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Discover Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion
Nestled snuggly between Daitokuji Temple, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, and Ryoanji Temple is Kinkakuji Temple, one of the most popular buildings found in Japan. Namely due to the unique and breathtaking appearance of the Golden Pavilion and surrounding gardens, Kinkakuji Temple has been attracting visitors from around the world to view its beauty and interesting architecture. Although visitors come primarily to see the interior of the temple through open windows – which beautifully incorporates three distinct styles of architecture – many are delightfully surprised when they see the magnificent strolling gardens that surround the area.
The temple is a designated National Special Historic Site, a National Special Landscape, and one of the locations of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto for World Heritage Sites. In short, the temple is truly as important as it is stunning to see. Incorporating architectural beauty with Japanese history, Kinkakuji Temple is a place you should strive to visit at least once in your life!
What to see in Kinkakuji temple?
An approach to “Shariden”, the golden pavilion
An approach of Kinkakuji. (1 in the map) It is a prelude to “Shariden”, the golden pavilion. We have many maple trees along it.
In autumn time, we can admire one of the most beautifuk autumn colors in Kyoto.
At the front gate (2 in the map), “Five Commandments of Kinkakuji”.
1) You shall not kill anything which has life.
2) You shall not want anything you are not given.
3) You shall not commit adultery.
4) You shall not tell lies.
5) You shall not indulge in Sake.
“Shariden”, the golden pavilion
“Kyo-ko-chi” pond (鏡湖池)
A pond located in front of Shariden. (3 in the map) It makes “Shakkei” of the mt. Kinugasa and even Shariden. “Shakkei” is a technique of Japanese traditional garden building. It “borrows” the scenery behind the garden. A good example of fine garden of Kitayama period.
The Dry garden (方丈庭園)
It is an underrated dry garden in Kinkakuji temple. (4 in the map)Many visitors pay scarce attention to it. In the north side of it, there is a ship shaped pine tree called “Riku-syu-no-matsu (The pine-tree ship on the ground).
Ginga sui (銀河水)
Ashikaga Yoshimitsu used to draw water for tea ceremony from the small well. (5 in the map)
The cascade was named after an old Chinese anecdote: A carp crawling up to the top of the cascade became a dragon. In the East, dragon is God of water an rain though it means something evil in the West. The stone in front of the cascade means a carp. (6 in the map)
There used to be a villa of the Saionjis. Now we can see a small pagoda and satues of Jizo, the Buddhist deity who saves people in suffer.(7 in the map)
You ka tei (夕佳亭)
“Yuka-tei” means “The hut in which we can have a good view in the twilight”.(8 in the map)
The “Tokobashira (Indicated by arrow in the 1st picture)” made of Nanten tree indicated in the picture is so rare because Nanten has always thin tree (The tree in the 2nd picture).
The oldest building in Kinkakuji. It was built in the 16th century. Acla (The deity in Shoigon traditon) is enshrined.(9 in the map)
Souvenir of Kinkakuji
We have three souvenir shops in Kinkakuji. The following are my recommendation.
Kinkakuji guide book
A guide book written in both Japanese and English. 550 yen.
Kinkakuji post cards
You can see inside of the Shariden. 310 yen.
Flora of Ginkakuji temple
In Ginkakuji, we have many plants and flowers. Of course we can see them other places. The distinctive feature in Ginkakuji is there aren’t many flowers and are many green leaves and mosses instead. Thanks to this, we can see flowers against the green.
11 Must-See Temples and Shrines in Kyoto
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Top Places to See in Historical Kyoto
Aside from the capital Tokyo, Kyoto is one of the most popular cities in Japan. Kyoto enjoys its world-renowned fame due to the sheer number of historical and cultural sites it possesses. Kyoto has some of the best Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in the country, with a large number of them declared as official World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
If you only have a few days in Kyoto, it may be hard to see all these temples along with other pertinent sites. So if you ask us how to explore Kyoto, our simple answer would be: “It depends….” As travelers, we all have our individual priorities and preferences. At Chasing Places, we try to strike a balance in terms of visiting attractions especially if we have a limited period of time. We want to see marvelous architecture, see art up close, experience culture and learn a little about history. We love to be in a very lively atmosphere but also appreciate the serenity offered by nature.
One of the quiter streets in Gion, Kyoto
Out of all the temples in the city, a few would definitely stand out like the Golden Pavilion for instance. There are also fascinating districts and streets in Kyoto that are hard to miss. Luckily, most of these sites are within short distances of each other. Some of them can be reached on foot. While others, require you to take a bus. But the transport system is the least of your worries when you’re in Japan, as everything is organized and on time (incredibly right on the dot!) But if you are still confused about what to visit, here are some of our chosen top places to see when in Kyoto.
1. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, Japan
If you want to see something other than pagodas and temples, then the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in the Sagano Area, makes a refreshing site to visit. Because it is described as a grove, I expected it to be more extensive than it actually is. Nevertheless, access to the Bamboo Grove is free. But you do not, technically, go through a thick forest. Instead, the site features a walkway, lined up with multitudes of familiar thin bamboo trees. The walkway extends less than 1 kilometer with some parts more impressive than others because of the density of the bamboo stocks sticking out. Natural lighting from the sun comes through the bamboo trees to add more character to the walkway. If the lighting is soft yet bright, the color contrast to the greenish hue of the trees is simply stunning. That being said, you may not appreciate it that much if you visit Kyoto’s Bamboo Grove on a cloudy day.
At the other end of the walkway, there are other minor attractions like a private garden, a bridge over a nice creek as well as lookout. We visited the Bamboo Grove in the early morning, when there were fewer visitors. The place is quite serene, but it quickly loses its serenity when more people start filling up the walkway. Nevertheless, it was an interesting site worth visiting. Our friends visited the grove at night, and based on their photos, it seemed like the grove has an entirely different appeal at night, when everything around is lit up triumphantly.
Gion is both a modern and historical district. Some parts of the area are filled with commercial establishments and nightlife spots that cater to the massive amount of tourists. But it also envelops what is called the Geisha District. The first time we heard about this district in Kyoto, we thought it was the only one in Japan. Though we found out that there were other Geisha Districts in the country, apparently, the one in Kyoto is considered one of the most well preserved.
