#1- Tran Quoc Pagoda - Hanoi
The majority of travelers land their feet in the capital city of Hanoi when first arriving in Vietnam. The capital is a great choice to start your trip as it will give you a sweet introduction to Vietnamese culture.
Also, there are many beautiful areas and things to do in the capital, including exploring the oldest temple located in the heart of West Lake. Tran Quoc Pagoda is the complex you can’t miss once you’re wandering around beautiful West Lake.
Many magazines listed this authentic Vietnamese pagoda as the most beautiful pagoda or temple in the world, so it’s definitely a place you want to visit. Pagoda itself was built around the 6th century under the reign of Emperor Ly Nam De.
During the centuries, emperors made many changes around the complex due to security and comfort reasons. Emperors mainly used this temple during holidays while they were relaxing in the company of close associates, friends, and family.
Once you set your foot around, you will feel a royalty and vastness of the place. The central tower is 15 meters tall, and it features 11 diverse levels.
There are few tiny buildings around the complex where you can burn incense and pray as well as a small museum that provides interesting information about that part of history.
Since it's a Buddhist pagoda, many locals and foreigners pay a visit on 1st or 15th in the Lunar calendar, so you can expect huge crowds.
There is also a specific dress code you have to follow, such as wearing long sleeves and removing shoes when entering. Tran Quoc Pagoda is a place you simply can't miss while strolling around West Lake.
I suggest to time your visit around sunset hours since West Lake is the sunset spot in Hanoi. Bring your camera, take some fresh mango and chili salt, and admire the breathtaking views.
p.s. Having only 2 days for exploring beautiful Hanoi? Read our detailed 2 days itinerary and spice your trip with exciting activities.
- Working hours: 08:00 - 16:00
- Address: Thanh Nien Road, Yen Phu, Tay Ho District, Hanoi
- Fee: Free entrance
#2- Bai Dinh Pagoda - Ninh Binh Province
Once you start traveling around Vietnam, it’s tough to avoid a place like Ninh Binh, especially Tam Coc or Trang An area. The site looks surreal as it is a home of thousands of limestones, green rice fields, and tiny rivers craving the paths around stunning mountains.
The place seems breathtaking, which might be a reason it’s a home of the largest Buddhist complex in Southeast Asia - Bai Dinh Pagoda.
Pagoda itself was built around 1000 years ago, but some parts of the Buddhist complex were built just 10 years ago. It gives a complex an unique combination of modern and ancient architecture. The amazing thing you can do while you’re exploring the complex is to climb to the top of the pagoda and enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding place.
The complex is famous for many things and holds many records when it comes to temples and pagodas. Did you know that Bai Dinh pagoda features the biggest bell in Vietnam, weighing 36 tons?
Also, there are more than 100 statues around the complex, which says much about the vastness of the complex. Just walking around this pagoda gives you chills as you feel the energy of historical importance.
Be sure that you visit Bai Dinh pagoda before 5 pm as they are closing the gates afterward.
p.s. Once you're in the Tam Coc area, you should definitely pay a visit to Mua Caves. It's a stunning Buddhist temple that features a 500-stairs climb that will greet you with breathtaking views over the area.
- Working hours: 07:00 - 18:00
- Address: Xa, Gia Sing, Gia Vien, Ninh Binh, Vietnam
- Fee: Free entrance (15.000 VND parking fee + 30.000 VND electric car)
#3- My Son Ruins - Quang Nam Province
People often compare My Son Ruins to world-famous Angkor Wat, but is it really like that? Well, My Son is listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it attracts thousands of tourists annually. The complex itself lies in a very tiny area in the mountains located about 50 km southern from Hoi An.
My Son Ruins is the cluster of Hindu temples that date from the 4th century. Around the whole complex, you can discover 8 temples and 70 monuments. The majority of the site remains in the ruins partly because the site served as a military base during the war.
