10 Best Buddhist Temples to Visit in the World

Mahabodhi Temple image

With a large and composite history of more than 2,500 years, Buddhism finds itself to be among the major religions of the world today. Something that originally began in the Indian subcontinent, has today taken significant roots in several parts of the world, across oceans and continents. With their own traditions, beliefs and sects, they all worship the Buddha, having erected some fascinating temples and shrines in his name.

Today these pilgrimage sites form some of the best places to visit and have found a place on the Buddhist Circuit Tour for the devotees. Spanning across the countries of India, Nepal, Thailand, and many more, we bring to you some of the best Buddhist Temples in the world that you can visit on a religious tourism expedition. These temples are not only sites of worship and praise but are also considered holy for housing the relics of the Buddha as well. Alluring the devotees with their significance, these Buddhist Temples and pilgrimage sites are also some of the best architectural marvels you will ever see! Read along to find out more about some of the must visit Buddhist pilgrimage destinations across the world and make your Buddhist Circuit Tour an even more enchanting experience.

  • Wat Arun, Thailand
  • Mahabodhi Temple, India
  • Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar
  • Pha That Luang, Laos
  • Jokhang Temple, Tibet
  • Boudhanath Stupa, Nepal
  • Borobudur Temple, Indonesia
  • Todaiji Temple, Japan
  • Wat Benchamabophit, Thailand
  • Kek Lok Si Temple, Malaysia

Wat Arun, Thailand

Wat Arun, Thailand image

Wat Arun, also known as Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in the world. With the name of the temple inspired by the Hindu God Aruna, Wat Arun is known as the “Temple of Dawn' and is among the best places to explore in Bangkok, Thailand, along with forming the best Buddhist tourist destinations in the world. The country, along with a spread of Buddhism also saw a spread of Hinduism due to its rulers, making the people hold many Hindu deities in high reverence. Sitting along the beautiful river of Chao Phraya, Wat Arun reflects itself in its waters and is one of the most important temples that represent the Theravada sect of Buddhism.

Forming an important aspect of Buddhist tourism in Bangkok, the temple is considered a revered one among the Thai people. The current temple of Wat Arun is built at the site of an already existing temple, which once saw abandonment but was later restored to its present day glory due to the works of different rulers. The colourful spires and the imposing prang structure of the temple makes it one of the most beautiful Buddhist pilgrimage sites, a contribution by King Rama II and Rama III of the Kingdom of Rattanakosin and has become one of must visit places in Thailand. Adorned with a marbled courtyard, at the temple you can also spot several sculptures of the Buddha as well, creating a serene and holy atmosphere all around.

Timing : 08:00 AM to 06:00 PM

Mahabodhi Temple, India

mahabodhi image

The Mahabodhi Temple in India's Bodh Gaya is easily among the most famous Buddhist temples in the world, and it is due to the events that took place at the site centuries ago. It is within the temple complex, while sitting under the Bodhi Tree, that the Buddha attained enlightenment, making it one of the best places to visit on a Buddhist Circuit Tour. Given its importance in Buddhism, this pilgrimage site sees devotees visiting the temple from across the globe, and also forms a World Heritage Site under UNESCO.

The Mahabodhi Temple Complex houses the Bodhi Tree, along with the main temple, a vajrasana, that marks the site of the Buddha's enlightenment, as well as six other sites related to the magnificent event, which are further enveloped by votive stupas. Built during the reign of Emperor Ashoka from the Mauryan Empire, it is one of the first temples built by him among many more to come. Forming an integral part of religious tourism for the followers of Buddhism, Mahabodhi Temple in India is a must visit pilgrimage destination. Not only known for its importance in Buddhism, the temple is also an important structure for history. Built entirely in brick, the temple is one of the best brick structures that have survived till date, and is also appreciated for its beautiful and intricate carvings all over.

Timing : 05:00 AM to 09:00 PM

Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar  image

Also known as the Shwedagon Zedi Daw, the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar is among the world's most famous temples dedicated to the Buddha and means the “The Great Golden Mountain Stupa”. One of the most captivating features of this pagoda is its dome that is plated with gold and crowned by a stupa studded with thousands of diamonds, rubies, and other precious stones, sitting reflecting the rays of the setting sun. With such magnificent glory and aesthetics that please the eyes, Shwedagon is lovingly called “The Crown of Burma”, and one can see why.

What makes the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar among the important must-visit destinations on the Buddhist Circuit tour is the fact that it is believed to be one of the oldest pagodas in the world and is said to have been in existence since many centuries. Along with this, according to local records dating back to the 14th century, it is believed that the pagoda contains within itself the relics of the Buddha, which include eight of his hair strands, a piece of the robe believed to belong to Kassapa Buddha, a water filter attributed to Konagamana Buddha, and the staff of Kakusandha Buddha. These different Buddhas are part of the twenty-nine Buddhas worshiped by the devotees practising the Theravada tradition of Buddhism.

