Asia’s Top Ten Sacred Sites
Temples, Devotees and Rituals Enrich Travel to Asia
From the holy city of Varanasi in India, to the world’s largest Buddhist monument in predominantly Muslim Indonesia, to the Emerald Buddha in Thailand, this divine list of the top ten temples, shrines and places of worship portrays Asia’s most intriguing sacred sites:
1. TAKTSHANG MONASTERY (Bhutan) - Easily Bhutan’s most iconic temple and the country’s most sacred spot, Tigers Nest monastery clings dramatically to a cliff almost 3,000 feet above the Paro Valley floor.
2. VARANASI (India) - It is said that this holy city for Hindus rests on the trident of Lord Shiva and a ritual cleansing in the holy waters of the Ganges at Varanasi absolves the believer of all sins, enabling a higher birth in the next life. Millions of Hindus make their way here annually and so do travelers from around the world.
3. SHWEDAGON PAGODA (Myanmar/Burma) - Sheathed in gold plates and topped by a 76-carat diamond, the great golden dome that rises 322 feet above its base in Yangon is Burma’s most sacred site, visited by Buddhist worshippers and monks daily. You can perform a clockwise walk around the complex that is believed to have been constructed over 2,500 years ago, praying at various stations, to complete a personal pilgrimage.
4. DAMBULLA (Sri Lanka) - The most impressive of Sri Lanka’s cave temples, Dambulla is a World Heritage site consisting of five caves with over 6,000 square feet of painted walls and ceilings, creating the largest continuous series of paintings in the world.
5. BOROBUDUR (Indonesia) - An absolute must if visiting Indonesia, the reclaimed ninth century ruins are the largest Buddhist monument on earth, and one of the original seven ancient wonders of the world.
6. PASHIPATINATH (Nepal) – As the largest temple devoted to the Hindu god Shiva in the world, the site draws devotees from all over the Indian subcontinent. Located on the holy Bagmati River, you are likely to witness a cremation ceremony, in which the wrapped body is placed upon a mound of smoldering logs and brush, then set alight.
7. PAK OU (Laos) – A natural cave with more than 3,000 Buddha statues left behind by worshiping kings, merchants and farmers over the centuries, this mystical pilgrimage site and nature-made shrine is accessible by boat only.
8. DHARAMSALA (India) - The capital of the Tibetan government in exile, Dharamsala is the residence of the Dalai Lama and frequented by pilgrims and visitors from around the world who wish to study Tibetan Buddhism and gain insights into Tibetan culture currently unavailable in China.
9. WAT PHRA KAEW (Thailand) – Located in Bangkok’s Grand palace and also known as the “Temple of the Emerald Buddha,” this spectacular pilgrimage site is the heart of the modern-day Thai kingdom and the place where all Thai monarchs have worshiped since it was retaken from the Burmese in the late 18th century.
10. SARNATH (India) – This sacred site near Varanasi, where Buddha is said to have preached his first sermon after achieving enlightenment, draws pilgrims from around the world.
To join the millions of devotees that flock to the continent’s most sacred sites each year, and turn a vacation in Asia into a transcendent experience, visit www.asiatranspacific.com or call (800) 642-2742.
Photo Credit - Asia Transpacific Journeys