There are hundreds of enchanting ancient temples across Asia. Each of these temples has its unique design, colors, and shape. All are rich in history, important to the communities and the majority are open to the public.

If you’re wondering which temples to visit, I’ll show you seven mind-blowing ancient temples. Remember to follow the temple etiquette, cover your shoulders and knees.

1. Pura Ulun Danu Beratan, Bali

Bali has everything – beaches, delicious foods, volcanoes, rice fields and thousands of temples. Three of the must-visits temples are Tanah Lot, Tirta Empul or Holy Water Temple, Pura Besakih and Pura Ulun Danu Beratan. But if you must choose one, go to Pura Ulun Danu Beratan.

Located at Beratan Lake, over 3,900 feet (1,200 meters) above sea level, Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is dedicated to Ida Bhatari Dewi Danu, the goddess of the lake where it sits. It’s a Hindu temple with 11 tiers and four complexes built in the 17th century.

Note: Pura is a Balinese word for temple.

2. Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka

In existence for over 22 centuries, Dambulla Cave Temple is still an important temple for Sri Lankans. It has five sanctuaries (caves) with 157 Buddha statues and red, white and yellow colored Buddhist paintings covering the ceiling and walls. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is about 14 miles from the famous Sigiriya Lion Rock.

From far, you can see the golden stupa and the towering golden Buddha. To get to the cave temples, all visitors must climb a series of steep stairs. Once at the top, you are required to take off your shoes and leave them with an attendant before entering the temple.

3. Borobudur, Java

Located in East Java, Indonesia, Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist monument. It was built between AD780 and AD840 and resembles a mandala (wheel-shaped symbol of the cosmos), has nine levels and two million blocks of volcanic stones. It has a square base, five square terraces, and three circular terraces. At the top are 72 punctured stupas and 504 Buddha statues.

The best time to visit Borobudur is one hour before sunrise. You’ll need to climb over 100 stairs in the dark and just in time to catch the sunrise. See the sun rise over Kedu Valley, Mount Merapi, and Mount Merbabu while you capture the mystic stupas and Buddha statues.

4. Wat Pho, Bangkok

Wat Pho or Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok is one of the most important temples in Thailand. See the gold-leaf-covered reclining Buddha, the pagodas and stupas, carved panels, intricate artwork and Buddha images.

Built in the 16t century, Wat Pho is located within the Grand Palace.

5. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

For centuries, Angkor Wat was hidden away in the lush tropical forests of Cambodia. Some say Henri Mouhot, a French naturalist discovered it in 1860. The BBC mentioned Antonio da Madelena, a Portuguese Capuchin friar as the first Western visitor to Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat is a Hindu-Buddhist temple complex built in the 12th century featuring temples, reservoirs, terraces, pools, and palaces.

6. Bagan Temples, Bagan, Myanmar

Between 1057 and 1287, kings of Bagan built thousands of temples in Bagan, a town in central Myanmar. Most of these temples were destroyed, and the remaining ones are either in ruins or restored by UNESCO. The popular temples are: Sein Nyet Sister Temples, Thatbyinnyu Temple, Ananda Temple, Dhammayangyi Temple, Sulamani Temple, Gawdawpalin Temple, Thambula Temple, and Shwesandaw.

Ballooning over Bagan is one of the top things to do when visiting the Bagan Temples.

7. Sensoji Temple, Tokyo

Sensoji Temple, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. According to legend, two brothers found the statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy in Sumida River. The statue would reappear many times and eventually a temple was built at the site in 645.

Tokyo’s most visited temple, Sensoji temple complex consists of Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), Hozomon Gate and the temple’s main hall, Asakusa Shrine and a five-storied pagoda. Inside the complex is Nakamise-dori, one of Tokyo’s top streets for souvenir shopping. This often crowded street is the place to buy authentic Japanese fans, chopsticks and kimonos.

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Photos and article by Claudia Looi

Mentioned in this post
  1. Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
    Attraction in Kabupaten Tabanan Indonesia

    Danau Beratan
    Kabupaten Tabanan Indonesia
    (0368) 2033050
  2. Dambulla
    City in Sri Lanka

    Dambulla Sri Lanka
  3. Borobudur
    City in Indonesia

    Magelang Indonesia
  4. Wat Pho
    Attraction in Thailand

  5. Angkor Wat
    Attraction in Angkor Cambodia
  6. Old Bagan
    City in Myanmar

    Nyaung-U Myanmar
  7. Sensoji Temple
    Attraction in Asakusa, Tokyo Japan

    Asakusa, Tokyo Japan