For somewhere like Thailand, temples are a commonplace, but these 20 unusual and eccentric Wats (temples) will give you an experience that’s anything but ordinary.
1. Walk around a mountain to reach this cave temple with views – Wat Phu Tok, Bueng Kan
Wat Phu Thok, also known as Wat Jetiyakhiri, has a unique wooden walkway curving around the scenic mountain – that travellers and worshippers get to journey through to reach the summit.
The wooden walkway provides endless viewpoints, and when you finally reach the top, you’ll get to enjoy a stunning 360º view. (Make sure to bring water and snacks as it can be quite a tiring walk with about 600 steps!)
Triview: Phu Tok means ‘lonely mountain’ in the Isan language
An important temple where you’ll find practicing monks, nuns and Buddhists – you’ll find 7 levels of wooden ladders, steps, rocks and roots on the mountain – which represent the 7 levels of spiritual enlightenment in Buddhist philosophy.
Ready for some spiritual enlightenment along with great views?
Wat Phu Tok, Bueng Kan
Address: Na Saeng, Si Wilai District, Bueng Kan 38220, Thailand (Coordinates here) Opening hours: Daily from 8am to 5pm Entrance fees/price: Free!
2. The famous Krabi temple complete with dreamscape misty views – Tiger Cave Temple
Looking much like a scene in a dream or fantasy animation from Studio Ghibli, it’s not difficult to see why people make sure to visit Tiger Temple in Krabi.
Before you visit, be warned, there is a price to pay for the unbelievable views – and that is the 1,237 steps you will have to climb to get there. However, the rewards are more than well worth it once you reach the top.
Don’t forget to bring water along, and light snacks to refuel!
3. Wonder the seemingly infinite ground of a spaceship-like temple – Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Pathum Thani
Take a step inside Thailand’s largest temple. The temple is known for it’s unique construction, more minimalist than most ornate Thai temples. Wat Phra Dhammakaya represents the Dhammakaya movement, the belief that inner peace will lead to world peace.
The temple grounds is home to 300,000 Buddha images and house several thousand monks. The temple holds massive gatherings dedicated to meditation. When visiting the temple, you might notice that the architecture is not like other Thai temples.
It takes on a more simplistic structure and focus, with the idea that time and money can be focused on the dedication to the Dhammakaya movement rather than upkeep of a more detailed design.
4. As close as we can get to Targaryen dragons – Wat Samphran, Nakon Pathom
If you’re suffering from Game of Thrones withdrawals, well… Welcome to Wat Samphran – the unusual pink dragon temple that’s as close as we can go to Targaryen dragons.
The very unusually shaped and colored Pink Dragon temple may be one of the most eccentric temples in Thailand. Aside from it’s strange structural characteristics, the temple has no written history.
No one knows who designed it or how old it actually is. The soaring temple reaches 17 stories and features a dragon wrapped around the pink skyscraper. Visitors can also find a large bronze Buddha on the grounds.
Wat Samphran, Nakon Pathom
Price:Free Address: 92/8 Moo 7,Sampran,Nakhon Pathom 73110,Thailand. Coordinates here Contact: +66 34 321 888 Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 4pm
5. The stunning azure blue temple on a hill – Wat Pa Phu Kon, Udon Thani
At Wat Pa Phu Kon (also known as Wat Phu Phu), all you’ll get are views, views and more views.
Couple that with beautiful temple architecture, and a magnificent white marble reclining Buddha – this is the go-to temple in Udon Thani.
The temple’s gorgeous designs means it’s a sight to behold both during the day and at night. If you visit at night, one unique sight to look out for, is the reclining buddha dappled in peaceful patterns.
Altogether, the Buddha statue and temple grounds cost an incredible 370 million Baht (USD $11.1 million) to build, which makes it one of the more luxurious temples around.
PS: If you’re hungry, there’s a simple restaurant around temple grounds for you to lunch at!
Wat Pa Phu Kon, Udon Thani
Address: Ban Kong, Na Yung District, Udon Thani 41380, Thailand (Coordinates here) Contact: +66 82 835 0668 Opening hours: Daily from 8am to 5pm (if you’re looking to view the Buddha statue at night, do check with the temple staff to see if you’re able to stay till dark) Entrance fees/price: Free!
