Whether you are a religious person or not, temples and other religious structures are often some of the most interesting places to visit while you are traveling. Not only that they are beautiful and architecturally incredible, but they also can tell a story about the local history and culture.
Many thanks to our fellow traveling bloggers for participating in this post. We gave them difficult task to choose only 3 from so many wonderful temples from around the world! As we received the emails, we saw one by one our favourite temples were taken, for example La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Borobudur Temple in Java Island, Hagia Sofia Mosque in Istanbul, Kiyomizu Dera in Kyoto, and Chichen Itza in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. But even without the taken ones, we still have many more than just 3 top temples in our mind. It was pretty hard to narrow it down to only three, and I bet our contributors faced the same struggle.
So, let’s let our kind participants take you on a journey visiting their favourite temples in the world!
Jenna from This Is My Happiness:
- Borobudur: Huge Buddhist monument surrounded by mountains on Java, Indonesia.Â The relief panels are amazing, and the stupas are so unique.
- Kiyomizu-dera: Buddhist temple complex consisting of many distinct buildings.Â On a beautiful hillside in Kyoto, Japan.Â I really loved this place.
- Prambanan: Awesome Hindu temples on Java, Indonesia.Â The sculptures and carved temples are mesmerizing.Â Like Borobudur, it was abandoned for centuries, was discovered in the 19th century, and was looted.Â A really interesting story!
Earl from Wandering Earl:
- Golden Temple (Amritsar, India) – I visit the Golden Temple on every visit to India simply because it offers a vibrant, hospitable, stunning setting without the masses of travelers that flood some of India’s other sights. Add when the temple begins to glow at sunset, I just take a seat on the marble walkway, along with the hundreds of colorfully-dressed devotees of Sikhism, and enjoy an unforgettable atmosphere.
- Ananda Temple (Bagan, Myanmar) – The last thing I expected when walking through the simple-looking entrance of this ancient temple were four massive, brightly glowing, standing Buddha statues offering me a serene welcome. And it proved to be more than just a welcome as, two hours later, when I finally walked back out into the 110 degree Burmese heat, I felt as if I had just awoken from a deep and powerful meditation.
- Coba (Quintana Roo, Mexico) - Isolated and seldom-visited, the ancient Mayan city of Coba consists of an impressive collection of ruins, including various temples and the tallest Mayan pyramid on the Yucatan peninsula, all set in a dark, windy, mysterious section of Mexican jungle. Climb to the top of the pyramid and you’ll never want to come down – either because you’re mesmerized by the views or you’re too afraid to navigate the tiny steps!
Teresa from Art of Backpacking:
- Maccu Picchu: Cusco, Peru - After first visiting Cusco this past February, I was dissapointed to know I’d be leaving Peru without seeing these famous ruins. Towards the end of my backpacking journey, around April, I was so inspired to visit that I changed my flight just to go back when it reopened.
The pictures tell why it is such a popular visited tourist attraction. Especially the hike up Huayna Picchu as the sun rises and the cloud forest fades to reveal the perfect postcard photo. Who would have thought Incans would build such a beautiful civilization in such a peculiar place! It is a must see for anyone before mother nature messes with it again.
- Santa Catalina Monastery: Arequipa, Peru - The world renowned covent has such a rich history worth delving into. Located in the city center, the Monastery is still home to practicing nuns. Most of the complex is open to the public where one can learn how visualize how these high class Spanish nuns lived.
It’s easy to get lost observing the beautiful architecture and the spiritual ambiance of the religious enviornment. Brightly colored walls, high ceilings and blooming gardens invite tourists to escape into another world. Â It takes you back to a simpler time where clothes are handwashed and one lived simply with the clothes on their back and a bed; kind of like a backpacker!
- La Sagrada Familia: Barcelona, Spain - It’s pretty amazing when a beautiful structure such as La Sagrada Familia is actually a work in progress. Even more so, not yet to be completed until 2026. The religious masterpiece of Gaudi is the iconic symbol of Barcelona.
The infastructure itself can be seen all over the city; which makes it hard to miss. Â You are left simply in awe by the specific eye to detail, the church itself and of course, watching construction men work all day trying to get their job done. Who isn’t intrigued by such an intricate work of art that promises more? I’d love to stick around and visit again when the iconic church is complete.
Erica and Shaun from Over Yonderlust:
- Fushimi Inari (Kyoto, Japan) – The head shrine of Inari (the god of business) is easily recognizable from the thousands of orange and blacktorii lining the paths. Each of the torii were donated by a specific business so that they may be blessed with wealth.
