Visiting one of the numerous temples is Vietnam is one of the best ways to experience Vietnamese culture. Like the culture itself, these temples are highly varied, exhibiting influences from multiple religions and neighborhing countries.
Vietnam’s temples range from the millennium-old temples of Hanoi to the incense-filled Taoist temples of Ho Chi Minh City. In between, you’ll find vast monasteries partially built into caves, seaside Buddhist pagodas, and ruins of ancient Hindu temples of the Cham civilization.
In this article, we’ll introduce 25 of the best temples in Vietnam, traveling from north to south! Whether you’re backpacking, teaching or otherwise living in Vietnam, let this be your guide to exploring Vietnamese temples!
Temples in Hanoi and Northern Vietnam
Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, boasts some of the most famous historical temples in all of Vietnam. To the city’s south lies two vast Buddhist temple complexes, while coastal temples overlook the awe-inspiring Halong Bay.
Keep in mind that when visiting temples in Vietnam, it is best to adopt a more conservative dress code, such as no short shorts above the knees or bare shoulders. At some temples, you may have to remove your shoes.
Ngoc Son Temple, Hanoi
Ngoc Son Temple is an oasis of serenity is the atmospheric Old Quarter of Hanoi, famous for its atmospheric streets and local Vietnamese snacks. Also called Temple of the Jade Mountain, the temple occupies an islet on Hoan Kiem Lake, a beautiful lake at the core of Hanoi. The islet and temple are accessed via the scarlet “Welcoming Morning Sunlight Bridge” (Cau The Huc).
The temple is probably the most visited among visitors to Hanoi. The temple was built in the 1800s to honor Tran Hung Dao, who led the Tran Dynasty to victories against the Chinese in the 1200s. (One of the interesting facts about Vietnam: the country was ruled by the Chinese for 1000 years!)
A statue of Tran Hung Dao can be seen in the temple’s internal hall. Overall, the temple’s unique location on the lake and historical significance make it one of the city’s most iconic temples.
Tran Quoc Pagoda, Hanoi
Another famous Hanoi temple, Tran Quoc Pagoda, is also built on an islet on a lake. In this case, the pagoda is built on an Golden Fish (Kim Ngu) islet at the southeastern corner of West Lake (Ho Tay), the largest freshwater lake in Hanoi. In Vietnam, “pagoda” is usually used for Buddhist temples and “temple” is used for temples devoted to historical figures.
Tran Quoc Pagoda is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi and one of the most important in the country. It dates back over 1500 years, having been built from 541 to 545 CE on the bank of the Red River, but it was moved to its present location on the lake in the 1600s. A bridge separates West Lake and Truc Bach Lake, and also provides access to the temple.
Highlights of the temple include a tree grown from a branch of the sacred Bodhi tree in India, a 15-meter (11-story) pagoda, and some impressive statues. Views of the temple are especially inspiring at sunset.
Temple of Literature, Hanoi
A third must-see temple in Hanoi is the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu). Located south of Tran Quoc and west of Ngoc Son, it completes the triangle of the three most famous Hanoi temples.
The Temple of Literature is nearly a millennium old, dating to 1070. The temple is dedicated to Confucius and is considered the country’s first national university. It is located just below Hanoi’s imperial citadel, and past royalty would have studied there.
The temple is a beautiful and well-preserved example of traditional Vietnamese architecture, with lots of wood and tiles used in its construction. It even appears on the Vietnamese 100,000 dong banknote.
One Pillar Pagoda, Hanoi
A fourth temple in Hanoi that makes our list is the One Pillar Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot) near Hanoi’s Imperial Citadel and right next to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum.
This is another ancient Buddhist temple, dating to 1049, which once belonged to a much larger complex called Extend Bless Pagoda (Dien Huu Tu).
The pagoda’s name refer to its star attraction, the Lotus Station (Lien Hua Dai), a temple structure balanced atop a single stone pillar above pond, with eight wooden supporting beams. The French destroyed the original pagoda after the First Indochina War in 1954, after which it was rebuilt. It is considered one of the most iconic temples in Vietnam.
Perfume Pagoda, also known as Chua Huong or Huong Pagoda, is arguably the most famous Buddhist temple in all of Vietnam. It is located in My Duc, a rural district of Greater Hanoi.
