While exploring Vietnam, it’s nearly impossible to visit without coming across at least one of the country’s most beautiful temples. With a deep-rooted history in the local culture, these temples are architecturally stunning. Not requiring any religious affiliation to tour, tourists should make sure to include some of these historic sites on their itinerary.
Although a sightseeing attraction, many of these pagodas still function as religious buildings. If you plan to stop by, make sure to research whether there is a dress code or not. Moreover, some temples require donations to go inside, so again, check in advance. If you’re interested in watching a prayer session, refer to the pagoda’s website or ask a local.
Depending on the time of year, annual events or festivals may be happening at some pagodas. This might impact your visit, so consider that while making plans.
In no particular order, here are some of Vietnam’s most famous temples worth visiting.
Tran Quoc Pagoda – Hanoi
Over 1,500 years old, Tran Quoc Pagoda is one of Hanoi’s most prominent and archaic temples. Erected sometime between 544 and 548 on a little peninsula by West Lake, the pagoda draws tourists from near and far. The main pagoda is over eleven stories high and encompassed by an incense-burning house and a building that houses a museum and historical artifacts.
Free to visit, one of the pagoda’s prettiest features is the Bodhi tree that was grown from a branch that came from India. Hosting several annual events such as the Tet Festival and Buddha’s Birthday and featuring stunning views, catching a sunset while visiting this shrine should be on everyone’s to-do list.
Thien Mu Pagoda – Hue
Just five miles outside the town of Hue, the Thien Mu Pagoda is often considered the city’s unofficial symbol. Stacked seven stories high and measuring 21 m/69 ft tall, this temple is also called the “Heavenly Fairy Lady Pagoda.” The structure is thought to be one of the most beautiful in the ancient town and showcases a giant bronze bell that was cast in the early 1700s.
Sitting on a hill on the banks of the Perfume River, Thien Mu Pagoda has an amazing ambiance. Attracting visitors due to its stunning layout, impressive staircase, and connection to folklore, the views of the water and sweeping vistas of the Imperial City make this pagoda a must.
Linh Phuoc Pagoda – Da Lat
Built from 1949 to 1952, Linh Phuoc Pagoda, also called “Dragon Pagoda” and “Bottle Pagoda,” is one of the most colorful and visited temples in Da Lat. Known as the tallest bell tower in Vietnam, with a height of 36 m/118 ft, visitors often climb to the top and place their wishes on the bell before ringing it.
This pagoda has impressive features including a display of the 18 levels of hell and the massive 18 m/59-foot high statue of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara made with 650 million immortal flowers. However, rumor has it that these are changed out every couple of years.
At the top of Linh Phuoc Pagoda, there is a souvenir shop, antiques, a flower garden, intricate artwork, and sweeping views of Da Lat. The main hall features two mosaic paths and a 49 m/161-foot long dragon that’s made up of over 12,000 beer bottles.
Perfume Pagoda – Hanoi
Built during the 15th century, Perfume Pagoda is a complex of temples constructed against the area’s majestic limestone mountains. There are many shrines to visit, each with its own dedications and themes, however, the pagoda’s core rests in the Huong Tich Cave. It’s recommended that pagoda guests be in decent physical shape, as there is some trekking involved.
Aside from its detailed and breathtaking architecture, Perfume Pagoda is surrounded by picturesque jungles and a peacefully flowing stream. Due to its religious significance, this temple is targeted by pilgrims on spiritual quests and plays host to the two-month-long Perfume Festival, which usually runs from mid-January to mid-March.
Temple Of Literature – Hanoi
Also referred to as Văn Miếu, the Temple of Literature is known as the first university in Vietnam as well as a place of worship dedicated to the world-famous Chinese philosopher, Confucius. Constructed over 1,000 years ago in 1070, the Imperial Academy was once where royals and distinguished persons would study.
Today, the Temple of Literature is a top-rated tourist attraction boasting five courtyards, each with its own significance. In addition to the beautiful building, the grounds also have a well of Heavenly Clarity, the Lake of Literature, and an extensive collection of old books and texts.
If possible, visit during the early hours of the weekday to avoid running into huge crowds. Because of its stunning looks and significance, the grounds are also a trendy place for weddings, graduations, and birthday photos.
Ngoc Son Temple – Hanoi
Located on the Jade Islet of Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake, reaching Ngoc Son Temple requires walking across a red bridge that’s regarded as a popular place to take photographs. Being right on the water, it goes without saying that the atmosphere is incredibly memorable. The complex on the island isn’t too big, but there are several features to look at.
Many historical and cultural significance structures are here, making this a location that many locals are proud of. Experience total peace while watching a sunset from this temple, which only costs a small fee to enter.
But Thap Pagoda – Bac Ninh
Located just half an hour from Hanoi, the But Thap Pagoda in Bac Ninh Province is one of the most well-known temples in Vietnam. Built during the 13th century, the temple is home to more than 50 Buddha statues and one of the biggest Avalokiteśvara statues. Covered in lush grass and trees, the entire complex is comprised of ten buildings that stretch about 100 m/328 feet across the property.
This pagoda is one of the city’s top attractions, and it’s even possible to arrange a bike tour to visit it. After arriving, allow at least two hours to see and discover all the unique architecture around the grounds.