The best way to visit the ruins is by hiring a car or rent a motorbike from Hoi An or Da Nang. It takes about 1 - 2 hours to reach the site and to explore a whole complex, you will need another few hours. The best time to visit the ruins is in the morning since it's not hot and you can still cover in the shades, and there are not so many tourists around. Not to forget, the entrance price is 150,000 VND (around $7).
p.s. While in Quang Nam, don't forget to try their iconic bowl of Mi Quang. If you're looking for cold refreshment drinks, I can't recommend trying their fresh sugar cane juice (Nuoc Mia).
- Working hours: 06:00 - 17:00
- Address: Duy Phu, Duy Xuyen District, Quang Nam Province
- Fee: 150.000 VND foreigners and 100.000 VND locals
#4- Imperial City of Hue
In the past, Hue was the capital of Vietnam, and its a home of another UNESCO World Heritage Site - an Imperial City. The complex sits on the banks of Perfume River, and it's just a two-hour drive away from Da Nang/Hoi An.
Imperial City was the home of the famous Nguyen Dynasty that dates from the beginning of the 19th century. The whole complex is very vast as the width of the surrounding walls is about 2 kilometers. You have many different ways to explore and experience the city - guided or self-guided. If you decide to take a tour guide, expect to be in the city for at least 5 hours as the place is rich in history and you can learn much.
There are many buildings, temples, and small pagodas around the Imperial City. Also, the views of Hue city that you can get from the highest point is just majestic - makes you feel like an emperor. Unfortunately, some parts of the imperial city were destroyed during the war, but thanks to the funds raised abroad, the city looks very impressive today.
The best time to visit the Imperial City is in the morning as you will avoid the crowds.
- Working hours: 07:00 - 18:00
- Address: TP Hue, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam
- Fee: 150.000 VND
#5- Temple of Literature - Hanoi
Are you a passionate photographer, or you simply want to experience one of the most picturesque places in Hanoi? Well, Temple of Literature is the place you want to set your foot on!
The place has initially been a university where scholars were reading books and building their knowledge on specific topics. It was built in 1070 in respect to Confucius, a Chinese philosopher that has a considerable impact on the culture and traditions in Vietnam today.
The whole place looks stunning, and the main entrance is full of gardens and plants that serve as a perfect place for relaxing and learning. Basically, the place is used as a learning site more than a temple, but the stunning architecture and decoration attract millions of visitors each year. Through the years, the complex was renowned by the funds of Vietnamese education academia.
The complex is opened every day from 8 am to 6 pm, and the best time to visit is morning to avoid the crowds and have a relaxing time there.
p.s. Looking to explore Hanoi during night hours?
Check out these 7 fun activities to do in Hanoi at night and truly explore a colorful Vietnamese culture.
- Working hours: 08:00 - 18:00
- Address: 58 Quoc Tu Giam, Van Mieu, Dong Da, Hanoi
- Fee: 30.000 VND
#6- Linh Ung Pagoda - Da Nang City
Linh Ung Pagoda stays tall on the Son Tra peninsula overlooking Da Nang city. The complex is a bit elevated, which gives you stunning views over Da Nang, especially during sunset and sunrise hours. The symbolism of the temple is to protect the city and people from anything evil.
The most remarkable statue is 'Lady Buddha', that stays in the middle of the temple complex. The Buddha statue stands tallest in the whole of Vietnam while reaching a whopping 67 meters.
Linh Ung Temple is just 9 kilometers from the city center, and it literally lies on the main beach, so it’s not a huge challenge to reach it. Rent a motorbike since the roads are epic, and the views are stunning from there.
Another good thing is that there is no entrance fee to explore this pagoda, so what are you waiting for?
UPDATE 2020: Due to many road accidents in Son Tra Peninsula, the roads are closed for automatic motorbikes. If you're looking to visit Linh Ung Pagoda or explore Son Tra Peninsula, have in mind that you have to drive semi-automatic or manual motorbike.
p.s. If you're traveling around Da Nang and looking for more information about the city and things to do there, you're in the right place. I was living in Da Nang for more than a year, and here you can find valuable information for planning your perfect itinerary.
