Koh Samui may be renowned as a dream destination for beachside bliss and fun nightlife, but the island also has a rich culture linked with religious traditions. For travellers seeking a deeper connection, here are some key temples, each offering a unique glimpse into Thailand’s Buddhist heritage.

Wat Plai Laem

One of the island’s most striking temples, Wat Plai Laem is famed for its 18-arm statue of Guan Yin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy set amidst a lake. Easy to reach from properties like Santiburi Koh Samui, this site features traditional architecture along with Buddhist-themed art, murals and statues; one of the other highlights here is the huge laughing Buddha statue that adds to the temple’s allure.

Big Buddha Temple

An iconic landmark visible from afar, the Big Buddha Temple or Wat Phra Yai is not to be missed on excursions from nearby luxury villas in Koh Samui. You will find various shrines and statues within the complex, but the star attraction can be found when you ascend a staircase, adorned with mythical creatures; at the top is a colossal 12-metre-tall golden Buddha statue surrounded by inspiring ocean views.

Wat Khunaram

Wat Khunaram – Image via Flickr

One of the most unique temples in Koh Samui, Wat Khunaram offers a more unconventional experience.  This sacred site is known for displaying the mummified body of Luang Pho Daeng, a revered monk who passed away in meditation in the 1970s. Visitors pay their respects to the naturally preserved body, which remarkably does not show much sign of decay, while one can also observe the various rituals of devotees.

Hin Lad Waterfall Temple

For those seeking a hidden gem, venture off the beaten track to Hin Lad Waterfall Temple or Wat Namtok Hin Lad. Be prepared for a short hike to reach this ‘secret’ attraction that lies nestled amidst lush jungle greenery, near an idyllic waterfall which provides an enchanting backdrop for a picnic. Those exploring the temple grounds will come across sculptures, images of Buddha and an area for meditation as well.