Geishas are the traditional women entertainers during feudal times in Japan. Geishas are trained to be experts in the fields of art and entertainment. Cobblestoned streets and lovely old wooden houses dominate the Geisha district. Nowadays, most of these buildings are restaurants and cafes. According to guide books, there are still geishas and maikos (their apprentice) that continue to entertain their rich patrons in the district. However, they are rarely seen out in the open unless you are willing to pay to see them perform in designated restaurants (locally called Ochaya in the district).
Regarded as one of the nicest streets in Asia, Shimbashi in Kyoto
Apparently, Geishas consciously hide from tourists, who have been known to stalk them like the paparazzi. We actually saw women wearing, what we presumed as, the typical Geisha costumes and makeup. But we were quite sure they were doing this for some kind of pictorial shoot or they just wanted to dupe tourists into thinking they were the real deal!
Geisha or no geisha, the district is worth seeing because of its historical and cultural value. The only problem is that it can get pretty crowded on the main streets as everyone wants a look at this iconic district.
Gion is also home to Shimbashi Street. Also referred to as Shirakawa Minamidori, the street is supposed to be one of the most picturesque in Asia with its cobblestone streets, lovely bridges over canals and cherry blossom trees.
Getting Around Kyoto
Kyoto is very bike-friendly which is a preferred form of transportation as most people rely on a massive network of buses with just a few subway lines along the main avenues
You can get a 2 day subway/bus pass for 1700 Yen/Adult
There you have it. An excellent Kyoto itinerary for about 4 solid days in this Japanese city.
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1 day Kyoto Itinerary
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Kick-off your Kyoto itinerary at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. This famous spot is a must-visit for anybody who wants to roam on a path surrounded by thick, tall, green bamboo.
So it&rsquos best to go early. It&rsquos 35 minutes northwest of the city center on the San-in Line transport. Before you know it, you&rsquoll be in the sleepy town of Arashiyama, crossing the Katsura River over the Togetsu-Kyo bridge.
Super charming. Don&rsquot forget your camera!
From Arashiyama, hop back on public transport to make your way to Kinkakuji&mdashaka the Golden Pavilion.
A Zen Buddhist temple officially called Rokounji, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in 1397 for Yoshimitsu, then Shogun of Japan.
It is pretty incredible, not just because of its history, but because it is covered in gold leaf. The setting, as it is reflected in Kyokochi pond&mdashresembling the balance of nature that is so important in Japanese religions&mdashmakes it even more beautiful.
This is the one sight of Kyoto Japan that you should not miss!
Kiyomizu&mdashor Kiyomizu-Dera&mdashis located more or less back into central Kyoto from Kinkakuji. You won&rsquot need to use public transport (so much) after this.
There are over 1,200 years of history at Kiyomizu-Dera, which has been depicted in everything from stories to woodblock prints and paintings. No wonder it&rsquos a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Many different buildings make up the Buddhist temple complex here. There is the three-story pagoda dating back to 1633, the bell tower which was built in 1596, and the Otowa Waterfall with its allegedly life-extending powers.
Also, the view from this Buddhist temple of the town below is pretty spectacular as well.
You can even join in with the other local Japanese ladies as they dress up in kimonos to look the part as they visit!
From Kiyomizu-Dera, it&rsquos just a matter of a simple 15-minute walk from the temple complex to your next destination&mdashNishiki Market.
By now, you must be feeling pretty hungry. Well, as your travel guide in Kyoto, I recommend that you stop your Kyoto walking tour and find something to eat in the five-block long shopping street that is Nishiki Market!
Dubbed &ldquoKyoto&rsquos Kitchen,&rdquo this Downtown market is where you will find all sorts of shops and restaurants, selling all manner of things, from fresh seafood and wagashi (Japanese candy) to culinary implements and souvenirs. You will basically be able to find anything here.
Many of the eateries and stores here are specialists and will give out free samples for you to taste before you buy.
Open till 6 pm., you have plenty of time on your Kyoto itinerary to decide what to eat here!
Next stop on your itinerary, Kyoto offers you the famous Gion!
It is just a 10-minute stroll from Nishiki Market. Gion is very famous for being Kyoto&rsquos traditional geisha district.
Just so you know, that doesn&rsquot mean &ldquored light district&rdquo&mdashgeisha were (and still are) more like entertainers, who engage customers in sparkling conversation, drinking games, and musical performances.
Simply wandering the wooden house-lined streets and lanes here is enough to take you back a few centuries! It&rsquos pretty cool.
However, if you manage to breeze through Gion while gazing at the traditional geisha district with a lot of time to spare, don&rsquot worry. There&rsquos more to do nearby.
If you have time for walking, you can wander past the many shrines and temples and get a more in-depth look at Kyoto&rsquos past at the Philosopher&rsquos Path, which runs alongside a picturesque stream.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Ok, so now it is time to round out your day at the iconic Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine. Also known as Inari Taisha, Fushimi, or the Inari shrine, it is a 20-minute ride from Gion on the Keihan Main Line to Fushimi-Inari Station.
From here, it&rsquos an easy walk to the base of the small mountain on which this famous shrine complex sits.
Well, you probably know it from Instagram or you know, just about anywhere. There are thousands of red torii (shrine gates) straddling trails and steps that snake their way around, and up, the mountain.
Established in 711 AD, this place has a massively long history. You can feel it as you ascend especially as you will be there towards sunset as many tourists disappear. The place gets positively eerie at dusk and after dark.
My tip would definitely be to time your trip to Fushimi Inari for sunset when you can watch the sun dip behind the mountains from the viewpoint partway up. Heavenly!
There you have it, my 1 day Kyoto itinerary edition for a trip to the most historic Japanese city ever!
One day does not give you enough time to see everything, but it will give you enough time to learn about what makes this city so great and see its highlights. The amount of temples is incredible, as is the sense of history and the number of beautiful spots you can find just off the main streets of the city.
Take time on your one day Kyoto itinerary to tour around this former capital for yourself, and you will discover just why so many people choose to visit here each year. If you end up wanting to stay longer be sure to check out the Kyoto hotels!
If you do plan on spending a day in Kyoto&mdashtell me about it! Tag me @wtfab in your stories or pics on Insta so I can remind myself that I really, REALLY need to go again one day!!
