Asia, and in particular Southeast Asia, is a rich architectural landscape with countless historical sites. The splendor of its vast number of magnificent buildings and their incredible architecture is sure to take your breath away. Some of these vestiges of past glory are crumbling due to time, wars and pollution. As a result, many of these structures are under protection, designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. So, when you plan a luxury Asia tour, be sure to include a visit to some of these spectacular Top 10 Architectural Sights of Asia:
1- The Taj Mahal, India: One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal is the epitome of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s love for his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal. Built with ivory-white marble, on the banks of the River Yamuna in Agra, the Taj Mahal took about 20 years to build and was finally completed in 1648. The mausoleum complex is about 42 acres, with the colossal Taj sitting in the center. The beauty and magnificence of the pristine white Taj Mahal and its beautiful sprawling Mughal gardens, are even more enhanced on full moon nights. Make it a point to visit the Taj by moonlight when you plan a luxury Asia tour to India.
2- Angkor Wat, Cambodia: Set amidst 402 acres and surrounded by over 100 temples, the Angkor Wat presides over the Angkor Archaeological Park, situated near Siem Reap in Cambodia. It was built as a Hindu temple for Lord Vishnu during the reign of the Khmer King, Suryavarman II, in the early 12th century. Towards the end of the 12th century it was transformed into a Buddhist temple, and remains so till date. The sandstone temple features beautiful bas-reliefs and the architectural elements of the pyramid and concentric galleries. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, which was the mythological home of the Hindu devas. Visit Angkor Wat on your luxury Asia tour to get lost in the mysticism and grandeur of this majestic temple.
3- Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar: Situated in Yangon, the erstwhile capital of Myanmar, this 2,500-year-old gold-plated pagoda is a sight to behold on your luxury Asia tour. There are 4531 diamonds encrusted into the top part of the stupa, with the largest diamond being about 72 carats. Buddha’s hair and some other holy relics are enshrined here, making it the most sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar. The pagoda complex has hundreds of temples, statues and stupas.
4- Borobudur, Indonesia: Candi Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, was built as a Mahayana Buddhist temple in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty. The temple, which took about 75 years to build, has nine stacked platforms, and 504 Buddha statues. It lay undiscovered for centuries as it was covered by volcanic ash. But, after restorations, it is one of Indonesia’s most popular tourist destinations. This imposing structure with its grand architecture and artistry, set amidst the panoramic beauty of Indonesia, should be on your bucket list when you plan a luxury Asia tour.
5- Hue Imperial City, Vietnam: The Hue Imperial City was home to the Nguyen Dynasty. Built as a citadel, the massive complex has hundreds of monuments including the Forbidden Purple City, which once the residence of the Nguyen royal family. Within the 2.5 km-long and 6 mt-high city walls are palaces and temples, main buildings of state, and a museum. The imperial city is also called the Complex of Hue Monuments, and this enclosure was badly damaged during the Vietnam War. Yet the 20 remaining buildings of the original 148 will fill you with awe on your luxury Asia tour to this city.
6- Wat Xieng Thong, Laos: The Wat Xieng Thong temple is the finest and the most beautiful Buddhist temple in Laos, one you should visit on a luxury Asia tour. Wat Xieng Thong, also called as “The Temple of the Golden City”, was built around 1559-1560 by the Lao King Setthathirath I. Situated at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, this temple was a ceremonial gateway to the city of Luang Prabang, and the venue for royal coronations. Steps from the Mekong river lead to the beautiful temple with typical sweeping roofs and gilded walls, which houses a serene Laotian Buddha. The outer walls of the temple depict legends of Laos, and the back wall is decorated with a glass mosaic of the Tree of Life.
7- Paro Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan: Also called Taktsang Palphug Monastery, the Paro Taktsang sits at a height of 3120 mt above the sea level, on an indent in the steep cliff within the Paro valley of Bhutan. According to legend, Padmasmabhava, Bhutan’s Buddhist Master, was bought here by a tigress. This Buddhist temple complex has four main temples, eight caves and also places for the monks to stay. The main temple has a hall of the Thousand Buddhas, and a large statue of a tigress. A luxury Asia tour to Bhutan is incomplete without visiting this remote monastery, which was rebuilt after a fire in 1998 completely burned it down.
8- Swayambhunath Stupa, Nepal: Situated on a hilltop in the Kathmandu Valley, the Swayambunath Stupa is said to be self-manifested (sayambhu). According to Buddhist legend, about 2,000 years ago, the Kathmandu Valley used to be filled with water, and the Swayambhu Hill was an island with natural crystal stupa. Lord Buddha declared that this was a wish-fulfilling stupa. Bodhisattva Manjusri, a Buddhist monk from China, emptied the water from the valley and made it accessible to everyone. Today, the crystal stupa is housed inside the dome shaped structure. Get enlightened when you visit this sacred Buddhist temple in Nepal on your luxury Asia tour.
9- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka: Built in the 5th century, Sigiriya is fortress complex built on a monolith and was designed as a huge stone lion. Only the claws of the lion can be seen today. The monolith is about 200 mt higher than its surrounding, and you can see the ruins of a palace, its fortifications, gardens, canals, ponds, alleys and fountains. Some artistic frescoes can also be found on the walls. The Mirror Wall at Sigiriya was believed to polished so that it could be used as a mirror by the king. Visit here to see the unmatched urban planning, architecture, water engineering, and art which are silent testimonies to the rich past of Sri Lanka, when you embark on your next luxury Asia tour.
10- Wat Samphran Dragon Temple, Thailand: Located just outside Bangkok, the Wat Samphran Dragon Temple is a 17-storey pink cylindrical tower with a huge dragon wrapped around the entire height. The dragon is hollow and visitors are allowed to walk in some of its sections. You will never find a temple like this anywhere in the world. Located in the temple compound are amazing statues of Buddha and animals. Go off the beaten track at Thailand and visit this incredible temple during your luxury Asia tour of Thailand.