Asia is famous for its diverse cultures, colorful festivals and exotic cuisine. Whether you looking to visit as a tourist or a pilgrim in search of spirituality here are 50 of Asia’s BEST temples including famous ones in India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Hong Kong… and more to add to your travel list. Each sacred shrine has unique architecture and fascinating history.
50 Magnificent & Famous Temples in Asia that you must visit
I grew up in the shadows and listening to the bells of an ancient temple in Tanjore called the Big Temple, also known as Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple. This Shiva temple in fact is famous for its disappearing shadow – it was designed so that it does not cast a shadow at noon during any part of the year. One of my long-time wishes has been to make my way back to this temple that was a big part of my childhood and also to another special Shiva temple in the mountains of north India. Along the way, I’m hoping to get to a few other famous temples in Asia. So, here is my bucket list of 50 Magnificent Asian temples!
Best Temples in Cambodia
1. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is a vast temple complex at Angkor, built for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple in the capital of the Khmer Empire. It is the largest religious structure in the world and Angkor Wat or Temple City was designed to resemble Mount Meru and hence, the five towers that rise above Siem Reap and its ruins. Mount Meru, in Hindu mythology, is a golden mountain that stands in the centre of the universe where gods live and is the axis of the world.
Angkor Wat actually stands on a raised terrace above the rest of the city. It is made of three rectangular galleries rising to a central tower, each level higher than the last. It is the only temple at Angkor to have remained a religious center since its construction, first as a Hindu temple then as a Buddhist temple.
The region is also home to Banteay Srei and Bayon temples. Banteay Srei is famous for its distinctive pinkish sandstone exterior and intricately carved walls. Bayon is known for its 216 serene and smiling stone faces stone faces that were carved into its 54 towers.
2. Valley of 1000 Lingas, Kbal Spean, Siem Reap District
Around 25kms drive from Siem Reap, lies the another important site. The area consists of many thousands of sandstone stone carvings on the river bed in the formation of lingas which symbol of Lord Shiva. The river bed is also said to have carvings of Lord Bramha, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. Just a 500 feet hike from the parking lot leads you to this peaceful and less touristy site.
Best Temples in China
3. Temple of Heaven Beijing China
Rising to the skies outside the city of Beijing is an ancient temple dedicated to the God of Heaven. Through the centuries many Chinese emperors visit this temple as it represents heaven and earth. It is heavy with spiritual symbolism. Every year, the emperor would travel to the temple to pray and offer a series of extravagant sacrifices.
The temple complex is a UNESCO Heritage Site and is a popular tourist site thanks to its impressive garden landscape and three-tiered conically roofed Qinian Hall.
4. The Lama Temple (Yonghe Temple), Beijing
Once the royal residence of Prince Yongzheng during the Qing Dynasty is now a popular tourist destination that attracts visitors from all over the world. The bright red temple combines both Chinese and Tibetan architectural styles and one of the most beautiful temples in Asia.
It is home to three Guinness World Record relics including the largest sandalwood Buddha in the world, the 500 Arhat Hill and Three Bronze Statues of the Buddhas representing past, present, and future. The Arhat in Buddhism is a ‘perfected person’ who reached nirvana and statues are made from five types of metals: iron, copper, tin, gold and silver.
Yonghe Temple also known as the Lama Temple is the most famous Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. There are five grand halls with names like The Hall of Everlasting Protection, the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses etc. Yonghe is also known as the Eternal Harmony Temple where festivals take place at the beginning of the Chinese New Year.
Best Temples in Hong Kong
5. Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery
If you want to visit Buddhist temples, Hong Kong would not disappoint you. It’s easy to find Hong Kong Buddhist temples in the city however the Po Lin Monastery is different for it has a statue of the Tian Tian Buddha. This statue took 12 years to complete and is 34 meters high located in Ngong Ping on Lantau Island.
Amoghasiddhi Buddha which means He Whose Accomplishment Is Not In Vain symbolizes the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and faith. We loved visiting this majestic Budhha statue when we were in Hong Kong.
