There are thousands of temples in Asia and it can be hard to figure out which ones to see, so here are the 40 best temples in Asia to narrow it down for you.
Countries like Japan, Thailand, and India have so many great temples that a lot on this list are from those countries.
Personally, I lived in Thailand for 3 years and spent several months travelling in Japan and several months in India, and can say for sure they have some of the best temples in Asia.
Temples In Asia Visited by Backpackingman
These are the temples in Asia that have been personally visited by Backpackingman.
Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
Out of all the temples in Asia mentioned here, it could be that Angkor Wat all by itself conjures up the feeling of the ancient temple atmosphere perfectly. I visited in 2003 and it surpassed all my expectations as I explored the area over a period of 3 days.
The whole area is a massive complex of Hindu temples and Buddhist temples and is in fact the largest religious complex you can see anywhere and it’s Angkor Wat that is the most impressive of them all.
Angkor Wat is easily one of the best temples in southeast Asia, and Asia overall.
Angkor Wat is easily one of the best temples in southeast Asia.
Borobudur Temple (Indonesia)
Borobudur is not only one of the oldest temples in the world but is also the largest Buddhist temple. It’s truly stunning to see.
It dates to the 9th century and is 9 storeys high with 504 Buddha statues located on it! It’s located near the city of Yogyakarta on Java island.
If you truly have an interest in ancient temples then Borobudur is a must-visit out of all the temples in Asia.
Top tip: Get there early in the morning to see the sunrise from atop the temple, or in the evening for sunset.
Beautiful is an oft-overused word when describing some things, but in this case, it rings true. Kinkaku-ji is truly a beautiful temple and one of the most photographed temples in Japan.
The golden-coloured outside reflects into the large pond that it is situated by and it’s easy to see why this is one of the great Zen Buddhist temples in the country.
It was opened in 1955 and is one of the most popular places to visit in Kyoto.
Wat Phra Kaew (Thailand)
Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is easily one of the best temples in Thailand. It’s located in the capital Bangkok.
I have visited this temple several times during my time living and travelling in the country and even though it can be busy with tourists, it’s still an impressive place to be.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (Thailand)
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is located near the top of a mountain near the historic city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.
I lived for 6 months in Chiang Mai and have seen all the temples in the area and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is my favourite as far as the location goes. It’s located up on a mountain with epic views all around.
Sensō-ji is the oldest temple in Tokyo and the most impressive temple to see in the city. Its located in the Asakusa district and is always buzzing with activity.
There’s great energy you can feel from the place as it’s so ancient and significant to the city. The original temple on the site date to 645 AD although much has been added and restored over the centuries.
Tokyo’s largest festival is held there, the Sanja Matsuri. It’s easily one of the best temples in Asia to visit.
Ayutthaya Temples (Thailand)
The ancient city of Ayutthaya in Thailand has some of the country’s best historic temples and is a great day trip from Bangkok. Ayutthaya dates to 1351 when it was founded by the king of that time, although the site is most definitely older than that
There are many temples there with the main temples in Ayutthaya to see being Wat Chai Watthanaram, Wat Phra Mahathat, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, and more.
Wat Chedi Luang (Thailand)
Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is the perfect temple city as it houses numerous temples all over, especially in the old town area. Wat Chedi Luang is the most important of these temples and the spiritual heart of the city.
The oldest part of the temple is partially in ruins and dates to 1441. The other buildings that surround Chedi Luang in the compound are also atmospheric to see and if you visit during a special time of year when a festival is held there it truly is one of the most spiritual places to visit in Thailand.
As mentioned before, I lived in Chiang Mai for 6 months and paid a visit to Wat Chedi Luang roughly once per week.
Mahabodhi Temple (India)
The Mahabodhi Temple Complex was my favourite temple location in all of India and is also one of the most ancient temples in the country, although a lot of what you see now is restoration work.
The temple is built next to an ancient bodhi tree which is said to be part of the tree that Buddha gained enlightenment under.
It’s an important pilgrimage site for all Buddhists and you will see many meditating in the small park in the area, especially if there is a special event happening.
Mahabodhi Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ranakpur Temple (India)
Ranakpur Temple is one of the best temples in India, dating to 1437 CE.