This huge temple complex is built into the the karst caves, cliffs, and mountains that the area is famous for.
Although it is technically in Hanoi city, it is about 60 kilometers south of the Hanoi city center, and getting there is a full-day affair. This involves a two-hour drive, boat ride past rice paddies, then an uphill hike or cable car ride. The journey is, however, undoubtedly worth it.
Bai Dinh Pagoda, Ninh Binh
Another major Buddhist temple complex found to the south of Hanoi is Bai Dinh Pagoda in Ninh Binh province. In fact, following its recent enormous expansion, Bai Dinh is the largest Buddhist complex in all of Vietnam. Like Perfume Pagoda, is a famous pilgrimage site for Buddhists.
Bai Dinh consists of an original temple built into caves on a forested hill. It is accessed via 300 stone steps up the mountain. A newer (completed 2010) and much larger temple is constructed at the base of the hill, north of the original temple. The enormous grounds feature several major halls, a rectangular pond, a towering stupa, 36-ton bell, and a huge statue of Maitreya, the Future Buddha.
Despite how new it is, Bai Dinh’s architectural style is traditional. Although Perfume Pagoda is historically more famous, Bai Dinh surely gives it a run for its money!
Cai Bau Pagoda, Halong Bay
Since the beauty of Halong Bay in northern Vietnam is unsurpassed, I wanted to include at least one Vietnamese temple facing it on my list. The choice was easy to make: Cai Bau Pagoda, or Truc Lam Giac Tam Zen Monastery.
Located on the coast of Quang Ninh province, where Halong Bay is located, the temple is not technically in Halong Bay proper, but instead faces the less visited but equally stunning Bai Tu Long bay immediate to the north and in a national park of the same name.
While the Buddhist pagoda is fairly normal by Vietnamese standards, its unique setting is anything but. After climbing the steep staircase to the temple, visitors can enjoy an expansive view of the dramatic bay and its many islands.
Here’s our article covering the top cruises in Halong Bay.
Temples in Central Vietnam
Central Vietnam is considered the food capital of Vietnam. From 1802 to 1945, it was the country’s capital, with the Nguyen Dynasty leaving behind many temples in Hue. The emerging city of Danang and the architectural and historical gem that is Hoi An add their own entries to the list.
To Mieu Temple, Hue
Beginning in Hue, the former capital of Vietnam, we start this section with To Mieu Temple, which is located within Hue’s Imperial City. The Imperial City, which is surrounded by a bound, it at the core of the larger Citadel, which itself is also surrounded by a moat of diverted waters from waters of the Perfume River.
To Mieu Temple is where the emperor and other royalty would have prayed. It is located at the southwestern corner of the Imperial City and consists of four main temples halls. The temple complex is a must-see when visiting the Imperial City.
Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue
Three kilometers southwest of Hue’s Citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda lies on the bank of the Perfume River. The name Thien Mu, or “heavenly fairy”, derives from a local legend about a woman who once appeared on the spot and foretold that a pagoda would be built there.
The most recognizable feature of this temple is the 21-meter (7-storey) octagonal tower Thap Phuoc Duyen. Built in 1844, it soon became a symbol of Hue, and later, all of Vietnam.
To reach Thien My Pagoda, visitors can ride a bike from Hue along the Perfume River. Boats also cross the river to reach it from the opposite side.
Tu Hieu Pagoda, Hue
The last Vietnamese temple I’ll cover around Hue is Tu Hieu Pagoda, which is 2.5 kilometers south of the Hue Citadel. To Hieu is a serene forest temple where the famous Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh studied in the 1940s.
Tu Hieu was built in 1843, and later taken over by eunuchs from the Hue Citadel. One of the highlights of visiting the two main temples on site is the chance to hear Buddhist chanting. The chanting usually takes place at 4:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 12:00, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily, and is conducted by the 50+ monks who live in the monastery.
Linh Ung Bai But, Da Nang
Da Nang, a coastal city south of Hue is known for its beaches and coastal temples. The most impressive of these is Linh Ung Bai But (also called Bai But) on Son Tra Peninsula, which separates Danang Beach from Danang Bay.