Bai Dinh Pagoda – Ninh Binh
The Bai Dinh Pagoda is considered one of Southeast Asia’s largest Buddhist temples. Boasting over 500 Buddha statues, two main temples, and an area of about 700 hectares/1730 acres, each year, the Bai Dinh Pagoda attracts pilgrims, Buddhists, and tourists.
The old section of the pagoda is set on the western slope of Dinh Mountain and features an ancestor worshipping center and a couple of other smaller temples, including a few in caves. The new pagoda section, which was constructed in 2003 and is on the other side of the mountain, has a dormitory for monks, a few more temples, and a bell tower.
Known for its beauty, Bai Dinh Pagoda is home to a 10 m/33-foot tall Buddha Shakyamuni, which is located inside the Phap Chu Temple and weighs about 100 tons. Locals and tourists also wait in line to have their fortune read by a monk who lives at the pagoda.
Cao Dai Temple – Tay Ninh
Cao Dai Temple is essentially the hub for the Caodaism faith in the country’s southern region. While there are roughly 1,000 temples for this religion, this is undoubtedly the most famous one. The first of its kind, the construction of the temple was completed several decades ago and has been attracting tourists and spiritualists since.
The Cao Daist religion believes that all faiths are basically the same and incorporates values from Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Taoism, and Hinduism into one. The Cao Dai Temple is roughly 100 km/62 miles from Saigon, meaning the easiest way to get there is on a motorbike, bus, or through an organized tour.
Prayers are held four times per day, and guests are welcome take part in the ceremony. Brightly colored inside and out, the decorations inside are perfectly put together and almost resemble a kaleidoscope.
Giac Lam Pagoda – Ho Chi Minh City
Constructed in 1744, Saigon’s Giac Lam Pagoda is the oldest Buddhist temple in the city and boasts features from the Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucious religions. The temple grounds are majestic and peaceful, creating one of the most beautiful environments to be in. Easy to spot, the temple is painted a bright yellow color that makes it stand out from its surroundings.
Prayers are held multiple times per day, so visitors should dress modestly if they want to attend. Inside the temple are artifacts, a giant Amitabha Buddha statue, and a bell that is believed to grant the wishes of those who ring it. In front of the temple, a sacred Bodhi fig tree, that was gifted in 1953, also acts as a prominent characteristic of the pagoda.
Hung Temple – Phu Tho
Set in Phu Tho and located right by Nghia Linh Mountain, the Hung Temple was created to honor the Hung Vuong Kings. Compromised of a few buildings, including temples, a museum, tomb, bronze drums, and pagoda, each area of this gorgeous property has historical significance.
The most popular time to visit is during the annual Hung Kings Festival, which draws in both tourists and locals from nearby villages to come and pray for success and abundance for the coming year. The Hung Temple is located just 100 km/62 miles from Hanoi and has become a hotspot for tourism. Day trips here are possible and can be done solo or on a group tour.
Tu Van Pagoda – Cam Ranh
The Tu Van Pagoda is one of the most unique in the country, as this dome-shaped building is made entirely out of seashells and coral. Walking through this structure is almost like visiting an under-the-sea palace as the structure’s attention to detail is second to none. The tower itself is relatively tall and stands at 39 m/128 feet, and spirals toward the sky.
Next to the temple, there’s a large boat made of snails that houses three Buddhist treasures. Additionally, a concrete dragon houses the “passageway to Hell,” which is a narrow tunnel you enter through the dragon’s mouth and exit through its tail. After visiting the 18 different “levels of Hell,” visitors conclude by crossing a bridge representing the “end of suffering.”
Tu Van Pagoda is just 60 km/37 miles away from the coastal town, Nha Trang. Most visitors catch a bus ride or take the scenic drive on a motorbike. And while there isn’t an entrance fee, expect to make a small donation for your visit.
Van Thuy Tu Temple – Phan Thiet
A beautiful structure that dates back to 1762, Van Thuy Tu is Phan Thiet‘s oldest temple. Inside this pristine building’s main temple are polished skeletal remains of animals, fishing boat ruins, and artifacts originating from the Nguyen Dynasty.
Boasting over 500 centuries old whale bones as well as one of Asia’s most complete whale skeletons, which comes in at whopping 22 m/72 feet, each year, this property hosts the Spring Festival and Whale Worshipping Festival.
Jade Emperor Pagoda – Ho Chi Minh City
Looking like something out of a storybook, the Jade Emperor Pagoda in Saigon was built in 1900 to honor the “King of Heaven” Ngoc Hoang. Tucked away from the city’s bustling streets and featuring intricate tile work on the roof and several fancy carvings, the temple serves as a peaceful retreat for tourists and those looking for an enlightening experience.
With a strong scent of incense that fills the air, it’s easy to notice the connection to Cantonese and Chinese culture through the vast collection of notable Chinese characters present. Inside the main temple, the Jade Emporer statue is accompanied by two Toaist generals, one who defeated the Green Dragon and the other who conquered the White Tiger.
These figures are guarded by the “Four Big Diamonds,” who are said to be as tough as the precious stone. The outside of the Jade Emperor Pagoda has a lovely little pond that is filled with several living turtles. These animals represent divine protection for the family, so they are welcomed and adored here.
History-lovers, spiritualists, and architecture enthusiasts are sure to be impressed with the vast and varying types of pagodas in Vietnam. There are too many to explore all in one trip, but this list is a great place to start, depending on where you are traveling to in the country.