As with any Buddhist country like India, Japan, and South Korea — the temples are some of the most spectacular sights you’ll ever get to see in Thailand. Even in the tireless capital Bangkok, Buddhist temples provide a stark, beautiful contrast to the asphalt jungle. Not only are they pleasing to the eyes, but they’re also a great place to slow down, savor the solemn atmosphere, and learn about culture — regardless of your religion.
Wat Arun, Bangkok
For those starting their tour in Bangkok, Wat Arun is a top must-visit. Also known as the Temple of Dawn, it is provided with a gorgeous foreground by the Chao Phraya River — an especially stunning sight to photograph at sunset.
Erected in the Ayutthaya period, Wat Arun used to house the Emerald Buddha, which is now in the equally notable Wat Phra Kaew.
Location: 34 Arun Ammarin Rd., Bangkok Yai, Bangkok
Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok
Nestled in the outer court of the Grand Palace complex in Bangkok’s Old Town, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha was built in the late 18th century when the capital was transferred from Thonburi.
Wat Phra Kaew is notable not only for its historical significance but also for its glorious design, from the golden facade to the elaborate interior of murals and wall carvings.
Location: Na Phra Lan Rd., Phra Nakhon, Bangkok
Wat Pho, Bangkok
Located east of the Chao Phraya River and just opposite Wat Arun, Wat Pho is another must-visit temple in Bangkok known for the huge reclining Buddha. Spanning 45 meters long, the statue is coated with gold leaf and has feet with mother-of-pearl inlay and sacred carvings.
This Ayutthaya-era temple is also the cradle that gave rise to the world-renowned Thai massage, and it remains home to a traditional massage school.
Location: 2 Sanam Chai Rd., Phra Nakhon, Bangkok
Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Ayutthaya
If you’re on a full-on heritage tour around Thailand, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Ayutthaya Historical Park should be at the top of the list. Within the old Siam capital, Wat Phra Si Sanphet is a majestic temple with its unmistakable bell-shaped pagodas.
As a royal monastery within palace grounds, the temple has restricted access to monks and has been exclusively used for royal rituals.
Location: Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
There are over a hundred Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai alone, and regardless of the theme of your trip, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the one temple you shouldn’t miss. It is known for its staircase lined with two seven-headed dragon statues on each side and composed of 306 steps.
Part of what makes it the best temple in the city is its mountain location, where visitors can also relish breathtaking views of Chiang Mai’s mountainous landscape.
Location: Huai Kaeo Rd., Mueang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai
Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai
Developed in 1997 by local artist Chalermchai Kositipipat, the temple is not only known for its art exhibit but also—quite curiously—its golden toilet.
Location: Phahonyothin Rd., Pa O Don Chai, Mueang Chiang Rai, Chiang Rai
Wat Khao Nakkerd, Phuket
Popularly known as the Big Buddha Temple in Phuket, Wat Khao Nakkerd is new compared to others on the list. It was finished only in 2014 but quickly gained prominence, with the striking 45-meter white marble statue watching over southern Phuket island.
From the temple, visitors can appreciate panoramic views of the island, beaches like Karon and Kata, and Chalong Bay.
Location: Mt. Nakkerd, Karon, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket
Wat Phra Thad Pha Son Kaew, Phetchabun
Also called Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, this temple in Phetchabun is a great addition to the list for its unconventional design and location. Built on a mountaintop in 2004, it features a huge five-layer Buddha statue, sitting atop the temple embellished with five-million dazzling mosaic tiles and pottery pieces.
Located about five hours from Bangkok and not an hour from Khao Kho National Park, Wat Pha Sorn Kaew can be hard to get to without private transport but is worth the visit for serious retreaters.
Location: 95 Khaem Son, Khao Kho District, Phetchabun
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