The must-see temples in Koh Samui are great for experiencing the island's traditional lifestyle and taking a break from its splendid beaches. Buddhism is the dominant religion in Thailand, followed by Chinese folk religions such as Taoism. Wat is the Thai name for Buddhist temples and san jao for Chinese shrines.

    Koh Samui's most important temples and wats have beautiful edifices that belong to Buddhism or have close ties to it. A visit to temples on Samui Island will give you a glimpse of real Thailand.

    The Big Buddha Temple of Koh Samui sits majestically on Koh Faan, a small rocky island just north of Bophut. Its golden, 12-metre-tall seated Buddha statue, which dates back to 1972, is one of Samui's most popular attractions. Around the base of the statue is a courtyard and vendor section, where you can buy amulets, religious artefacts, clothing and souvenirs. There are 2 more Buddha images set in pavilions.

    Locals often refer to the Big Buddha Temple as Wat Phra Yai, so it's a good idea to mention its Thai moniker if you're using public transport to get there. 

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    Location: Route 4171, Bophut, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84320, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm

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    The Hin Lad Waterfall Temple is in an evergreen tropical jungle in Koh Samui, just before a trail leading to the famous Hin Lad Waterfall. It has a lovely garden, walking path, various Buddha images, religious sculptures, and a meditation area.

    Also known as Wat Namtok Hin Lad, this forest monastery is usually busy only on the weekends when the locals come to tam boon (make merit) and enjoy a picnic at the nearby waterfall. The temple is well shaded and calm, making it a great place to unwind and relax. 

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    Location: Moo 2, Ang Thong, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84140, Thailand

    Open: Daily from sunrise to sunset

    Phone: +66 (0)92 331 9568

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    Wat Plai Laem is a Buddhist temple on Samui's northeastern coast Samui. It has a striking white 18-arm image of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion in Chinese Buddhism. 

    Wat Plai Laem offers you a glimpse at Chinese-Thai beliefs, as well as elaborate Buddhist-themed art and architecture. The temple is surrounded by a pretty lake, which adds to its feel of tranquillity. 

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    Location: Road 4171, Bophut, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84320, Thailand

    Open: Daily from sunrise to sunset

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    Secret Buddha Garden lies at the summit of Pom Mountain, one of the highest peaks of Koh Samui. The sculpture park offers majestic views and an unusual collection of statues amid lush jungle surroundings. 

    The site, also known as Namtok Tar Nim or Magic Garden, was the work of an old Samui fruit farmer, Nim Thongsuk. In 1976, he began erecting several Buddhism-inspired and Apsara statues around his family's verdant land. Today, this garden is a great place to unwind, thanks to its mystical atmosphere.

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    Location: Na Mueang, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84140, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm

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    Wat Khunaram is an impressive temple in Samui because it hosts the mummified remains of a monk, Luong Pordaeng. The mummy is in a seated meditative position, and remarkably shows little sign of decay. 

    For some, having a dead man (since 1973) in full view might be a shocking sight, but for Thais, it's something to reflect upon and revere. Wat Khunaram is a fairly typical Buddhist temple, where local people come every day to make merit and pray. You're welcome to buy amulets or observe the daily rituals. 

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    Location: Route 4169, Na Mueang, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84140, Thailand

    Open: Daily from sunrise to sunset

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    Buddha's Footprint

    • History

    Buddha's Footprint in Koh Samui can be a bit challenging to spot, but it's well worth putting in the extra effort to get there. It's on a hilltop shrine near the Butterfly Garden at Laem Natien, around 2.5 km north of Bang Kao Beach. 

    Buddha's Footprint consists of 4 footprints engraved on top of each other. After tackling 163 steps to the top, you'll be rewarded with one of the most spectacular views on the island.

    Location: Namueang, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84140, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm

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    Nathon Hainan Shrine

    • History

    The Nathon Hainan Shrine is a brightly coloured temple dating back to 1862. It's in the centre of Nathon, down Soi Angthong 4. You can actually see the temple compound from the alley. 

    As you get closer, you'll see 2 fierce-looking golden lions guarding the main gate. The main building is surrounded by a walled garden, and traffic noise is virtually non-existent inside.

    Location: Moo 3, Nathon, Ang Thong, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84140, Thailand

    Open: Daily from sunrise to sunset

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    photo by Christophe95 (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

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    Laem Sor Pagoda

    Laem Sor Pagoda lies on Bang Kao Beach, at the southernmost tip of Koh Samui. The temple's golden exterior makes for a beautiful contrast to the blue sky and turquoise sea behind it. The entrance is guarded by 2 yak (giant) warrior statues carrying swords, colourful clothing, and intimidating expressions.

    A Buddha image stands at the doorway behind the statues. This is a great photo opportunity as there is absolutely nothing obstructing your view.

    Location: 99/9 Laem Set Rd, Na Mueang, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84140, Thailand

    Phone: +66 (0)63 813 8109

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    Wat Khao Chedi

    Wat Khao Chedi is a Srivijaya-style temple in Koh Samui, around 2.5 km east of Thong Krut Pier. It also goes by the name Laem Sor Pagoda, which can be a bit confusing since there is another Laem Sor Pagoda below it on Bang Kao Beach. 

    Thanks to Wat Khao Chedi's hilltop location, you get spectacular views from this vantage point. On clear days, you can see mainland Suratthani, Bang Kao Bay, and Laem Set Point, as well as surrounding islands like Koh Tao and Koh Mud Sum.

