Sikh Gurdwara Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, India

Ultimate Guide to the Best Asian Temples

41 Asian Temples You Must See on Your Next Trip

There aren’t many pockets of the world where travel writers haven’t strayed and stayed. Some of the world’s best travel bloggers reveal the most beautiful, historical, and significant temples of Asia for you to add to your next Asian itinerary.

Temples in Asia come in so many varieties – cave temples, shrines, pagodas, stupas, wat, and chedi, zedi, prasats, and prangs, and with massive images, floating platforms, mountain tops, and seaside locations. Wherever there is an unusual or beautiful natural feature in Asia, you’ll likely find a temple on it!

These temples are undoubtedly beautiful but together they show the strength, diversity, and resilience of spiritualism and world religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Bahai across Asia. Here you will mee some of the most interesting religious acolytes: priests, sadhus, nuns, monks, gurus, and more.  Many of these locations are protected UNESCO World Heritage sites. Will you be traveling near one of these temples on your next trip?

Tibet

1. Gongtang Pagoda

Gongtang Pagoda with monks_Tibet

Gongtang Pagoda is a highlight of the Labrang Monastery complex. The Labrang Monastery is one of the most important monasteries for Tibetan Buddhists. This might seem confusing since it is not located in Tibet, but rather in southern Gansu province in China. But much of traditional Tibet lies outside the modern borders of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) in the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Sichuan, and Qinghai.

One of the advantages of visiting Labrang Monastery outside of TAR is that you are allowed to travel there independently, whereas to visit TAR you must join a Chinese government-approved tour group. This provides a much greater opportunity to interact with the local Tibetans and learn from them about their culture.

The monastery is huge and is essentially a city in and of itself. Inside its walls are 21 temples, 6 Buddhist colleges, and countless monks’ dormitories. While you probably won’t have the stamina to visit all of its temples, one that you definitely shouldn’t miss is the Gongtang Pagoda. Like most of the temples, it’s filled with beautiful murals and Buddha statues, but what really distinguishes this temple from the rest is the fabulous view from the roof. You can climb all the way to the golden stupa at the top, which offers stunning views over the whole Labrang complex. Mornings are best for photography purposes.

by Wendy at the Nomadic Vegan

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Bhutan

2. Tiger’s Nest

Tiger's Nest Temple Bhutan

Although the country of Bhutan is full of beautiful monasteries, the Tiger’s Nest is particularly important. According to legend, the Tiger’s Nest (or Paro Taktsang as it is known locally) was originally a cave that a Buddhist monk named Guru Rinpoche was carried to on the back of a loyal follower who had turned into a tiger. He then remained there for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days, and 3 hours to meditate.

Today it is considered a holy place, which honors the memory of Guru Rinpoche. He is an important figure in Bhutanese history, and many consider him to be the second Buddha and the patron saint of Bhutan. This means visiting the Tiger’s Nest is a pilgrimage for many Bhutanese people. Another legend about the monastery is that at one point a terrible fire burnt down everything within, except for a statue of Guru Rinpoche, which remained untouched, confirming his divinity.

The Tiger’s Nest is also one of the most popular tourist sites to visit in Bhutan. The Trek to the Tiger’s Nest is around 3 miles uphill. Once at the temple, visitors must leave their shoes and cameras at the door and are only permitted in as part of a tour with a resident monk. Fun tip: walking through the doors of the monastery is considered to be good luck.

by Dagney at Cultura Obscura

 

Nepal

3. Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple Complex-Nepal

Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu is one of the most important places to visit in Nepal. The huge temple complex consisting of 492 temples, buildings, and structures is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located beside the Bagmati River, which is considered sacred for both Hindus and Buddhists.

The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is visited by devotees from Nepal and even India. The main temple is built in the form of a pagoda. However, only Hindus are allowed to enter the main temple. The temple holds great importance to the local Nepalis as they believe that the temple is a path to the attainment of Nirvana.

If you wander around the temple complex, you will come across many interesting things. The place is a great way to observe and understand the local life and culture. The temple complex also has a cremation ground beside the river. You can see the entire cremation ceremony taking place, but it is not recommended to take photographs of the event. You can also see many Sadhus or the holy men who have renounced worldly pleasures all around the Pashupatinath complex. You can take photographs of them, but some of them might ask you for money in return for taking pictures with them.

The temple opens at 4 AM in the morning and closes at 7 PM after the evening Arti. The Arti at Pashupatinath Temple is also a beautiful experience.

by Amrita and Agniswar at Tale of 2 Backpackers

 

India

4. Golden Temple

Amritsars-Golden-Temple-India

Amritsar’s Golden Temple – the Harmandir Sahib is Sikhism’s most important pilgrimage site.  The Golden Temple – located in India’s Punjab, just 30 kilometers from the border with Pakistan receives more visitors annually than the Taj Mahal.  While the vast majority visit here on pilgrimage, others come because this temple complex is absolutely stunning.  The Golden Temple stands at the center of a squared complex, surrounded by the pool of Nectar of Immortality (which translates as Amritsar) and this combination of Hindu and Islamic architecture is glorious.  Unlike many temples, the tenets of Sikhism mean that anyone is welcome here, regardless of gender or faith and all are treated the same – you must remove your footwear and wash your feet before entering, you must cover your hair.  Food is provided in the communal kitchen, the langar, all served by volunteers.  The air of peace here is palpable and unforgettable.  When you visit be sure to make time to also explore the museum of Sikhism and understand a little more about the key values of the religion that created this place of peace and the community that surrounds it.

by Sarah at A Social Nomad

 

5. Khajuraho Temples

Khajuraho-temples- India

The Khajuraho Temples are among the finest landmarks in India, and one of the best places to visit in Madhya Pradesh. Known for their infamous erotic carvings, the temples are much, much more than titillating. They are sublimely beautiful in terms of both architectural merit and the intricacy of the carvings that adorn them. The Khajuraho temples are dedicated to two religions, Hinduism and Jainism

They also have a great backstory. The temples were part of a very large number of similarly spectacular works of art when they were built by the Chandela dynasty over a span of 100 years, from 950 AD to 1050 AD. But history closed in on the Chandela dynasty and nature closed in on the temples, which were largely abandoned and neglected. Then, one day in the 1830s, British surveyor T.S. Burt was guided to the temples by locals, and they were brought into international recognition.