6. 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, Hong Kong
There are actually 13,000 buddhas at the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery in the mountains of the New Territories in Hong Kong. To get to the temple, you must climb over 400 steps. The path is steep and lined with hundreds of Buddhas. Even the columns inside the temple and walls have individual little Buddhas.
Inside the main altar, you will find three large Buddha statues and the embalmed remains of the Reverend Yuet Kai, the founder of the Monastery. Above the temple, you will find the Monastery, an impressive waterfall and views of Hong Kong can be seen from the top. The nine-story pagoda in the center of the plaza outside the temple is pictured on the back of the 100 HKD note.
7. Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong
A traditional Chinese temple in the midst of towering skyscrapers, the Man Mo Temple was built in 1847 and is located at 124-126 Hollywood Road. Worshippers from everywhere come to pay their respects and request that their wishes be fulfilled by the God of Literature and the God of Martial Arts. The God of Literature (Man Cheong) is a Taoist deity; he was known for being a scholar as well as a heroic warrior. Because of this, students often call on him for help in passing exams. The God of Martial Arts (Kwan Tai) is worshipped by both Taoists and Buddhists alike.
8. Wong Tai Sin temple
This famous temple in Hong Kong is known for making people’s dreams come true. As per the legend, Wong Tai Sin was a Taoist monk who turned out to be a God. After him, the place got converted into a pilgrimage and people from all over the world started visiting it. It is believed that no matter what you want, if you make your wish here with pure intent, then Wong Tai will grant you your wish. The temple follows the traditional Feng Shui style architecture and is based on three different religions, i.e., Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.
Around the temple, you can also find many fortune tellers who can do palm and face reading. The accuracy of fortune-telling in Wong Tai Sin temple is said to be very high and pretty accurate.
Best Temples in Indonesia
9. Borobudur Temple, Indonesia
Located on the Indonesian island of Java, 40 km (25 miles) northwest of Yogyakarta, the Borobudur is the largest and most famous Buddhist temple in Indonesia. The temple was built over a period of 75 years in the 8th and 9th centuries by the kingdom of Sailendra. This imposing temple made out of an estimated 2 million blocks of stone was abandoned in the 14th century and lay hidden in the jungle under layers of volcanic ash.
The temple sits in cosmic proximity to the nearby volcano Mt. Merapi. During certain times of the year the path of the rising sun in the East is said to emerge out of the mountain to strike the temple’s peak illuminating the stones in a way that is said to be beyond beautiful.
As you climb up the temple’s nine levels and get to the upper terraces you encounter 72 stupas each containing a three-dimensional sculpture of a seated Buddha within a stone latticework. The crowning stupa is dedicated to the “Great Sun Buddha” Vairocana. Buddhist stupas and mandalas are understood as “spiritual technologies” that harness spiritual “energies” and the central stupa is a symbol of the enlightened mind
The impressive Borobudur is one of the most famous Asian temples and must-visit in Asia, online photographs of Borobudur fail to capture the grandeur of this UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Nearby Prambanan Temple Compounds is the largest temple compound dedicated to Shiva in Indonesia. Rising above the center of the last of these concentric squares are three temples decorated with reliefs illustrating the epic of the Ramayana, dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma and three temples dedicated to the animals who serve them. The temple complex was built in the 10th century.
10. Taman Saraswati Temple, Indonesia
This seventy-year-old temple is one of the best temples in Bali and famous for its tranquil lotus pond and sacred geometry architecture. The temple structure abides by the rules of Tri Mandala meaning that the temple is divided into three different zones.
The northeast section of the temple is considered the most sacred. It features an intricately carved golden throne that features Acintya who is considered the Supreme God of Indonesian Hinduism. The bright orange walls of Taman Saraswati perfectly complement the lush green tropical trees of Bali that surround it.
11. Besakih Temple, Indonesia
Besakih temple is the most important, and holiest temple of Hindu religion in Bali. It is one of a series of Balinese temples perched nearly 1000 meters up the side of Gunung Agung in Eastern Bali. Part of an extensive temple complex that consists of 23 separate but related temples, the largest and most important being Pura Penataran Agung.
Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang resides over the sacred mountain slopes of Mount Agung with different elevated sections that symbolize the seven layers of the universe. The tallest temple in the complex is one of three main temples that represent the Hindu Trinity. The temple is considered one of “six sanctuaries of the world”, i.e. six holiest places of worship in Bali. Panoramic views of the rice fields and hills below make Besakih a must-visit temple during your trip to Bali.
12. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Bali
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, or Pura Bratan, is a temple surrounded by water in Bali, Indonesia, and sits on the shores of Lake Bratan by Bedugul mountains. It is a major Hindu Shaivite Shiva temple in Bali, Indonesia. It was built in 1663 for the river and lake goddess Dewi Danu for irrigation. The eleven stories high temple was built for Shiva and his wife Parvathi.
13. Tanah Lot, Bali
Tanah Lot is one of the most beautiful and most visited temples in Bali, Indonesia. The temple’s deity is Dewa Baruna, the protector of the seas and oceans and the temple sits in a lovely location with wonderful ocean views around it. The whole temple complex is full of green grass and colorful flowers. Don’t miss this beautiful temple when visiting Bali. Keep in mind that the temple itself is accessible only during the low tide.
Best Temples in India
14. Lotus Temple, India
Words cannot even begin to describe the beauty and symmetry of the Lotus Temple in New Delhi. This Bahai house of worship has won many awards for architecture. Its design was meant to reflect the spirituality and purity linked to the lotus flower and the temple welcomes people of all cultures and religions.
Lotus Petal-like clusters form the impressive exterior of the temple which is surrounded by nine turquoise ponds and twenty-seven acres of beautiful gardens. At night, the marble walls are illuminated and it a spectacular sight to see. The interior also focuses on symmetry and features concentric stars on the ceiling and plenty of natural sunlight during the day.
15. Kedarnath, India
Kedarnath is an over thousand years old magnificent temple located in the Rudra Himalaya range. Built of massive stone slabs over a large rectangular platform, this temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The present temple was built by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD. Ascending through the large gray steps leading to the holy sanctums you will find inscriptions in Pali (the sacred Indian language of Theravāda Buddhism) on the steps.
The inner walls of the temple sanctum are adorned with figures of various deities and scenes from mythology. According to legends, the Pandavas sought the blessings of Lord Shiva to atone for their sin after the battle of Mahabharata. Lord Shiva eluded them repeatedly and while fleeing took refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a bull.
Kedarnath temple is one of the four major sites in India’s Chota Char Dham pilgrimage of Northern Himalayas. It is the highest among the 12 Jyotirlingas and getting here is not an easy feat. Located at a height of nearly 3,500 meters above sea level, the Kedarnath temple remains covered in snow for the most part of the year.
16. Virupaksha Temple, India
Virupaksha is located in the ancient city of Hampi in Karnataka, India and was named after a reincarnation of Lord Shiva. The temple is an example of Dravidian architecture and was built in the 7th century AD. Marriage ceremonies take place here under the watchful eye of Lord Shiva and his consort, Goddess Pampa.
Virupaksha Temple is the main center of pilgrimage at Hampi, and had been considered one of the most sacred temples in Asia over the centuries. A narrow channel of the Tungabhadra River flows along the temple’s terrace and then descends to the temple’s kitchen and out through the outer court.
One of the most striking features of this temple is the architecture and the usage of mathematical concepts. The temple has repeated patterns that demonstrate the concept of Fractals. The main shape of the temple is triangular. But as you look up the temple top, the patterns divide and repeat themselves, just like you would see in a snowflake or some other natural wonders. An incredible temple that you must visit in India.
17. Mahabodhi Temple, where Buddha attained Enlightenment
Mahabodhi (also known as the Great Awakening Temple) is located in Northeast India in Bihar. It is considered one of the four holy sites related to the life of the Lord Buddha, and particularly to the attainment of Enlightenment. It is where Gautama Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment right under the shade of a bodhi tree. This holy site was originally built in the 3rd century B.C. and considered The Navel of the Earth according to Buddhist scriptures.
The present day Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya which is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre comprises the 50 m high grand Temple, the Vajrasana, Shirazibustan Buddha statue, sacred Bodhi Tree and other six sacred sites of Buddha’s enlightenment, surrounded by numerous ancient Votive stupas, and a Lotus Pond that is located outside the enclosure.