- Working hours: 07:00 - 21:00
- Address: Son Tra Peninsula, Tho Quang Ward, TP Da Nang
- Fee: Free entrance but you can leave a donation
#7- Van Thuy Tu Temple - Mui Ne
Thuy Tu Temple - Phan Thiet, Vietnam by Charlievdb
Mui Ne is a popular destination for tourists in South Vietnam since its a home of sand dunes and ideal winds that attract surfers and windsurfers all over the world. Usually, when you’re going to Mui Ne, no one tells you about temples, but the small coastal town is the home of the biggest and oldest whale temple in Phan Thiet called Van Thuy Tu temple.
The temple was built in the middle of the 18th century to show respect to the Lord Whale. The small temple is the home of more than 500 whale remains, including the 22-meter long whale skeleton. The locals believe this one was the biggest whale in the whole of Southeast Asia.
Mui Ne is a small fisherman town located on the southern coast of Vietnam, and people believe the whales protect them on the ocean from dangers and bad weather.
If you catch time from partying and enjoying the beach in Mui Ne, this temple is definitely a place to go!
p.s. If you're into kitesurfing, but missed it in Mui Ne, don't forget to read our Phan Rang kitesurfing guide. Phan Rang is a tiny coastal city located just about 2 hours north from Mui Ne.
- Working hours: 07:00 - 17:00
- Address: 54 Ngu Ong Street, Phan Thiet
- Fee: 10.000 VND
#8- Cao Dai Temple - Tay Ninh
Doing a visa run from Saigon, or looking to explore the surrounding area and get away from the constant bustle of a city? Well, what could be better than visiting majestic Cao Dai Temple located in Tay Ninh (about 100 km northwest from Saigon)? Cao Dai Temple is the newest temple on the list, and its construction was completed in 1955.
It's hard you'll stumble upon a similar temple since this one features the mixture in traditions, which translates to pretty odd but colorful architecture. The temple represents Caodaism, which is unique to the region.
The unique religion features a blend of various religions, including Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, and Buddhism.
Cadoaists share a fascinating perspective stating that all religions are the same, and united they seek for tolerance and peace in the world. A pretty fresh perspective that differs from popular religious views today.
I personally don't follow any religion because of many reasons, but I really appreciate a belief where followers are talking about peace, freedom, and unity. The best aspect of exploring the Cao Dai Temple is observing prayers.
People wear colorful robes, and women sit separated from men. These separations and colorful dresses make the whole praying process fascinating and picturesque. Once you enter the complex, you should follow a strict dress code - cover your shoulders and knees, and remove your shoes to show respect.
A fascinating fact - Did you know there are more than 1,000 Cao Dai Temples around Vietnam?
- Working hours: 06:00 - 18:00
- Address: Hoa Thanh, Tay Ninh, Vietnam
- Fee: 110.000 VND
#9- Jade Emperor Pagoda - Saigon (HCMC)
Jade Emperor Pagoda or often called Tortoise Pagoda, is one of the essential cultural temples in Saigon. The complex was built at the beginning of the 20th century by immigrants from Guangzhou province located in China. The story of pagoda started when a regular Chinese man named Luu Minh migrated from mainland China to South Vietnam to work.
As he was a firm believer and follower of Buddhism, he wanted to create a worship place for his daily praying sessions, and that's how this majestic pagoda finds itself in the middle of Saigon. The architecture looks pretty colorful and attractive, and the whole complex spreads over whopping 2,000 square meters.
There are many tiny temples, picturesque statues, beautiful paintings, and worship places where people can pray or simply wonder the beauty of the complex. The complex features three main halls filled with Buddha statues, different gods, tigers, dragons, and other mythical creatures.
Since Jade Emperor Pagoda is an extremely popular temple in Vietnam, especially after Obama's visit in 2016., it's imperative to time your visit carefully.
Aim to visit in the early morning and avoid national holidays, or significant dates on Lunar Calendar as pagoda tends to be full. For the dress code, just follow the main rule - cover your knees and shoulders, and you'll be okay.
- Working hours: 08:00 - 17:00
- Address: 73 Mai Thi Luu, D3, Saigon (HCMC)
- Fee: No entrance fee, but you can leave a donation for preserving the place
Have you ever visited any Vietnam temples or pagodas during your travels? Feel free to share your favorite, and we would love to add it to our list.