Planning a trip to Japan? Be sure to check out my other Japan travel guides here.
Kyoto is definitely worth visiting with a number of historical sights to see. It can get very touristy, but it worth it with lots of things to keep you busy.
It is recommended to spend at least 2 days in Kyoto to see all the big sights of Kyoto.
The best time of year to travel to Japan is April through May since it will be cherry blossom season and the weather will be at its best!
50 Spectacular Temples of Asia: The Ultimate Travel Guide
Glorious shrines, intricate carvings, and some faith in our mind take us to these temples … that stall tall and bright. Be it a glimpse of the glorious past, a touch of historical elegance or a peek of ancient architecture, these temples have a history-gilded tale to tell. Today, 50 travel bloggers talk about their experience across various temples of Asia.
Scroll to read the ultimate travel guide to the most spectacular temples of Asia…
1. Khajuraho Temple, Central India:
Khajuraho is a city in central India in the Madhya Pradesh region, which is a popular stopover for long distance train journeys from one side of the country to the other. It’s also very famous for its UNESCO listed temples, which are the largest group of Hindu and Jain temples in the world.
Today only around 20 remain from the original 85 built during the Chandella Dynasty between AD900-1130. The temples are scattered over an area of 9 square miles, featuring a range of really intricate carvings depicting the traditional lifestyle of women in the medieval ages, including some very in-your-face erotic carvings. Back then it was believed that erotic sculptures were auspicious and would bring luck and well-being. Today these carvings are one of the must see attractions in the city of Khajuraho.
2. Swaminarayan Akshardham Complex, Delhi
Akshardham is one of the most fascinating Hindu temple complexes I’ve ever visited. Its architecture with the intricate details can capture your attention for hours. Its gardens and cultural programs can give you a deeper insight into Hinduism, Indian culture and important national figures. I highly recommend visiting the complex around 4 pm. This way you will be able to explore the temple, its gardens and also attend the cultural programs like the light show and exhibitions. The light show takes place in a big arena built in a traditional step well style. The whole atmosphere – the lights, the fountains, sounds and graphic presentation makes you feel a part of the play.
Another cultural program, like boat ride, transports you back to ancient India and shows the history and advanced inventions of the past. Please note, that any technical equipment and food is not allowed in the Akshardham complex. You will have to deposit cameras, phones and food in the security room at the entrance.
3. Brihadeeswar Temple, Thanjavur
The Brihadeeswar Temple at Thanjavur is the symbol of power and might of the ruler of the Chola dynasty. Also known as the Big Temple, it was built by Raja Raja Chola I of the Chola dynasty in 1010 AD. The architecture of the temple is grand and in consonance with the might and vision of the great King. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the complex has many temples built by other ruling dynasties. But the jewel in the crown remains the main central temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, King Chola’s favourite deity.
The temple is a marvelous work of granite. There is a Nandi statue in front of the temple that is also the second largest Nandi statue in India. Frescoes are found to be adorning the walls. There are a number of myths related with this grand architectural structure. Truly, the temple showcases the grand past of the rulers as well the proficient craftsmanship of the makers.
4. The Golden Temple, Amritsar
The Sri Harmandir Sahib or “The Golden Temple” as it is more commonly known as, is a stunning piece of architecture located in Amritsar, Punjab, India. It is the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism and the literal translation of the temple name means “The abode of God”. It was covered in 162kg of 24 karat gold around 200 years after its original construction and is breathtaking to see in person. The kitchen on site serves up to 100,000 free meals a day and the two dining rooms have a combined capacity of 5000 at a time.
The temple is lit up beautifully at night, and it is well worth visiting at different times during the day to take in its full beauty under different lighting conditions. With its incredible history, tours are recommended to fully grasp how stunning this place truly is.
5. Sahastrabahu Temple, Gwalior
Gwalior city is known for its royal landmarks and temples. It’s yet another historical city I visited this year as a weekend getaway from Delhi. Gwalior is part of Madhya Pradesh (MP) State, in central India. It is one of the royal destinations to visit. Though MP is famous for temples of Khajuraho, this time I discovered similar architecture in Gwalior as well. The temples of Gwalior were so grand that they mesmerized me.
A much-recommended temple to visit is Sahastrabahu Temple also now called Saas Bahu Temple by locals. Sahastrabahu means “One with thousands of arms” this depicts a form of “Lord Vishnu” of Hindu religion. Though here too there’s no idol inside the temple, the beautiful architecture stands strong. There’s also another temple near it and that is dedicated to another Hindu God Lord Shiva. These temples are locally referred to as ‘Saas Bahu’ temples because the word Sahastra Bahu rhymes with it. Do check out the temple while you visit Gwalior.
6. Karni Mata Rat Temple
This extraordinary temple in the village of Deshnok near Bikaner, India is home to about 25,000 rats. Devotees travel long distances to worship the furry creatures, revered as reincarnated followers of Karni Mata, an avatar of the goddess Durga. The rodents, affectionately called kabbas or little children, are fed grains, milk, and prasad, a sweet holy food. Drinking the rats’ water or milk or eating food they’ve nibbled on is thought to confer supreme blessings.
Visiting the temple is not for the faint-hearted: Shoes are not allowed, and it’s considered good luck for a rat to run over your feet. Spotting a rare albino rat is particularly auspicious, since they are believed to be the manifestations of Karni Mata herself and her four sons.
7. Sri Varasidhi Vinayaka Swamy Temple – Kanipakam
Sri Varasidhi Vinayaka Swamy Temple in Kanipakam is a divine destination one must visit. Kanipakam lies in the Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh – a Southern State in India. About 70 kms from Tirupati and 180 kms from Bangalore, this Hindu Temple is historically significant. The main deity here is Lord Ganesha also referred to as Vinayaka and the idol is considered to be Swayambhu (Self Manifested). It is also believed that the idol is growing in size on its own which is another reason to visit this place. Legend has it that when three brothers who were handicapped in different ways were digging a well for water, they hit upon the idol and blood started oozing out turning the water in the well red in colour, this sighting cured them of their deformities and they became normal again and thus began the divine connection. The architecture of the temple is amazing and the environment inside bliss.
