Instead of taking yet another beach trip, think outside the box. Check out one of these gorgeous hidden temples for a unique—and unforgettable—vacation.
Climbing outside your comfort zone when you travel can be unnerving, but challenging yourself in that way can allow you to have amazing experiences that are beyond your wildest dreams. So why not skip the sand and sun this year (yawn!) and book a trip to one of these hidden temples instead? Many are in Southeast Asia, so visit between November and February for the most cool, dry, comfortable weather. (Quick packing tip: Toss a puffy jacket into a compression sac so it takes up less space in your luggage.) The temples feature impressive architecture and have a calming, spiritual vibe that is sure to reset your mind and leave you feeling a lot lighter — no matter how much you stuff into your suitcase.
Lotus Temple, India
New Delhi is a bustling city, but within it lives a little slice of serenity. This flower-shaped temple is relatively new, as it was built in 1980. It’s the center of the Baha’i religion, which is a philosophy that is based on respect and communication among multiple religions. With its unique design and welcome-all attitude, this temple is one of the most visited buildings in the world — surpassing even the Eiffel Tower and Taj Mahal.
Hanging Temple, China
Look up or you might miss this one. The Hanging Temple is just that, a temple that was built into a cliff. Aside from its odd location, it’s the only temple that combines three Chinese religions: Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. While its location on the cliff protects it from water erosion and sunlight, the temple has often been referred to as one of the most dangerous buildings in the world. So if you visit this one, make sure you're up for adventure (and unafraid of heights).
Tham Khao Luang Cave, Thailand
Not all temple visits require having glutes of steel and climbing hundreds of stairs. This multi-chambered temple was used by the Kings of the Royal Rattanakosin Dynasty, and is now home to 180 Buddha statues, including a reclining one that is 16-feet (4.9 meters) in length and represents life and death. The cave descends about 90 feet (27.4 meters) below ground level and is made up of three tiers of ornate statues and breathtaking structures, molding, and architecture. Watch sunlight gently stream through a hole in the top of the cave and you'll see why this destination is such a spectacle to behold.
Ellora Caves, India
This temple is made up of 34 monasteries and temples, and it houses three religions: Buddhism, Brahmanism, and Jainism. You’ll be stunned by the ancient, ornate architecture, which dates all the way back to the 5th century and showcases beautiful carvings and statues of elephants, Buddhas, and much more. The caves are built into the wall of a cliff, and while it is certainly tucked away, it's definitely worth the trek to see.
Dambulla Cave, Sri Lanka
Extremely well preserved, this temple can be found under a huge, overhanging rock. Inside the temple, you’ll find Buddhist murals and over 150 statues of Buddha and other gods and goddesses. It’s an extremely large temple that has plenty of space to roam. Throw a pair of comfortable walking sneakers in a shoe sac when you're packing so you can get lost in the wonder of it all.
OK, readers: What's your favorite temple to visit? Sound off in the comments below.
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