This beautiful temples stands at the base of Son Tra mountain, facing the sea and Danang Beach. The temple includes a beautiful entrance gate, main hall, and 67-meter white statue of Guanyin, the female bodhisattva of compassion. It is the tallest statue in all of Vietnam.
Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An
The Japanese covered bridge, or Cau Nhat Ban, is the most famous structure in Hoi An, a charming Vietnamese town famous for its colonial history, historic homes, and temples.
While it really is a bridge, the structure is unique in that it has a temple roof on top of it. Hoi An’s Japanese community built the bridge in the 1590s to link their neighborhood with the Chinese one. A pair of monkeys and dogs stand at either end – it is said this is because many Japanese emperors were born in the year of the monkey or dog.
Phuc Kien Assembly Hall (Hoi Quan Phuoc Kien), Hoi An
Because Hoi An was an important trade center, it is home to a handful of “assembly halls”. These are places where traders would gather and socialize. The most famous among them is the Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, or Hoi Quan Phuoc Kien, dating to 1690. The hall was later converted into a temple for worship of Thien Hau, the goddess of the sea, from Fujian province in China.
The temple’s iconic pink brick gate with green roof tiles leaves a memorable impression on visitors. Inside, you can see a mural of the six Fujian families who fled to Hoi An in the 1600s, as well as a statue of Thien Hau at the center of the temple.
My Son, Hoi An area
My Son is a collection of Hindu temple ruins belonging to the Cham civilization. The Champa, or Cham people, had a vast kingdom spanning central and southern Vietnam until it was annexed by Vietnam in 1832. My Son, a cluster of around 20 Cham temples, is the most famous set of ruins in Vietnam.
My Son originally had three times as many temples and other structures, but many were destroyed during the Vietnam War. The site, which is located in a lush valley at the base of Cat’s Tooth Mountain (Hon Quap), is where Cham rulers would go to conduct religious ceremonies.
Temples in Ho Chi Minh and Southern Vietnam
Compared to northern Vietnam, which is a little more traditional and Chinese-influenced the south feels more tropical and Southeast Asian. While many of southern Vietnam’s temples are still Chinese-influenced, some also look more like those in neighborhing Southeast Asian counties like Cambodia and Thailand.
Long Son Pagoda, Nha Trang
Long Son Pagoda is the most impressive Buddhist temple in Nha Trang, a south-central Vietnamese city that was once home to a major US army base. Now the most famous things to do in Nha Trang are mostly related to its long beach.
You can’t really miss Long Son Pagoda thanks to its enormous, white statue of the Buddha. The statue was once even listed as the world’s largest, not in height but in overall size, and it remains the largest statue in Vietnam. Standing on a hill, the statue can be seen from many places in the city.
The statue is actually on top of the hill behind the temple, while most of the temple is at the hill’s base. When walking up to the statue, visitors will pass another impressive one of a reclining Buddha.
Ponagar Tower, Nha Trang
Besides My Son, the famous famous Cham ruins in Vietnam, there is another impressive set of Cham ruins right in Nha Trang, just a few kilometers south of the city center, called Ponagar Tower.
This Hindu temple structure dates was mainly used in the 7th to 12th centuries, but Buddhists still worship at the ruins there today. Only four of the original eight towers remain, including the North Tower, which has an impressive pyramidal roof. Standing on a hill and above the trees that surround them, the towers can be seen from afar.
Linh Son Pagoda, Dalat
The former highland resort town of Dalat is home to Linh Son Pagoda. Built when Vietnam was still part of French Indochina, this lovely Buddhist temple sits on serene grounds. Several buildings on site have a calming ochre color.
The huge bell on site is said to have been made so heavy that robbers wouldn’t take it away. The 20 or so monks living there maintain coffee and tea plants on the grounds.
Jade Emperor Pagoda, HCMC
Moving now to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), the largest city in Vietnam, Jade Emperor Pagoda is arguably the city’s most atmospheric. Filled with intricate statues (some terrifying), carvings, tilework, and dense incense smoke, this is the quintessential HCMC temple experience. If you only make it to one temple in Ho Chi Minh, this would be a good choice.
Jade Emperor Pagoda was only established just over a hundred years ago by a Chinese immigrant to the city. Like many Chinese temples, it combines elements of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, but the main deity worshipped here is the Jade Emperor, the ruler of heaven.