Mahabodhi is home to the golden statue of Buddha that captures the moment he drove off evil spirits during his enlightenment journey. Pilgrims from all over the world visit the temple to walk around the reconstructed tower in a clockwise direction and visit the nearby diamond throne of Budhha, a platform of polished sandstone known as Vajrasana.
18. Golden Temple, Punjab, India
The Golden Temple is also known as Harmandir Sahib, meaning “abode of God” was built in 1574. It is famous for its intricately carved marble walls, golden embossed structure and most importantly their large community kitchen. The kitchen offers more than 100,000 vegetarian meals to visitors and devotees who come to the temple to sing the Gurbani Kirtan hymns all day long. This temple in India is an open house of worship for people from all walks of life and faith.
Spiritually the most significant shrine in Sikhism, the Golden Temple gurdwara sits surrounded by a man-made pool. The golden Sikh temple’s interiors are just as impressive featuring gold embossed walls complete with intricate engraving of birds and flowers adorned with precious stones.
20. Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, India
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala, India was made famous for the recent discovery of treasures. In 2011 pots of gold coins, gold and silver idols, emeralds, diamond necklaces that researchers are estimating could total over $1 trillion were found making it one of the richest temples in India perhaps all of Asia.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy was built to serve the Hindu deity Maha Vishnu who is featured in Anantha Shayana” (sleeping) posture reclined on a serpent. The temple is a mix of traditional Kerala and Dravidian styles of architecture.
The main attraction at the temple is the gold-plated gopuram. The gopuram (tower structure) has seven floors with windows and was specifically architected with the sun in mind. During the two days of the equinox, you can see the setting Sun all aligned and passing exactly through each of the windows in roughly 5-minute intervals.
19. Brihadeeswara Temple, India
Big Temple in Tanjore also called the Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple is one of the most ancient temples in India. It is famously known for its disappearing shadow – at 216 feet, the temple is one of the tallest Vimanas are structures over the sanctum of temples. It is designed that this tall temple tower does not cast a shadow at noon during any part of the year.
Situated in the city of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, India also known as “The rice bowl of Tamil Nadu” the Brihadeshwara was Built over 1000 years ago. It was built as is a reflection of the power of its patron RajaRaja Chola I and remains as one of the greatest glories of Indian architecture. The temple is also known as Rajarajeswaram or Peruvudaiyār Kōvil, and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Great Living Chola Temples”.
Best Temples in Japan
21. Kinkaku-Ji or Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto
One of the popular Zen Temples in Kyoto is the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Also known as Kinkaku-ji, this is one of the most visited temples in Kyoto, Japan. Perhaps the most popular temple in Kyoto, Japan! The temple richly adorned in gold leaf reflects beautifully in the water of Kyokochi, the mirror pond. The 14th-century temple is a symbol of the ostentatious Kitayama culture and combines three different architectural styles under one roof and a recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The golden pagoda houses sacred relics of the Buddha and the scenic Rokuon-ji garden is expansive and takes up 92,400 square meters of the temple grounds. Samurai and Buddhist influences can be seen in the second and third floors of the dazzling pagoda covered in golden foil. A glittering phoenix statue graces the roof of the temple as if keeping watch over the temple.
22. Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto
Kiyomizu-dera, which means “clear water”, is a temple in Kyoto that was founded in the year 778. Additional buildings in the complex were constructed in 1633 by the order of Tokugawa Iemitsu. This important temple is part of the 33-temple route pilgrimage in western Japan.
23. Sensō-Ji, Tokyo
This Buddhist temple in Tokyo was once the family temple of the Tokugawa clan. Sensō-Ji Temple is made up of a main hall and a five-story pagoda with an iconic Hozomon gate at the entrance. Visitors must cleanse themselves with water and incense before making an offering at the main hall by dropping a coin into the saisen box.
There is an abundance of artwork adorning the upper walls and ceilings that is hard to miss the dragons that are synonymous with Senso-Ji temple in Tokyo. Every year, the Sanja Matsuri festival kicks off in May to celebrate and honor the three men who founded the temple.