- Stonehenge (UK) – Although we don’t have a complete understanding of Stonehenge, I believe it is an appropriate addition to the Religious/Spiritual Structure list. It is believed to have been a burial ground, however neo-pagans/druids/etc. currently visit it as a pilgrimage site.
- Segovia Cathedral (Segovia, Spain) – While you do have to make a small hike up some hills to the top of Segovia, the summit is well worth it. This awesome Roman Catholic Cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary is open for tours (a few Euros to enter) and has amazing Gothic architecture and art.
Ashley from No Onion Extra Pickles:
- The Duomo in Florence, Italy – There is nothing that prepares you for seeing the Duomo in person. Â I studied it for years in my art history courses, saw it on multiple times on travel shows (thank you for making me jealous, Rick Steves) and stared at it in guidebooks while planning our trip to Italy…yet I was still overwhelmed when I visited Florence. Â The exterior is far more beautiful than can ever be captured in a photo, and the way it subtly changes color as the day goes on is breathtaking. Â I couldn’t get enough of walking by the Duomo everyday. Â And I haven’t even discussed the interior! Â Taking the tour up to the top of the tower allowed me to get up close to the amazing frescoes high inside the dome, and made reading Brunelleschi’s Dome well worth it. Â I’ve never met another building that I was so fascinated by.
- Chichen Itza on the YucatÃ¡n Peninsula – The best decision we made when visiting was getting there early. Â Walking through the ruins before the crowds from CancÃºn arrive is the best way to experience Chichen Itza. Â While these are some of the most visited Mayan ruins, they are also in great condition and well worth the trip. Â El Castillo is the first structure you’ll see as you enter the site. Â It soars over its surroundings, and I was really surprised to learn that they didn’t stop allowing people to climb to the top until 2005! Â I imagine it got rather dangerous on crowded days. Â My favorite buildings in Chichen Itza were the “nunnery” and “church.” Â They’re small but full of beautiful detailed work. Â And to top off a wonderful visit, we were engulfed in swarms of lovely yellow butterflies as we walked through the ruins – imagine a butterfly house, minus the house – it was magical.
- The monastery in Montserrat, Spain – Taking the train from Barcelona, traveling to Montserrat was a well needed break from the city. Â Perched high up on a mountain top, the star of the show is the contrasts between the uniform monastery buildings and the incredible rock formations surrounding it…though the views are a very close second. Â We had a great afternoon, hiking all through the area around the monastery, visiting various sacred points. This is also a popular trip for Catholics pilgrims – they come to see the Black Madonna – and I cannot resist a pilgrimage site! Â Plus, the food in the cafeteria was pretty good, and we also bought some beautiful ceramics from the shop, for a fair price.
Sasha from On Ur Way Travel:
- Yonghe LamaÂ Temple (China) – The Yonghe LamaÂ Temple in Beijing is a Tibetan Buddhist Temple that was formally a royal residence.Â The complex itself is stunningly beautiful, so bright, colourful and inspiring, standing out from the dull grey that is most of Beijing! One of the best parts of this temple is the museum containing hundreds of fascinating Tibetan Buddhist relics.
- Kek Lok Si Temple (Malaysia) - Kek Lok Si Temple is a spectacular Chinese Buddhist temple perched above George Town, in Penang, Malaysia.Â The sheer size of this temple was amazing not to mention the crowning jewel, a 37m high bronze statue of the Goddess of Mercy.
- St Paul’s Cathedral (UK) – St Paul’s Cathedral stands tall, towering above the dull skyline along London’s Thames River.Â I was enchanted by the architectural details of the exterior but the moment I stepped inside was the moment I was blown away!Â After all this was the cathedral chosen as the place to wed Prince Charles and Princess Diana breaking the tradition of royal weddings being held at Westminster abbey.
Anil from foXnoMad:
- Hagia Sofia (Ayasofya) - Literally a blend of traditions, cultures, and religions the building is extraordinary. A mosque built on top of a Byzantine Church it reflects the mix of cultures in Istanbul.
- La Basilica Church, Quito, Ecuador – The climb up to the top of this church is an adventure in itself. Making your way across the church’s arches and climbing several ladders nearly 100 meters off the ground, the view from the top perch is well deserved, if not a bit scary!
- Akshardham Temple (New Delhi) - The exterior is completely carved with small and large depictions of animals, people, and deities. The attention to detail that was required to build such a magnificent site simply boggles the mind.
Cris & Felipe from No Place Like Here:
- Pushkar, India – the city itself is kind of a temple, is the only one in India dedicated to Lord Brahma. It lays in the Rajastan desert and the lake is sacred. There you can visit Brahma Temple and climb two steep mounts, and on the top of them find Savitri andÂ Saraswati Temples and the views up there are so beautiful. Just amazing special place.