Originally, there were 85 temples, spread over 20 square kilometers, but now there are only 22 left. Many of them are found together in the impressive Western Group, and this is also where the erotic carvings can be found. There is a lot of speculation about these figures, depicted in an astonishing array of couplings, but I liked what my guide told me when I was there. He said the carvings that adorn the exteriors of the temples represent all aspects of everyday life, from housework to war, and the sexual carvings are no different. Devotees visiting the temples are meant to reflect on all aspects of life as they did their rounds and rise above them in spiritual ecstasy.

by Mariellen at Breathe.Dream.Go

6. Lotus Temple

Lotus_Temple_Delhi_India

The Lotus Temple is a must-visit if you are in Delhi, India. This worship center is dedicated to the Bahai faith. Originating in Persia, the Bahai faith teaches a syncretic approach to all races and religions of the world.

The Bahai House of Worship in Delhi, or the Lotus Temple, is in the design of the lotus flower that grows in water. Smalls pools of water have been installed around the edifice to complete the effect. The petals open upwards and are made of concrete covered with white Greek marble. The Temple is a very high structure and the beauty of this lotus flower-shaped monument is noticeable from afar. Incidentally, the lotus is the national flower of India.

The sanctum sanctorum of the Lotus Temple is more like a huge meditation hall under a high dome. The serenity inside transports one away from the urban din outside. Anybody, irrespective of religion, creed, or gender is welcome here. Multi-lingual literature on Bahai religion is available at the seats inside the hall, or with the volunteers. However, one is free to worship their faith in privacy inside the temple. There is a separate building in the complex that houses an information center as well as a beautiful, spacious auditorium.

The Lotus Temple is an extraordinary illustration of contemporary architecture. It is among the very few lotus-shaped temples across the globe. No wonder the Lotus Temple in Delhi is one of the most visited buildings in the world.

by Sundeep and Bedabrata from Delhi-Fun-Dos

 

7. Gangotri Temple

gangotri-temple-india

One of the best Asian temples to visit is the Gangotri Mandir, a beautiful Hindu temple located in India’s Uttarakhand state. The temple, in the small yet picturesque town of Gangotri, is at an altitude of over 11,000 feet and is a part of an important Hindu pilgrimage circuit known as Char Dham Yatra.

Char Dham Yatra includes four temples, and Hindus must complete the pilgrimage at least once in their lives (see another of these below – Kedarnath Temple). As such, a visit to the Gangotri Mandir (mandir is Hindi for temple) is not just a visit to a temple, but will also allow you to witness a mass pilgrimage.

Pilgrims come from all across India and beyond to visit Gangotri during the summer months. Due to its inhospitable location, access to the village is only possible once the snow melts in either April or May, and remains open until around October each year.

This Asian temple is not just a random addition to a pilgrimage though- the temple is dedicated to the Goddess Ganga, who is believed to have taken the form of a river in order to exculpate the sins of King Bhagiratha’s predecessors. If you’re really trying to get spiritual, you can embark on the multi-day Gaumukh Trek, which starts from Gangotri and takes you to the source of the Ganges River.

Reaching Gangotri is quite an ordeal- you’ll first need to reach the hill station of Uttarkashi, and then you’ll either need to hire a driver or grab a seat in a shared jeep that will head to Gangotri. Expect the ride to take between 4-5 hours and be prepared for beyond epic views along the way!

by Samantha at Intentional Detours

8. Kedarnath Temple

Kedarnath Temple_India

Kedarnath Temple is located at 11,755 feet in the Garhwal Himalayan range of Uttarakhand, on the banks of the Mandakini River (a tributary of Ganga), near the Chorababari glacier. It is a Hindu Temple (Shrine) dedicated to Lord Shiva and is also one of the Jyotirlinga.

The ages-old stone temple is surrounded by snow-covered peaks on three sides. It is 85 feet high, 187 feet in length and 80 feet wide. Its walls are 12 feet thick and are built from extremely strong stones. Its architecture is quite stout as has been proven over time, still standing magnificently even after many natural calamities and catastrophes.

Historically, some claim it was built by Guru Adi Shankaracharya in the eighth century whereas others claim it was built by Raja Bhoj of Malwa in the second century. According to Hindu mythology, the temple was initially built by Pandavas. Geologists believe that the Kedarnath temple remained hidden under the snow for 400 years during the Little Ice Age-era (from 1300 to 1900 AD). The yellow lines on the temple show the glacial activity it has undergone.

Kedarnath temple is one of the Chota Char Dhams (small four abodes) and is one of the most important Hindu Pilgrimages in India. It is a place to admire the natural beauty of Himalayas, learn about ages-old architecture, and Hindu beliefs.

by Suruchi at All Gud Things

9. Kailasa Temple

kailasa-temple-ellora-caves

The Kailasha Temple in Ellora, Maharashtra, India is the largest rock-cut Hindu temple in the world. It is part of the Ellora Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is attributed to the Rashtrakuta dynasty ruler Krishna, 760 AD, but research reveals that it was built in phases and many parts may have been completed later.

The Kailasha Temple resembles the Himalayan peak Mount Kailash, the mythical home to Lord Shiva.  Replete with exquisite carvings from various stories of Hindu mythology, it is one of the most beautiful monuments on earth. But what is more astonishing is the refined architectural practices that were used to construct the Temple.  The megalith was cut out top-down from the rock. So, the spires and the top domes appeared first and then the body of the temple and finally the base. How this feat was achieved still baffles researchers. But, it is evident that Indian civilization had achieved very high skills in arts and engineering by that era.

Ellora Caves can be easily reached from various parts of India. The closest city is Aurangabad, it has a busy railway station and an active airport. Ellora Caves are less than 30 km from Aurangabad and take about 40 minutes in a taxi.  It is an outdoor activity, so summers are avoidable.  While one commonly sees the Kailasha Temple from the base, if you are willing to trek up a little, you get a birds-eye view of the temple as well as the gorgeous carvings on the roofs. The effort is totally worth it since every inch of the Kailasha Temple is capable of blowing your mind.

by Sundeep and Bedabrata of Delhi Fun Dos

 

Indonesia

10. Borobodur Temple

Stairs towards Borobodur.

Borobodur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and the most visited structure in Indonesia. This mammoth and majestic UNESCO World Heritage site is close to the major city of Yogyakarta on Indonesia’s main island of Java. It was built in 858 CE but then seems to have been abandoned in the 1400s and the jungle reclaimed it. In 1814 it was “found” and restoration began (and continues even today!)

Borobodur has 4 galleries and three open-air terraces that you reach by walking in a circle around each of the levels, finally reaching the central stupa. There are 72 lattice stupas, each one containing a sitting Buddha image, as well as 504 Buddhi statues and 1620 carved stone reliefs.