24. Nara Temple, Japan
Located in Nara Park, Japan, Todai-ji Temple is one of the largest wooden structures in the world. Inside the temple sits an immense bronze statue of Buddha, towering nearly 50 feet high. This Buddhist temple complex was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. After visiting the temple structure walk along a lantern-lined path to visit Kasuga Taisha, one of Japan’s most celebrated shrines, which was established at the same time that the city of Nara was founded.
Best Temples in South Korea
25. Jogyesa Temple, Seoul, South Korea
Jogyesa is a Korean Zen Buddhism temple located in the heart of Seoul. The temple features a Sakyamuni Buddha statue and is the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. The temple hosts a Lotus Lantern Festival every May, celebrating the birthday of Buddha when Lanterns featuring lotus and other traditional figures and objects representing people’s wishes will be hung.
26. Tongdosa Temple, South Korea
Unlike most temples in Asia, Tongdosa is unique for not having any statues on its exterior. Tongdosa, meaning “salvation of the world through mastery of truth“, is a temple that was founded by the monk Jajang in 646 CE during the reign of Queen Seondeok.
Best Temples in Malaysia
27. Batu Caves, Malaysia
The ancient limestone hill harboring the tranquil Batu Caves is just thirty minutes north of Kuala Lumpur. An enormous golden statue of Lord Murugan greets visitors at the entrance to the cave complex that houses his sacred Hindu Temple. It is one of the biggest Murugan temples in Asia, outside India.
There are several caves in the area including the Dark Cave and Ramayana Cave where statues and scenes from the Hindu epic are on display.
28. Kek Lok Si Temple, Malaysia
Kek Lok Si is a beautiful temple in Malaysia that took over twenty years to complete. It sits on a hilltop in Penang and is one of the widely known temples in Asia as The Supreme Temple of Bliss. The temple is home to the tall statue of the Goddess of Mercy and features 10,000 Buddhas in its tiered tower. It’s a sacred place where both Chinese and Mahayana Buddhism rituals take place.
The many attractions of this temple include a tortoise liberation pond and a wishing tree. Kek Lok Si is a sight to behold during the Chinese New Year when an ocean of glowing lanterns and fireworks light up the dark sky.
Best Temples in Singapore
29. The Sri Sivan Temple, Singapore
Sri Sivan is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Singapore. The original Sri Sivan Temple was rebuilt as a solid structure in the early 1850’s but the Sivalinga was known to be worshiped at this site well before that. The Sivalinga had moved three times within Singapore before it finally found a home in Geylang East Avenue.
The temple serves as a shrine to the God Shiva. Sri Sivan has a distinct ivory exterior and an octagonal structure complete with a multipurpose hall where prayers are held on a daily basis. The Sri Sivan temple in Singapore holds many Hindu festivals in honor of deities such as Lord Ganesha and Lord Muruga and more.
Sri Senpaga Vinayagar and Sri Mariamman Temple are two are other beautiful temples in Singapore.
Best Temples in Thailand
30. Wat Pho (Temple of Reclining Buddha), Bangkok
Next door to the Grand Palace, Wat Pho is one of Thailand’s most important temples. It can’t be missed for its Recling Buddha statue that is 46-meter long, 15-meter tall and barely fits into the room built around it. The statue is gilded in gold, and the soles of its enormous feet are inlaid with the mother of pearl in the pattern of auspicious Buddhist symbols.
Besides housing the reclining Buddha, Wat Pho Temple which is the oldest and largest complex in Bangkok, it is considered the birthplace of Thai massage. The temple still houses a massage school today where visitors can get a traditional treatment. And the temple is also considered the first public education center in the country.
31. Wat Arun, Bangkok
Wat Arun is one of the most Famous Temples in Asia. The Temple of Dawn has been watching over the historic heart of Bangkok and its Chao Phraya River for centuries. Menacing statues guard the entrance to the temple that features an array of mythological and religious figures.
The giant prong symbolizes Mount Meru upon which the earth rests. The temple is adorned with Chinese porcelain mosaics and colorful seashells. The many levels of the central temple tower are meant to represent the thirty-three heavens. Wat Arun boasts two distinct architectural styles: Khmer Empire architecture and traditional Thai design.
32. Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Bangkok
The Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha is a famous temple in Bangkok, located within the grounds of the Grand Palace of Thailand. The main building is the central ordination hall called ubosoth, which houses The Emerald Buddha. A jade statue adorned in gold clothing it is one of the oldest and most famous Buddha statues in the world. This temple was built in the 18th century back when Thailand was known as the Kingdom of Siam.
Giant Yaksha demons guard the Wat Pura Kaew in Bangkok and its Emerald Budhha. This famous temple in Asia is also known as the Royal Temple. It’s part of the collection of temples in the Grand Palace and one of the top things to do in Bangkok. The Budhha statue is one of several attractions at this highly decorated temple. The inner walls consist of around 178 panels that depict the triumph of good over evil. The exterior is just as impressive and features a golden stupa, a colorful tiled roof as well as vibrant mosaics.
33. Wat Phra Dhammakaya
Wat Phra Dhammakaya is a Buddhist temple in Khlong Luang District, north of Bangkok, Thailand. It was founded in 1970 by the maechi Chandra Khonnokyoong and Luang Por Dhammajayo and is one the fastest growing temple of the Dhammakaya Tradition. It aims to adapt traditional Buddhist values in modern society and used modern technology, marketing methods. There are some controversy around this Alien ship looking temple and traditions that interprets Buddhist doctrines in modern ways.
34. Ayutthaya Temples, Thailand
Ayutthaya was once the capital of the Siamese Kingdom as evident by the wealth of monasteries and palaces in the area. The creativity and innovation of the people of Siam are clearly on display in this historic site. You see Buddhist temples such as Wat Chaiwattanarm, Buddha statues at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon and not one but two huge Reclining Buddha statues.
Inside the Ayutthaya complex at Wat Mahathat, which tradition claims King Ramesuan built in 1384 is the most famous – the face of a stone Buddha peeking out from among the roots at the base of a tree.
35. Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai
Wat Chedi Luang, literally temple of the big stupa, is a Buddhist temple that was built during the 14th century as a burial place of King Saen Muang Ma’s father. The grounds have three temples: Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Ho Tham and Wat Sukmin.
36. Wat Rong Khun(White Temple), Chiang Rai
Wat Rong Khun, known as the White Temple outside of Thailand, is one of the most popular temples in Asia and probably the world. It is a privately owned temple that also serves as an art exhibit for Buddhists. This privately funded temple’s total cost for the building was THB40 million (1.1 million USD) .
This snow-white temple’s exterior represents purity while glass mosaic and mirrors inside symbolize Buddha’s wisdom. Located in the Mueang Chiang Rai District, Wat Rong Khun is an artistic Asian temple with a modern twist. The entire building and its surroundings were designed with the Buddhist cycle of Birth in mind. There are Murals featuring superheroes and western figures such as Iron Man and Neo from the Matrix can be found including many other pop culture references scattered both inside and outside the temple.
37. Wat Rong Seur Ten (Blue Temple), Chiang Rai
A new and striking temple that was completed in 2016 is gaining popularity in Chiang Rai – the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten). This unique temple, is painted in a beautiful blue with overlays of gold embellishments. The temple is located just a few kilometers from Chiang Rai city, in the district of Rimkok.
The centerpiece inside the great hall, is a huge statue of a White Buddha in a sitting position surrounded by contemporary Buddhist art in a psychedelic style. The name “Rong Suer Ten” in Thai, translates as house of the dancing tiger because historically, the area surrounding the temple, was full of wildlife, in particular tigers that would leap into the nearby Mae Kok river.
Best Temples in Myanmar(Burma)
Comparable only to Angkor Wat in Cambodia in terms of sheer size, Bagan was the capital of a vast kingdom from the 9th to 13th centuries. Today, it features the remains of nearly 4000 temples spread over a vast area. Some of these are well-maintained active places of worship, while others are nothing but foundation stones.
Some of the best experiences when visiting Bagan include seeing the sunrise or sunset above a landscape of temple spires poking out from the jungle, cycling between the ruins, or observing the scene from above in a hot air balloon.
38. Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar
Shwedagon Pagoda also known as the Great Dagon Pagoda and the Golden Pagoda, is a gilded stupa located in Yangon, Myanmar. It towers over the skyline of Yangon like a golden beacon. The Shwedagon is considered the most sacred Buddhist pagoda and in Myanmar and the Buddhist stupa in the world.
It is believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas. The relics include the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa, and eight strands of hair from the head of Gautama. And murals that depict the previous reincarnations of Budhha can be found in the prayer pavilions.
A 60,000 square meter terrace allows visitors to see the gold-covered stupa (which are genuine gold plates) and its diamond-studded spire. Visitors can offer prayers and performing a Blessing Ritual by pouring water over the Buddha statue based on their day of birth. You would pour water according to your current age, for example, if you are twenty years old you would pour twenty times.
39. Thatbyinnyu Temple, Myanmar
Pointed arches and spacious hallways greet you as they enter the 12th-century structure of the Thatbyinnyu Temple in Bagan. The Theravada Buddhist temple is well known for its architectural innovation and artistic creativity.
Thatbyinnyu is known as the tallest temple in Bagan and features multiple terraces that offer panoramic views of the ancient city below. An upper level houses the Golden Buddha. The exterior showcases the bricklaying masonry topped by a sikhara tower with a hit (a finial ornament that tops almost all Burmese pagodas) at the pinnacle.
40. Ananda Temple, Myanmar
Ananda dates back to the Mon State. Both the base of the temple and was named after Buddha’s first cousin and disciple. The temple layout is shaped like a cruciform with several terraces leading to a small pagoda at the top covered by an hti, or umbrella ornament. It is one of the highly revered temples of Bagan.
The temple’s terraces are adorned with glazed terracotta plaques that revolve around the birth stories of Buddha and the vaulted corridor houses stone sculptures depicting images from his life. Inside there are four standing Buddhas adorned with gold leaf and each Buddha image faces a direction. There are also two life-size statues that represent both the King who built the temple and the monk who introduced him to the world of Theravada Buddhism.
41. Dhammayangyi Temple, Myanmar
Dhammayangyi is a 12the century Buddhist temple with an interesting, albeit dark history that involves murder and fratricide. It is the largest of all the temples in Bagan built by a king who had blood on his hands. Narathu, the king who built the temple came to the throne by assassinating his father and his elder brother, presumably ordered the construction of this stunning pyramid-like temple in order to atone for his crimes.
The temple’s interior is bricked up for unknown reasons, Dhammayangyi has six ascending terraces positioned towards the east. In addition to Gautama Buddha, the temple is home to Maitreya who is considered to be a successor to the present Buddha.
Best Temples in Nepal
42. Boudhanath, Nepal
Tibetan pilgrims flock over to Boudhanath in Nepal to take part in the daily Kora ritual which involves walking clockwise around the temple and spinning its prayer wheels. The 36-meter-high stupa of Boudha is massive and dominates the skyline in the area. It is one of the major pilgrimage sites for Buddhists from around the world.
The eyes of Budhha are one of many attractions found within this UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kathmandu. On each side of the stupa are the all-seeing-eyes of the Buddha symbolizing awareness. It stands as a reminder of the Buddha’s quest to achieve enlightenment.
43. Kopan Monastery
Kopan Monastery can’t be ignored when you visit Kathmandu, Nepal. It is on a high viewpoint, 15-minute drive north of the Boudhanath and around 6 km away from the Thamel district. The Monastery is calm and peaceful, perfect to go early in the day and grab a grass spot to read a book under the sun. It’s an actual temple where you can go to pray and learn about Buddhism.
Kopan Monastery is the most popular place for people to go stay a while and study Tibetan Buddhism. You can join daily morning prayers that are meditation sessions, which an important part of Buddhism.
Best Temples in Sri Lanka
44. Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka
The Dambulla Cave complex in central Sri Lanka is made up of five main caves where visitors can see more than 153 Budhha statues. Each statue has a distinctive pose and most of them have their colors stunningly preserved. The hike up to the caves offers panoramic views of the countryside below.