The Temple Pond adds to the aura and the lighting of Diya or Lamp soothes the soul. Camera’ and mobile phones are not allowed inside and so capture the essence of the place with your eyes. There are Cloak rooms available to store your gadgets. The entrance to the temple is free but if you want to beat the queue, special entrance tickets are available for Rs 10, Rs 50 and Rs 100 depending on one’s preference and time constraints. Parking and wash rooms are available too.
8.Shri Mata Vaishnodevi, Katra, Jammu and Kashmir
Shri Mata Vaishnodevi is the famous temple in Katra, a popular small town located in Reasi district, of J&K, situated at the hills of Trikuta mountains, where devotees visit to pray for better lives. This temple is dedicated to Goddess Vaishno. This temple is one of the most attractive place where many pilgrims come from different parts of the Indian state and across the world throughout the year. The temple remains open 24*7.
To visit Vaishno Devi temple, the pilgrims have to register at Katra before starting the trek at the registration counter near Katra bus stand. They will then be allotted a registration number and group number. To reach the Bhawan, pilgrims have to trek 14 km plus an extra 1.5 km from Vaishno Devi temple to Baba Baironath. It is believed that the pilgrimage is not complete until you visit this temple. You can reach it by trekking, horse riding or using their helicopter service. Trekking offers amazing scenery of Trikuta Mountains. Expect to see a beautiful shrine in the form of 3 pindis, experience positive vibes, subsidized food counters, Cafe Coffee Day and other popular restaurants. Electronic devices are not allowed inside the main temple.
9. Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, India
India sure has tons of temples to delight the eyes and among them stands tall the majestic Meenakshi Temple in Madurai. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, Shiva’s wife. This ancient temple appears in texts dating back to the 6 th century BCE, although it has been rebuilt and expanded starting within the 14 th century. It is an important pilgrimage site and it’s also famous for its impressive size. It covers an area of over 15 acres, filled with numerous shrines and 12 important towers.
The temple can be visited daily and it is opened from early in the morning until 10 pm, but remains closed between 12:30 pm and 4:00 pm. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take your camera inside but you are allowed to take your phone after paying a small fee. But this shouldn’t keep you from exploring it and watching the daily ceremonies which are impressive even for a non-Hindu.
10. Sai Baba Mandir in Shirdi, Maharashtra
Sai Baba of Shirdi is a revered Indian spiritual master. Interestingly, he is revered by his Hindu and Muslim devotees during and after his demise. His teachings focused on moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace and devotion to the Almighty. He spent the most crucial years of his ascetic life in Shirdi where he died in 1918. Thus, Shirdi in Maharashtra has assumed importance among devotees across all religions.
Shirdi is 250 km from Mumbai. Kopergaon railway station is well connected to major cities of India and is 16 kilometers away from Shirdi. I visited Shirdi last year with my family and was going through a hard time in life. The trip to Shirdi was a rejuvenating one and very calming indeed.
11. Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram was the major seaport of the Pallava kingdom who ruled over South India from as early as the first century B.C. 60 kms from Chennai along the shores of The Bay of Bengal, now this small town boasts of World Heritage sites, surfer’s paradise and has a hippie air about it – a perfect place to learn about history, relish fresh sea food and experience the uninterrupted rising of the tide at night.
One of the major attractions and an architectural marvel in Mahabalipuram is the Shore Temple build using blocks of granite stones. The temple complex consists of three major shrines – the main one is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is a typical archetype of Dravidian temple structures decorated extensively with art carvings and sculptures.
12. The Blue Temple, Chiang Rai
The White temple and Black House are the most famous temples in Chiang Rai, attracting thousands of tourists each year. But now, there’s a new and striking temple on the scene – the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten). Completed in 2016, the Blue Temple has not been widely promoted and remains a smaller and quieter affair.
This unique temple, is painted in an eye-catching blue with overlays of gold embellishments. The centerpiece inside the great hall, is a huge statue of a White Buddha in sitting position surrounded by contemporary Buddhist art in a psychedelic style. The name ‘Rong Suea Ten’ in Thai, translates as ‘house of the dancing tiger’ because historically, the area surrounding the temple, was full of wildlife, in particular tigers who leapt into the nearby Mae Kok river. The temple is located just a few kilometers from Chiang Rai city, in the district of Rimkok.
13. White Temple, Chiang Rai
The Famous White Temple or Wat Rong Khun in is a Buddhist temple found in Chiang Rai, Thailand. It is one of the temples that I highly recommend visiting when in Thailand. It’s uniquely designed and constructed lush with those silver and white ensembles. There is an art exhibit inside the temple which is open for people to see, yet, prohibited from taking photos or videos. The one thing that boosts my interests is the design this temple differ among many others in the country, it uniquely resembles stories of each building. Like for instance the hundreds of outreaching hands visibly situated at the bridge which symbolizes unrestrained desire, in which they call this bridge as “the cycle of rebirth”.
As a woman, the design and structure of this temple certainly amazed us plus its useful symbols on why this was unconventionally created. Don’t forget to check the “Golden Building” which is formed as the restroom building, where its gold effects mean worldly desires and money, it is absolutely the fanciest restroom that I had in my life. Don’t forget that this is a temple which is a respected place in the country, wear clothes suitable for their temple.
14. Wat Phra That – Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
The Northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai has over 300 Buddhist Temples. The official name for these temples are Wats and they are often very elaborate and adorned with many traditional and brightly coloured reliefs depicting Buddha. Situated high on the Doi Suthep mountain overlooking Chiang Mai can be found the most famous of these temples Wat Phra That which dates from the 14th century. A deeply religious site that is visited by thousands of Thai people who make the pilgrimage up the 306 stairs to pray at the site, it’s also a must visit attraction for tourists. There are many local Chiang Mai tourist companies who can arrange a personal visit to Wat Phra That, or it can be easily reached by any of the local transport options.
We recently visited and were spellbound by its beauty. The centrepiece of the temple is the brightly coloured gold chedi, colourful statues and the smell of incense wafting through the air. We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon exploring the site with its sweeping view of Chiang Mai, and highly recommend it for anyone visiting this exciting city.
15. Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai
Wat Chedi Luang is a Buddhist temple, and one of the most beautiful buildings in Chiang Mai. Located in the historic centre, it’s easy to get to and a definite addition for the Chiang Mai bucket list. King Saen Muang Ma commissioned the construction of the temple in the 14th Century, after his father died and he needed a suitable resting place for the ashes. Saen Muang Ma himself died ten years later, long before the temple ended up being completed halfway through the 15th Century.
The finished temple was slightly different to what you can see today. Back then there were three temples (Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Ho Tham and Wat Sukmin) and the building housed an emerald Buddha (Phra Kaew) as well. Unfortunately, the building was damaged during an earthquake in the late 15th Century and the Buddha was moved to Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. Today, a jade replica sits in its place. Since the 90s, UNESCO and the Japanese government have been working together to restore the building. It’s still very much a work in progress, but that doesn’t stop Wat Chedi Luang from being one of Chiang Mai’s most beautiful buildings.
16. Wat Pho, Bangkok
Wat Pho Temple is the oldest and largest complex in Bangkok. The said temple is located in Phra Nakhon District, just the opposite from where the Grand Palace is. Also known as Wat Phra Chetuphon, this Buddhist temple is believed to be the birthplace of famous Thai massage and also home to a 15-meter tall and 46-meter long Reclining Buddha with its feet inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
The entrance to the complex is about 100 Baht. You’re required to take off your shoes upon entering though you may put it in the bag provided at the entrance. For a good luck, I recommend to buy a bowl of coins that you can drop in the 108 bronze bowls lined parallel to the wall.
17. Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur:
Batu Caves is the most sacred site for Hindus in Malaysia, with the 272 steps to the famous cave temple at the top of the hill. Located at the fringe of Kuala Lumpur City, Batu Caves offers a unique experience to the Hindu religion up close and is the home to the largest Lord Murugan statue in the world and covered with 300 litres of gold paint.
During the annual Thaipusam festival in February, Batu Caves turns into a jam-packed place filled with Hindu pilgrims from all across the country to perform their religious rituals and rite. You’ll find some mind-blowing rituals such as body piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks, as part of their offerings to the gods. Last but not least, visitors also would be able to have a little fun with wild monkeys all around Batu Caves when they make their way up to the cave temple.
18. Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang
This temple in George Town, Malaysia is one of our favourite temples in the region. It sits on top of the hill dominating the area and looks impressive when you approach it. Kek Lok Si is the biggest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. It was constructed in 1890 and is also known as the Temple of Supreme Bliss. The complex is huge and consists of multiple pagodas and shrines.
You can literally spend the whole day exploring it. The highlights of Kek Lok Si: the Pagoda of Rama VI, the Ten Thousand Buddhas pagoda, 36 meter-high bronze statue of Kuan Yin (the Goddess of Mercy), the Turtle Pond, the Three-Tier pagoda and the beautiful gardens of the top level. On the bottom level, there is a market where you can buy all sort of curiosities and souvenirs.
19. Dragon Boat Temple, Kelantan
Nestled in a quiet corner of the Tumpat district of Kelantan, is an exceptional temple carved on a boat. Yes, you heard that right. The temple stands tall with its intricate shrines and fierce dragon head supported by nagas on either side. Commonly referred to as Wat Mai Suwankiri, the complex lies at a driving distance of 30-40 minutes from the city of Kota Bharu.
Some of the most noteworthy features of the temple include red dragon-wrapped pillars, the preserved body of Phor Tan Di for worshippers to seek blessings, a tall statue of Standing Buddha and a large number of bells along the length of the temple. Brave the heat and visit this gorgeous structure by noon.
20. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, China Town
Situated at the heart of Chinatown, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is arguably the most magnificent temple of Singapore. It was set up with the objective of preserving the teachings of Buddha and providing a deeper understanding of Buddhism. Admission is free of charge. The 5-storey temple contains an impressive collection of Buddhist artefacts, relics and stupas which reflects the rich history of the religion. The Sacred Light Hall in the fourth storey contains the temple’s centrepiece, after which the temple is named.
Here, a giant stupa weighing 3500 Kilograms and made of 320 kilograms of gold, holds the Buddha tooth relic. The temple also provides plenty of opportunities for self-meditation as well as many courses that introduce the teachings of Buddhism. If you happen to drop by at the right time, you may even be able to witness a prayer in progress. Whether you are an architecture buff, a religious soul or just a traveller seeking some peace in the city, this temple is your place.
21. Gunung Kawi, Bali
With 83% of Bali’s population following the Hindu religion, the island has quite a large number of stunning Balinese Hindu Temples to explore. Did you know that each village has three?! You’ll also find temples in many traditional homes. Some of the larger Balinese temples are on many travellers’ itineraries but after you’ve visited a few of them they can all start to look pretty similar. That’s why we recommend visiting Gunung Kawi Temple.
Gunung Kawi is unlike any other temple we saw in Bali. Dating back to the 11th century, the highlight of Gunung Kawi is the huge shrines carved into giant rocks. Surrounded by overgrown jungle and rainwater falling over the top it feels like you’ve entered a world from India Jones. The site of Gunung Kawi is massive so even at peak times of the day there’s plenty of space to wander and explore to find your own piece of serenity. The temple entrance also features a beautiful steep rice terrace which you’re free to walk around.
22. Tanah Lot, Bali
Due to its strategic location and the wonderful views around it, Tanah Lot is one of the most beautiful and most visited temples in Bali, Indonesia. The temple, whose deity is Dewa Baruna, the protector of the seas and oceans, is an attraction not to be missed when visiting the island. The whole complex around it is very large and full of green grass and colorful flowers, but the temple itself is accessible only during the low tide, being placed on a rock surrounded by ocean waves.
Besides the dreamy panorama, the temple also has a very interesting legend to tell, about a black and white snake hiding in the black rocks and always ready to defend the temple from evil, whenever it is needed. Ideally, visit the temple in the middle of the day to catch the amazing sunset.
23. Pura Taman Ayun, Bali
As I am a huge fan of Unesco sites, I really looked forward to visit Pura Taman Ayun in Bali as it’s the only temple in Bali that is on the Unesco list. Pura Taman Ayun means ‘beautiful garden’. This 17th century temple was the main temple of the Mengwi Kingdom that ruled until the end of the 19th century. The complex has an amazing main gate and a few meru towers. The highest Meru Tower has 11 floors.