As you make your way past all these religious images, on your way to the central stupa at the top of Borobodur, you are tracing the Path to Enlightenment, before reaching the top of the Temple, which represents Enlightenment. This is a form of walking meditation familiar to all Buddhist pilgrimages. It’s amazing that Borobodur is so large, it can be a pilgrimage in itself.

From the top of Borobodur, there is a wonderful view of the valley and it has become popular among travelers to arrive at Borobodur in time for sunrise. Alternatively, some choose to view the sunrise over Borobodur from nearby mountains.

 

11. Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

Ulan-Danu-Beratan-Temple

 Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is one of the most famous temples in Indonesia. It is a major Hindu Shaivite temple. It is located in Bali, a popular destination for tourists all around the world.

What is most unique about the temple is that it sits within a lake, Lake Beratan, which gives the illusion that it is floating on water. This is also why Ulun Danu is also referred to as ‘The Floating Temple’. It was built in 1633 and is dedicated to the Balinese water and river Goddess known as ‘Dewi Danu’. This beautiful temple is surrounded by a backdrop of lush green mountains. Within the temple grounds, you can also admire more Balinese architecture and handicrafts.

For a more unique experience at the temple, you can rent a traditional rowing boat known as a ‘Cadik’ or ‘Jukung’ and row closer towards the temple. This makes for a stunning photo. Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is open from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm with an entrance fee of 50,000 IDR. A great tip is to visit in the morning to avoid crowds. In addition, a more mysterious vibe is given off in the early morning as a cloud of haze often brushes past the temple.

by Kerrie & Woody at Just Go Travelling

 

12. Prambanan Temple

Prambanan Temple-Indonesia

Prepared to be absolutely wowed when this magnificent Temple comes into view. Many people will miss seeing Prambanan Temple in preference of visiting Borobudur Temple but I can assure you if you miss it you are missing out.

This amazing UNESCO site was built in the 10th century and it is the largest temple in Indonesia dedicated to Shiva. The largest temple at the Prambanan Temple site rises towards the sky a lot like Angkor Wat but to be honest, it feels bigger than Angkor. Wandering around the base of the temples it is hard to see the tops with the heat of the Indonesian sun beating down on you.

Many people believe that the main Prambanan Temple site is where the majority of the temples are but if you follow the signs you will find that the temple site has over 240 temples in other places around the main temple.

Take your own Prambanan Temple Tour and discover some of the lesser-known temples that are just as magnificent, just a fair bit smaller! You can follow the signs and walk, ride, or pay for a golf cart to take you to them. The further you get from the main temple the fewer people you will see. You may even find yourself at one of these temples all by your self.

Visiting Prambanan Temple will leave a lasting impression on you. The sheer size and the care that is taken with the preservation of this temple by the Indonesian people are magnificent.

by Bec at Wyld Family Travel

 

13. Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu Templeindonesia

Uluwatu Temple, in southern Bali, is an 11th-century temple said to be initially set in motion by the monk Mpu Kunturan. This Hindu sea temple is particularly distinctive due to the fact it rests on a 130-ft clifftop facing the Indian ocean. This provides visitors with astonishing coastal views – my favorite in Bali. The temple’s traditional name is Pura Luhur Uluwatu and is one of Bali’s six temples considered to be its spiritual pillars.

Easily accessible from those staying in key Bali hot spots, such as Canggu and Seminyak, the temple is one of the best things to do in Uluwatu on a day trip. Observe the Ganesha statues and unique architecture while dodging the particularly cheeky monkeys. As well as visiting the temple itself, entry allows you to do a stunning cliff walk around the surrounding area. The twisting walkway has stunning vantage points over the ocean as you walk along and appreciate views of the temple’s unique clifftop position. Allow an hour to enjoy this fortified pathway so you can take in the lookouts and the sound of the waves crashing below.

Uluwatu Temple is popular to visit at sunset. In the evening, you can view one of the traditional Kecak Fire and Dance performances which takes place at the temple for an additional cost. The colorful costumes, hypnotic flames timed against the serene backdrop of a Bali sunset is a great, cultural experience.

by Cassie at Cassie the Hag

 

Sri Lanka

14. Dambulla Cave Temple

dambulla-cave temple Sri Lanka

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991, Dambulla Cave Temple is a unique place of worship and natural beauty that should be part of any Sri Lanka itinerary.

Situated 148km east of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s vibrant capital, Dambulla Cave Temple is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in the country. The temple comprises five different caves that are home to gorgeous paintings and impressive statues of Gautama Buddha. Although there are quite a few cave temples scattered across Sri Lanka, Dambulla Cave Temple is by far the most stunning of all.

One of the most important Theravada Buddhist places of worship, Dambulla Cave Temple is also the best place for non-Buddhists to learn the basics of this religion and understand the ways in which it has impacted Sri Lankan culture. It is a place of utter serenity and peacefulness and this is in total accordance with Buddhist beliefs and practices.

Once you’re done admiring the gorgeous interior of the five caves and the jaw-dropping scenery that surrounds Dambulla Cave Temple, you can walk the downhill path to the modern Golden Temple, which is really worth a visit as well, although it comes off as rather loud compared to the beyond words spiritual experience Dambulla Cave Temple offers.

by Maria & Katerina at It’s All Trip To Me

 

15. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Temple of the Tooth Kandy Sri Lanka

A visit to the ornate Sri Dalada Maligawa, also known as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, is a must on any trip to Sri Lanka. A UNESCO heritage site, it is one of the most sacred Buddhist temples in the world and houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic: a tooth of the Buddha. Constructed in the 16th Century AD, the temple building was part of the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy. However, the history of the tooth relic actually goes back much further: according to Sri Lankan legends, the tooth was given to the Sri Lankan monarchy in the 4th century after which it was relocated or concealed over the following centuries by various other kings.

Sri Lanka may no longer have a monarchy but interestingly the tooth relic still plays an important role in local politics as it is believed that whoever is in possession of the relic is regarded as controlling the governance of the country!

One thing that makes this temple stand out is that it is still an active place of worship, so when you visit you can get a real feel for the importance of this temple to Sri Lankan Buddhists, and if you like, you can also participate in Buddhist rituals.

We’d recommend that you coincide your visit with one of the daily puja ceremonies (taking place at 6 am, 10 am and 6 pm) during which the tooth, housed in an elaborate golden case, is displayed to devotees. During the puja, drummers fill the air with rhythmic beats, and the temple is crowded with hundreds of Sri Lankans dressed in white and carrying lotus blossoms and frangipani as offerings. Many also queue up for hours beforehand for the chance to catch a glimpse of the golden case. This is definitely an unmissable experience!

by Sasha at Mog and Dog Travels

 

Singapore

16. Buddha Tooth Relic Pagoda

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore

Located amongst the bustling streets of Singapore’s Chinatown, is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum. The temple is home to incredible art and stories of how Buddhism has evolved over the centuries. At first, you may be a little intrigued by the name, and on visiting you will learn that it was named after the original tooth of the Buddha which was found in India. This tooth is exhibited at the temple for visitors to see.

