April 30, 2024 | Kaddy Gibson

20 Of The World’s Most Stunning Temples

Divine Wonders

The world is full of incredible temples built to honor ancient gods. Here are 20 you need to add to your travel bucket list.

The World’s Most Stunning Temples

1. Philae Temple, Egypt

Dating back to the 7th century BCE, travelers have been enchanted by Philae for thousands of years. 

Yet it was almost lost to the world when the island that the temple stands on was flooded during the construction of the Aswan dam in the 1960s.

Philae temple complexWarren LeMay, Wikimedia Commons

Philae Temple

Luckily, the Egyptian government joined with UNESCO to save the temple. 

Using photogrammetry technology, each building was taken apart and then reassembled with excruciating detail on the higher terrain of Agilikia Island.

Philae temple complexFrank Mason, Wikimedia Commons

2. The Pantheon, Rome

If you’re heading to Rome then you’ve got to stop by the Pantheon. The original temple was built during the reign of Emperor Augustus, but much of it was destroyed by a fire years later.

pantheon in RomeJean-Christophe BENOIST, CC BY-SA 3.0 , Wikimedia Commons

The Pantheon

The front façade was all that remained of the temple until Emperor Hadrian rebuilt what had been lost around 126 CE. Now, it remains one of the most iconic buildings in Rome.

Pantheon Rome-The DomeAnthony Majanlahti, Flickr

3. Hampi, India

Hidden among the hills of Karnataka lies Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s steeped in history. 

Touring this complex makes for a unique adventure with 14 temples to explore, and more than 500 ancient monuments, bustling street markets, and scenic viewpoints that offer a glimpse into the city’s past.

Hampi, Karnataka India at sunsetRoop_Dey, Roop_Dey


Hampi is full of marvels but some of the most notable include the Vijaya Vittala Temple, famed for its stone chariot and the vibrant murals in the Virupaksha Temple.

hampi, indiaRoop_Dey, Shutterstock

4. Seiganto-ji, Japan

Right next to the tallest waterfall in Japan is where you’ll find the enchanting Seiganto-ji temple.

According to records, the temple was built in the 4th century CE, after a monk named Ragyō Shōnin found the waterfall when he was looking for somewhere to practice his ascetic lifestyle.

Seiganto-ji JapanNaokijp, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons


As the tale goes, the goddess of Mercury, Kannon, appeared to Shōnin at the waterfall, prompting him to build the temple there. 

Today, Seiganto-ji is the first site on the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, which includes 33 Buddhist temples in Japan’s Kansai region.

Seianto-ji Temple JapanLEOCHEN66, Shutterstock

5. Tikal, Guatemala

Though its set in the middle of a Guatemalan jungle, Tikal is home to some of the world’s most recognizable temples. 

Archaeological evidence suggests the site used to be the capital of an ancient Mayan kingdom, though the temple structures are pretty much all that remain nowadays.

Tikal GuatemalaKendall Rittenour, Shutterstock


Tikal Temple I is one of the best-preserved structures. There are still ruins beneath the towering stairs that are waiting to be excavated, but until then, you can check out the Plaza of the Seven Temples, where the ancient Mayans used to perform their sacred rituals.

Tikal, GuatemalaAndreas Wolochow, Shutterstock

6. Maison Carrée, France

You don’t have to go to Rome to see gorgeous Italian architecture. In the south of France is where you’ll find Nîmes, which used to be a Roman city. And the heart of Nîmes is Maison Carrée.

Maison Carree FranceKrzysztof Golik, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Maison Carrée

Maison Carrée, which means “square house”, is a stunning Roman temple and great example of Vitruvian architecture. 

Its pillars are made from local limestone and are decorated with intricate carvings. They’ve stood the test of time, and the Maison Carrée is one of the best-preserved Roman temples in the world.

Maison Carree in Nimes in south Francesylv1rob1, Shutterstock

7. Temple of Hephaestus, Greece

Named for the ancient Greek god of blacksmiths and fire, the Temple of Hephaestus is also dedicated to his sister Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare. 

The temple has has stood watch over the city of Athens for more than 2,500 years and continues to dazzle travelers from all over the world.

