From Thailand to Bali to Myanmar, here are ten of the world’s most beautiful Buddhist temples.
Many Westerners are attracted to Buddhist culture. Its way of seeing life and respecting each other is just one example of a religion whose temples immerse visitors in a peaceful environment. These backdrops make it easy to leave our worries at the door and be our best possible selves, so here’s a look at ten of the world’s most beautiful Buddhist temples.
1. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
This UNESCO-protected monumental complex in Cambodia is one of the world’s oldest temples. Considered the largest religious structure ever built, this wonderful place, after having been the center of frenetic activity for centuries, practically fell into oblivion, buried in jungle vegetation. Buddhists had always inhabited the main temple, but the rest of the complex experienced a rebirth at the end of the 19th century when it was “rediscovered” by the West. The Angkor Archaeological Park is just over 150 square miles, so plan your visit in advance.
2. Temples of the Bagan Valley, Myanmar
Myanmar is home to this beautiful complex in which the oldest structures date back to the ninth century. King Anawrahta, the father of the great Burmese Empire, introduced Buddhism to this region. Located beside the Ayeyarwady River, the Bagan Valley features more than 10,000 stupas, temples, and pagodas built between the 10th and 13th centuries. Visitors can visit 3,700 of these within the 16 square miles. Shwezigon’s pagoda, which still retains its gold coating, is a must-see.
3. Stern Taung Kalat, Myanmar
This impressive monastery sits on the summit of Mount Popa, a possibly dormant volcano that rises 4,981 feet above sea level. Approaching this enclave is all about adventure because there is only one way to reach it: a 777-step hanging ladder – perfect for adrenaline lovers!
4. Paro Taktsang, Bhutan
Paro Taktsang, which translates to “Tiger’s Nest,” is so remote that it takes a two-to-three-hour walk to reach it. Though the journey itself isn’t difficult, the altitude can be a challenge. This group of temples is built in the middle of a seemingly vertical cliff wall in the Himalayas, perched more than 10,240 feet high above sea level.
5. Pinyin Tian Tan, China
Also known as “The Temple of Heaven”, this structure located south of Beijing dates back to 1420. Located in a complex surrounded by walls, the buildings located at each cardinal point each serve a different function. The Hall of Prayer for the Good Harvest (a magnificent building that should be visited at leisure) is in the North while the Circular Altar (where the circle represents the sky and the square base represents the Earth) is in the south, beside the Imperial Vault of Heaven.
6. Kiyomizudera, Japan
This beautiful temple in Kyoto was built in 778 and is one of the city’s oldest monuments.
The Otowa waterfall, which means “pure water” and lends its name to the temple. The complex is home to many other structures, pagodas, and monuments, like the majestic Deva Gate, an archway leading to the temple’s entrance.
7. Jokhang, Tibet
The spiritual center of Lhasa, this monastery is believed to date back to 642, and you can sense something special in the air as soon as you enter the complex, a popular Tibetan pilgrim destination. Take the time to visit each of its buildings and the halls dedicated to Buddha.
8. Boudhanath, Nepal
One of the most sacred places we can find in Kathmandu, this spherical stupa is known for its massive Mandala, one of Nepal’s largest. The most striking component is the Buddha’s eyes that point to the four cardinal points from the top of the stupa. Local people pray at this place of color and joy, yet the presence of tourism is evident in the shops and businesses around it.
9. Ulun Danu Bratan, Indonesia
This magnificent set of temples sits at the foot of the Mt. Batur, one of Bali’s two active volcanoes. Sitting beside Lake Bratan, the complex reflects exquisitely on the water’s surface. A must visit in this part of Bali, the temple is smaller than the other religious complexes on this list, so several hours for visiting aren’t necessary. As the water level of the lake fluctuates, the mirror effect isn’t as spectacular year-round as it is in the spring.
10. Wat Rong Khun, Thailand
The most modern temple on this list, Wat Rong Khun was inaugurated in 1997. Located in Chiang Rai, the all-white structure (the color symbolizing purity) is completely surrounded by crystals, which represent the Buddha’s wisdom. It’s said that when he began preaching his dogma, the Buddha himself crossed the bridge that reaches it.