On arrival to the temple, you will be blown away by the amount of gold used in the sculptures, to represent purity. You will also be struck by the beautifully soothing smell of the incense candles. All visitors are allowed to light candles and place them in the dish, and small donations are recommended.

The temple was erected to promote Buddhism in Singapore and to educate the population about this beautiful path of life. Funds raised by donations are often used to help the local population and area.

Our tip would be to visit the temple during one of the two times in the day when visitors are allowed in the chamber where the tooth relic is kept. They will not allow photography out of respect. You will also want to head up to the fourth floor where you will be greeted by lovely fresh flowers in the rooftop garden.

By Manpreet at  HelloManpreet.com

 

Malaysia

17. Batu Caves Temple

Batu Caves southeast asian temple

Batu Caves is a short train ride outside of Kuala Lumpur. It is most well known for its rainbow steps and if you were to see Batu Caves on your Instagram feed, as many of us have, you would easily think that the steps are the main attraction and reason for visiting.

However, Batu Caves is actually a 100-year-old Hindu Temple complex. At the bottom of the steps is a 140 ft golden statue of Lord Murugan which you literally cannot miss, alongside a few extremely colorful temples and shrines. You can go inside these temples as a visitor as long as you are wearing appropriate clothing.

Walking up the rainbow steps, which are home to many cheeky monkeys, up to Cathedral Cave at the very top is the main reason for visiting Batu Caves. Cathedral Cave is the largest cave and houses several Hindu shrines that you can walk around.

For non-Hindu visitors, Batu Caves is a popular attraction in Asia because of its colorful exterior and photo opportunities. For Hindus, it is a major pilgrimage site and it is fascinating to watch Hindu devotees visit the temples with their offerings to the shrines as it gives visitors an insight into Hinduism, one of the main religions in Malaysia.

by Ellie Quinn at thewanderingquinn.com

 

Myanmar

18. Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon pagoda

There are few religious structures anywhere in the world that can rival the mighty Shwedagon Pagoda. Rising up from Singattura Hill, the 2,500-year-old pagoda hovers over Yangon and its gold shines in the sunset.

The Shwedagon is part of a large religious precinct bordered by monasteries and within the precinct are small shops making and selling religious and cultural objects.

To reach the Shwedagon you must take off your shoes at one of the four cardinal entrances and walk up the long covered stairways to reach the central platform.

There are hundreds of buildings and thousands of statues surrounding the Shwedagon itself. Furthest out are sacred banyan trees holding spirit shrines and small Dhammayoun or open-air halls for meditation or resting. Pavilions, spirit stations, and small pagodas ring the Pagoda and at each cardinal point is a large Buddha where Buddhists pray and meditate. This is what makes the Shwedagon one of the best temples in Southeast Asia to watch and learn about Burmese people and what is important to them.

The Shwedagon is covered in gold sheets and at its apex is a hti (which is the Burmese word for umbrella). It is made from gold, 5,448 diamonds, and 2317 rubies with the central diamond weighing 76 carats, together worth over US$3 billion. That’s in addition to the 22,000 gold bars that cover the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Even with all the bling and gold and yellow paint, this is a spiritual and moving experience and always an essential part of any visit to Yangon or Myanmar.

 

19. Kyaiktyo (Golden Rock) Pagoda

Kyaiktyo-pagoda-myanmar

A popular pilgrimage site among Burmese Buddhists, the precariously-perched Golden Rock of Kyaiktiyo is said to rest atop a single strand of the Buddha’s hair. For many religious visitors, the site is third-most important in the country, but for most tourists, a visit is far more important as a chance to interact with locals and see a bit of authentic local religious life among the many pilgrims that visit the Golden Rock each year.

An hour or two before dawn each morning tourists and pilgrims rise in the small village of Kinpun, 11km away from the Golden Rock, to begin a sunrise trek up the mountain. Walkers climb nearly 1000 vertical meters to the top of the mountain, with the brightly-lit pagoda marking the way from far above. As the sun finally rises, bathing the gold-plated rock in the warm morning light, the feeling of pure joy that radiates from pilgrims offers a purer religious experience than perhaps any other in the country. In a country as devoutly religious as Myanmar, the chance to interact with pilgrims on the ground among their religious devotions offers a close look at both religious life and local norms – and also the opportunity to connect deeply at a human level along the hour or two of hiking to the top.

by Stephen at Asia-Hikes

 

20. Dhammayangyi Pagoda

dhammayangyi temple myanmar

Picture the scene: It’s 4 am and the crickets are still chirping as you don your helmet, swing onto your e-bike, and race off across the sandy plains, brushing the sleep from your eyes. It’s still dark as you climb up a small hilltop, your gaze fixed on the outline of a majestic temple as the sun starts to rise, and hot air balloons start to dot the sky around you.

It can only be Bagan, the ancient town nestled in the center of Myanmar. And it’s the Dhammayangyi temple, the largest temple in a city known for its impressive pagodas.

The town of Bagan was once home to over 10, 000 temples but, unfortunately, earthquakes and a lack of upkeep mean that today only 2, 000 are left. That’s still an incredible amount to explore, as you meander your way around the temples dotted across the fields, all built around the 13th century when the Pagan kingdom flourished in the area.

There are so many temples to visit in Bagan that you’re spoiled for choice. The cream-colored face of Ananda, the large Shwesandaw with its 18 meters long reclining Buddha, and the gold-roofed Shwezigon to name just a few. But Dhammayangyi is a must-visit temple just for its sunrise credentials – if you catch it just right, you’ll capture it rising from behind the apex.

Originally built by King Narathu, the temple also has a slightly sordid history. Narathu only ascended the throne by assassinating his father and eldest brother. It’s said that he built this gigantic pagoda as a way to atone for his sins; fitting considering he himself was assassinated before its construction was complete.

by James at The Travel Scribes

 

Thailand

21. Wat Arun

wat-arun-bangkok-thailand

Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, boasts many stunning temples, of which Wat Arun is an absolute must-see temple. Sitting on the bank of the Chao Phraya River, this Buddhist temple is not only stunning because of its location, but also because of its intricate design.

The name of the temple comes from the Hindu god Aruna, often symbolized as the reddish radiance of the rising sun. The first light of the morning shines off the exterior of the wat with iridescent luminosity.