    Location: Khao Chedi, Taling Ngam, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84140, Thailand

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    Wat Chaeng

    Wat Chaeng is a superbly designed temple with an adjoining school. Located in Nathon, the temple building has a large sculpture of Buddha in the pang prathanporn pose, with 1 hand raised with the index finger and thumb touching and the other hand (palm facing up) on his lap. 

    The temple and Buddha image are guarded by 2 huge statues in green and gold. To get to Wat Chaeng, head to the southern end of Thaweerat Phakdee Road (4169 through Nathon) and left into the temple grounds. 

    Location: Nathon, Ang Thong, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84140, Thailand

    Open: Daily from sunrise to sunset

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    Pagoda Khao Hua Jook

    • History

    Pagoda Khao Hua Jook is on a 90-metre-high hill in Bophut, overlooking the landing strip of Samui International Airport. If you like watching flight takeoffs and landings, this is the place to sit for a while.

    According to the temple's sign, it contains a replica of Buddha's footprint. Most people come here for the view, as Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Koh Sum, Koh Lum Noi, Koh Tao Poon, and Big Buddha Temple are visible from this spot.

    Location: Bophut, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84320, Thailand

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    Wat Kiri Wongkaram

    Wat Kiri Wongkaram is a beautiful white temple with a contrasting roof made of red, green and yellow tiles. There is a small Buddha statue sitting before the entrance and the temple is guarded by 2 statues of white elephants. There's not much else to see in this compound other than that it houses the mummified body of Buddhist monk Loung Por Ruam, which you can view in a glass enclosure.

    The temple is free to enter. You can learn more about the life of Loung Por Ruam and also witness temple and village activities. Various events are often held at the temple. To get there, take route 4170 in Ban Saket. Follow it down and go through the Elephant Gate in Ban Taling Ngam. You'll reach the temple after about 500 metres.

    Location: Taling Ngam, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84140, Thailand

    Open: Daily from sunrise to sunset

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    Wat Khiri Mat

    • History

    Wat Khiri Mat sits atop a small hill in Taling Ngam, at the southern tip of Koh Samui. Directly in front of the temple is a large pagoda with a glass-enclosed Buddha statue inside. An ornately designed blue-and-yellow arch shows you the way to this temple, which is at the end of Keeree-Mas Road. 

    Location: Moo 4, Taling Ngam, Koh Samui, Surat Thani, 84140, Thailand

    Open: Daily from sunrise to sunset

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    Wat Phra Chedi Laem So

    Wat Phra Chedi Laem Sor occupies an oceanfront setting in Na Mueang. The temple sits astern, surrounded by a pool of water, making it look like it's in the Andaman Sea. This temple is especially impressive when seen from Pagoda Khao Chedi, located on a hill above Bang Kao Beach. What you'll see is a large, bright-blue vessel shaded by coconut trees. 

    Location: Moo 4, Na Mueang, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84140, Thailand

    Open: Daily from sunrise to sunset

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    Wat Lamai

    • History

    Wat Lamai is the social epicentre for the local Thai community in Koh Samui. It hosts lively temple fairs throughout the year, with concerts, fairground games, food and even an outdoor cinema. The temple fairs last for over a week, so it's a good idea to check one out when you're in Lamai. 

    Inside the temple complex, you'll find a cultural hall that houses a collection of quaint artefacts from Samui's past. You can see brass and earthenware vessels, cooking implements, wooden agricultural tools, swords, ancient bicycles, and a 2,000-year-old metal ceremonial drum. 

    Location: 64/12-15, Maret, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84310, Thailand

    Phone: +66 (0)77 230 561

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    Wat Ratchathammaram

    Wat Ratchathammaram is a Buddhist temple along the Samui Ring Road. It also goes by the name Wat Sila Ngu, which means ‘stone snake’ in English. You can see many stone-carved snakes all around the compound. 

    This long-established temple has a magnificent building in deep red clay, which adds to the mysterious yet serene atmosphere of the temple. The large room it houses is pretty sombre, with its walls entirely carved with scenes of Buddha’s life. Wat Ratchathammaram's seaside location affords splendid views of Koh Samui's east coast.

    Location: 60/22 Moo 2, Bophut, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84320, Thailand

    Open: Daily from sunrise to sunset

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    Wat Pradoem

    Wat Pradoem is a Buddhist temple on Koh Samui that was built around 250 years ago. The temple is believed to be the oldest on the island. As well as the temple itself, Wat Pradoem also has a wooden hall full of ancient scriptures and ornate carvings. 

    As you enter the temple grounds, you'll instantly sense a very peaceful atmosphere, often with hardly any other visitors around. There are cool and shady areas where you can escape the heat of the day and enjoy the view of the temple and its quiet grounds.

    Location: Moo 1, Na Mueang, Koh Samui, Surat Thani, 84140, Thailand

    Open: Daily from sunrise to sunset

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    Wat Nara Charoen Suk

    Wat Nara Charoen Suk is a temple building that's unique in that it has a very long, thin tower built into its facade. This authentic temple features a very old building and is interesting to explore.

    To find it, go from Ban Lipa Noi on route 4169, take the 4174 and follow it as if you were going to the Navy Base. After passing Big John Resort and Seafood Restaurant the road turns sharply to the left and from there it's just another kilometre on your left to the entrance road.

    Location: Moo 2, Lipa Noi, Koh Samui, Surat Thani, 84140, Thailand

    Open: Daily from sunrise to sunset

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    Stephan Audiger | Compulsive Traveller

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