Hephaistos temple GreeceRossHelen, Shutterstock

Temple of Hephaestus

Over the centuries, the temple has withstood countless dangers, from formidable earthquakes to bloody invasions. 

The marble structure still shows signs of all it has overcome, but it is a beautiful remnant from the past and should be seen up close at least once.

Temple of Hephaestus GreeceAerial-motion, Shutterstock

8. Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka

If you’re looking for tranquility, head over to the Dambulla Cave Temple in Sri Lanka. 

Renowned as one of the world's most exquisite temples, this monastery within a cave has drawn pilgrims to its sacred grounds for more than 2,200 years.

Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri LankaLankapic, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Dambulla Cave Temple

While the exterior of the temple may appear modest, adorned with only a towering 98-foot golden Buddha statue, it's the interior that truly captivates. 

The temple is home to five sanctuaries, each one decorated with breathtaking paintings and 18th-century relics that tell stories from Sri Lanka’s rich history.

Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri LankaLankapic, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

9. Ranakpur Jain, India

This temple is one of the holiest sites in Jainism. Each of the 1,444 columns in the 24 pillared halls of the temple are hand-carved from amber stone, and worth a visit for any traveler.

Ranakpur Jain, IndiaBanerjeedebasis, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Ranakpur Jain

According to local legends, the temple was built in the 15th century, after a Jain businessman had a divine vision. Each pillar in the temple tell a unique story and the stone is engraved with images of animals and other intricate designs.

Ranakpur Jain, Indiaexplorewithinfo, Shutterstock

10. Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar

Shimmering high above the city of Yangon is what may be the world’s oldest Buddhist temple: Shwedagon Pagoda. 

It is said the Buddha himself inspired the creation of the temple, after he gifted two hospitable brothers eight strands of his hair.

Shwedagon Pagoda, MyanmarBjørn Christian Tørrissen, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Shwedagon Pagoda

The brothers carried the hair in a ruby casket and took it to the King of Yangon. The king built the gold- and gemstone-covered temple to be the tomb of the sacred hairs. 

Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmarhappystock, Shutterstock

11. The Temples of Abu Simbel, Egypt

These massive rock temples were commissioned by Pharaoh Ramesses II, who had them built in honor of the gods Ra-Horakty, Ptah, and Hathor. 

The temples were also meant to honor Queen Nefertari and Ramesses’ own divinity.

Abu Simbel, EgyptWarren LeMay, Wikimedia Commons

The Temples of Abu Simbel

Scholars still debate the precise age of the temples, with some saying it was built in 1264 BCE after Ramesses' victory at the Battle of Kadesh, while others think it was built later, in 1244 BCE after the pharaoh’s success in Nubia. 

Either way, the temples were relocated from their original site in the 1960s to protect them from being lost during the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

Abu simbel, EgyptEmanuele Mazzoni Photo, Shutterstock

12. Santiago Baháʼí Temple, Chile

This beautiful Baháʼí Temple is unlike any other in the world. The architecture was inspired by Japanese bamboo baskets and the flowing movements of Sufi whirling dancers.

Santiago Bahá'í TempleJose Luis Stephens, Shutterstock

Santiago Baháʼí Temple

The temple is situated in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, offering breathtaking and serene scenic views for al who seek refuge here. The combination of stunning architecture and incredible landscape have it made it a peaceful escape for travelers from all over the world.

Santiago Bahá'í Temple ChileCarlos Figueroa, CC BY-SA 4.0 , Wikimedia Commons

13. Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram, Thailand

Welcome to the most beloved temple in Thailand. This incredible building is made completely out of Italian carrara marble, leading many to call it the “Marble Temple”.

Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram, ThailandBerryJ, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram

In 1899, Prince Narisara Nuvadtivongs started working on designs for the temple. 

It took 11 years to build the stunning structure, which features more than 52 Buddha statues and stained-glass windows depicting Thai angels.

wat benchamabophit dusitvanaram, thailandAkarat Duangkhong, Shutterstock

14. Paro Taktsang, Bhutan

This beautiful temple is perched atop a cliff in the majestic Paro Valley. Called the “Tiger’s Nest”, it earned its moniker from an old story about the Buddhist master Padmasambhava reaching the site with a flying tiger.