Colorful porcelain adorns the main Khmer-style prang (spire), while four smaller prangs surround its corners. The porcelain used for decoration is believed to be imported by merchants from China. The impressive spire rises over 70 meters high standing regally over the water. There is no wonder why the Temple of Dawn is one of the most famous Thai landmarks. Climb the very steep steps of the central spire to enjoy views of the winding river, Wat Pho and the Grand Palace.

Spend a good amount of time walking around the complex admiring the gorgeous architecture, sculptures of Chinese soldiers, a line of golden Buddha images, and murals that decorate the walls, to name just a few. And even thought the temple is known for sunrise, watching the sunset is also quite breathtaking, especially when lit up at night.

 by Baia at Red Fedora Diary

 

22. Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) Bangkok

Temple of the Emerald Buddha -bangkok-thailand

Wat Phra Kaew is one of the most famous temples in Thailand and one of the many unique things to do in Bangkok. The temple was completed in the late 18th Century (1784) under the orders of King Rama. It is significant to the Thai Buddhist culture as it houses the Emerald Buddha, considered the most important in the country by many for its believed powers of prosperity. The buddha was transported to the new capital, from the country’s original capital of Ayutthaya, and has drawn innumerable devotees and sightseers to the temple since. It is surprising then that the Phra Kaew Morakot or Emerald Buddha is just 66 centimeters tall and although the name suggests otherwise, it is not carved from emerald, but rather a single piece of jasper.

Located in the eastern section of the Grand Palace complex, this is one of the most popular tourist sites in Bangkok, so I recommend arriving on opening or waiting until dusk to visit the Palace as it is often overrun with visitors.

The temple is open daily from about 8.30 am to 4 pm. It costs about 500 Thai baht per person. However, I highly recommend booking a private guide or tour to take you to the Palace and surrounding temples for half a day. It is well worth the extra money and often includes refreshments, entry, and a driver to and from your hotel.

by Skye at The Fit Traveller

 

23. Wat Pho

wat_pho_bangkok_thailand

Wat Pho is one of the first places you should see when visiting Bangkok. It is one of the oldest and most important temples in Thailand. It has existed longer than Bangkok itself. It became important when King Rama I ordered it to be renovated. Rama I also decided to remove Buddha images from old, abandoned temples in Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, and other places in Thailand and bring them to Wat Pho. Now the Temple has the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand – more than one thousand! Among them, the famous 46 meters long and 15 meters high reclining Buddha. An interesting thing is that it was the first image of a reclining Buddha ever built. This form of Buddhist sculpture has since become popular all over South East Asia.

Wat Pho is also considered the first Thai university and a center for traditional Thai massage. You simply can’t skip Wat Pho when you visit Thailand. Its colorful, rich halls, cloisters, chedis, and stupas will surely make a great impression on you!

by Dorota at Born Globals

 

24. White Temple

white-temple-thailand

Located just outside of Chiang Rai, Wat Rong Kuhn, or the White Temple as it is usually known, is one of the most unique in all of Thailand.

It is only a new temple, opening to the public for the first time in 1997 and it is most well known for its elaborate white design. Unusually, the White Temple is owned and funded solely by local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. He wants complete control to design and build as he likes so he will only take small donations to help him with future works.

The temple itself is tiny, with space for only a handful of people at a time and the artwork on the walls includes the unexpected – like Spiderman and Michael Jackson!

The grounds of the White Temple hold many quirky things to see, from masks of Ninja Turtles and Captain Jack Sparrow in the trees to some very elaborate bathrooms. There are strange statues and weird artworks.

In 2014 an earthquake cause a lot of damage to the temple, and Kositpipat declared that if the temple was structurally unsafe he would pull it all down. Luckily it was not damaged too badly or we may not have this incredible structure to visit today.

The White Temple complex is not expected to be finished until 2075, so there is time for multiple visits as it progresses.

by Josie at Josie Wanders

 

25. Phimai

Phimai historical park a khmer outpost

The Khmer Kings once controlled much of Southeast Asia. Their most important outpost in modern-day Thailand was Phimai. From 1000 CE to 1300 CE, Phimai was so important to the Khmer Empire that it was connected by a 225 kilometer Royal Road to Angkor Wat.

The Phimai Historical Park is in Nakhon Ratchasima Province in northeast Thailand. Phimai’s full name is Prasat Hi Phimai. It consists of three rectangular enclosures called prasats. The outer wall of each Prasat forms part of the city wall. The main tower within the complex represents Mount Meru and is thought to be the model on which the Angkor towers were later built.

The ruins have been wonderfully restored and are in much better condition than most of Angkor Wat’s temples. Phimai is the largest Khmer temple in Thailand and is reached via a bridge with serpents (naga) and guardian lions (singhas) to protect the Temple. The site consists of the main tower, the Brahmadat, and the Redstone tower. Within the Brahmadat is a central statue, believed to be of the Khmer King, Jayavarman VII.

Phimai is in wonderful condition, has an interesting museum close by, is in a quiet Thai river town, is cheap to visit, and has none of the crowds of its noisier younger sibling, Angkor Wat. If you are fortunate enough to visit northeastern Thailand, Phimai should definitely be on your bucket list!

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Laos

26. Pha That Luang

Temple_Pha_That_Luang_Laos_

Laos is home to many Buddhist temples, but there is none that comes close to Pha That Luang when you think about its history and architecture. It is the kind of destination that’s on everyone’s bucket list when visiting Vientianne, the capital of Laos. Even if it’s not on your list, you can’t miss this golden Buddhist stupa that has become a national symbol in Laos.

Going by local legends, the very first Pha That Luang was built in the 1st century as a Hindu temple. Later in the 3rd century, Buddhist monks sent by King Ashoka of India, erected a stupa to enshrine a sacred relic of the Buddha. Then throughout history, it was rebuilt and fell into disrepair was got plundered at different times. The period following World War II marked the final restoration of this temple.

Pha That Luang translates to the ‘great golden stupa’. Today, only the pinnacle is covered in real gold. The remainder of the stupa is painted a gold color. Consisting of three levels, reflecting three parts of the Buddhist doctrine, its architecture is closely connected to Laos Buddhist culture. Surrounding it there are gardens, monuments, several smaller stupas, and a bell tower. Even today, monks live and study there. It’s also the home to the most important Buddhist festival of Laos, the Boun That Luang.

by Deb at The Visa Project

 

27. Wat Xiengthong

Luang Prabang temple laos

Wat Xiengthong, which translates to the ‘Temple of the Golden City’ is one of the most important monasteries and a renowned Buddhist temple (Wat), in Laos. Exploring this vast temple complex is one of the top things to do in Luang Prabang, the UNESCO heritage city where it is located. The complex is sacred to the Laotians and is a symbol of traditional art, royalty, and religion.