Timing : 04:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Pha That Luang, Laos

Pha That Luang, Laos image

Believed to house the relics of the Buddha, specifically his breast bone, the Pha That Luang in Laos is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in the world. Located in its capital city of Vientiane, it is a huge stupa that sits covered in real gold and is also referred to as “The Great Stupa” by the people. Among the most important structures of Buddhism, Pha That Luang forms an essential part of religious tourism for Buddhists all over the world.

According to the legend that surrounds the Stupa, it is said that monks from the Empire of Ashoka arrived in Vientiane around the 3rd century BCE from India, when they carried the relic of the Buddha with them. On reaching here, they are said to have erected a Stupa for said relic. Though Pha That Luang was built much later in time, it is believed to have been made on the site of the ruins of the original, sacred stupa. The current stupa of Pha That Luang was constructed in 1566, when the then ruler of the region, King Setthathirath made the city the new capital of his kingdom, though it was later that invading forces would vandalise and then abandon the stupa, it would be discovered in the 1930s. Listed under the tentative list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, Pha That Luang in Laos is among the most sacred places to visit on a tourism expedition related to the Buddha.

Timing : 08:00 AM to 12:00 PM; 01:00 PM to 04:00 PM

Jokhang Temple, Tibet

Jokhang Temple, Tibet image

The oldest Buddhist Temple that exists in Lhasa, in Tibet, the Jokhang Temple is a place that you must visit and include on a Buddhist circuit tour. Having been in existence for more than 1,300 years, Lhasa's Jokhang Temple is an important pilgrimage site for the followers of Buddhism in the region of Tibet. Among the most famous Buddhist temples in the world, Jokhang Temple falls under UNESCO's World Heritage Sites and attracts thousands of devotees every year, who come to the temple to offer prayers and perform circumambulations of the temple.

According to a legend related to the temple, it was when the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo married the Nepalese Princess Bhrikuti that she brought the state of Jowo Mekyo Dorje, a form of eight year old Buddha with her as part of her dowry. The temple was later built and the statue of the Buddha placed inside, with the temple made to face in the direction of the west, facing the country of Nepal. Though the current temple as it stands today is the work of renovations done over a period of many years. Within the temple complex, you can see the statue of Guru Padmasambhava, a revered Buddhist scholar who is known for the spread of Tantric Buddhism in the region, statue of the Maitreya Bodhisattva, or the Future Buddha, and chapels and prayer halls dedicated to along with murals that tell the story of Buddhism.

Timing : 09:00 AM to 06:00 PM

Boudhanath Stupa, Nepal

 Boudhanath Stupa, Nepal image

The largest of the stupas in Nepal, Boudanath Stupa is located in the capital city of Kathmandu. Forming an important part of religious tourism in the region, Boudanath Stupa is among the popular Buddhist pilgrimage sites for the devotees in the region of Nepal and Tibet. The stupa is also lovingly called “Chorten Chenpo”, meaning the "Great Tower", or "Great Stupa" and is one of the most famous Buddhist tourist destinations in the world. One of the best places to visit in the world for an enchanting experience of Buddhist tourism, Boudanath Stupa is also said to house a piece of bone from the skull of the Buddha as his relic.

According to a legend around the temple, Boudanath Stupa is said to have been built by the Tibetan King, Songsten Gampo after he converted to Buddhism around 600 CE, who chose to construct it as a form of penance. It was later in the 14th century that the stupa would see destruction at the hands of invaders leading to ruins. The current stupa that stands at the site has therefore been built in recent times. The stupa in its design itself reminds us of Buddha's teachings towards enlightenment, with the different parts of the stupa representing different elements of the universe, and the 13 levels of the spire means to symbolise the 13 stages that one must pass through before reaching the stage of enlightenment.

Timing : Open 24 hours

Borobudur Temple, Indonesia

Borobudur Temple, Indonesia image

Indonesia's Borobudur Temple is one of the best places to visit in the country and forms one of the best pilgrimage sites on a Buddhist circuit tour. Built between the 8th and 9th centuries CE, the temple is among the most famous Buddhist temples in the world. Located in Indonesia's Java Island, the temple is also known to be the largest Buddhist monument in the entire world.