Paro Taktsang, BhutanGerd Eichmann, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Paro Taktsang

At the top of the cliff, Padmasambhava found a cave and meditated in it for three years. This is said to have brought miracles to the people in the surrounding area and spread Buddhims throughout Bhutan. 

Nowadays, travelers will have to brave a challenging two-hour hike to reach the temple, but it’s well worth the effort for the amazing architecture and stunning views.

paro taktsang, bhutanHung Chung Chih, Shutterstock

15. Kinkaku-ji, Japan

Also known as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-Ji is a haven for Buddhist pilgrims and curious travelers. The three-story structure is covered in gold leaf to prevent decay and features natural wood materials and several different architectural styles.

Kinkaku-ji JapanJaycangel, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons


This Zen temple has stood tall in the face of devastating fires and multiple rebuilds. Today, its perfectly manicured gardens and serene ponds make it one of the most stunning temples in the world.

Kinkaku-ji JapanFrentaN, Shutterstock

16. Bửu Long Pagoda, Vietnam

Bửu Long Pagoda is a tranquil escape away from the busy center of Ho Chi Minh City. In the heart of this incredible complex is where you’ll find the beautiful Buddhist temple Gotama Cetiya Stupa.

Bửu Long Pagoda, VietnamPhuongduy Le, Pexels

Bửu Long Pagoda

Gotama Cetiya Stupa is home to some of the world’s most famous relics of the Buddha. It’s where travelers can see ancient pearls and crystals that were thought to have appeared within the bones of the Buddha’s most enlightened followers. 

Whether that’s true or not, you’re sure to be enchanted by the gorgeous turquoise pool and dragon-themed grand staircase that wait to greet visitors.

The Buu Long Pagoda VietnamScout901, Shutterstock

17. Borobudur, Java

Stretching 765 feet by 765 feet, Borobudur Temple is one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world. In addition to the incredible scenery, visitors can see over 500 elaborate statues of the Buddha.

borobudur, javaAdel Newman, Adel Newman


The temple lay hidden for centuries until it was discovered under a mountain of volcanic ash in 1814. Now, walking in it feels like an enchanting trip back through time.

Borobudur temple in Yogyakarta, JavaR.M. Nunes, Shutterstock

18. Pura Beji, Bali

Pura Beji may not see as many tourists as popular temples like Besakih or Tanah Lot, but it still offers incredible sights for all who visit this sacred site.

Pura Beji, Sangsit, BaliDayakSibiriak, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Pura Beji

The architecture of Pura Beji is a good example of that found in northern Bali. The beauty is heightened by elaborate sandstone carvings that cover almost all of the temple.

Vines, flowers, and beautiful skies are some of the motifs visitors can expected to be enchanted by,

Pura Beji, Sangsit, BaliDayakSibiriak, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

19. Preah Khan, Cambodia

Angkor Archaeological Park is famous for its vegetation-covered temples, and Preah Khan is one of the most stunning. Its less busy than the popular Ta Prohm but is sure to wow you with its majestic columns, ornate carvings, and twisted ancient trees.

Preah Khan, Angkor, CamboyaDiego Delso, CC BY-SA 3.0 , Wikimedia Commons

Preah Khan

It’s best to visit Preah Khan early in the morning before peak hours—this offers the most peaceful chance to explore the temple and snap some cool photos. 

Even if you can’t avoid the crowds, there are lots of serene viewing spots to enjoy this stunning structure.

Preah Khan CambodiaMcKay Savage, CC BY 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

20. The Temple Of Heaven, China

This incredible temple lies just outside the Forbidden City and was constructed during the reign of the Yongle Emperor in the 15th century

When it was finished, Ming and Qing dynasty emperors used the site to host annual prayer ceremonies for atonement and bountiful harvests.

Temple of Heaven in BeijingCharlie fong, Wikimedia Commons

The Temple Of Heaven

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is lined with colorful pillars that each have their own unique story or symbol. All the symbols come together in beautiful homage to Chinese astronomy, showing a representation of the 28 Mansions of the Moon.

About 12 million people visit the temple each year, speaking to its status as one of the most stunning temples in the world. 

Temple of Heaven ChinaHung Chung Chih, Shutterstock


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