Luang Prabang was chosen for the construction of this central temple as it was the capital city and home to the monarch’s families. The kings made Wat Xiengthong a royal temple, and it was the place of coronation for all the kings. For the monks, it was the center of learning and residence. The temple was also the venue for festivals, religious celebrations and rituals, and even a library, a treasure-house of ancient Buddhist relics, which remained well-preserved during the war times when the complex was looted.

Wat Xiengthong is known for its intricate, beautiful architecture, and the grandeur of gold used generously for decorating the interiors and the exteriors of the complex. The central part is called the Sim, which comprises nine roofs cascaded and decorated by golden stenciling. These intricately decorated roofs are the most notable feature, unique to this temple. Gold-plated Dok So Fa or small pagodas adorn the top of these roofs. A reclining Buddha image is at the center, surrounded by walls filled with murals.

by Reshma at The Solo Globetrotter

 

Cambodia

28. Angkor Wat

angkor wat

Vying for the prize of the most significant temple in the world, the god-kings of Angkor Wat created an entire city on a lake to venerate Theravada Buddhism. Angkor Wat lies outside the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia and is best visited on a 2-day itinerary.

This ancient city covers more than 400 acres and normally receives almost 3 million visitors a year. The central building, Angkor Wat, was built in the 12th century on the order of King Suryamaran II, as a temple to worship the Hindu god, Vishnu. By the end of the 12th century, however, the temple had become a Buddhist one. It is known for its exquisite bas reliefs and other stone carvings. There is a moat, the walls of the temples, three galleries, and five buildings that make up the Angkor Wat temple.

There are more than 300 temples at Angkor Wat, in varying states of repair. Some have been left to the jungle to reclaim and have a haunted, surreal air, like Preah Khan, where films like Tomb Raiders have been set. Others, like the Bayon, are tall towers of giant stone carvings of faces of the Buddha. There was once most likely 54 towers and you can see 40 of them restored now in what was King Jayavarman VII’s state temple in the heart of Angkor Wat.

 

29. Wat Phnom

wat phnom cambodian temple

When you say Cambodia and temples, the mind immediately goes to Angkor Wat, one of the most beautiful of its kind in South-East Asia and in the entire world. The whole country is full of temples though. From the coast (Kep and Sihanoukville for example) to the far north (Preah Vihear), you can find shrines in every village, with major ones in larger cities.

Having lived for a while in Phnom Penh, I cannot but recommend the most famous temple in town: Wat Phnom. As you can imagine, Wat means “pagoda” or “temple”. Phnom is “mountain” or “hill”. So the Mountain’s Pagoda is located in a city called Mountain of Penh. According to local legends, an old lady called Penh found some statues of the Buddha floating on the River Mekong and built a shrine on top of the hill to worship them.

Built originally in the XIV century and re-built many times in history, the pagoda represents the highest point of Phnom Penh (27 m) and is the center of all religious celebrations such as the Khmer New Year. During the day the temple area is full of people coming in and out with donations of food and stepping on the shrine at the top to pray for their ancestors. Take some time to have a walk in the small gardens behind the main buildings, it is a beautiful break of silence amidst the chaos and noises of Phnom Penh.

by Mario at Rest and Recuperation

 

30. Wat Banan

Wat Banan temple, Cambodia

Most visitors to Cambodia head straight to Siem Reap for their temple fix – understandably – but a few hours away in Battambang, Wat Banan temple (also known as Phnom Banan) is well worth discovering.

Its five towers are laid out in a similar pattern to Angkor Wat, and while it’s much smaller, it has an even more memorable location set high on a hill. You need to climb up over 300 stairs to reach it; watch out for the decorative nagas at the foot and make the most of the viewing platforms to catch your breath on the way up. There are some great panoramas out to the river, over rice fields and palm trees.

Without the crowds of bigger temples, it’s a peaceful spot to wander around. Believed to have been built in the 11th and 12th century, it’s crumbling but still in use today – unlike Angkor, locals in Battambang leave offerings and burn incense before statues of Buddha here, and it’s common to see monks climbing up and down the steps too.

The fruit stalls at the foot of the hill, selling their green orange juice are very welcome after you head back down again! While you’re in Battambang, don’t miss the bat caves near Phnom Sampeou (a Khmer Rouge execution site known as the killing caves) where close of bats stream out at dusk to feed on the insects in the rice fields.

by Cathy at Mummy Travels

 

31. Silver Pagoda

silver pagoda cambodia

The Silver Pagoda is part of the Royal Palace complex in Phnom Penh in Cambodia and is thought to be one of the many important Buddhist sites in Asia. Wat Ubaosoth Ratanaram or Wat Preah Keo Morakot (Temple of the Emerald-Crystal Buddha) as it’s sometimes known, is famed for its spectacular columns, roof and facade, its impressive murals, and most of all for housing both the Emerald Buddha and the Golden Maitreya Buddha that is inset with thousands of diamonds! These statues are national treasures and some Buddhists make pilgrimages here to witness these beautiful figures.

The pagoda gets its name the ‘Silver Pagoda’ from the tiled floor in the interior of the temple which is thought to be inlaid with over 5000 solid silver tiles. Unfortunately, much of the glistening silver floor is now covered or inaccessible to tourists, but from the parts that you can see you’ll be able to envisage how impressive (and expensive) this design would have been.

Visitors are required to dress modestly when exploring the Silver Pagoda (covering knees, shoulders, and backs) and guests are asked to leave their shoes at the door. No photography is permitted inside the buildings, but visitors can take pictures of the grounds and the exterior of the pagoda.

by Chrysoula at Travel Passionate

 

Vietnam

32. Tran Quoc Pagoda

Tran-Quoc-Hanoi-Vietnam

Tran Quoc Pagoda (Chùa Trấn Quốc) is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi. Located in the historic neighborhood of Truc Bach, north of the Old Quarter, Tran Quoc sits on a narrow strip of land between two lakes, Truc Bach and the larger Tay Ho. The idyllic location makes it a very popular spot for sunset. Every evening, hundreds of locals flock to the area to exercise, eat ice cream (Quán Kem Hồ Tây is an institution), and cast their fishing lines into the water.

The pagoda itself is a must-visit in Hanoi, simply because of its age and historical value. Like all religious sites in Vietnam, it represents the curious blend of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism that define the country’s contemporary religious landscape.