The place is a so-called penyawangan, where holy places are offered. There are altars for the mountains Agung, Batukau and Batur. Broad canals surround the complex and the pools are full of Lotus blossoms. Tourist may not enter the courtyard but are only allowed to walk around the complex.
24. Borobudur, Yogyakarta
Visiting Borobudur was definitely one of my favourite things to do in Yogyakarta. I really recommend visiting the temple at sunrise, as the atmosphere is simply magical, even on a rainy and misty day. Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and its sheer size will blow you away! It’s a giant pyramid with 9 different levels, including 2672 carved panels and 504 Buddha statues. And I am talking about one single temple here. Borobudur was so much larger than I expected – even with a wide-angle lens, it was impossible to capture it all in one single shot.
Make sure you allow yourself some time to walk around the temple and enjoy not just the views, but also the spectacular carvings and statues. If you have time, don’t miss the nearby Prambanan temples, which are also spectacular.
25. Prambanan, Yogyakarta
Prambanan on the island of Java is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia. It’s located a short half-hour drive away from Yogyakarta, one of Indonesia’s main cultural hubs. Prambanan is actually a temple compound, consisting of 240 temples of varying sizes. Part of the temples have been destroyed by the 2006 earthquake. Since it’s protected by the UNESCO World Heritage Convention only parts of it can be restructured, so most of the smaller outer temples are still in ruins today.
It is one of the most visited temples and tourist attractions, so I recommend visiting early in the morning if you can. You can visit Prambanan either with an organised tour or by yourself by renting a scooter or car, just bear in mind local guides will try to offer you their services once you get there.
26. Zojoji, Tokyo
Zojoji is a Buddhist temple that is located just under the Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, Japan. This beautiful temple was relocated to its present spot in 1598. Once it had become the family temple of the Tokugawa family, additional buildings were built to increase the capacity and functionality of the temple. This included the traditional Japanese gates at the entrance, the daibonsho (big bell) and a cathedral.
Interestingly enough, Zojoji was the administrative center to govern the religious studies and activities of the Jodo shu. There were as many as 3,000 priests and novices residing within the temple. During World War II the temple was burnt down during air raids, although these have been rebuilt today.
27. Kiyomizudera, Kyoto
The historic city of Kyoto in Japan is said to contain more than 1600 temples so it can be hard to narrow it down and decide where to start but most would agree that the Buddhist temple of Kiyomizudera should be at the top of that list. Founded in 798 its history is impressive enough to see it listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kyoto is famed for its seasonal celebrations and the temple is one of the top spots to view the cherry blossoms or jewel toned autumn leaves.
The ‘mizu’ part of Kiyomizudera means water and at the foot of the hill is a fountain with three streams of water, drinking from one of these is said to give you love, longevity or knowledge, but what will you choose? There’s also a Shinto Shrine and some great festivals throughout the year where the guardian dragon makes an appearance. The walk up to Kiyomizudera is lined with traditional style merchant houses offering interesting souvenirs and some excellent tasty treats along the way and don’t forget to look back from the entrance, the view of southern Kyoto from there is spectacular.
28. Toyokawa Inari, near Nagoya
One of the most fascinating and visually interesting temples I visited during a recent trip to central Japan was the Toyokawa Inari, about 60 km south-east of the city of Nagoya in the Aichi Prefecture. It is curious in that it is a Buddhist temple that venerates a Shinto deity, the fox god, or Inari. Over the centuries, as first one religion and then the other was persecuted, this combination aided in the temples survival.
Today Toyokawa Inari is visited by Japanese people who work in the creative arts, most notably on New Year’s Eve, when they pray for good fortune in the coming year to the Benzaiten, one of Japan’s seven deities and the only one of Indian origin (the rest being Chinese). The hundreds of stone foxes that guard the shrine are an impressive site as are the thousands of red and white banners – petitions for health, wealth and safety – that flutter in the breeze lining the path to the shrine.
29. Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto
Kyoto, Japan is full of temples but no trip to Kyoto is complete without a visit to the iconic Kinkakuji Temple (or The Golden Pavilion). Kinkakuji is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Kyoto and chances are you have seen this temple in photos or postcards from Japan. Its official name is Rokuon-ji and it is also one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Located in northern Kyoto, this Zen temple is also called the Golden Pavilion because its top two floors are covered in gold leaf. Although it has a long history, Kinkakuji has been burned down a few times and the present structure was rebuild in 1955. Although you cannot enter inside the temple, make sure to enjoy its surrounding beautiful gardens and take a photo of its golden reflection shining across the pond.
30. Luohan Temple, Chongqing
Chongqing’s Luohan Temple is a calm oasis in the middle of one of China’s biggest, noisiest, and most polluted cities. First built around 1000 years ago and remodeled in 1752, it was then rebuilt in 1945. The most famous sight at the temple is the hall containing the 500 grotesque clay arhat statues. Getting lost in the maze-like paths beneath their strange gaze is one of most disorientating experiences I’ve had at any temple, anywhere.
Temple etiquette and personal values prevented me from photographing the statues, which means you have a choice. You could either look on Google to see what they’re like, or you could go visit Luohan Temple and get face to face with them yourself. Should you find yourself in Chongqing, I highly recommend the latter.
31. Mogao Caves, Western China
Dating back to the 4th century, the Mogao Caves complex in western China is one of the most interesting Buddhist locations in the world. Located along the Silk Road, the 492 caves near the city of Dunhuang, China served as temples, monasteries, and storehouses for important Buddhist art. The Mogao Caves are now a national park and receive protection by UNESCO.
While much of the art has been removed, there are still 2,400 clay sculptures. You can see how these pieces of art were constructed by stopping by the visitor center. The number of visitors is limited to 6,000 per day, so tickets must be reserved in advance if visiting in high season (spring to fall).
32. 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, Hong Kong
You will actually find 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 of course, lined with Buddhas. Be sure to go inside the temple where the columns and walls have lots of individual little Buddhas.
The main altar contains three large Buddha statues and the embalmed remains of the Reverend Yuet Kai, the founder of the Monastery. The nine-story pagoda in the center of the plaza outside the temple is actually the one that is pictured on the back of the 100 HKD note. Above the temple, you will find the Monastery and an impressive waterfall. You will also want to admire the nice views of Hong Kong from the top.
33. Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong
The Man Mo Temple was built in 1847 and is located at 124-126 Hollywood Road. It is a traditional Chinese temple in the midst of towering skyscrapers where worshippers come to pay their respects and request wishes 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 filial 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. He was best known for his loyalty and valor in times of war.
Man Mo Temple is one of the most popular temples in Hong Kong and provides amazing insight into traditional Cantonese culture.
34. Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, Hong Kong
Home of the three religions, Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple is named after the combination of Taoist organization who currently administer and run the temple (Sik Sik Yuen) and the person it is dedicated to (Wong Tai Sin).
The temple is not only popular for its pluralism for being the home of three different religions, but also for its fortune-telling as many said that the accuracy of fortune-telling in this temple is very high and accurate. And some even claim that the temple is where all the wishes come true. Not only that we can pray and make a wish in front of the altar, but we also can find the fortune teller who will interpret what they see for the worshipper. Around the temple, you can also find other fortune tellers who can do the palm and face reading.
35. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Located amongst the jungles along the outskirts of Siem Reap, the Angkor Wat temple is an architectural marvel. This temple which has been featured in a few Hollywood adventure movies, is one of the most popular destinations in the entire Southeast Asia region. Built within the confined walls of the huge ancient city of Angkor, this temple has withstood some of the most turbulent times in Cambodian history.
Each and every stone of Angkor Wat depicts tales from a bygone era of religious conflicts to the more recent Khmer Rouge regime. The beauty of this monument is best explored during dusk and dawn where you can witness some of the most stunning sunrise and sunsets at the backdrop of the magnanimous temple structure. A trip to this place is worth memories of a lifetime.
36. Valley of 1000 Lingas, Kbal Spean, Siem Reap District
On my trip to Cambodia last month, I discovered this temple of Magnificence. Around 25kms drive from Siem Reap, lies the most miraculous place I’ve seen. The area consists of many thousands of sandstone stone carvings on the river bed mainly in the formation of lingas (symbol of Lord Shiva). The river bed also has beautiful carvings of Lord Bramha, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. So we can see the entire Trinity on the riverbed. Your heart and mind feel so peaceful. From the parking, there is a 500 feet hike to experience a lot more lingas and motifs. I’m a total bhakt of Lord Shiva, so I felt this was an absolutely perfect place for me to visit. I’ve never seen so many Shivalings together.
You also get to see pure volcanic water. Touch it and be sure to pour a drop on your forehead, to feel all the stress and tension being released. There is also a very beautiful temple, where you can go and pour water on the Shivaling, and pray to Lord Vishnu & Lord Buddha. To reach here you need to climb a few steps, and the view from the top is simply mind blowing. End your day, by going to the magical, waterfalls and don’t forget to take a swim there. You’re surely going to feel at bliss.
Tips: Wear walking shoes, with an anti slip grip, reach early as it’s a day long experience. Carry adequate mosquito repellent. Visiting this place in dry summer seasons, is highly recommended. During rains, you cannot see the Shiva kings, and it’s risky to trek. Carry enough water, as the trek is little tiring.
37. Anuradhapura Temple, Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura definitely is one of the nicest temples and archaeological sites to visit in Sri Lanka. Located right near the city of Anuradhapura, from where there’s easy access, this is a series of Buddhist temples which are still used by the locals. On prayer days, they can be seen dressed in white (the color of prayer in Sri Lanka), placing their offerings and paying their respects at the various temples.
Given how vast it is, the best way to visit Anuradhapura is by bike. Bikes can be rented at various shops not far from the entrance of the site, and rental for the entire day shouldn’t cost more than 750 Rupees. Given the heat, it is better to set nice and early as at around 2:00 pm it becomes virtually unbearable. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes, preferably long pants and a T-shirt covering the shoulders as these are required in order to enter temples. Also carry plenty of cold water, though small shops that sell water and other drinks and food can be found around the site.
38. Dambulla Caves, Sri Lanka
The Dambulla caves complex sits on a beautiful hillside in Sri Lanka’s Golden Triangle. The temple was originally built in 80 BC but was a multi-century work in progress. The site consists of natural caves that have been painstakingly enlarged to accommodate large Buddha statues which were added in the 12th century. The caves were enhanced once again in the 18th century with the addition of detailed ceiling paintings. Then, during the British empire period in the 1930’s, a temple veranda was added which overlooks the beautiful valley below.
But what makes Dambulla truly remarkable is that the temple monastery is still in use today. It’s hard enough to imagine that this place isn’t a ruin after 1,936 years, but the fact that it still has a practical religious purpose attests to its ongoing relevance to Sri Lankan culture.
39. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy
If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, you will likely visit Kandy, the former royal capital of Sri Lanka and an essential cultural centre. The most important site in Kandy is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and is a must-see. A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world, the temple holds a tooth of Buddha, enshrined in seven golden caskets. The tooth is venerated by Buddhists around the world and is an essential pilgrimage for Sri Lankans.
Image credit: Thierry Mignon
The temple is a large compound with various buildings and is also an insight in Sri Lankan life. Indeed, the crowds wander around and the place is alive with prayers and music. You are welcome to participate with flower offerings and respectful photography is allowed.
40. Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu
Situated outside of Kathmandu, Boudhanath is probably the largest Buddhist stupas in Nepal. The mystical atmosphere in Boudhanath is heightened especially in the late afternoon or early evening when scores of devotees converged at the dome of the stupa performing the kora (ritual circumnavigation) and chanting mantras. You will see Tibetan monks in maroon robes, devotees spin prayer wheels and sounds of Tibetan chants played from shops selling Tibetan religious paraphernalia.
Boudhanath is my favourite place in Kathmandu so much so that I visited the site twice in two days! When you’re at the stupa, remember to walk around it clockwise.
41. Kopan Monastery, Kathmandu
Overshadowed by the famous Boudhanath Temple in Nepal, the Kopan Monastery is not to forget and not to be ignored when you visit Kathmandu, Nepal. It is on a high view point, 15-minute drive north of the Boudhanath. It is around 6 km away from the Thamel district, which is recommended to take a taxi to, as walking uphill in unknown and uneven streets of Kathmandu aren’t too enjoyable. This Monastery is completely calm and peaceful, perfect to go early in the day and grab a grass spot to read a book under the sun. There is no entrance fee, it’s an actual temple that you can go to pray and learn about Buddhism.