6. Unprecedented location and the most breathtaking temples and pagodas in all of Thailand – Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn, Lampang (2.5 hours from Chiang Mai)
Also known by the names Wat Phabatpuphadang, Wat Phrabuddhabat or Wat Doi, these spectacular temples and pagodas are truly one of a kind. Clinging to the jagged cliff face at the top of a mountain, the temples overlook a sheer drop close to 1,000 meters below!
An hour’s drive from Lampang deposits you at the first level, where you can wander around the main temple, and meet the monks who live in this area.
The second level is farther up the mountain, and can be accessed by Songthaew or on foot. Here you will find the famous footsteps that are believed to belong to Buddha.
Leading to the final level of the temple complex are 800 extremely steep steps that bring you to the most magnificent mountain top in Thailand. This third tier is known as Doi Prat Bet – and here you’ll find the golden pagoda, prayer hall, and many white stupas scattered along the rocky surface of the mountain top.
The 360 degree views from the summit are incredible; the Thung valley below, the hills in the distance, and the temples surrounding you. Located in the Lampang province (112km from Chiang Mai), this magnificent, 3-level Buddhist tribute may be a little difficult to get to, but more than worth the journey.
Video by Jakapong Wattanajahree
Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn (2.5 hours from Chiang Mai)
Price/entrance fees:The entrance fee is 200 Baht. In addition to this, it will cost USD $2.80 / approx. 100 Baht for a round trip Songthaew ride from the first to the second level. There is no transportation provided between the second and third level; you will need to climb on your own. Address: Mueang Pan, Mueang Pan District, Lampang 52240, Thailand Getting there: It’s a 3-hour drive from Chiang Mai. Otherwise, the easiest option is to take a domestic flight to Lampang Airport and then take a local bus or shuttle into Chaehom. From here you will need to hire a tuk-tuk or taxi to take you to the temple’s ground level. Coordinate here
Chiang Mai sits eights hours north of Bangkok by car and just one hour by plane. The northern Thai city is famous for its old history and historical temples. To separate from the crowds, explore the less traveled.
7. An artist’s dream, The Silver Temple – Wat Srisuphan, Chiang Mai
Any artist looking for a unique temple experience will appreciate Wat Srisuphan, also known as the Silver Temple. It’s known for its specially decorated shine of hammered silver art, and those famous blue watery steps.
The shrine is decorated by local artisans who still work at the on-site studio today – and you’ll be able to make your own silver keychain there too.
Historically, the neighborhood was a silver worker’s district, and the tradition lives on today. To top off the experience, stop by for a monk chat on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday from 5.30pm to 7 pm or an introduction to meditation from 7pm to 9pm.
Wat Srisuphan, Chiang Mai
Price:Free Address: 100 Wua Lai Rd, Tambon Hai Ya, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand. Coordinates here Contact: +66 61 403 2581 Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 6pm
In the heart of bustling Bangkok, you’ll quickly notice the must-see temples of the typical tourist, but if you look beyond those and dig deeper for the hidden gems, you’ll find the real magic hidden in plain sight.
10. Admire the world’s largest and most expensive solid gold Buddha – Wat Traimit, Bangkok
If you want something with a wow factor, take a trip to Wat Traimit. The temple houses a solid gold Buddha that weighs in at five and a half tons. The Buddha is 83 percent gold and 15 feet tall.
With the current gold prices, it’s said to be worth millions of dollars. The golden Buddha was once housed in temple in Bangkok, which was abandoned sometime near 1931. In the Buddha’s earlier years it was covered in plaster and lacquer, which some say was to disguise its true worth.
When the Buddha was being moved from the abandoned temple to where it’s at now (Wat Traimit), the statue was dropped when some ropes broke. During this incident, the true gold body of the Buddha was shown, which many forgot about over the years.
Some of the chipped plaster is now on display at the temple’s museum!
