The world's most beautiful places of worship.

With their awe-inspiring architecture, magnificent facades and sheer size, places of worship are often some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. No matter the religion, travellers from around the world can appreciate the work that led to their creation.

  • Brihadeeswara Temple, India

    Brihadeeswara Temple has a fascinating history dating back to 1010. Known locally as “The Big Temple”, this enormous granite Hindu sanctuary in Tamil Nadu was built in 1010 by then emperor Rja Rja Chola I, known as one of India’s greatest leaders.Part of that history is the mystery of how the single stone kumbam (the structure on top of the temple) was transported to the site. The solid piece of rock weighs more than 70,000kg – and the nearest granite sources are more than 60km away. A 20,000kg statue of Nandi (the bull mount of the Hindu god Shiva) is also carved out of a single stone and sits at the entrance to the temple. The huge temple grounds, more than 320,000sqm, deserve their own time for wandering contemplation.

  • Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

    One of the world’s best-known places of worship, the Dome of the Rock. Located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the 7th-century shrine is one of the city’s most recognised landmarks, particularly for its impressive dome that was refinished in the 1990s with more than 80kg of gold. The octagonal design and colourful mosaics are thought to be modelled on Byzantine churches and chapels. The Dome of the Rock is significant across religions. The Foundation Stone, located in the shrine’s floor, is one of Judaism’s holiest sites, thought to be where the world was first created. It’s also known to be the site of sacrifices by biblical figures such as Hazrat Adam (PBUH),Hazrat Abraham (PBUH) and Hazrat Noah (PBUH). Many who follow the faith continue to pray in its direction. In Islam, the site is thought to be Hazrat Muhammad’s (PBUH) final destination during the Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem.

  • Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar

    Shwedagon Pagoda is believed to house relics of all four Buddha. Though historians believe that this Buddhist pagoda was built between the 6th and 10th Centuries, legend has that the structure is more than 2,500 years old, constructed by two brothers who met the Lord Gautama Buddha, known also as Siddhārthaand the primary figure in Buddhism. Relics of all four Buddha are said to be housed in the structure. Genuine gold plates cover the base of the stupa, giving the structure its nickname the “Golden Pagoda”; people across the country have regularly donated the precious metal to keep its appearance over the years. The gilded exterior continues its way up to the top of the pagoda; the crown is decorated with more than 5,000 diamonds and 2,000 rubies, and the tip features a single 76-carat diamond.

  • St Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican

    One of the largest churches in the world, St Peter’s is considered to be the pre-eminent example of Renaissance architecture, designed in part by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo Buonarroti and other notable Italian architects. Though a church has been on this site since the Roman Empire, the current structure was completed in 1626. It features the tallest dome in the world – more than 130m high – and is lavishly decorated with marble, architectural reliefs and some of the world’s most detailed sculptures, include Michelangelo’s Pietà.

  • Lotus Temple, India

    Religious architecture does not have to be ancient to be beautiful. In fact, one of the most stunning and interesting buildings was built in 1986. The Lotus Temple, a Bahá'í House of Worship in New Delhi, India, gets its name from the 27 blooming "petal" structures that shape the skyline. Open to people of all faiths, the white-marble temple can hold up to 2,500 people in its domed interior.

  • Nasir ol Molk Mosque, Iran

    Built in 1888, Shiraz’s “Pink Mosque” – so nicknamed for the extensive pink tiles within its interior ¬– garnered special attention due to its intense colours.The building features extensive coloured glass for its windows (best seen in the morning when the light hits it directly), ornate Persian carpets and meticulously detailed geometric wall paintings.

  • The Paro Taktsang, Bhutan

    Situated on a steep cliff 3,800m above the lush Paro Valley, The Tiger’s Nest monastery may not be easy to get to, but the journey through woods and past waterfalls garners its own sense of wonder. The Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temples were built in 1692. Though legends vary on how he made his way to the site, Guru Padmasambhava was thought to have meditated here for more than three years, and is credited with bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The four main temples and four-sided courtyard are all intricately painted with demigods and Buddha fighting demons, creating a sense of divine grandeur.

  • Pagoda, in Khanh Hoa Province, Vietnam

    Beautiful places of worship don't have to be ornate, as the Pagoda, in Khanh Hoa Province, Vietnam, demonstrates. The stone slab was recently shortlisted at the World Architecture Festival as one of the year's best designed buildings.

  • Hazrat Sultan Mosque, Kazakhstan's capital city of Astana

    The towering palaces that loom over their surrounding landscapes, the Hazrat Sultan Mosque, widely considered a jewel in Kazakhstan's capital city of Astana.

  • Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

    Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

  • The Qolşärif Mosque

    The Qolşärif Mosque, in Kazan, Russia.

  • Sultanahmet Mosque

    The Sultanahmet Mosque, which can be found in Istanbul, Turkey. The mosque is home to more than 20,000 handmade tiles.

  • Golden Temple

    The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India is a stunning structure that seems to have been dropped right in the middle of the Amritsar river.

  • Beijing's Temple of Heaven

    Beijing's Temple of Heaven fits the bill.

  • Las Lajas Sanctuary

    The Las Lajas Sanctuary in Narino, Colombia also looks like it defies gravity.

  • LaRock Cut churches in Lalibela

    It's a problem the rock-cut churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia don't really have to deal with. (It might look like a small pit, but notice visitors in the bottom-right hand corner).

  • BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

    The largest Hindu temple — the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir — is located in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Basilica Sagrada Familia

    The Basilica Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, designed by modernist architect Antoni Gaudí.

  • Ribbon Chapel for their wedding ceremonies

    In Onomichi, Japan, couples frequently turn to the Ribbon Chapel for their wedding ceremonies — and understandably so.

  • Light of Life Church

    Surrounded by green is the Light of Life Church in Seoul, South Korea.

  • Moscow's St. Basil's Cathedral

    Moscow's St. Basil's Cathedral delivers a more traditional sense of awe with its colorful swirling peaks. The structure almost seems to be made of candy.

  • Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica

    Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica, with its warm, golden interior.

  • Iceland's Hallgrímskirkja

    Iceland's Hallgrímskirkja, with its warm, golden exterior.

  • Buddhist monks

    In Samut Prakan, Thailand, a custom involves Buddhist monks circling the Wat Asokaram temple with candles.

  • Makha's Grand Mosque of Holy Kaaba

    Makha's Grand Mosque of Holy Kaaba, Muslims orbit the holy structure by the tens of thousands. It's part of the faith's annual pilgrimage, known as Haj.

  • Cardedeu in El Salvado

    Frenzied as some rituals may be, however, some places of worship — like the Cardedeu in El Salvador — bring faith back to a calmer place of reflection and serenity.