It’s located in Rajasthan state and is an important Jain temple. The main temple in the complex is the Chaturmukha temple, which was built with white marble, and other temples in the complex are also good to see.
If you are visiting Rajasthan and have an interest in temples then this is a must-visit.
Temple of Heaven (China)
The Temple of Heaven is one of the most popular temples in Beijing to see, although for me personally, it was my second favourite temple in the city (my favourite is mentioned further down the article).
It’s part of a group of religious buildings from imperial times. The emperors would visit each year to pray to Heaven for a good harvest.
As it’s so popular it often has a lot of crowds in the area so don’t expect a peaceful, spiritual temple to visit.
Temples of Koyasan (Japan)
Mount Koya in Japan is a sacred mountain, and in the town of Koyasan, there is a huge temple complex that has some of the best temples in the country.
This is my favourite temple area in all of Japan, in part because it’s less crowded than some of the other temples, like Kyoto, which makes it a more peaceful and spiritual place to visit.
The massive graveyard that surrounds the area is one of the most serene places to visit in Japan, and is the largest graveyard in the country, with many important historical characters buried there.
It’s also possible to stay at a temple in Koyasan for the night when there.
Ginkakuji Temple, also known as the “Silver Pavillion” is not as popular as Kinkaku-ji (mentioned earlier) but for that reason is more peaceful to visit.
It’s a Zen temple in the rolling mountains east of Kyoto and dates to the late 15th-century. Although you should definitely visit Kinkaku-ji, a visit to Ginkakuji is worth the effort.
Wat Arun (Thailand)
Wat Arun, also known as the “Temple of Dawn” is an iconic sight on the main river of Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River, and is a Buddhist temple that dates back to the 17th century.
It’s easy to visit it as it’s by the river and near the old city, so you could see Wat Phra Kaew (mentioned earlier), and then head over by boat to Wat Arun after. If you’re in the area around sunset, go to the other side of the river to take great evening photos of it.
Prambanan Temple (Indonesia)
After Borobudur, the Prambanan Temple Compound is the second-best of the temples in Indonesia that I saw (the temples in Bali being the third-best).
It’s an ancient Hindu Temple Compound, and also the largest, that dates to 850 AD, and is dedicated to Shiva. It’s a UNESCO Site and the main temples are well-preserved.
It’s also located in Java, like Borobudur, and you can easily stay in Yogyakarta and visit from there. One of the best ancient Hindu temples in Asia to see.
Kiyomizu-dera is one of the most visited temples in Japan and is located in the cultural capital of the country, Kyoto. It is my favourite temple in Kyoto that I went to, despite the crowds.
It dates to 778 AD, making it one of the oldest temples in Japan. Kiyomizu-dera means “Pure Water Temple” and was built near the Otowa Waterfall.
Its main claim to fame these days is the huge wooden terrace that overlooks the beautiful forest that it’s built around, which includes the famous cherry trees that Japan is known for.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous temples in Asia, and one of the most striking to visit.
Yakushi-ji stands as one of the oldest and finest Buddhist, and imperial, temples in Japan. It dates back to the 7th-century.
It’s located in the ancient imperial city of Nara, which also has many other temples to see.
Bangka Longshan Temple (Taiwan)
The Bangka Longshan Temple is located in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. It was built in 1738 and is basically a Chinese religious/folk temple for worshipping divine spirits and the Guanshiyin Buddha.
It’s the best temple I saw in Taiwan when there.
Tōdai-ji is also located in the ancient imperial city of Nara in Japan and is one of the most impressive temples in Asia, partly because of its size and beauty of it, but also because it is one of the world’s largest wooden buildings (it used to be the largest).
It dates to the 8th-century AD and is, along with other temples in Nara and Kyoto, a must-visit for temple lovers. This is my favourite temple in Nara.
Temple of the Tooth (Sri Lanka)
Temple of the Tooth is a Buddhist temple located in the best city in Sri Lanka for temples, Kandy.
It’s specifically situated in the old royal palace area by the side of scenic Kandy Lake and dates to the 16th-century.
Along with the Dambulla Cave Temple (see below) it’s a must-visit for temple lovers visiting Sri Lanka.
Dambulla Cave Temple (Sri Lanka)
Although there are plenty of Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka, the Dambulla Cave Temple was my favourite. Partly due to its epic location on a rocky mountain with great views, but mainly because it’s built into the side of a cliff into a natural cave complex.
