- Discover Asia’s most famous temples – from Angkor Wat to the Temple of Heaven
- Explore sacred shrines and towering temples dedicated to Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and other religions
- Pay homage on while travelling on holiday to Asia’s most magnificent places of worship
Some of the most famous temples in the world can be found in Asia. Whether you’re on holiday in Japan, China, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Vietnam or Cambodia, make sure you make time to visit a sacred shrine, a place of worship that could be dedicated to Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism or Taoism, or a number of other religions.
Once you enter one amazing temple, you’ll have an urge to seek out other famous places of worship. You could quickly find yourself on a pilgrimage, keen to tick off a few more on your bucket list. Where should you start? Here are ten suggestions of famous temples to visit.
Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China
The most famous temple in Beijing and on the itinerary of escorted China holidays, the Temple of Heaven is a masterpiece of architecture dating back to the early 15th century. Emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties worshipped here. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is recognised as the world’s largest existing building complex for offering sacrifice to heaven. Park gates open at 6am to this peaceful oasis surrounded by a park and pine woods – arrive early to watch locals performing kung fu and tai chi.
Khajuraho Temples, Madhya Pradesh, India
One of the seven wonders of India and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the famous temples at Khajuraho are a sight to behold. Only 20 or so of the original 85 mystical shrines have survived the centuries. The largest and most magnificent, the Kandariya Mahadev Temple, is renowned for its ornate, and erotic, carved figures – in sensuous poses of such high relief that you can distinguish jewellery, manicured nails and more! Note that the temple colours change with the intensity of the sun.
Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan
If planning a holiday to Japan, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto. Richly adorned in gold leaf, the famous temple is also appropriately called the Golden Pavilion and is often seen shimmering in its pondside setting – its reflection glistening in the water. Although built in the late 14th century as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the original pavilion was burnt to the ground in 1950 by a disgruntled priest. Read the Yukio Mishima novel if you’re intrigued to learn more.
Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka
Of all the famous temples in Asia, the 1st Century cave temples of Dambulla are among the oldest and a definite highlight of a holiday to Sri Lanka. A sacred pilgrimage site for around 2,200 years, the cave complex has five sanctuaries, all decorated with remarkably preserved frescoes and over 150 Buddhist statues. Be aware that it’s around a 10-minute steep climb from the Golden Buddha statue at the Buddhist Museum to the temple entrance. Take your time and enjoy the surrounding scenery.
Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai, India
When looking at holidays to India, make sure your trip includes a visit to at least one of the country’s many famous temples. In the south, Meenakshi Amman Temple is a must-see sight, a complex shrine of courtyards, pillared halls, a sacred lake and 12 gateway towers. The tallest hall stands over 50 metres high and is covered in thousands of brightly-painted stucco carvings. As Meenakshi Amman remains a Hindu place of worship, festivals are celebrated throughout the year, the most popular being in April, September and October.
Thean Hou Temple, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The ornate, six-tiered Thean Hou Temple is among the largest Chinese temples in South-East Asia and is a house of worship, popular wedding venue, as well as a much-admired visitor attraction. If staying in Kuala Lumpur on a holiday in Malaysia, head to the leafy Robson Heights to check out the temple’s fabulous roofs and intricate architecture – you’ll find elements of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The temple boasts a prayer hall with three altars, medicinal herb garden, sacred Bodhi tree and spectacular far-reaching views.
Sensō-ji, Tokyo, Japan
There are many famous temples in Japan, but Tokyo’s oldest, most significant and probably the most photographed is Sensō-ji. The temple enshrines a golden statue of the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Kannon, allegedly found by brothers fishing in the river Sumida in AD 628 – but not actually on display inside. However, at Sensō-ji’s grand red thunder gate, you will see statues of the god of wind and god of thunder. The best time to visit is in the evening when the temple is quieter and beautifully illuminated.
Golden Temple of Amritsar, Punjab, India
Amritsar is among the world’s most revered cities and its magical Golden Temple, part of a huge gurdwara complex known as Harmandir Sahib, is Sikhism’s holiest shrine. Unsurprisingly then that thousands of pilgrims flock to India’s famous temple every day, eager to see the holy scriptures of the Guru Granth Sahib and bathe in the surrounding sacred waters. Devotees are given free food, so some 6,000 plates of dhal can be distributed every hour. Be prepared to join a long queue to get inside. It is worth the wait.
Cao Dai Temple, Tay Nihn, Vietnam
Just over a two-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh city, and often on the itinerary of a holiday to Vietnam, Cao Dai Temple is the centre of a unique indigenous religion. It is a fascinating combination of Taoism, Buddhism and Chinese Confucianism with elements of Christianity, Islam and spiritualism – and with Joan of Arc, Victor Hugo, Shakespeare and Winston Churchill among its saints! Elaborately decorated in bright colours, the temple is awash with abstract designs and symbols. Don’t miss the religion’s all-seeing divine eye, representing its spiritual heart.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
No list of famous temples in Asia would be complete without mentioning the biggest Hindu temple in the world, Angkor Wat. Found in the sprawling complex of Angkor’s unique archaeological site, it can be visited on escorted tours of Cambodia. Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century and is so revered as the spiritual home for the Hindu god Vishnu that the temple’s silhouette appears on the country’s national flag. Unlike other Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat faces west not east – sunsets and sun rises are spectacular.
Discover more famous temples on holiday
There are a wealth of reasons why you’ll love a holiday in Asia, one of them being the chance to explore the continent’s fascinating and famous temples. Travel to the East and be inspired by these astounding buildings, remembering to be respectful at all times. Visit our collection of holidays to Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and India to start your adventure.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.