thanissara are extraordinary teachers - the retreat centre has a sense of timeless Belonging.

  • Robyn Sheldon   February 28, 2018

      Inspiring and rejuvenating second home

    I love Dharmagiri; I love the expansive mountain with its fresh air and exhilarating walks at the end of a day of sitting. I love the integrity of the teachers. I love the fact that it feels like home; it settles into my bones the moment I first sit on a cushion after arriving - like a deep out-breath. I love the spaciousness of non-judgment and humility there. I love the laughter and warmth which can so often be missing in retreat settings. I love the conscious awareness of our wounded country and how that is held with tenderness and compassion. I love the many prayers that have honouredKwan Yin, so that her palpable presence now over-lights the entire mountain. I have such gratitude for Dharmagiri in my life. Thank you Kittisaro, Thanissara and all the many wonderful people who have created and maintained her over the years.

  • Marie O'Connor   February 28, 2018

      Special, unique, healing, opening.

    I loved my retreat at Dharmagiri. It offered a really beautiful and supportive space to do the inner work needed for awakening, healing, resolution, through the gentle process of insight meditation, mindfulness, and interactive inquiry. I loved that we could go for walks on the mountain, that the food was so nourishing and simple, that the facilitators were so attentive, kind, and supportive. I'll be back!


Free Retreat Givewaway

We love you. And because we do, we're giving away another free retreat.

Why Retreat?

We asked people why they go on retreat, here's what they said:

To feed my soul so that I may return to my students with more inspiration and love to share! Jennifer

Retreat Guru's Vision

We believe human beings are innately wise, strong and kind. This wisdom, although not always experienced, is always present. Going on retreat is a beautiful way to reconnect to our basic sanity and health. Our aspiration at Retreat Guru is to inspire people to experience authentic retreats and reconnect with their innate wisdom, strength and kindness.

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