Thailand – Top 10 Temples
The Land of Smiles is not only famous for its food and its breathtaking coastlines but for its religious structures – testaments to human artistry and ingenuity. The country is filled with magnificent Buddhist temples, some dating back centuries, others much, much younger. These masterpieces have become such hot destinations for tourists to visit, not just for their spiritual and social importance, but because they are among the most exquisite and majestic architectural wonders you’ll ever see. With great difficulty, here are the top 10 Must-Visit Temples in Thailand.
Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho)
Wat Pho, named after a monastery in India where Buddha is believed to have lived, is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in Bangkok. With more than 1,000 images, Bangkok’s Temple of the Reclining Buddha hosts the largest collection of Buddhas in Thailand, including a reclining Buddha that is 45 metres (150 feet) long. Built on an island close to the Grand Palace, this temple is undoubtedly one of the most stunning temples in Thailand that you should visit during your Thailand holiday. Wat Pho is also home to the first Thai massage school where Thai massages are taught – the Traditional Medical Practitioners Association Centre, located in an open-air hall outside the temple. After a long day of sightseeing, you can get a relaxing massage or even learn it.
Wat Arun is Bangkok’s most iconic temple located on the Thonburi side of Bangkok, almost opposite to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Built during the 17th-century, its full name ‘Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan’ is rather hard to remember so it is often called the “Temple of Dawn.” This temple, rising above the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, is nothing short of spectacular when it’s lit up against the night sky. Its Khmer-esque tower is decorated with porcelain, while the neighbouring structures are covered with both porcelain and seashells, making for a truly magnificent sight at any time of day.
Also called the “Temple of the Relic,” this temple is one of the most important temples in Thailand. Wat Mahatat or more precisely “Wat Mahathat Yuwarajarangsarit Rajaworamahavihara” was built during the Ayutthaya period. Its main ‘stupa’, surrounded by 168 sculptures of Buddhist disciples, houses various holy relics associated with Buddha himself. It was also restored from ruins and stands as the headquarter of Thailand’s largest monastic order and meditation centre. Want to experience peace and beauty? Make sure to include this in your itinerary.
Temple of a Million Bottles
Though it is a famous Thai Buddhist temple, you’ll not find such uniqueness in a holy place. The entire complex known as The Temple of a Million Bottles (Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew) is actually a site of 20 buildings, all of which are made of 1.5 million recycled Heineken and Chang empties, and bottle cap mosaics.
Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Built within the grounds of the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew or ‘The Temple of the Emerald Buddha’ is the most important and most visited temple in Bangkok. The 66-centimetres (26-inch) high Buddha is not made of emerald, and instead, is made of jasper or jade. The Buddha, clad in gold, is believed to date back to the 15th century. It was moved to various temples around Thailand for a few centuries, ending up in this breathtaking Bangkok temple in 1784.
The Sanctuary of Truth
This is one of the most bizarre Thailand temples that is entirely made of wood and showcases such intricate carving that will definitely leave you awestruck. The wood structure is almost totally carved with beautiful figures and both Buddhist and Hindu decorations. It is a newer temple, a work in progress; it began in 1981 and is scheduled to be completed in 2050. Its aim is to honour the traditional ancient values of earth, knowledge and Eastern philosophy by teaching about human responsibility, thought, the cycle of life, and life’s relationship with the universe.
This absolutely stunning White Temple, locally known as Wat Rong Khun, was only built in 1997. A highlight of this privately owned temple is the bridge of the “cycle of rebirth,” under which outstretched hands reach to the sky. Across the bridge is the Gate of Heaven where two creatures decide the fate of the dead. It’s snow-coloured, fairy tale appearance, has everyone falling in love with it – and surely you will, too. Sadly, it is privately owned, so you have to admire it from a distance – its all worth it, after all.
One of the major ancient temples in Thailand, this is an impressive attraction that sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. It was originally built to honour a former king’s dear mother, which is quite a tribute, as you can see. The layout of the 17th-century temple subscribes to the traditional Buddhist view of the world, with temples corresponding to mountains, continents, seas, and human habitats.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a must-see when you’re visiting Chiang Mai. This 14th-century temple situated on a mountain in the northern part of Thailand is a working Buddhist monastery. The central temple has a golden spire, with a multitude of murals and shrines surrounding it and a replica of the Emerald Buddha is on display.
Wat Phra That Lampang Luang
A single strand of Buddha’s hair is the most important relic that can be found here, one of Thailand’s most sacred temples, Wat Phra That Lampang Luang. It also is considered one of the best examples of Lanna architecture. The 13th-century temple has a conical spire or stupa, that is more than 400 metres (125 feet) high. The temple has lately been restored to match its original appearance.