Southeast Asia abounds with distinctive temples found only in this corner of the world! From the epic ruins of the Khmer Empire and the mighty, glittery Shwedagon Pagoda the variety and majesty of these holy sites are astounding. Here’s our guide to the top 10 most beautiful temples in Southeast Asia.
1. Bagan – Burma
Once known as the seat of the Pagan Kingdom from the 9th to the 13th Century, these dusty plains are studded with hundreds of pagodas, temples and monasteries. An area that Marco Polo called one of the most beautiful sights in the world, this ancient place simply should not be missed, as its one of the most jaw dropping panoramas in South East Asia. Wether observed from horse drawn carriage, crusing around on an e-bike or soaring above in a hot air balloon, Bagn simply captivates any traveller and their imagination.
2. Angkor Wat Complex– Cambodia
Angkor Wat was the mighty seat of the Khmer Empire, and is an incredible feat of engineering, constructed in the 12th Centruty. The complex is quite immense and many temples surround the area as this was a thriving city. Each temple has different materials and design but are all thriving examples of Khemer architecture. Just an hour outside Siem Reap, these temples are the most famous of the region for their splendour and are a must stop on any tour of the most beautiful tmples of South East Asia.
3. Ayutthaya Historical Park – Thailand
The incredible capital of the Siamese Kingdom was founded in 1350 and stood for over 300 years! Since it’s destruction by the Burmese army in 1767, its remains are mere shells but still eminate the grandeur of the mighty kingdom. Explore this majestic park located in the old city of Ayutthaya This park is located inside the old city Ayutthaya, so take a wander through this sacked city explore its impressive architecture and distinctive carvings, before returning to Bangkok by boat.
4. Yogyakarta – Indonesia
The heast and sould of Javanese fine art and heritage, Yogyakarta Special Region of Indonesia is a must see. Located inside in region is Borobudur, a Buddhist Temple in an Islamic country and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this site is monumentous. A testament of tradition in a modern hub, the temple of Borobudur simply breathtaking! Yogyakarta is a must for any vaoyageur on a temple tour.
5. Shwedagon Pagoda – Burma
The Golden Pagoda and most scared Buddhist site in Burma, is the incredible Shwedagon Pagoda. Atop a hill, this scared golden spire is studded with precious stones atop a base of solid gold bricks. Glittering on any day, this incredible temple is a wonder for the eyes and overlooks the bustling city of Yangon. Take a stroll around it at sunset to see it in the charm of evening light and glittering in the darkness of nightfall, chatting with local monks and moving aside for the sweeping ladies mopping up its pristine stone floor.
6. Luang Prabang – Laos
Discover the temple dotted city of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 1300 years of history and tons of unique temples. Demonstrating the distinct architecture of Laos, this holy city has beautiful and bright mosaic and gold leafed temples, a royal palace and tombs. Whether exploring by foot or bicycle, the sights of Luang Prabang are a must, especially the glittering glass mosaics and ornate carvings of Wat Xiengthong.
7. Chiang Mai – Thailand
The capital of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is often considered the centre of Thai culture and heritage. This charming medieval fort town has expanded significantly. But within the walls of the old town lies several beautiful glittering temples, but the most distinctive and well known is up on the mountain top overlooking the city, the glorious Doi Suthep. This immense golden pagoda is a must during monk ceremony at sunset, reflecting the gorgeous rays of the sun to the tune of the peaceful rituals.
8. Wat Pho – Bangkok
Located close to the Royal Palace, Wat Pho is best known as the home of the immense reclining Buddha. This royal monastery is also home to a tradition Thai massage school, where the ancient art of medicine is passed on to new generations. Despite being very active, Wat Pho is easily accessed from the banks of the Chao Phraya river and one can get lost meandering around its beautiful, diverse and ornately decorated pagodas and buildings.
9. My Son – Vietnam
Just outside of Hoi An lies the impressive remainders of the once great Champa Kingdom. A people of coastal Vietnam, their influence spread in southeast Asia and My Son Sanctuary is one of the few remainders of their glory. Absorbed by the Vietnamese, these ruins stand strong, jutting out of the jungle covered valley close to the village of Duy Phu. These structures are a must see for a glance of Hinduism in Vietnam and a standing reminder of one of the forgotten kingdoms of the region.
10. Kek Lok Si – Malaysia
Kek Lok Si or the Temple of Supreme Bliss, is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. A relatively younger temple, it’s still totally stunning, especailly during Chinese New Year, when decorated with hundreds of red lanterns. It’s most famous sight is the Pagoda of Rama VI, which boasts over 10,000 Buddha statues! Well worth the visit, this beautiful temple is located close to the bright city of Penang.
Discover the diversity and beauty of these famous temples on a customized trip with Buffalo Tours! Explore the complex Angkor Wat on our Tuk Tuk and Temples tour, or the majesty of the hidden north of Thailand on our Isaan Heritage tour, or divulging in the delicacies of Laotian food on our Luang Prabang Cuisine and Culture tour.