Whether you’re seeking spiritual nirvana or just somewhere amazing to visit on your next romantic getaway, we’ve found seven Asian temples you need to see. Hidden in tropical jungles and clinging to rocky cliffs, these sites will leave you seriously speechless.
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Shwedagon Pagoda – Yangon, Myanmar
At 2,600 years old, this golden girl is a must-see on any trip to Myanmar (formerly Burma). Luckily, travellers here are still relatively new and few, so you won’t be queuing up for hours for a glimpse of this majestic Buddhist temple.
Covered with hundreds of gold plates and with a stupa encrusted with 4,531 diamonds (including a 72-carat gem), Shwedagon is made even more dazzling at dusk when worshippers light hundreds of lanterns and the setting sun casts a warm glow.
The Hanging Monastery – Datong, China
This awe-inspiring temple clings to the side of Mt Hengshan and hangs more than 50 metres off the ground, off the west cliff of Jinxia Gorge – adventure-seekers, this sight is for you.
A bit of an architectural wonder, the Hanging Monastery has withstood the winds and storms of 1,400 years and is a shrine to not just one religion, but three: Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism.
Borobudur Temple – Java, Indonesia
You’ll really feel as if you’ve stepped back in time when you visit Indonesia’s Borobudur Temple. Surviving 1,200 years of natural and man-made disasters, the site holds the title as the world’s biggest Buddhist monument and is surrounded by almost endless jungle.
The structure represents the many layers of Buddhist theory, making the whole temple visually spectacular.
Paro Taktsang – Bhutan, Nepal
One of those places that seems too incredible to be real, Paro Taktsang (or Tiger’s Nest Monastery) clings to the side of a rugged cliff 3,120 metres above sea level. What draws travellers from around the world to this Buddhist temple isn’t just the stunning views, but its isolated location and folklore.
Only accessible by mountainous paths, Paro Taktsang is believed to have been the place where the Indian guru Padmasambhava introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. The really impressive part of the story? Legend has it that he was taken there on the back of a tigress –that’s adventure travel!
Meenakshi Amman Temple – Madurai, India
Considered the height of South Indian temple architecture, Madurai’s Meenakshi Amman Temple features 12 towering gopurams (ornate monumental towers at the entrance of a temple), each adorned with intricately designed Hindu gods, goddesses, demons and heroes.
Inside, you’ll be enchanted by vibrantly painted ceilings and walls. The Thousand Pillared Hall is also a definite must-see, housing a fascinating Art Museum.
Angkor Wat – Siem Reap, Cambodia
Arguably Cambodia’s most iconic attraction, Angkor Wat is undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous temples. And for good reason.
Sprawling across some 40,000 hectares, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site contains the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire (from the 9th to the 15th centuries). Needless to say, it’s a magnificent place to visit. Beautiful any time of day, Angkor Wat is utterly glorious at sunrise, so make the effort to get up early.
Zenkoji Temple – Nagano, Japan
As one of the most important and popular temples in Japan, Zenkoji is definitely worth adding to your list when. Dating back to the 7th century, the site stores the first Buddhist statue to have been brought into Japan, when the religion was first introduced in the 6th century. Yes, it’s quite an ancient site.
For an unforgettable experience, explore Zenkoji’s underground passage. Here, visitors can walk in complete darkness in search of the ‘key to paradise’ – it’s a travel experience you really won’t forget.
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Image credit: www.ancient-origins.net, www.discoveringindia.net/ and www.jnto.go.jp/