Wat Traimit, Bangkok
Price:Entering the grounds is free. It costs USD $1.20 / 40 Baht to see the golden Buddha. The museum costs an extra USD $3 / 100 Baht. Address: 661 Tri Mit Rd, Khwaeng Talat Noi, Khet Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand. Coordinates here Contact: +66 2623 3329, +66 2623 1227 Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 5pm
11. The David Beckham temple with Pikachu and even Luffy from One Piece – Wat Pariwat, Bangkok
Yep, you read that right. The David Beckham Temple of Bangkok has become infamous for featuring, you guessed it – David Beckham’s head. The head of the temple is a huge Manchester United fan, David Beckham’s old soccer team.
Visitors can find the head of Beckham at the bottom of the temple shrine – along with other familiar characters like Popeye (the sailorman), Pikachu, Luffy from One Piece, and more.
The temple is only officially open on special occasions, but if you start asking around town you may just meet the right person to let you inside to see it for yourself.
Wat Pariwat, Bangkok
Price:Free Address: Wat Pariwat, 2-67 Rama III Road, Bangkok. Coordinates here Getting there: Take the BTS to Chong Nonsi Station, then take a 10-15min taxi ride to the temple. It is located within Chinatown near Chao Phraya River. Opening Hours: While the temple is only officially open on special occasions, you can still try asking locals around during daytime to see if you’re able to enter and check it out for a short while.
12. Take a ride, no not really, in the Boat Temple – Wat Yannawa, Bangkok
Visitors can walk through the boat-shaped temple at Wat Yannawa. The temple sits along the Chao Phraya River. During the Loy Krathong Festival, the temple is wall-to-wall people, locals who float their way to the wat.
The trip to the boat temple affords many opportunities for other river adventures. The temple’s main attraction is a viharn (houses Buddha images) in the shape of a Chinese junk.
King Rama III wanted the people to remember the past ships that brought prosperity to the kingdom – which is how Wat Yannawa came about!
Wat Yannawa, Bangkok
Price:Free Address: 40 Charoen Krung Rd, Khwaeng Yan Nawa, Khet Sathon, Bangkok 10120, Thailand. Coordinates here Contact: +66 2 672 3206 Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 6pm
13. Revel in a multi-cultural gothic cathedral-style temple – Wat Ratchabophit, Bangkok
Many cultural influences can be seen at Wat Ratchabophit, from Thai and Sri Lankan to Italian. The interiors even resembles gothic European cathedrals which is what makes it truly unique.
Like other temples in Thailand, this one often gets passed up due to its close proximity to the ever popular Grand Palace.
This melting pot of temples houses even more surprises, The Royal Cemetery can be found on the temple grounds, where many deceased royal family members have been laid to rest.
It doesn’t end there. A Christian church can also be found, in addition to an area for monks to reside.
Wat Ratchabophit, Bangkok
Price:Free Address: 90 ถนน เฟื่องนคร Wang Burapha Phirom, Khet Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand. Coordinates here Contact: +66 2 222 3930 Opening: Daily from 8am to 5pm
14. It’s a magical marble temple with stained glass windows — Wat Benchamabophit, Bangkok
Also know as the marble temple, Wat Benchamabophit boasts stained glass windows and the ubosot inside the temple is made of Carrara marble imported from Italy, as well as incredible history and architectural style.
In addition to the impressive structure, the grounds house a gallery of Buddha images, a Bodhi tree from India, and several resident monks. The Bodhi tree holds significance due its roots in Bodhgaya, India, where Buddha is known to have reached enlightenment.
Wat Benchamabophit, Bangkok
Price:The entrance fee is USD $0.60 / 20 Baht. Address: 69 ถนน นครปฐม ติด คลอง Khwaeng Dusit, Khet Dusit, Bangkok 10300, Thailand. Coordinates here Contact: +66 2281 2501, +66 2628 7947 Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 5pm
15. Enjoy a meditation journey to a mountain caveside temple – Wat Tham Pha Plong, Chiang Dao
Located on the side of a cave surrounded by lush greens, Wat Tham Pha Plong offers meditation classes at 3am. The journey to the mountainside temple is just a short 500 steps away.
Visitors will reach a golden stupa at the top, while also enjoying views. As you climb your way to the top, you’ll accordingly, gain wisdom with every step as encouraging proverbs are littered throughout.
