Temples, shrines, pagodas, and sanctuaries. These ancient structures of worship, some dating back thousands of years, are the architectural gems of their respective cultures. From the impressive Angkor Wat of Cambodia, to the elaborate intricacies of Japan’s Kinkaku-ji, each temple is a masterpiece of art and engineering. They are symbols of faith, resilience, and courage, and a reminder of man’s eternal search for spiritual meaning. But it’s not just about their spiritual significance; these sites are also incredible works of art, with stunning architecture and intricate details. Let’s explore 10 of the most beautiful temples around the world, and discover the wonders of ancient architecture.
Angkor Wat in Cambodia
The Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia is a must-visit temple on any world tour itinerary. It’s one of the most impressive architectural edifices in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. The temple is about half a kilometre long from east to west and about a quarter-kilometre from north to south. It is surrounded by a moat, which is about 9 metres wide and about 1.5 metres deep. The walls are about 6 metres high at the base and about 2.5 metres at the top. The temple was built as a Hindu shrine, dedicated to the gods Vishnu and Shiva. Constructed in the 12th century, it is a testimony to the Khmer Empire’s architectural skill and artistic creativity. The impressive central tower, or the temple itself, rises to a height of 43 metres, while the walls are 6 to 8 metres thick.
The Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China
The Temple of Heaven is a Taoist temple in Beijing, China that was built in the 14th century. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of China’s top tourist attractions. The central feature of the temple is the “Heavenly Altar”, a large square terrace at the centre of the complex, which was used for ceremonies associated with the harvest. The temple is the perfect example of how ancient architecture blends with modern skyscrapers. It’s a stunning blend of the old and the new, and a great place for a walk and a quiet moment. The Temple of Heaven is located in southern Beijing, near the city’s central axis, to the north of the Forbidden City. The complex covers an area of about 9 hectares. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India
The Golden Temple, also known as the “Harmandir Sahib” is a Sikh place of worship and pilgrimage located in the city of Amritsar in Punjab, India. The temple is the most important spiritual centre for the Sikh religion, and is reputed to be the most visited place of worship in the world. The temple is replete with detailed architecture that gleams like gold. The temple is a must-visit, and it’s a great place to learn about the Sikh religion. You’ll be welcomed by the friendly and welcoming people of Amritsar, and there’s plenty to see and do in the city. The Golden Temple was designed to be a place for people of all religions to gather and pray together in harmony. The temple, which was constructed between 1601 and 1604, has four doors facing the four directions of the compass, and is meant to be a place where all people, regardless of religion, could pray together.
The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
Located in Istanbul, Turkey, the Hagia Sophia is one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in the world. Originally an Orthodox Christian basilica, it became a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453. The site has been a museum since 1935, and is considered one of the Wonders of the World by the UNESCO. The word “Hagia” is Ancient Greek for “Sacred”, and “Sophia” means “Wisdom, Knowledge”. It is often translated as “Holy Wisdom” or “Saint Sophia”. Built as a church between 532 and 537 AD, the Byzantine structure is noted for its architectural and artistic significance, and has been described as a “Wondrously eloquent and ambitious statement of the Christian faith, a building of immense scale and vision”. The building is the widest edifice in Istanbul.
The Taj Mahal in Agra, India
The Taj Mahal is a stunning architectural marvel in Agra, India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth to their 14th child. The construction of this white marble mausoleum began in 1632, and was completed in the ensuing 16 years. The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The monument is widely considered as “the jewel of Muslim art in India”, and “the Taj Mahal is the jewel of Muslim architecture in the world.” It’s an architectural marvel, and an architectural legacy. The mausoleum is octagonal in shape, with a diameter of 66.6 metres, and has a central dome. The building is beautifully decorated with inlaid precious stones that are of different colours.
The Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan
The Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan is a Zen Buddhist temple that is famous for its Golden Pavilion. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. The structure is made entirely of wood, and is covered in gold leaf. The temple was built in the 15th century during the Muromachi Period. The Golden Pavilion or the Kinkaku Temple is a temple building that houses the Buddhist statue and the ashes of the temple’s founder, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. The temple complex is made up of a main building, a pavilion that houses the Golden Pavilion, and a rock garden. The temple has survived many natural and man-made calamities, including the natural disasters such as floods and fires, earthquakes, and war.
The Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Indonesia
The Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Indonesia is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and one of the most fascinating architectural wonders in the world. The temple was built in the 9th century as a Mahayana Buddhist temple, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The structure is modelled as an elaborate stupa surrounded by several bell-shaped stupas, and is made entirely of stone. The temple is decorated with more than 2,000 relief panels, and hundreds of hidden rooms in the walls are thought to have been used as meditation rooms. The structure is designed to be visually ambiguous because it cannot be completely seen from the ground or from the air, and can be interpreted in many different ways. The structure is dedicated to the Buddha and is believed to have housed up to 10,000 monks.
The Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, Thailand
The Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple, is a contemporary Buddhist temple in the city of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. It is a must-visit architectural wonder that is still in the construction phase, and is expected to be completed in 2021. The temple was designed by Thai artist Architects, Tham and Watsai. The architect’s creative vision was to create a modern architectural masterpiece that would be in harmony with its natural environment. The temple is decorated with intricate designs, symbolizing the passage from the mundane to the spiritual, and the journey from death to rebirth. The Wat Rong Khun is a stunning architectural masterpiece, built to last for centuries, and is a great place for meditation.
The Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, India
The Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, India is a very old Hindu temple dedicated to the Goddess Meenakshi, a form of the Goddess Parvati. The temple is a classic example of the Dravidian architecture style, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Meenakshi Temple is one of the best places to experience ancient Indian architecture and culture, and is a great place to visit any time of year. The temple is huge, and there is plenty to see and do.