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15 Famous Buddhist Monasteries and Temples Around the World

15 Famous Buddhist Monasteries and Temples Around the World
Visiting a Buddhist monastery always provides one with a feeling of calmness, peacefulness, and serenity. In these religious centers, housing quarters are present for the monks, apart from training, teaching, and daily prayers. Vacayholics showcases the most famous Buddhist monasteries and temples in the world with some spectacular photographs.
Gaurav Athavale
Last Updated: Aug 12, 2017
Fast Fact
Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, and Kusinara are considered as the Four Holy Sites in the life of Gautam Buddha. Lumbini is the birthplace of Buddha, whereas in Bodh Gaya, he received enlightenment. Buddha started teaching first in the Sarnath, and died in Kusinara. Lumbini is now in Nepal, whereas the other three places are located in India.
The religion of Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, also called Gautam Buddha, around 6th century B.C, in the Indian subcontinent. 'Theravada' and 'Mahayana' are two major classes of this religion. The former is practiced mainly in the Southeast Asian regions, whereas the latter is dominantly present in the eastern regions of Asia. Some also consider and believe in another type of Buddhism called 'Vajrayana', and few regard it as a sub-type of 'Mahayana'. It is majorly present in parts of Tibet and Mongolia.
When anyone thinks of visiting places that are rich in Buddhist cultures and traditions, the first thing that comes to mind are beautiful and vibrant monasteries and Buddha temples, situated against a panoramic background of mountains and rivers. Monasteries attract a lot of tourists all over the world, especially in nations like Nepal, China, India, Thailand, Malaysia, etc. The following sections will provide you with brief information about some of the most popular Buddhist monasteries and temples. Have a look at the accompanying images that are amazingly shot at various angles. The list is presented in an alphabetical order, and is not based on any ranking or statistics.
Bodhimanda Vihara
Location: Patna, Bihar, India
Surroundings of Mahabodhi Temple
Surroundings of the Bodh Gaya Temple
Giant Buddha Statue Bodhgaya
Giant Buddha Statue at the Bodh Gaya Temple
Mahabodhi Temple Wall
Side View of the Temple Wall
Buddha and Nature
Bodh Gaya Tree
Also called the Mahabodhi Temple or Bodh Gaya, it is said that at this location, Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment around 500 B.C. The monastery is called Bodhimanda Vihara, and the temple was built in around 250 B.C. by Emperor Ashoka. The Bodhi tree (Royal Fig Tree) is located towards the western side of the temple, and it is said that The Buddha attained enlightenment, when he was meditating beneath this tree. The temple construction is made up of brickwork, and the style is in the form of a central tower, around which four small towers are present. The temple underwent restoration in the 19th and 11th centuries.
Borobudur Temple
Location: Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia
Buddha of Borobudur
Buddha Statue at the Borobudur Temple
Borobudur Temple Yogyakarta
Buddha Statue Against a Background of Stupas
Borobudur Temple Indonesia
Front View of the Borobudur Temple
Borobudur Indonesia
Entrance to the Borobudur Temple
The Borobudur Buddhist Temple was built around the 9th century, but till present no evidence has been found as to who built it. It is the largest Buddhist temple in the world in terms of size and area covered, and more than 500 Buddha statues are present in the surroundings. This UNESCO world heritage site is one of the biggest tourist attractions, and many regard visiting it as a kind of pilgrimage. Regarding the architecture and styling, the structure consists of six square shaped platforms, on which three circular platforms are present. Borobudur temple is a must visit site, especially for its Buddha statues and innumerable stupas.
Erdene Zuu Monastery
Location: Kharkhorin, Övörkhangai Province, Mongolia
Erdene Zuu Monastery Entrance
Erdene Zuu Monastery Entrance
Independent Mongolia
Large Stupa
Erdene Zuu Monastery
Erdene Zuu Monastery
Prayer Wheels
Prayer Wheels
Tempelanlagen Von Karakorum
Side View of the Stupas
Side View of the Stupas
This monastery was built in 1585 by Abtai Sain Khan who was a Mongol ruler at that time, and it is said to be one of the most ancient Buddhist monasteries of Mongolia. The construction work started after the religion of Tibetan Buddhism was introduced in the 16th century. The building material and stones used for the construction were taken from the ruins of the 13th century Mongolian capital called Karakorum. In the 17th century, the monastery underwent some damage due to wars between ethnic Mongolian groups, but was restored again in the 18th century. Currently it is managed by the lamas and also consists of a museum.