Wat Tham Pha Plong, Chiang Dao
Price:Free but donations are strongly encouraged Getting there: Coordinates here Contact: +66 53 456 604 Opening Hours: Daily from 3am to 6pm
16. The beer bottle temple – Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew/Wat Larn Kuad, Sisaket
This eco-friendly wat (temple), also known as the Million Bottle Temple, is made of nearly 1.5 million recycled glass beer bottles (mostly Heineken and Chang Beer bottles!).
In 1984, a group of monks were tired of growing amount of litter in Sisaket and decided to start a recycling initiative via glass beer bottles – and bottle caps for mosaics and Buddhist designs. Over the years, the temple has expanded into a multi-building complex and now features sleeping quarters, bathrooms, and a crematorium.
The grounds are still being added to, and the recycled-glass-bottle temple is meant to be a conversation starter, as well as be a symbol of the cleansing of the mind
Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew/Wat Larn Kuad, Sisaket
Price:Free Getting there: Coordinates here Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 5pm
17. Monkey around in Monkey Cave/Temple – Wat Tham Phanthurat, Khao Sok National Park
Families of macaque live near the temple, greeting visitors as they discover the cave. The temple is built on a flat open area atop a large limestone in the lush green jungle of Khao Sok National Park.
The monkeys run rampant, so be sure to watch for any snacks in your packs. Fruit stands have bananas and nuts for sale if you dare to feed the little rascals.
Wat Tham Phanthurat, Khao Sok National Park
Price:Free Getting there: Coordinates here Getting there: The temple is roughly 400 meters past the entrance to the road to the National Park, on the left on highway 401. Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 5pm
18. Take a walk through this twisted Thailand temple – The Black Temple, Chiang Rai
Many travellers exploring the northern city of Chiang Rai make a stop at the infamous White Temple, but not many know of the Black Temple. Known to locals as Baan Dam Museum, the grounds are made up of various buildings filled with images of death.
From animal skins and bones to furs, the unusual “temple” is not quite a temple. You won’t find a golden Buddha or any monks living here. The temple is a representation of all things horrible and ugly that Buddha saw during his journey.
PS: Thai artist Thawan Duchanee, the creator of the Black Temple, has also been put under major scrutiny for his work.
The Black Temple, Chiang Rai
Price:Free Address: 333 หมู่ 13 Tambon Nang Lae, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Rai, Chang Wat Chiang Rai 57100, Thailand. Coordinates here Contact: +66 53 776 333 Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 5pm
19. The chickenless chicken temple of Hell – Wat Gai, Ayutthaya
Wat Gai literally translates to Chicken Temple, but oddly enough you won’t see any chicken wandering around these temple grounds. The name is meant to pay homage to the chickens that once inhabited and died here.
Although no chickens are present, Wat Gai is known for it’s main attraction – the hell sculpture garden. The sculptures can be a little gruesome and graphic, so this trip is not for the faint of heart.
Oddly enough, Thai parents always bring their kids here as a lesson in morals and consequences – ie, the consequences that could possibly await them if they were naughty.
Wat Gai, Ayutthaya
Price:Free Address: Soi 5, Samphao Lom, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, 13000, Thailand. Coordinates here Contact: +66 3538 9061 Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 5pm
20. Another look into Buddhist Hell — Wat Pa Thewapithak, Changhan District
If you believe you have bad karma coming your way, taking a step inside Wat Pa Thewapitak might not be the place for you. A hellish picture is painted of what may come if you commit any sins, as a Buddhist.
Various torturous activities are depicted, it’s meant to scare any wandering souls straight. If you want to take the fright one step further, each sculpture has a box that takes 1 Thai baht, and you’ll get to see the torture in action accompanied with frightful laughter or screams.
If you happen to work up an appetite or get thirsty in the Thai humidity, vendors on site have a mix of offerings.
Wat Pa Thewapithak
Price:Free Address: Changhan, Changhan District, Roi Et 45000, Thailand (Coordinates here) Getting there: The hellish temple is just 8km north of Roi Et (101). Opening hours: Daily from 9am to 5pm
How do you feel about these unique temples we’ve found?
Ranging from quirky (David Beckham temple) to bizarre (spaceship temple), artistic (beer bottle temple) and downright frightful (hell temple) – there’s something for everyone!