There is an endless wealth of things to do and see in the paradise that is Southeast Asia. Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are stunning countries to visit if you want to experience history by exploring ancient temples and world heritage sites. Many of these countries have fascinating and unique Buddhist, Hindu and even Christian temples that are still used to this day, and they're certainly worth a visit as well. Visiting an active temple and then visiting an ancient temple the next day can be like taking a trip back in time. A visit to one of the many archeological sites or religious temples of the region will fill you with a sense of unmatched Zen and make you feel truly in awe.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has listed 33 world heritage sites in Southeast Asia, and many of these sites are historic religious temples, too. Some of the destinations on this list are in places like Thailand - which see tens of millions of foreign visitors each year - while some are in places like Myanmar, which has just recently seen an influx of visitors thanks to a rapidly expanding tourism sector. The pilgrimage to one of these breathtaking sites will be well worth the trip, and when you arrive you may wonder why you didn't escape the soul-crushing hustle and bustle of the big cities sooner. Unfortunately, the splendor of these locales is not something that can simply be captured with a photograph or a postcard; you have to visit these places in person to feel truly inspired. But to get a vague idea of just how rich are the archaeological and spiritual wonders of Southeast Asia, have a look at ten of the best and most fascinating religious temples you can visit in the region.
10 The Baroque Churches of the Philippines
9 Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam
8 Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, Thailand
7 Pura Besakih in Bali, Indonesia
6 Wat Arun in Bangkok, Thailand
5 Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang, Laos
4 Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos
3 Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2 Bagan Temples in Myanmar
1 Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is the largest religious temple in the entire world, and it has history as both a Buddhist and Hindu temple. In the Khmer language Angkor Wat translates as “City of Temples.” Located five and a half kilometres outside the town of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is the number one tourist destination in Cambodia, and it saw over 2 million visitors last year alone, which was a 20% increase over the previous year. Because Angkor Wat faces the west as opposed to the east, like most other Khmer temples, historians believe it served as a funerary temple. Angkor Wat and the surrounding ancient city, Angkor Thom, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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