Tran Quoc was first constructed in the 6th century and underwent significant restorations in 1815. Protected by a wall, the area is accessed via a causeway and consists of the main sanctuary, two ceremonial halls, and a series of pagodas. The tallest and most recognizable – with its decorative red brick arches, each accommodating a white statue of a seated Buddha – reaches high into the Hanoi sky. The complex also contains a large Bodhi tree, cut from the original Bodh Gaya in Bihar, and gifted to the city in 1959.

Tran Quoc is open daily from 8 am and entry is free. It’s still an active site of worship so observe the etiquette (covered shoulders and knees for a start) and be respectful towards both worshippers and the resident monks. Photography is permitted. The temple gets extremely crowded during Tet, Vietnamese Lunar New Year, and on other religious holidays.

by Emily at Wander-Lush

 

33. Jade Emperor Pagoda

jade emperor palace vietnam

One of the five most important shrines in Ho Chi Minh City is Jade Emperor Pagoda, built in 1909 in honor of the supreme Taoist god. Also called the Tortoise Pagoda, the Jade Emperor Pagoda is nestled in a quiet, hidden part of downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Offering a calming sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets, this is a real gem of Chinese temples and one of the most visually stunning shrines.

The pond near the main entrance is crammed with tortoises and inside is dark and crowded with statues. Intricate carvings and an altar dedicated to the goddess of fertility. It is colorful, dark and cluttered and mesmerizing to watch the locals through the smoky incense, lighting candles, bowing and praying.

The temple is dimly lit and has narrow passageways leading to many halls and rooms filled with smoke where people come to make offerings of flowers or light candles and joss sticks. People gather and pray for health, career, and business in the central chamber. Two large red horse statues, one for men, the other women, take the prayers to the Gods. One hall has 12 figures of women representing human characteristics where childless couples pray for fertility, tying red thread around their wrist, pray before placing the thread on either the right statue for a boy or left for a girl, before rubbing their stomach, the children’s statue, and their own stomachs again, every three times. It is popular to pray for love, burning incense, and repeating their name and beloveds name, before touching the matchmaker statue for their wish to come true.

The temple is very atmospheric but can get cramped with tourists and locals, and the incense filling the air adds to the charm.

by Lyn and Steve at A Hole in My Shoe

 

China

34. Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is situated in Beijing, China. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was an important temple complex during the Ming and Ching dynasties. The main attraction is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. Emperors would visit this Tempe and perform offerings, ceremonies, and pray for abundant harvests.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests sits high above the other buildings in the complex. This impressive building has giant wooden posts that reach from the floor to the ceiling. They are amazing to see!

But it’s not just this one building to see, the architecture of the whole complex is stunning. Even the green tiles on the wall are so intricate and detailed. Outside of the walls, there are beautiful gardens with covered walkways to explore. The painting on these walkways is vibrant and striking.

Besides the amazing architecture, another enjoyable aspect of visiting the Temple of Heaven complex can be found in its walkways. Large groups of people hang out and play cards and board games. The atmosphere outside of the Temple is fun and jovial.

If you visit the Temple of Heaven gardens in the early morning, you may just catch a Tai Chi clean. The Temple is definitely a great place to visit and absorb Chinese culture.

by Beth at Frugal Female Abroad

 

Hong Kong

35. Man Mo Temple

Man Mo Temple Hong Kong

Man Mo Temple is a hidden treasure in Hong Kong’s bustling Old Town Central neighborhood. Built in the 1800s this is the city’s oldest and best-known temple in honor of Man Cheong – the God of Literature and Mo Tai – the God of War, hence the name Man Mo Temple. It is a Grade 1 Listed Historic Building.

Entering the temple is an ascent on the senses as incense coils hanging from the ceiling literally take your breath away, such is their number and intensity. People purchase a coil and write a wish on a red card. As the incense burns, the smoke carries the wishes to the heavens. The heady smoke in the air creates an almost ethereal atmosphere against the red and gold backdrop of shrines and deities.

Local residents have deep-rooted spiritual beliefs and visit this Taoist temple on a daily basis to present offerings to the Gods. These include written notes, joss sticks, fruit, vegetables, and money. Their belief is that they will receive peace, prosperity, and educational success by worshipping Man Cheong and Mo Tai.

Man Mo Temple has two more subdivisions. One being Lit Shing Kung, built for the heavenly gods and the second being Kung Sor – a space where the village would discuss matters and resolve conflicts. Visitors are allowed free access to all three temple areas.

A visit to the Man Mo Temple will allow you to witness the Chinese culture through the centuries and should be on everyone’s Hong Kong Itinerary when visiting this diverse and historic city.

by Angela at Where Angie Wanders

 

Taiwan

36. Lung Shan Temple

lung shan temple taipei taiwan

Taipei is a thriving metropolis with high rise skyscrapers dotting its skyline, and beneath these towers lie a deep-rooted tradition.

Most Taiwanese are religious, and they fall either into the Buddhist or Taoist group. They take pride in their traditions, and frequently you can observe religious parades or ceremonies happening throughout the country.

In Taipei city, the most popular temple is the Lung Shan Temple, not a small feat considering that there are so many temples spread out across town.

Built in 1738, Lung Shan Temple has a rich history that ties in closely with the people of Taiwan. It is the perfect place for visitors to learn how religion weaves into the populace, and Lung Shan is really unique as it serves as a place of worship for both Buddhists and Taoists. Hardly will you experience this anywhere else in the world, and it perfectly showcases Taiwan’s inclusive attitude.

While you are visiting Taipei, be sure to make a trip to Wanhua, where the temple is located and also an important focal point of Taiwanese history. Pay attention to the intricate woodwork and colorful art the adorn Lung Shan, as well as observe how the locals pay their respects, including to Chinese deities such as Mazu and Yue Lao (matchmaking god).

It is free to enter, but any donations will be appreciated as it contributes to the upkeep of this important historical site. I would advise visitors to reach as early in the morning as possible (5-6 am) or arrive in the evening (4-5 pm) as there can be large crowds here.

by Shang at Zip Up and Go

 

Japan

37. Kongobu-ji Temple

Kongobu-ji_temple_in_Japan

Koyasan is a major center for Buddhism in Japan and one of its most important temples is Kongobu-ji.

As the head temple of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, which was introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi, Kongobu-ji has plenty of historical and spiritual value. In addition to its religious significance, the temple also showcases traditional Japanese art, architecture, and landscaping, so it is a great place to learn a bit about Japanese culture.

