Temples and Wats in Koh Samui
What to See in Koh Samui
Buddhist Temples (Wats) and Chinese Shrines abound in Koh Samui. Like in the rest of Thailand, Buddhism is the religion followed by the majority (over 90% of people are Buddhist), followed by Islam, Taoism, and Christianity. Paradoxically, the first ever settlers on the island were Chinese traders and Muslim fishermen.
Koh Samui is home to many old Buddhist temples and Chinese shrines, including two impressive religious landmarks: Samui Big Buddha - a massive 15-metre seated Buddha overlooking the sea on the northeastern coast and, in the same area, Wat Plai Laem, a superb temple featuring a striking white 18-arm statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. See below the most notable temples and shrines to be visited in Koh Samui.
All Temples in Koh Samui
Big Buddha temple sits majestically on a small rocky island off Koh Samui’s north-eastern corner. Known locally as Wat Phra Yai, its golden, 12-metre seated Buddha statue was built in 1972 and remains one of the island’s most popular attractions. Set on Koh Faan, Big Buddha temple is reached by a causeway that connects it to the main island. The Big Buddha can be seen at a distance of several kilometres and is often the first landmark people see when arriving to Samui by air. Read More...
- Location: Route 4171, near the airport
Although the Buddha footprints can be a bit hard to find, it's well worth putting in the extra effort to get there. Located on a hilltop shrine near the Butterfly Garden, they are in fact four footprints engraved one on top of each other. After you negotiate the 163 steps to the top you are rewarded with one of the most spectacular views on the island.
- Location: Route 4170, 2km west of the turnoff for the Butterfly Garden
Chinese Temple to the Goddess Zhao Mei Guan Im
A relatively new temple at just over 30 years old, this is a single building, with a small altar and beautifully decorated with colourful paintings that tell stories of Zhao Mei Guan Im. Pay particular attention to the painting on the stone altar just to the right of the temple building as it is extremely well done.
Its location is at the southwest end of Koh Samui with wonderful views of Koh Tao (Turtle Island), Koh Mud Sum and the mainland. From here you can watch the long-tail fishing boats and observe the sunset from the beach just below the temple grounds.
- How to get there: To get there take the main road (4169) to the turn off for Ban Taling Ngam (4170) and follow it for six kilometres to the Samui Snake Farm. From there go down Keeree-Mas Road, the same way you get to Wat Khiri Mat, about 800 metres to the first left turn, which starts out as a dirt road and follow this almost to its end before turning left again onto the temple grounds. There are only Thai language signs to follow, but it's still relatively easy to find.
Hainan Temple (Chinese)
This brightly coloured gem of a temple built in 1862 is in the centre of Nathon. As you walk down Thaweerat Phakdee Street (Route 4169) look for Soi Angthong 4.
You can actually see the temple compound from there, but take a closer look and you'll also see the two fierce looking golden lions guarding the main gate. The main building is surrounded by a walled garden and the traffic noise is virtually non existent inside.
- Location: Nathon Main Road
Known in Thai as Wat Namtok Hin Lad, Hin Lad Waterfall Temple (or Saunthamma Pala Nikrotharam Temple in full) is set in evergreen tropical jungle just before the trail up to the famous Hin Lad Waterfall, a few kilometres south of Nathon Town, Samui. This forest monastery is usually busy only on the weekends when the locals come to ‘tam boon’ (make merit) and to picnic at the nearby waterfall. Read More...
- Opening Hours: All year round
- Location: Hin Lad Waterfall Temple is at Lipa Yai, less than a 10-minute drive south of Nathon Town
Laem Sor Pagoda
This pagoda is to be found at the southernmost tip of Koh Samui at the end of Bang Kao Beach. Its golden hue makes for an astonishingly beautiful contrast to the blue skies and the turquoise sea behind it.
The entrance is guarded by two 'Yak' (meaning giant) warrior statues with immense swords, colourful clothing and scary faces. The Buddha stands in the doorway to the rear of the statues. This is a great photo opportunity as there is absolutely nothing obstructing your view.
- How to get there: Take the 4169 to route 4170 and make a left. There's another left at Laem-Sho-Road; it’s about one kilometre to the pagoda.
- Tour Available: Half Day Samui Adventure
Old Buddha Image
The Old Buddha Image is simply a large seated Buddha statue in a pavilion. That's it. The seated pose is called the 'Pang Manrawichai' and is used to ward off bad spirits. It's easy to find and also easy to overlook although it sits right at the edge of the road with nothing obstructing it.
- How to get there: A little over one kilometre from the 4169, turn at Ban Thurian, on route 4173. It will be on your right side.