Ganden Monastery
Location: Wangbur Mountain, Lhasa, Tibet
Gandan Monastery
Large Urn at the Entrance
Monastery Front View
Monastery Front View
Tibetan Buddhist Temple
Monastery Surroundings
Front View of Monastery Surroundings
Front View of Monastery Surroundings
One of the biggest university monasteries in Tibet, the Ganden monastery belongs to the Geluk order, and is present at an altitude of more than 4000 meters at the top of the Wangbur Mountain. This monastery was founded in the early 15th century by Je Tsongkhapa, who is now enclosed in a tomb at the same location. The major places to visit are Sedung where the tomb is present, and the Ngam Cho Khang, which consists of the teaching centers of Tsongkhapa. Apart from these sights, several ancient artifacts are also present in this monastery. It suffered destruction in 60's, and rebuilding is going on till present.
Hemis Monastery
Location: Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Hemis Gompa Ladakh
Overview of the Monastery
Ritual Drum in the Monastery
Ritual Drum at the Monastery
Ritual Drumstick at the Monastery
Ritual Drumstick at the Monastery
It is one of the largest and richest Buddhist monasteries in India, and was built around 11th century. The monastery was rebuilt in the mid-17th century, and is the headquarters of the Drukpa order. Numerous statues and artifacts have been preserved at this location, and one of the best antiques are the 'thangkas' (paintings in the form of scrolls). The Hemis monastery is known mainly for the Hemis festival, which is celebrated every year in June, wherein Lord Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche) is worshiped. A lot of rituals, dances, and other festive activities are performed, which you must experience if you happen to visit this monastery in June.
Key Gompa Monastery
Location: Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India
Key gompa
Monastery Close View
Ki Tibetan Monastery
Monastery Far View
Road to Kee Monastery
Road to the Monastery
Aerial panorama of spiti valley
Overview of the Spiti Valley
This monastery is present at an altitude of more than 400 meters, and overlooks the valley through which the Spiti rivers flows. It is the largest one in this valley, and according to historical records, it was founded by Dromton around the 11th century. Key Gompa monastery repeatedly suffered damage during the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1975, a major earthquake struck the region, due to which the monastery was significantly damaged. It was latter reconstructed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Currently it is managed by the Gelugpa sect, and has numerous paintings, murals, and books preserved that date back thousands of years.
Lama Temple
Location: Dongcheng District, Beijing, China
Lama temple in beijing
Buddha Idol
Lama temple
Dragon Face Statue
Lama Temple Monastery
Lama Temple Monastery
Colorful Temple Wall
Colorful Temple Wall
Beijing lama temple
Prayer Wheel
Multicolored gate in lama temple
Praying Hall
It is also called the Yonghe Temple, and is included under the Geluk School of Buddhism. After the Qing dynasty, construction of the temple took place in the late 17th century. Initially the monastery was in the form of a court, and was later converted to a monastery and a palace of the Yongzeng Emperor. After his death in 1735, his coffin was positioned inside the temple surroundings. Numerous monks from Tibet and Mongolia started living in this temple after it was given the imperial status. One of the best attractions include the three bronze Buddha statues (Buddha of the Three Ages) and the white sandalwood Maitreya Buddha statue.
Mindrolling Monastery
Location: Clement Town, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
The Blessing Buddha
Giant Buddha Statue
This monastery is a favorite among tourists who visit the city of Dehradun in Northern India. The original monastery is located in the Zhanang County, Tibet, and the one in Clement Town was established in 1965 by Khochhen Rinpoche. The monastery is included under the Nyingma school and the latter one includes the Ngyagur Nyingma college, which is one of the largest organizations in India that teaches Buddhism. The best attractions of this location include a 190 feet tall stupa, and a hundred feet tall statue of Buddha near the monastery. Apart from these, few shopping centers are also present in the surroundings where several souvenirs are sold.
Namgyal Monastery
Location: Dharamshala District, Himachal Pradesh, India
Leh City From Namgyal Tsemo
View of the City From the Top
Leh Palace Namgyal Tsemo Gompa
Monastery Bottom View
Far View Of The Monastery
Far View of the Monastery
Namgyal Tsemo Gompa Prayer Flags
Monastery Top View
This monastery is officially associated all the Dalai Lamas since the third one, and also is the residence of the current Dalai Lama. It was founded in the 16th century by the third Dalai Lama (Gyalwa Sonam Gyatso) in Lhasa Tibet. In 1959, after the Tibetan Uprising, the monastery underwent relocation to Dharamshala. Some of the major attractions include the Tibet Museum, Kalachakra temple, and the Tsuglagkhang temple. Apart from these, several wall murals and the Sakyamuni Buddha are also very famous. An American Branch of this monastery was also set up in 1992, based on the advice of the current Dalai Lama.
Rumtek Monastery
Location: Gangtok, Sikkim, India
Rumtek Monastery In Gangtok
Monastery Courtyard
Monastery Entrance Doors
Monastery Entrance
Tibetan Buddhist
Monk in The Courtyard
Art Rumtek Monastery
Monastery Surroundings
Situated amidst a scenic background of snowy mountain ranges and overlooking a river valley, the Rumtek Monastery is the largest one in Sikkim and is situated at an altitude of about 1500 meters. It was built in the 18th century, and was the throne of the Karma Kagyu lineage till the 20th century; by this time it was already in the form of ruins. After the ascension of the 16th Karmapa, the monastery was rebuild again with the help of many people. It is the center of much controversy as a rivalry exists currently between two parties regarding controlling of the monastery and its relics and antiques.
