20 of the world’s most beautiful Buddhist temples

These architectural marvels were designed to inspire peaceful reflection.

Between the mid-sixth and mid-fourth centuries B.C., Buddhism was founded in northeastern India and soon spread throughout the Asian subcontinent, influencing cultural and spiritual practices, art, and architecture. Today, around half a billion people around the world practice Buddhism, which is built upon principles like the Four Noble Truths and pursuit of nirvana. While traditional Buddhist temples often reflect the architectural styles of the region, all are designed to facilitate quiet reflection and meditation. (Here are 38 beautiful holy sites around the world.)

Etiquette at Buddhist temples is fairly universal. Visitors should remove their shoes at the door, wear clothing that covers knees and shoulders, and keep noise to a minimum. Pay attention to posted signage and avoid disruptive photography, especially when monks are praying. From the sprawling stone structures at Angkor Wat to the cliffside temples of Tiger’s Nest, here are 20 Buddhist temples worth a visit.

Cait Etherton is a Virginia-based writer and frequent contributor to National Geographic Travel. Follow her journey on Twitter @carryoncait.