Although the temple was official taken over by a Buddhist organization in the early 1980s and renamed Phuoc Hai Tu, most people still call it the Jade Emperor Pagoda.
Giac Lam Pagoda, HCMC
Giac Lam is one of, if not the oldest Buddhist temple in Ho Chi Minh City, dating to 1744. The large walled temple compound and gardens are surrounded by urban sprawl, preserved over time as the city built up around them.
Besides its historical significance, the temple stands out for its 32-meter (7-story) gold-colored stupa, which is a major landmark in Ho Chi Minh City. The stupa was built to house relics of the Buddha, and visitors can climb up it.
While many Buddhist temples belong to the Mahayana tradition, which is more common in China and Northeast Asia, this one belongs to the Theravada tradition of Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.
Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, HCMC
Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s largest Buddhist temples and very popular among locals. It is relatively new, having been completed in 1971, and it a good place to observe contemporary Vietnamese Buddhist architecture and culture.
This large Mahayana Buddhist complex features a large entrance gate, main hall with white Guanyin statue protecting it, 14-meter carved stone tower, and 40-meter (7-storey stupa) called Guanyin Tower, one of the largest in Vietnam.
Thien Hau Pagoda, HCMC
Thien Hau Pagoda is a small but atmospheric Chinese-influenced temple devote to Thein Hau, the goddess of fishermen and the sea – note the boat and sea imagery inside.
Thien Hau is reminiscent of temples in southern China, with highly detailed carvings, especially on the roof. The temple is especially known for its many spiral coils of incense, which are often hung from the roof or form a canopy in the internal courtyard.
If you happen to visiting on the 23rd day of the 3rd month on the lunar calendar, Thien Hau’s birthday, you can look observe a raucous celebration starting from the temple and parading through the neighborhood.
Buu Long Buddhist Pagoda, Greater HCMC
The visually striking Buu Long Temple is in an off-the-beaten-track corner of Greater Ho Chi Minh City, in district 9. This is an example of a southern Vietnamese temple that is more similar in style to the temples of Southeast Asia than China. As you might have guessed, it belongs to the Theravada tradition of Buddhism.
The large, gray, palace-like temple is top with gold covered stupas. Standing on top of a hill in a region that is mostly flat, the temple can even be seen from the airplane as you are flying into. Like many Buddhist temples in Vietnam, there is a vegetarian restaurant on site.
Cao Dai Holy See, Tay Ninh
The Cao Dai Holy See is the headquarters of the Cao Dai religion, which was founded in Vietnam. This monotheistic religion combines elements of several Asian religions. The religion has around 2.5 million followers, mostly in Vietnam.
The Cao Dai Holy See is a kaleidoscope of bright colors. The structure is church-like in layout, but with various Asian decorative elements. Adherent also dress is all white or in bright red, yellow, or blue while worshipping. The divine eye is a prominent symbol and can be seen inside.
The Cao Dai temple is located in Tay Ninh, a small city northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, near the Cambodia-Vietnam border. It is often combined with the nearby Cu Chi Tunnels from the Vietnam War as a popular day trip from Ho Chi Minh City.
Vinh Trang Pagoda, Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta, a vast area where the Mekong river splits into numerous distributaries before reaching the sea, is home to another palace-like temple: Vinh Trang Pagoda. As you approach the temple, you may feel you’re about to enter a prince’s residence rather than a Buddhist temple.
Elements of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Khmer (Cambodian) architecture are blended in the temples five main buildings. The main arches and columns on site lend an air of elegance. Two enormous statues, of the laughing Buddha and a reclining Buddha, remind visitors what faith is practices here.
Dinh Cau Shrine, Phu Quoc
For our final entry, we hop over to Phu Quoc island, Vietnam’s largest, which is located off the coast of Vietnam. This sometimes not so humble island (for example, it has the world’s longest cable car) is home to the humble Dinh Cau Shrine, also called Phu Quoc Rock Temple.
The temple is the smallest on our list of best temples in Vietnam, but it is special and unique for its location on a collection of rocks just off the coast of this tropical island. The shrine is devoted to Thien Hau, goddess of the sea, so fishermen come here to pray for safety at sea. There is also a blue and white striped lighthouse beside it.