- Crazy Hindu temple Dharamsala, India – we don’t know the name of this one, but it was so crazy, you enter through a lion’s mouth and exit by a crocodile’s mouth, the temple looks like a thematic park, you walk through a dark cave and it’s all so colourful… there are images of many many Gods inside and on the terrace, and the statues are also very different than anything else we saw in India.
- Notre Dame, Paris – We were already amazed of the church itself when we entered, when suddenly a girl starts singing, and the acoustic was just impressive. All we could was sit, listen and meditate. Unforgettable.
Nancie (LadyExpat) from Budget Travelers Sandbox:
- Shwezigon Zedi (Bagan, Myanmar) – On a sunny day the gold from the temple walls can be blinding. The temple has been restored to all its former glory. I was absolutely amazed at the amount of money the government here spends on restoration. This shot was taken from a hot air balloon early in the morning.
- Jiri-sanâ€™s Hwaeomsa Temple (Korea) – Hwaeomsa Temple is one of the most important temples in Korea, dating back to the Silla Dynasty (544). They offer an English Temple Stay Program that allows visitors to experience authentic temple life. Be warned, first call to temple is around 4am.! Magical!
- Pura Besakih, Baliâ€™s Mother Temple - Located high on the slopes of Mount Agung this is Baliâ€™s most important temple complex. We were lucky enough to visit on a day when there was a major festival going on. Worshippers were arriving by the thousands, which made for some great photo opportunities. One warning hereâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦be prepared for the touts. They are relentless.
Ryan and Dina from this blog:
- White washed blue domed churches ofÂ Santorini – If you come to Santorini or some other Greek island nearby, it’s easy to fall in love with these pretty little churches.Â Their whitewashed walls are perfectly integrated into the cities they serve, not dominating the skyline but just blending in with the decoration of a little blue dome on top. In many cases the interior can only fit ten or twenty people, and is always lavishly decorated with orthodox-style paintings of Madonna and the baby Jesus.
- Pura Luhur, Uluwatu, Bali - This Balinese Hindu temple was built in the 11th century on a stunning cliff, about 100 meters above the sea level. We fell in love with this temple and the setting for its stunning sunsets.
- The Temple ofÂ Zeus in Olympia, Greece – This ancient Greek temple was built on about the 5th century BC inÂ the large temple complex in Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games was celebrated. In this temple ruin, once the world famous 13 m tall ivory and gold plated bronze Statue of Zeus by Phidias, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, stood. My favourite moment was looking at the ruins, trying to imagine how it used to look long ago, with the glorious temple columns and statue of Zeus sitting in the middle. This temple showed us of how the origins of sports were religious, something that isn’t often remembered today.
Temple of Zeus in Olympia. Left: the ruin as we saw it. Middle: an illustration of what the temple might have looked in the past (Source: LÃ¼bke & Semrau, public domain). Right: Statue of Zeus in Hermitage Museum, based on the famous Phidias’ work (Photo by Sanne Smit, public domain).
- Ayngelina from Bacon is Magic: Angkor Wat, Cambodia – It should be at the top of everyoneâ€™s list. Other temples just havenâ€™t lived up to the overwhelming feeling of going there.
- Our forth choice: Kinkaku-Ji, Kyoto, Japan
- Danielle from Cracking the Egg: ZhiNan Temple (æŒ‡å—å®®) in Taipei, Taiwan – Itâ€™s set on a mountain side with many tea shops in the area. Beautiful place that is only a hop skip and a gondola ride away from the city.
- (Keep your answer coming!)
What do you think about our picks? Is your favourite temple not mentioned yet? Share with us and we’ll update the post with your favourites!
Next in Top Things Chosen by Travelers Around the World series:
- Topic: Top 3 Pieces of Traveling Advice
- What are your 3 most important pieces of traveling advice you would like to share? Some people believe traveling light is the way to go, while others love to travel with complete gear. Some like to plan the traveling route in details, some like to play by ear. Some don’t want to miss out any important landmarks and treat Lonely Planet guidebooks as a bible, while others avoid guidebooks and go with local’s suggestion. Whatever your traveling style is, what advice would you give to other travelers?
- Please participate, everybody is welcome!
- Photos: If you happen to have a photo to illustrate a point, send me ahead! (Might be not easy for this theme though)
- Submission deadline: Saturday, July 17th, 2010 (all time zone). That’s about 2 weeks from this post date.
- Planned publishing time: Monday July 19th, 2010
- Send your answers to dina(at)vagabondquest(dot)com. Include your (nick)name and your blog URL (so I link back to you). Need more info? Give me a shout!