Vietnam is home to a number of shrines, pagodas, temples, and other beautiful religious sites. From Buddhist temples to Hindu shrines and Chinese monasteries, some of these temples have played an important role in shaping the country’s history and culture.
You don’t really need to visit all of these religious sites if you don’t have enough time in the country. Depending on the area of Vietnam that you plan on visiting, there are certain temples that are just too fascinating to ignore. So here’s a list of some of the most fascinating temples in Vietnam that are truly worth your time.
1. Cao Dai Temple
Built in the year 1930 and completed in 1955, the Cao Dai Temple is one of the most popular temples in Vietnam. Located in the city of Ho Chi Minh, the temple features ornate decorations and its architectural details are a combination of Neo-Gothic, Baroque, and Oriental styles. It has sky blue ceilings decorated with clouds and saints, similar to Christian Cathedrals. Followers of the Cao Dai religion believe that all religions are the same. Thus, leaders of the various religions in the world are honored in this temple, such as Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha, Confucius, etc.
Watching the devotees pray is one of the highlights in visiting the temple as they are dressed in long flowing robes of different colors depending on their role in the church. For instance, priests are dressed in red, yellow, and blue, while followers are dressed in white. Worship takes place every day and visitors are allowed to observe from the galleries and may also take photographs but silence is strictly observed.
2. Emperor Jade Pagoda
Another religious attraction that’s worth a visit in the city of Ho Chi Minh is the Emperor Jade Pagoda, also called the Tortoise Pagoda. Built in the 20th century by a group of Cantonese who has migrated from Guangzhou, China, the pagoda is a representation of the Mahayana Buddhism that’s one of the religions being practiced in Vietnam.
The pagoda is a working shrine that’s visited by locals for worship. Worshippers can be seen offering flowers and lighting incense sticks. There’s also a tortoise pond at the temple grounds and some worshippers can be seen feeding the animals as part of their rituals.
3. Mariamman Hindu Temple
The Mariamman Hindu Temple is another temple located in Ho Chi Minh that is known for its ornate and colorful designs, featuring interesting statues of different Hindu gods and goddesses, such as Mariamman, Brahma, Vishnu, and Ganesha. Built in 19th century by a group of Indian traders, this Hindu temple is said to have miraculous powers, providing wealth and luck to its worshippers. The main hall of the temple is several meters tall and where you’ll find the statue of Mariamman.
When visiting the temple, visitors are required to take off the shoes and to be dressed appropriately, which means that the knees must be covered. Located in the District 1 area of Ho Chi Minh City, the temple is a walking distance away from the other attractions in the city.
4. Temple Of Literature
The Temple of Literature is located in the city of Hanoi and is a popular attraction in the city. In fact, the temple is featured at the 100,000 Vietnamese banknotes. Built in 1070, the temple is also home to the first ever university in Vietnam. Upon visiting the Temple of Literature, you’ll also come across several historical buildings that date back from the Tran and Ly dynasties. It has five different courtyards and one of which contains the Well of Heavenly Clarity and the rest are the resident of monks and scholars.
The layout of the Temple of Literature is based on the birthplace of Confucius and has a magnificent entrance and a beautiful pathway leading towards the courtyards. There are also beautiful gardens, which is a great place to relax away from the hustle bustle of the Old Quarter. The Temple of Literature is only a short walk from the famous Ba Dinh Square and is also near the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum and the Presidential Palace.
5. Tran Quoc Pagoda
Another popular religious attraction in Hanoi is the Tran Quoc Pagoda, which is known as the oldest temples in the city. The pagoda dates back to the 6th century and has already undergone several renovations. Set beautifully in an islet in Hanoi’s West Lake, the pagoda was originally built by the banks of the Red River. It was in 1615 that the pagoda was relocated because of the river’s encroachment.
The Tran Quoc Pagoda is open daily from 7:30 AM and is free for everyone to visit although it’s often packed with devotees during the country’s most significant festivals, such as on the Tet New Year. Just like with visiting other religious place, visitors are encouraged to dress appropriately when visiting the pagoda. The West Lake is about 20 min by car from the Old Quarter of Hanoi and the best way to get there is to hire a taxi or rent a motorbike and drive all the way.