Murals cover an area of 2,000 square meters of the cave with depictions of the temptation by the demon Mara and Buddha’s first sermon. The temple also has three statues of Sri Lankan kings, and four statues of gods and goddesses of Vishnu and the Ganesha.
Best Temples in Laos
45. Pha That Luang, Laos
Pha That Luang is a national symbol of Laos that appears on the local currency due to its spiritual and historical significance. The Great Stupa in Laos is hard to miss. The temple complex stands tall glistening in golden color. Gold leaf covers the entire structure including its many stupas.
Buddhist missionaries from the Mauryan Empire are believed to have been sent by Emperor Ashoka, who brought a holy relic (believed to be the breastbone) of Lord Buddha to the stupa in the 3rd century BC.
Best Temples in Lebanon
46. Baalbek, Lebanon
Baalbek lies in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and is home to the best-preserved middle eastern temple of the Roman era. In Greek and Roman times Baalbek was also known as Heliopolis or the City of the Sun. The religious complex is made up of four temples dedicated to Jupiter, Bacchus, Venus, and Mercury.
The Temple of Jupiter, the principal temple of the Baalbek triad, was known for its 20 m high columns that surrounded the cella, and the gigantic stones of its terrace. The temple dedicated to Bacchus is considered a masterpiece of Greco-Roman architecture and best known for its 42 Corinthian columns and beautifully decorated ceiling. Egyptian granite from Aswan was brought in to build the complex. The Round Temple or Temple of Venus though differs from the others.
Best Temples in Taiwan
47. Longshan Temple, Taiwan
Longshan Temple (meaning Dragon Mountain) is one of Taipei’s oldest temples. Dragons can be found everywhere in this temple that was built during the rule of the Qing Dynasty in 1738.
Lungshan Temple is often called “meeting place of the gods” owing to the wealth of deities worshipped here. There is a stunning dragon fountain and cascading waterfalls that give the temple a calming atmosphere in spite of the crowds. Colorful lanterns add to the lively ambiance of the temple. The Temple is a mix of the Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian faiths with a rear section specially reserved for Taoist gods.
Best Temples in Vietnam
48. Tran Quoc Pagoda, Hanoi
Tran Quoc Pagoda is the oldest in Hanoi, at nearly 1500 years. Of the many impressive temples in Vietnam, this Buddhist temple Tran Quoc Pagoda in Vietnam is known for its beautiful location on an island on the shore of West Lake.
The temple can be reached via a causeway connecting it the shore. Best time to visit is a little before sunset when the temple’s pagoda reflects beautifully on the lake. The temple also said to feature a tree grown from a cutting from the original Bodhi Tree in India.
49. Tây Ninh Holy See (Cao Đài Temple), Ho Chi Minh City
The only temple on this list of Temples in Asia to fall outside of the Hindu/Buddhist realm is Tây Ninh Holy See, the main temple of the Cao Dai religion. Caodaism combines aspects of various religions, and has an estimated 4.4 million followers in Vietnam and abroad. The temple is located outside Saigon in southern Vietnam.
From the outside, it looks like a colorful church or mosque with Chinese touches. But on the inside, the temple you will find pink Dragon-wrapped columns, yellow walls, a sky painted on the vaulted ceiling, a symbol of a giant eye (Caodaism’s emblem is an eye inside a triangle), including on the large, orblike main altar. The Cao Dai temple is a temple that you can’t miss when visiting Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
Best Temples in Bhutan
50. Paro Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan
Paro Taktsang Monastery is 17th-century temple complex that is perched on top of a cliff in Paro Valley where the hills meet the clouds. Located at an altitude of 3000 meters above sea level, hiking on foot is the only way to reach this remote complex. It is also home to eight caves and an ancient legend about a flying tiger and Buddhist Master Padmasambhava.
The complex is made up of 4 main temples. A large tiger statue can be found in the Hall of Thousand Buddhas. Every morning, the monks who live in this complex rotate the prayer wheel in the courtyard to signal the beginning of a new day.
*While we have only been to 25% of the temples in Asia featured in this list, I’m hoping to get to more in the coming years and update the photos.
If you want a PDF version of this Bucket List of 50 of Asia’s BEST temples including famous ones in India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Hong Kong… email me, and I will be happy to send it over.
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