11 Buddhist Temples to explore in Laos
A socialist state and the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia lying at the heart of the Indochinese peninsula. Laos traces its historic and cultural identity to Lan Xang, which existed from the 14th century to the 18th century as one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia.
Ho Phra Keo is a former Buddhist shrine dating back to 1565 – today, it serves as a museum of religious arts in Vientiane. Locals call it ‘the Temple of the Emerald Buddha’ as Ho Phra Keo has a gilded throne meant for the Emerald Buddha, which now sits on the grounds of Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
Pha That Luang, located about 4km northeast of the city centre, is the most important national monument in Laos – a symbol of Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty. Legend has it that Ashokan missionaries from India erected a tâht (stupa) here to enclose a piece of Buddha's breastbone as early as the 3rd century BC.
Wat Si Saket is the only temple in Laos that survived the Siamese occupation, which destroyed much of the capital in 1828. It features over 10,000 Buddha sculptures of varying sizes and styles. The temple also has beautiful architecture and layout, with a history that dates back to 1818.
That Dam is a 16th-century Buddhist stupa in central Vientiane. Also known as the Black Stupa, it’s located on a quiet roundabout not far from Talat Sao (morning market) and the American Embassy. Visit That Dam in the late evening, when the ancient site is illuminated in colourful artificial lighting. You can even enjoy the view from most restaurants and bars surrounding the stupa.
Wat Manorom is a major Buddhist temple and monastery in Luang Prabang, Laos. There are several theories as to the date of its founding; it may have been founded in 1372 or 1375 by Samsenthai, but it may also date from the reign of Laasaenthai Bouvanaat around 1492. The great bronze Buddha, 6 meters high, in the nave dates from the 1370s.
The impressive Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham is one of Luang Prabang’s largest and most richly decorated temples. Both its interior and exterior are extensively adorned with black and red lacquer decoration and gold leaf. The temple, also known as Wat Mai, meaning “new temple” was founded around 1780 by King Anurat of the Luang Prabang Kingdom. Located next to the Royal Palace, the Wat Mai was the temple used by Laos Royalty.
Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan was originally built in the 16th century by King Setthathirat, the builder of Pha That Luang. Like the Great Stupa, it was destroyed in the Siamese invasion of 1828 and was later rebuilt in the 19th century. The temple takes its name from the massive 16th century bronze Buddha image, the largest in Vientiane. The temple is also the residence of the Lao Supreme Patriarch.
The Sikhottabong Stupa and Ancient City site, on the east bank of the Mekong south of Thakhek, is the most important cultural and religious site in south central Laos. The Ancient City – remains that you can see of even older buildings – is important in the cultural background of the area. The region’s main event is the Sikhottabong festival
Wat Pa Phon Phao is a Buddhist hill temple located across the Nam Khan River in the city of Luang Prabang in Laos. It was a retreat in the forest for meditation and spiritual learning for the Kings of Laos. This temple with a golden stupa is known for its unique octagonal-shaped architecture, picturesque location offering excellent panoramic views of the mountains and the surrounding Phanom village.
Wat Sen, Luang Prabang is also known as Wat Sene Souk Haram is a Buddhist temple (wat), located in Luang Phrabang, Laos. It was built in 1718 by King Kitsarath with 100,000 stones from the Mekong river. It literally means "Temple of 100,000 treasures". It was restored in 1957 commemorating the Buddha's birth 2500 years earlier.
The Wat Xieng Thong found at the tip of the Luang Prabang peninsula is one of Laos most beautiful and richly decorated temples built by King Setthathirath in 1559 on the banks of the Mekong river. It is one of the few temples that was not destroyed during the Black Flag Army invasion of 1887. The impressive structure is built in the Luang Prabang style, its sweeping roof extending almost to the ground. The roof consists of a large, 3 tiered central section flanked by several 2 tiered sections.