Kopan Monastery is the most popular place for foreigners to go to study about Tibetan Buddhism. It is known for people to stay for a while to study. Otherwise you can join daily morning prayers that are meditation sessions, an important part of Buddhism.
42. Buddha Dhatu Jadi Temple, Bangladesh
Buddha Dhatu Jadi Temple also known as the Bandarban Golden Temple, is the biggest Buddhist Temple in Bangladesh. Buddha Dahtu Jadi Temple is located in Bandarban District in one of the most remote and least populated district in all of 64 districts in Bangladesh and with only about 0.3% of the population in Bangladesh being Buddhists, this is a rare sight in a country where 90% of the population is Islamic.
The Temple is located on the top of the highest hill in the area, 4km outside of Bandarban town. The easiest way to reach the temple is to take a local Tuk Tuk here for less than 1 USD. From the temple, you will get a panoramic view of the major parts of the State.
43. The Popa Taungkalat Monastery, Myanmar
The monastery sits alluringly atop of a steep sided, extinct volcano, about 60 kilometers from Bagan and takes a little over an hour to get to. I visited as part of a day trip that also included a visit to a local market and a place that makes rather tasty coconut candy.
As I arrived, I looked up at Popa Taungkalat in awe, wondering how they managed to build such a spectacular feat and how knackered I’ll feel after I have climbed the 777-steps to the top. But climb I did and it was well worth it. I felt detached from the real world, perched so high with the breathtaking panoramic views of the plains below. And if you get bored of that, there are plenty of monkeys to entertain you as they surprise unsuspecting tourists . . . you have been warned.
44. Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon
Most probably one of the most impressive golden pagodas in Asia! On my travels around the world I have seen many temples and a lot of them claim to be golden but this famous temples complex in Yangon, Myanmar is so shiny it hurts my eyes. The golden color of the Shwedagon Pagoda is so impressive that everyone who walks into the complex stops and stares.
The temple complex sits on a little hill and can be spot from around the city. Cool tip is to have a beer in the evening in any of the nearby rooftop bars and cheers with the golden Pagoda in the background.
45. Sule Pagoda, Yangon
Sule Pagoda is a 2,500-year-old Buddhist temple located on Yangon, Myanmar. According to legend, the king of spirits wanted to help a Burmese king build a shrine for a Buddha relic on the same site as where three previous Buddha relics had been buried, but he didn’t know where they were. With the help of another powerful spirit, they were able to locate these three other relics, making it so Sule Pagoda is home to four Buddha relics instead of the customary one or two.
Another interesting fact about the Pagoda is that it was constructed using a basic form utilized in Indian architecture, but the embellishments and final design are of a Mon-style Burmese influence. The main pagoda is octagonal with each side 24 feet long and the pinnacle reaches 144 ft 9 1/2 in.
46. Wat Si Saket, Vientiane
With only one day to spend in Vientiane, we knew we had to pick the perfect Wat to add to our itinerary for a single day in Laos’ capital city… and we couldn’t have chosen better than the Buddhist temple of Wat Si Saket. Located in the heart of Vientiane, Wat Si Saket dates back to the early 19th century and ranks as the oldest Wat in Vientiane.
Not only is the Wat very peaceful both inside the buildings and throughout the grounds, its decor is very memorable: we will never forget the hundreds of very small Buddha statues set into enclaves of the walls.
47. Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang
Listed as a World Heritage Site, the ancient city of Luang Prabang is one of my favorite cities among Asia. Its temples, small lanes and monks in saffron-yellow robes make the city livelier. Among the temples I explored, Wat Xieng Thong is the most interesting one. Built in 1560, it is marked as the oldest temple of the city and also reputed as the most important temples of Laotian history and a great example to show the Laotian architecture of Buddhist Temples.
The beautiful two-tiered roofs – sweeping low to the ground, the highly decorated glass mosaics set of “tree of life” on its western exterior walls and the mythical statues including the famous Nagas make Wat Xieng Thong more stunning.
48. Wenwu Temple at Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan
Built rather recently in 1932 and then rebuilt after an earthquake in 1999, this exceptionally beautiful, well-kept temple is filled with stone carvings and fountains. I was most impressed by two immense red stone lions that guard the gates – they are the perfect place to take a souvenir photograph. The temple with its gorgeous Sun Moon Lake offers beautiful views that can enjoyed from many vantage points.
It is here that I learned that temples have three doors. No one enters through the middle door because that is for the deities. As you face the temple, you must enter through the right door, which is on the side of the dragon’s mouth, and exit through the left door, which is on the side of the tiger’s tail.
49. Bulguksa Temple , Gyeongju
Gyeongju, South Korea was once one of the largest cities in the world, serving as the capital of the Silla Dynasty for hundreds of years. During this period, Bulguksa Temple was an important Buddhist temple, a designation that continues to this day, even as Gyeongju’s overall importance faded. The current temple was built in 751, with several rounds of reconstruction having taken place during the following centuries. Today, Bulguksa Temple is a grand complex of various sized buildings, with lovely gardens to explore as well.
The colorful architectural details of Bulguksa Temple merit close attention, while the expansive grounds mean that it’s easy to find a quiet corner experience tranquility. There are little gems to find everywhere, including dragon door handles, drums, roof decorations, statues, and more. Gyeongju isn’t on the itinerary of many visitors to South Korea, but it should be. The city’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with Bulguksa Temple being just one of the many magical places that give travelers a better sense of Korean history.
50. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Busan
Built in 1376, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan is a beautiful Buddhist temple situated right on the coast with breathtaking views of the East Sea. The best time to visit this coastal temple is during the summertime when the weather is hot and the sun is shining. However, the temple is open year round so you could explore when the temperatures are chilly.
Walking and exploring the majestic grounds is worth the trip out to the far-east area of Busan. Marvel at the large golden Buddha statues while the waves crash against the rocky shores. Make sure you throw a coin over the bridge. If it lands into the ceramic bowl, it is said to bring you much luck and prosperity.