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Luxury Travel

Ten Asian Temples Where You Can Find Your Inner Peace

From crumbling ruins to glittering spires, Asia's temples span centuries and a multitude of religions. Not all are peaceful—some can be chaotic, thanks to devoted pilgrims and increasing tourist numbers. But these 10 destinations offer visitors temporary refuge from the outside world and the chance for contemplation.

  1. Borobudur, Indonesia
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    Borobudur, Indonesia

    Surrounded by trees, with views to distant, jagged mountains, the world’s biggest Buddhist temple whispers tranquility—if you can dodge the tourists. Built in the 8th and 9th centuries, Borobudur was abandoned at some point over the next 500 years and remained shrouded in jungle until the 19th century. 

    Photographer: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

  2. Paro Taktsang, Bhutan
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    Paro Taktsang, Bhutan

    The biggest challenge in visiting Paro Taktsang, or the Tiger’s Nest, is actually getting there. Strict travel restrictions, altitude sickness and a lengthy hike or horseback ride will all conspire to keep you away from the Buddhist monastery, built more than 300 years ago, which clings to a cliff face 3,000 feet above the Paro Valley. 

    Source: EyesWideOpen via Getty Images

  3. Sri Harmandir Sahib, India
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    Sri Harmandir Sahib, India

    Construction of the Golden Temple, as it's informally known, started in the mid-16th century and today the complex is the global center of the Sikh faith. All visitors are invited to enjoy one of up to 100,000 free meals served daily. If you accept, you’ll find yourself sitting cross-legged on the floor as an army of volunteers slop ladles of lentils into bowls.

    Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

  4. Bagan's temples, Myanmar
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    Bagan's temples, Myanmar

    A balloon-trip over the ancient city of Bagan will give you a calming bird's-eye view of not one, but the remains of more than 2,000 ancient temples built between the 11th and 13th centuries. You can explore the vast site by bicycle, or even rickety horse and cart. 

    Photographer: Xavier Marot/AFP via Getty Images

  5. Ranakpur Temple, India
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    Ranakpur Temple, India

    The interior of this 15th century white-marble temple, tucked away in a village in India’s northwest, is the star of the show. It is said that no two of the building’s reputed 1,444 intricately carved pillars are the same. Visitors to this Jain temple are barred from taking any leather goods inside—and that includes your belt and purse, not just your shoes.

    Photographer: Marka/UIG via Getty Images

  6. Lotus Temple, India
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    Lotus Temple, India

    Overwhelmed in New Delhi? Head to this oasis of calm: a Baha'i house of worship open to those of all religions, built in 1986. The interior is a serene space that can hold 2,500 people and its lush green gardens are a welcome relief from the traffic chaos of the country's capital.

    Photographer: Forster/Ullstein Bild via Getty Images

  7. Meenakshi Amman Temple, India
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    Meenakshi Amman Temple, India

    The steep-sided gateway towers to this Hindu complex are covered in brightly-painted figurines and the Meenakshi temple is thought to contain more than 33,000 sculptures. Each day 15,000 pilgrims and tourists visit, but the Meenakshi Thirukalyanam festival in April and May attracts one million visitors.

    Photographer: JTB Photo/UIG via Getty Images

  8. Ta Prohm, Cambodia
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    Ta Prohm, Cambodia

    Made famous by the Tomb Raider movie, Angkor Wat’s (very slightly) less popular neighbor still radiates an air of calm. Gazing at the giant silk-cotton tree roots that have burst through the 12th-century buildings will bring out the adventurer in you. 

    Photographer: Jeremy Horner/LightRocket via Getty Images

  9. Wat Rong Khun, Thailand
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    Wat Rong Khun, Thailand

    Wat Rong Khun—or the White Temple—is a bizarre mix of the old and new, with images of superheroes and film stars adorning murals that sit alongside traditional Buddhist imagery. The complex is funded by 61-year-old artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, who says his project won’t be finished until 2070. 

    Photographer: Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images

  10. Ryoan-ji Temple, Japan
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    Ryoan-ji Temple, Japan

    The relatively compact Zen Buddhist Temple of the Dragon at Peace boasts beautiful gardens and a pond, but it’s Japan's most famous rock garden that draws visitors. No matter where you stand along its perimeter, at least one stone will always remain hidden from view.

    Photographer: Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images