Samye Monastery
Location: Near Lhasa, Tibet
Pagodain Samye Monastery
Monastery Stupa
Holy Temple In Samye
Samye Monastery
Samye Gompa Center Hall
Monastery Temple Wall
It is said to be one of the first monasteries to be built in Tibet. It is quite popular regarding its design, which is in the form of a 'mandala', i.e., representing the center of the Universe. The monastery attracts a lot of tourists, many of whom are visit it as a pilgrimage. The construction began in the 8th century under the guidance of Tibetan King Trisong Detsen, along with Buddhist gurus Padmasambhava and Śāntarakṣita. The structure is based on the design and layout of the Odantapuri monastery in Bihar, India. Small chortens are arranged in a linear manner on top of the walls, and several relics and ancient artifacts are also housed inside the monastery.
Taktsang Dzong
Location: Paro Valley, Paro District, Bhutan
Taktshang Monastery In Bhutan
Monastery Far View
The Dzong Of Paro
Monastery Courtyard
Aktsang Monastery On Cliffside
Monastery Rooftop
Spectacularly situated within a mountain cliff face, one might wonder how this structure was actually built right on the edge. Also called the 'Tiger's Nest', the Taktsang Dzong or Paro Taktsang was built formally in the late 17th century by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. According to legend, Buddhist guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) flew on the back of a tigress from Tibet to the cliff edge, and mediated in the caves, wherein the current structure now stands. From the valley bottom, one can reach the top by trekking for about 2 to 4 hours. The monastery suffered damage due to a fire in 1998, but later was restored and renovated properly.
Taung Kalat Monastery
Location: Mount Popa, Bagan, Myanmar
Myanmar Mount Popa
Monastery Aerial View
Taungkalat Monastery Mount Popa
Monastery Bottom View
Holy Mount Popa In Myanmar
Monastery Far View
Mount Popa
Monastery Top View
Situated on top of a volcanic plug that was formed due to the parent Mount Popa volcano, this monastery is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Myanmar. Be ready to climb a steep staircase with more than 750 steps, if you want to visit this monastery. One can experience an amazing panoramic view from the top of the volcanic plug, and the actual Mount Popa is also visible clearly. One also has to be careful of the macaque monkeys, who are intent on stealing your food right from your hands. The monastery is famous for the belief that several spirits called 'Nats' are exist in the structure; they are also worshiped by the people.
Thikse Gompa Monastery
Location: Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Buddhist Monastery
Monastery Courtyard
Thiksey Gompa In Ladakh
Monastery Far View
Thiksey Gompa
Prayer Wheel
Thikse Stupas
Line of Stupas
Large Stupa
Large Stupa
Statue Of Maitreya Buddha
Maitreya Buddha Statue
This monastery is quite similar in appearance to the Potala Palace which is present in Tibet, and is one of the largest ones in the Ladakh region. The popularity of this structure can be attributed to many features as has numerous Buddha statues and stupas, wall paintings, murals, and the famous two storied high statue of Maitreya Buddha, etc. The monastery is included under the Gelugpa order, and was built around the 15th century under the influenced by the founder of this order called Tsongkhapa. The structure is present at an altitude of more than 3600 meters. For many years, the monastery is undergoing restoration at several sections.
Wat Arun Temple
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Thai Temple Of Emerald Buddha
Buddha Idols
Statue On The Roof
Statue on the Roof
Buddha At Wat Arun
Buddha Statue
Nighttime At Wat Arun
Far View of the Temple
Statue Of Demon
Giant Statue
Wat Arun
Temple Rooftop
A very famous tourist center in Thailand, this Buddhist temple was built around the 17th century, and was preceded by the existence of another temple on the same spot called Wat Makok. Its most attractive feature is the central stupa-like tower, which is in the form of a Khmer style design. The surrounding spires were built latter in the 19th century, and the location is near the Chao Phraya river. The temple design and layout is distinctly based on the 'mandala' style, which describes the central portion as the center of the Universe. One can get the best views and pictures when the sun sets in evening time.
Buddhist Monasteries in USA
Besides all these famous Buddhist temples and monasteries around the world, a few such structures that are famous in the United States are: San Francisco Zen Center (San Francisco), Zen Mountain Monastery (Catskill Mountains, New York), Texas Buddhist Association (Texas), Blue Cliff Monastery (Pine Bush, New York), and the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (Talmage Road, Ukiah, California).

Be it a small temple or a large world famous Buddhist monastery, visiting one always has a unique spiritual effect on a person. The monks' prayers, reverberating chants, and spectacularly beautiful structures; Buddhist monasteries and temples surely have a unique charm of their own.