With how powerful faith is to some, it's not surprising that many religious sites around the world are true works of art. Here are five of the most stunning religious sites to put on your travel itinerary.
Saint Basil's Cathedral, Russia
When you get your first look at Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, you might think you've slipped into a fantasy world. This famous church, which began construction in 1555, looks as if made of marzipan with all of its beautiful colors and interesting shapes. There is nothing else like it in the world, and Ivan the Terrible made sure of that. Legend has it that Ivan blinded the architect of the cathedral as soon as it was completed to make sure he could never build something like it.
Paro Taktsang, Bhutan
Visiting the Buddhist monastery of Paro Taktsang is not for the faint of faith — or faint of heart. This temple complex hangs onto the side of a cliff more than 3,000 feet above the Paro Valley in Bhutan. In order to reach it, you have to hike for nearly three hours through the tall mountains of the region. This isolation is both a blessing and a curse, though. In 1998, the monastery burned down because emergency responders couldn't reach it to put out the fire in time. Luckily, though, the building has been restored so that you can still trek out into the wilderness to witness it in its full, hidden glory.
Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar
The Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar has an interesting structure and an even more interesting history. Many people claim that this enormous golden pagoda is the oldest in the world, having been built more than 2,600 years ago. Unfortunately (and mysteriously), there are no official records of its construction, so it is impossible to know how old it really is, or who exactly built it. What we do know is that the stupa of the large, central dome contains more diamonds, topaz, sapphires, rubies and one giant emerald to "reflect the last rays of the setting sun."
Wat Rong Khun, Thailand
Also known as "The White Temple," Wat Rong Khun is totally unique. It is built out of white plaster and decorated with pieces of glass to make it sparkle in the sunlight — and to make it even more impossible to look away from. According to locals, the color white is meant to signify the purity of the Buddha and the glass is meant to symbolize his wisdom. Interestingly, this particular temple isn't quite finished yet — it has been under construction for quite some time, and the finished structure will eventually contain nine buildings.
Abu Simbel Temples, Egypt
The religion of ancient Egypt is an especially fascinating one. To this day, archaeologists are uncovering statues and monuments and temples that were made to worship gods and the pharaohs who represented them on Earth. One great example of this is Abu Simel, the the site of two separate temples that were built by Ramses II. At the front of these temples sit four statues of Ramses that are each around 66 feet tall and carved into a sandstone cliff west of the Nile. Not only are these statues incredible to look at, but they provide some very important insight into the language and culture of the time they were built. Greek graffiti written on some of the statues gave historians evidence of the early Greek alphabet.