Made during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty that ruled the region, the main structure of the temple is a three-tiered stupa built around a hill, with each of its levels representing the different stages of enlightenment. In Buddhism, it is believed that the universe is divided into three realms, namely, Kamadhatu, Rupadhatu, and Arupadhatu, where we are tied by our desires, where we abandon our desires but are still associated with them, and the one where we neither desire anything nor are associated with anything. At the temple you can also view a total of 72 openwork stupas and numerous statues of the Buddha all along. Within the temple complex exists a total of three monuments, such as the Borobudur Temple, as well two other temples, which are the Mendut Temple, and the Pawon Temple. During the festival of Waisak Day, these temples take the centre stage for the celebration of birth, enlightenment, and the death of the Buddha, making it one of the best places to visit.

Timing : 06:30 AM to 04:30 PM

Todaiji Temple, Japan

Todaiji Temple, Japan image

Falling under UNESCO's World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara, Todaiji Temple in Japan is among the most famous Buddhist temples in the world. The grandeur and craftsmanship of the temple makes it so, that even today it stands to be among the largest wooden structures in the entire world! Sitting within the borders of the Nara Park, the Todaiji Temple is one of the best places to visit for a pilgrimage of Buddhist tourism.

Constructed in 752 CE, the temple was built as the head temple among all other Buddhist temples of Japan, and till today remains so for the Kegon sect of Buddhism, one of the 6 Buddhist traditions in Nara Buddhism. Within the temple's Daibutsu-Den, or "The Great Buddha Hall", one of the largest bronze statues of the seated Vairocana, or the Roshana Buddha measuring up to 15 metres in height, surrounded by two Bodhisattvas. Even though the hall had been built centuries ago, the original structure saw damage due to fire, with the present hall being a result of restorations that date back to 1709. One of the best times to visit the temple is during the occasion of Shuni-e held at another prayer hall of the temple known as the Nigatsu-do. It is during this time that hordes of people from all over the world come to the temple to worship the deity and offer their prayers making it one of the best Buddhist tourist destinations in the world.

Timing : 07:30 AM to 05:30 PM (April to October); 08:00 AM to 05:00 PM (November to March)

Wat Benchamabophit, Thailand

Wat Benchamabophit, Thailand  image

Thailand is home to some of the best Buddhist pilgrimage sites with the Wat Benchamabophit Temple forming the list of the world's most famous Buddhist temples to ever exist. Also known as Wat Ben, the temple's central prayer hall or the “Ubosot” is built using the carrara marble from Italy, making the temple known as the “Marble Temple” as well. Located in Thailand's capital city of Bangkok, the temple not only is an important part of Buddhist tourism but is also one of the best places to visit during Thailand tourism.

The temple was built by Chulalongkorn the Great, also known as Rama V, with the present structure dating back to 1899. Constructed in a mix of classical style of Thai's temple architecture along with a European influence, Wat Ben houses a giant golden statue of the Buddha. The temple also has stained glass windows with Thai motifs and is unlike any other temples seen in the country. Within the temple complex, there are 52 statues of the Buddha in different settings along with a tree that is an offspring of the original Bodhi Tree from Bodhgaya, under which the Buddha attained enlightenment centuries ago, making the temple an even holier pilgrimage site for Buddhists.

Timing : 06:00 AM to 06:00 PM

Kek Lok Si Temple, Malaysia

Kek Lok Si Temple, Malaysia image

Making the list of the must visit destinations on the Buddhist Circuit Tour, Kek Lok Si Temple in Malaysia is a favoured one. Also referred to as the Ban Pho Tar, or “Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas”, Kek Lok Si Pagoda forms one of the largest Buddhist Temples in the world and is the largest Buddhist Temple in all of Malaysia. The temple sees a blend of Chinese culture as well as the teachings of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism.

What makes Malaysia's Kek Lok Si Temple among the most famous temples in the world is its seven-storey pagoda and a tall, bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy worshipped in the region. Located atop a hill, the temple overlooks the region of Air Itam, and can be reached using an inclined lift that will take you to the top of the hill to view the temple. With the temple's structure built between 1890 and 1905, Kek Lok Si is dotted with millions of images of the Buddha along with intricate carvings, beautiful sculptures and murals all over the temple and within. Kek Lok Si also houses many prayer halls, bell towers, and pagodas, with the prominent ones being the Avalokitesvara Hall, the Amitabha Buddha Pagoda, and the Great Hall of the temple. The best time to visit the temple is during the Chinese New Year when the temple is at its best and sees devotees visiting it from across the globe.

Timing : 08:30 AM to 05:30 PM

With numerous pagoda, temples, and stupas to visit, there is an abundance of Buddhist pilgrimage sites for you to explore as a devotee. Not just for devotees, you can also visit these Buddhist temples when you wish to discover peace and serenity. Visit these temples during the time of festivities and get to explore the best of your religious tourism travel. Visiting these Buddhist shrines and temples will make you understand the reasons for them being some of the best Buddhist Temples in the world even today. Explore the pilgrimage sites across countries and witness their beauty and serenity for yourself.

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