There are five caves to explore, and inside the caves, you will see ancient Buddhist art painted on the walls and Buddhist stupas and figures of Buddha.
It’s been an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists for around 2000 years!
Of the temples in Asia to see, this one is truly quite unique.
Khajuraho Temples (India)
The Khajuraho Temples in India are one of the most unique temples in Asia to visit as they are famous for the erotic stone sculptures that line the outside of the temples. These sculptures, it is said, helped the bachelor boys of the region learn about the worldly ways of sex, etc.
They are the most “sexy temples” I have visited!
They are a mix of Hindu and Jain temples and mostly date to the 9th-11th-centuries AD and are located in Madhya Pradesh state in India.
Kek Lok Si Temple (Malaysia)
Kek Lok Si Temple is the main temple to visit on the historic island of Penang in Malaysia.
It’s a Buddhist temple complex, and in terms of age compared with other temples in Asia on this list, is relatively new, having been built from the late 19th-century to the early 20th-century.
The seven-story pagoda is the most impressive part of the complex. Although I enjoyed visiting other temples in Penang, including some Hindu ones, the Kek Lok Si Temple was the most fascinating to see.
Lama Temple (China)
The Lama Temple in Beijing is the best temple I visited in the city. It’s also known as Yonghe Temple and is an important Tibetan Buddhist temple to visit in China.
It’s also the tallest Buddhist temple in the country and it dates to the late 17th-century.
Today it is also a museum for Tibetan Buddhism in the country but is still used as a place for prayer as well. It’s the most peaceful temple I saw in Beijing.
Batu Caves Temple (Malaysia)
Ah, Batu Caves! Out of all the temples in Asia, this was a real fun one to visit as it involves walking up a long flight of stairs to enter a cave on the side of a cliff where there is a Hindu temple area.
This is a very important Hindu shrine place to go to and is easily visited from Kuala Lumpur by train as it’s only around 30-minutes away.
It’s a relatively new temple area dating to the 19th-century.
Boudhanath Stupa (Nepal)
Technically this is a large Buddhist stupa, but it’s so stunning and a natural part of the Skyline in Khatmandu, that IU had to add it to the list here.
The huge mandala is one of the best in the world for its size and it spreads peace out in all directions around it. It’s also known for the large eyes painted on it.
It was built in the 14th-century and is a UNESCO Site. A must-visit if you are in Nepal.
Besakih Great Temple in Bali (Indonesia)
Bali is a majority Hindu island in Indonesia and it can be seen in its numerous Hindu temples scattered around the island.
One of the most famous of these temples is the Besakih Great Temple, which is the largest and most important of all the temples in Balinese Hinduism.
If in Bali, then this is definitely the main temple area to visit when there.
Luang Prabang Temples (Laos)
Just as Chiang Mai in Thailand, just across the border from Laos, is the “city of temples” in Thailand, Luang Prabang is the “city of temples” in Laos. It’s like a mini version of Chiang Mai.
There are plenty of beautiful temples to see there with some of the best being Vat Xieng Thong, Vat Sensoukharam, and Vat Haw Pha Bang.
It’s also easy to do a weekend trip there from Thailand (which is what I did) as there are plenty of budget flights from Bangkok to Luang Prabang. If you want to see a lot of temples in Asia packed into a small area then this is the place, along with Chiang Mai and Kyoto.
Sri Mariamman Temple (Singapore)
Sri Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore which is its claim to fame in the country. The original structure dated to 1827 but has had several renovations since.
Although not massive in size, this is my favourite temple in Singapore, having visited the city around a dozen times.
Temples In Asia To Visit
These are the temples in Asia not visited by Backpackingman but have researched a lot about them.
All photos are stock photos as I have not visited.
Temple of Bacchus (Lebanon)
Out of all the temples in Asia I still have to visit, the Temple of Bacchus in the historic site of Baalbek in Lebanon is number one on the list.
It’s one of the best examples of Imperial Roman Architecture and was originally built in the 2nd-3rd-centuries AD.
Although Lebanon is in the “Middle East”, the Middle East is actually a part of the Asian continent, so I’m adding it here.