Inside Kongobu-ji Temple visitors can wander down long corridors, into viewing rooms used for religious ceremonies and rituals and for the welcoming of dignitaries. The interior’s main showpiece is the sliding doors painted in gold and adorned with images of trees, flowers, and birds. Some of the doors even illustrate the story of Kobo Daishi and how he journeyed from China to establish Shingon Buddhism in Japan.

Another highlight of the temple is the Banryutei Rock Garden, the largest rock garden in Japan. It features meticulously raked pebbles and large rocks arranged to represent a pair of dragons.

While Kongobu-ji may not be one of the most well-known or extravagant temples in Asia, it certainly is worth a visit to discover some of the histories of Buddhism in Japan and to get a taste of Japanese design.

by Rhonda at Travel Yes Please

 

38. Kinkaku-Ji Temple

Kinkaku-ji-temple-japan

Kinkaku-Ji, also called the Golden Pavilion is one of the most visited attractions in Japan. This iconic, beautiful zen temple should be at the top of your Kyoto itinerary for more than one reason. Located in northern Kyoto, Kinkaku-Ji temple is known for its magnificent golden leaf coating that surrounds its top two floors. The temple was originally a retreat villa of the wealthy Shogun merchant Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

Constructed at the end of the 14th century, it represented the culture of Kitayama practiced by the aristocratic Shogun. After his death, his son converted the villa into a Zen temple as per his wishes. Another unique feature of Kinkaku-Ji is that each floor has a different architectural style. The complex was burnt many times during the wars, with the present building being renovated in 1955.

Kinkaku-Ji complex is at the center of a pretty pond, alongside which is vast Japanese gardens. You can also check out the Sekkatei Teahouse, which was added later during the Edo period, the sacred Anmintaku Pond, which is believed to never dry up. Taking a walk around the temple amidst the vibrant gardens will also lead you to a viewing platform, from where you can see amazing views of the Kyoto skyline.

Tip: Due to its immense popularity, the temple is very crowded, especially during peak seasons and holidays. It is best to be here early in the morning if you want to enjoy the place with fewer crowds.

by Reshma at The Solo Globetrotter

 

South Korea

39. Bulguksa Temple

bulguksa-temple-south-korea

Bulguksa Temple located on the outskirts of Gyeongju is a UNESCO temple dating back to the Silla Dynasty (700 AC). It is built at the foot of Mount Tohamsan which is part of the UNESCO National Park of Gyeongju. The temple is home to the earliest woodblock prints in the world which was inscribed with Buddhist texts and 7 other National Treasures.

Bulguksa is currently the head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and is considered to be a masterpiece of Buddhist art.

Together with Bulguksa comes Seokguram Grotto. It is a small cave temple located higher up the Tohamsan Mountain overlooking the East Sea. A big seated Buddha is placed in the main hall, surrounded by rock-carved disciples. Both hermitages were constructed under the ruling of Kim Daeseong. Legend tells that he constructed Bulguksa Tempe for his parents in his present life and Seokguram Grotto for his parents in his previous life.

The temple and grotto were both restored in 1966 as they suffered serious damages during the Imjin Wars, the 2nd World War and the Korean War.

In 1995 Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple were added to the UNESCO heritage list together with the Gyeongju Historic Areas and Yangdong Folk Village. Since then tourism has flourished in Gyeongju for local and foreign visitors.

The entrance fee for Bulguksa Temple is 5000 krw (5$) and another 5000 krw for Seokguram Grotto.

by Marie at Be Marie Korea

 

40. Beopjusa Temple

Beopjusa temple, Songnisan National Park, Korea

Beopjusa Temple is one of the most important Jogye Buddhist temples in South Korea. The location of the temple is breathtaking. Beopjusa sits on the slopes of Mount Songnisan, surrounded by lush green forests and mountain scenery.

The translation of the name “Beopjusa” means “the teaching of the Buddha”. This is a fitting name as today, Beopjusa participates in the Korean Temple Stay program. Travelers to South Korea have a unique opportunity to live at Beopjusa for a few days and learn all about the lifestyles of Buddhist Monks.

Since Beopjusa awaits in the mountains of Songnisan National Park, there are far fewer tourists here than at other Korean temples in Busan or in Seoul. This creates something of an ethereal ambiance. Visitors can watch the temple’s resident monks as they engage in their morning chants and prostrations (bows) to Buddha.

The Beopjusa site is expansive. There are several dharma halls scattered throughout the grounds which are dedicated to worship. A large golden Buddha statue named “Geumdongmireukdaebul” has become an iconic sight at Beopjusa. The nearby five-story wooden pagoda (Palsangjeon) is of equal beauty.

Beopjusa temple dates back to 553 CE. Countless hiking trails twist and turn through the foothills of the nearby Songnisan National Park, making Beopjusa a great place to combine a temple visit with an exploration of the Korean “great outdoors”. Frequent buses run directly from Seoul station to Beopjusa.

by Melissa at High Heels and Backpack

41. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is a picturesque temple on the northeast coast of Busan in South Korea. Any visitor to Busan should not miss this “Temple by the Sea,” often considered the most beautiful Buddhist temple in Korea.

Buddhism in Korea has a long history since its first introduction to the country in the 4th century. Korea has many historic and beautiful temples all over the Korean peninsula, although it is not a Buddhist nation – only 15.5% of Koreans are Buddhists.

Interestingly, most historic Lorean Buddhist temples are deep in the mountains. In Korea today all religions are genuinely accepted. Throughout its history, however, followers of Buddhist sought sanctuary in the mountains for political and religious reasons as well as for practicing Feng Shui. Many of the easily accessible temples in the cities were destroyed during many wars.

In this sense, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is a rare gem on the seashore. Although you will need to travel outside the city center, the stunning view of the tip and the cliff along the coast of the East Sea is another great reason that makes this trip worthwhile. This is also the place to catch the earliest sunrise in Busan. So try and be there early to make a wish upon the rising sun!

With its popularity among locals and tourists, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple gets crowded. If you are looking for a spiritual sanctuary, this might not be the one! Nevertheless, its unique seashore location and gorgeous natural beauty are the reasons to include it in your Busan itinerary.

by Chloe from Chloe’s Travelogue

 

Links and Further Information

  • Visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia is an unmissable part of any trip to Southeast Asia. Read my comprehensive guide to Angkor Wat here.
  • See all of my posts on Myanmar here
  • For another spectacular and must-see Asian temple, see the world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobodur, in Indonesia here
  • More detailed information on how to book transport, airfares, accommodation, and travel insurance is available on my Travel Resources page.

If you’ve enjoyed this ultimate travel guide to the best Asian temples, share it with your friends now. And I’d love to hear about your visits to amazing Asian temples, so please leave me a comment!

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