20 Stunning Must-See Sacred Sites In Asia
From the tranquil Shinto shrines of Japan to Cambodia’s revered temples, Asia is indeed home to some of the world’s grandest and most dramatic sacred sites. Famed for its architectural, cultural and spiritual value, Asia’s holy sites are not only a treat to the eyes, but they evoke a sense of peace and awe-inspiring feel as well. What’s more, these sacred places can give you an itch to snap a thousand photographs.
Headed to Asia? Don’t forget to include these surreal and gorgeous holy sites to your travel plans.
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1. Kota Kinabalu City Mosque – Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
The Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is a mesmerizing sight that will awestruck even the most traveled and experienced photography connoisseurs in the world. Nicknamed aptly as “The Floating Mosque”, this picturesque tabernacle is beautifully built beside a lake, making it look like it’s floating on water. A quintessential image of solemnity and beauty, The Floating Mosque also has a rather serene feel as well as offers a sneak peek into the Islamic culture in Malaysia.
A word of advice, make sure to get there before the sun sets, so you can feast your eyes on its breathtaking sunset views, and beautiful water reflection.
2. Shwedagon Pagoda – Yangon, Myanmar
Heralded as one the most beloved and well-known holy sites in Asia, Shwedagon Pagoda wows its spectators with its charming architectural design and shimmering gold plated dome that is topped wonderfully with a stupa made up of over 4,500 rubies, diamonds, topaz and sapphires. And by the way, this gleaming pagoda in Asia also boasts an imposing height of 325 feet.
3. The Leshan Giant Buddha – Leshan, China
The Leshan Giant Buddha is a 24-meter wide and 71-meter high carved stone Buddha that will definitely leave you in utter amazement. Inscribed as a world cultural and natural site in 1996, the Leshan Giant Buddha is deemed as one of the most famous and precious art treasures of the Tang Dynasty.
4. Tian Tan Buddha – Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Speaking of a giant Buddha, the Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong, praised for its sheer beauty and incredible size, is a bronze 34-meter statue that attracts over three million Buddhist pilgrims and tourists every year.
5. Crystal Mosque – Terengganu, Malaysia
Sitting grandly along the river of the Islamic Heritage Park, the Crystal Mosque is an elegant and eye-catching architectural wonder made of steel, glass and crystal. As with the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, it is also surrounded by water, allowing visitors to enjoy wonderful views as well as experience serenity.
6. Harmandir Sahib – Amritsar, India
Have you ever seen a golden temple before? Visit Amritsar, and be dazzled by the golden and shining grandeur of Harmandir Sahib.
7. Taktsang Palphug Monastery – Bhutan
A visit to the Taktsang Palphug Monastery can be quite a memorable experience that you will cherish for years to come. Dubbed as the most sacred spot and iconic temple in Bhutan, this place of worship is perched dramatically and precariously on a 900-meter rocky cliff, blowing you away with its relaxing mountain air and admirable nature views. And while getting there will test your endurance and fitness level, it’s still a monastery that every travel junkie must visit in Asia. Trust me, it is a holy place in Asia that will literally take your breath away.
8. Callao Cave – Cagayan Valley, Philippines
What makes Callao Cave in the Philippines interesting and special? Sure, it doesn’t have towering spires of Bagan or the glistening gold plates of Shwedagon, but it is home to a one-of-a-kind scenic natural chapel.
9. Angkor Wat – Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is an iconic sacred in Southeast Asia that doesn’t needs an introduction. After all, it is a treasured UNESCO World Heritage site that has been romanticized for its intricate design and otherworldly splendor.
10. Bagan temples – Myanmar
Bagan is one of the very few places in Asia that can give Angkor Wat a run for its money. One of the most popular and magnificent sites in Asia, Bagan is studded with historic Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins that date back as far as the 10th century. To get a good and awesome view of its temples, make it a point to fly above Bagan on a hot air balloon.
11. Mount Kailash – Tibet
Every year, thousands of pilgrims from all corners of the world make the difficult trip to Mount Kailash – a mystical snow-coated black peak, standing in a secluded area in Tibet’ western side. A lot of religions consider this mountain as divine, and home to the deities. As a matter of fact, several ancient beliefs think that Mount Kailash is the world’s birthplace.
12. Borobudur – Magelang, Indonesia
One of the world’s most striking sunrises can be seen from the temple of Borobudur – the largest Buddhist temple on earth – on Java Island. Built in the 9thcentury, this ancient temple has seven stories amassed in a splendid pyramid structure. The top tiers of the temple are covered in stupas, with each housing a Buddha statue. Surrounding the temple of Borobudur are forests and volcanoes, creating a fittingly dramatic feel for its glorious violet-hued sunrise.
13. Varanasi – India
With burnt corpses and feces overflowing the River Ganga, a visit to Varanasi can be a shocking and overwhelming experience for some foreign travelers. But, the scene of devoted pilgrims praying and doing their rituals in Ganges at sunrise, with the historic temples as the backdrop, is arguably one of the world’s most impressive sights.
14. Vishnu Temple of Srirangam – Tamil Nadu, India
Vishnu Temple of Srirangam, the world’s largest functioning Hindu temple, delights travelers with its massive size as well as its supremely colorful pyramids. To me, it’s one of the most intriguing places in Asia that every travel addict must visit.
15. Tiger Cave Temple – Krabi, Thailand
Tiger Cave Temple, named after the cave’s tiger paw prints, in Krabi is nestled above a jungle-shrouded lofty set of stairs, in which a gigantic 912-foot Buddha sits. The hike is a little strenuous, but it offers outstanding views of the Andaman Sea, limestone karsts and dense forests. Used by Buddhists as meditation site, the temple is also a great place to relax, unwind and reflect.
16. Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque – Brunei
Step inside the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, and be stunned by its imperial design and opulent interior.
17. Meiji Shine – Tokyo, Japan
The Meiji Shine, one of the most iconic tourist spots in Japan, is a well-known sanctuary that offers both travelers and locals a peaceful respite away from the frenzy, chaos and buzz of Tokyo. Although it’s not as colorful and grand as the other famous sacred sites in Asia, it nevertheless is a sought-after Japanese place of worship, drawing more than 25 million visitors per year. Known for its admirably serene and austere setting, the Meiji Shine is absolutely an amazing shrine complex you must visit during your trip to Japan.
18. Wat Rong Khun – Chiang Rai, Thailand
Wat Rong Khun, fondly called as the White Temple, is unlike any Buddhist temple you have seen in Asia. Designed by the international renowned Chalermchai Kositpipat, Wat Rong Khun is an unconventional contemporary highly ornate architecture glided with mosaic mirrors that magically shine.
19. Temple of Heaven – Beijing, China
Listed in 1998 as UNESCO World Heritage site, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing is truly a fascinating architectural masterpiece built by Emperor Yongle in the 14thcentury. As his personal place of worship, Emperor Yongle would pray inside the Temple of Heaven for good harvest as well as to atone for all the sins committed by his people.
20. Batu Caves – Selangor, Malaysia
Batu Caves, a very popular Hindu shrine is Asia, is a must-visit place for photographers and Hindu pilgrims. As you take a walk around these giant caves, your eyes will be treated to a series of fascinating sights of the city’s skyline and its cave temples. Plus, the Batu Caves are home to the world’s tallest Murugan statue, which stands more than 130 feet.
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