Jokhang Temple (Tibet)
Jokhang Temple is a Tibetan Buddhist temple in Lhasa, Tibet, and is regarded as the most sacred temple in Tibet amongst Tibetans, and is the spiritual heart of Lhasa.
The oldest part of the complex dates to 652 A.D. and a lot of things have happened to it during its history.
I have always wanted to visit Tibet, and when I do, this temple is on my list of places to visit.
Bulguksa (South Korea)
South Korea is another country I seriously want to get to someday and it has some very impressive temples in Asia to see, from what I have researched about the history in the country.
The temples are made mostly from wood and supported by stone terraces. Bulguksa temple is the main temple and is of the Jogye Order, part of Buddhism in Korea.
Sri Harmandir Sahib (India)
Sri Harmandir Sahib, also known as the “Golden Temple” is a famous temple in the city of Amritsar in northwest India. It’s the most important spiritual site of Sikhism.
Although I spent several months travelling around India and certainly saw a lot during that time, it’s such a huge country to visit that I didn’t get around to seeing everything, including a few temples, like the Golden Temple.
It is one of the most famous temples in Asia to see.
Paro Taktsang (Bhutan)
Paro Taktsang is a Buddhist temple complex also known as the “Tiger’s Nest” and is epically located on the side of a cliff. It’s famous as being the site where an 8th-century Buddhist master meditated.
If you at any guides for Bhutan the image of this complex is one of the most famous images of the country you will see. Ever since visiting Nepal in 2001 and learning of this place from there, I have wanted to visit.
Wat Rong Khun (Thailand)
I’m ashamed to say that in my 3 years living in Thailand and having visited the country many times since 1998, I never made it to Chiang Rai to see Wat Rong Khun, also known as the “White Temple.”
This is one of the newest temples in Asia on this list as it was completed in 1997. It is technically an art exhibit made in the style of a temple, but it still looks like a temple and therefore worth taking a look at.
You can see from the photo how beautiful it is.
Temples In Bagan (Myanmar)
One of the few countries that I have not made it to in Asia, is Myanmar. That was partly due to the strong military rule that made it tricky for foreigners to visit when I first started exploring southeast Asia in the late 90s, and later on, I headed to other places.
But the country is now much more open to visitors and it has one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the world which is the temples in Bagan.
There are so many temples in the area to explore and many of them date back to the 11th-13th-centuries, although some go back even further than that. This is one of the oldest ancient sites in the country.
The Ananda Temple is one of the best to visit from what I understand from my research on the area.
As far as temples in Asia go, this is truly an epic site to visit.
Konark Sun Temple (India)
Konark Temple is located in Odisha in India, one of the few states in the country I have sadly not been to, as it has a lot of historical places there.
The temple is dedicated to the Sun God (hence the name) representing a huge chariot. It dates to the 13th-century.
This is one of the most famous temples in India. One day I will get there!
Pha That Luang (Laos)
As mentioned earlier, I have visited the temples in Luang Prabang but didn’t make it to the capital of Laos, Vientiane.
It’s in Vientiane that Pha That Luang Temple is located. It’s a beautiful gold-coated Buddhist stupa and the original construction goes all the way back to the 3rd-century AD, although most of what you see today is reconstruction over the years since.
Shwedagon is the most important and sacred of all the Buddhist stupas in Myanmar. It’s located in the capital Yangon, and going by the photo is a stunning place to visit as a sideline if in the country to see the Bagan Temples.
It also has an epic history, with the original construction being said to date back 2600 years! However, most of what is seen today is reconstruction over the years.
Last, but not least, is the Buddhist temple of Kōtoku-in located in the city of Kamakura with its main claim to fame being the massive Great Buddha of Kamakura which is a copper statue of Buddha.
The statue was made in the 13th-century and although many buildings that covered the statue have been destroyed over the centuries, the statue still remains fine.
On my next trip to Japan, I shall definitely visit it as it’s one of the more famous temples in Asia to see.
Temples in Asia
Those are some of the most impressive and famous temples in Asia that you can visit.
One notable exception that some people might point out is the omission of the Lotus Temple in Delhi, India. That’s simply because it’s a much more modern temple, having been built in 1986, whereas the main focus is on older historic temples in Asia.
For more travel in Asia take a look at my guides to Asia.
I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.
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