Pagoda Khao Chedi
The Pagoda Khao Chedi is a Srivijaya-style chedi situated on a hill above the Laem Sor. It, also, goes by the name Laem Sor Pagoda, which can be a bit confusing seeing as there is another Laem Sor Pagoda below it on Bang Kao Beach, but this one's golden. You get spectacular views from this vantage point including mainland Suratthani, Bang Kao Bay all the way to Laem Set Point and Koh Tao and Koh Mud Sum in addition to Wat Laem Sor.
- Location: Located eleven kilometres south of Lamai take the 4169 to route 4170 and make a left.
Another superbly designed Wat located in Nathon, Wat Chaeng has an adjoining school which seems to be its main purpose now. The temple building is fronted by a large, seated Buddha in the 'Pang Prathanporn' pose. The Buddha has one hand raised with the index finger and thumb touching and the other hand is resting in his lap with the palm facing up. The Wat and Buddha are guarded by two huge green and gold statues. At the southern end of Thaweerat Phakdee Road (4169 through Nathon) turn left into the temple grounds.
- Location: Nathon
Wat Khao Hua Juk
Although this hill is only 90 metres tall there are great views from the peak. Samui airport is virtually at your feet. If you like watching take offs and landings this is the place to sit for a while. After all, how many other airports can you watch from above without flying? The islands Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Koh Sum, Koh Lum Noi, Koh Tao Poon plus Big Buddha, Wat Bang Rak, gorgeous sunsets and much more are all visible from this spot. This temple contains, according to the sign, a replica of Buddha's footprint. On your way to the top you will also pass Nathalie's Art Palace and the Samui branch of Bangkok's famous Q Bar.
- How to get there: Opposite the north end of Chaweng Lake you will find an Arch marking Kao Hua Juk Road directing you up to the Wat. Once you turn here drive about 150 metres until you see the stairs on your right leading to the summit.
Wat Khiri Mat
There is an ornately designed, highly visible, blue-and-yellow arch showing the way to this temple at the end of Keeree-Mas Road in Ban Pang Ka. The temple building sits atop a small hill. Directly in front of the temple, at the bottom of the hill, is a large pagoda with a glass enclosed Buddha statue inside.
- How to get there: From the 4169 in Ban Saket turn onto the 4170, in the direction of Ban Taling Ngam, and follow it for six Kilometres to the corner where the Samui Snake Farm is. Across from the Snake Farm take Keeree-Mas Road for one kilometre to a right hand turn that appears as if it is going into a dirt parking lot. Drive slowly and pay attention as there are no signs announcing this Wat along the road.
Wat Kiri Wongkaram
This 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. There's not much else to see in this compound.
- Location: Three and one half kilometres from the ring road (4169).
- How to get there: From the ring road (4169) take the turn onto route 4170 in Ban Saket, near the buffalo fighting stadium turnoff, follow it down and go through the Elephant Gate in Ban Taling Ngam after about 500 meters you will be at the Wat.
Despite the fact that you will see this Wat listed on some maps, it no longer exists. There is only the Wat Klang School about 150 metres west of the intersection of routes 4170 and 4173.
Koh Samui’s Mummified Monk at Wat Khunaram is an unusual sight yet it offers a unique insight into Buddhist and Thai culture. The monk Luong Pordaeng died in 1973 in a seated meditative position, and ever since his body has been on display in an upright glass case at the temple. Remarkably, even more than 30 years on the monk’s body shows little sign of decay. For some visitors, having a dead man in full view might be a shocking sight, but for Thais it is something to reflect upon and revere. Read More...
- Location: Wat Khunaram is on Route 4169 (the ring road) between the Na Muang waterfalls and Hua Thanon, 13 kilometres south-east of Nathon Pier and about six kilometres west of Lamai Beach.
Wat Laem Sor
Wat Laem Sor is in the form of a ship with the temple sitting astern surrounded by a pool of water to make it appear as if it's in the ocean, which is actually about 200 metres away. This temple is especially impressive when seen from the Pagoda Khao Chedi on the hill above Bang Kao Beach. What you'll see is a large, bright-blue vessel sailing amongst the coconut trees. As you enter the temple complex look to your left and you will see, growing along the ground like a snake, a large palm tree.
- Location: Located eleven kilometres south of Lamai.
- How to get there: Take the 4169 to route 4170 and make a left. There's another left at Laem-Sho-Road and then about 1 kilometre to the temple, which is only 100 meters away from Laem Sor Pagoda (the gold one).
Wat Lamai and Cultural Hall
The Lamai temple is the social epicentre for the local Thai community. Alongside weddings, funerals and religious festivals, it plays host to some lively temple fairs throughout the year with concerts, fairground games, food and even an outdoor cinema.The temple fairs last for over a week and if you are in Lamai when one is being held it is certainly worth checking out.
The musty, dusty Cultural Hall inside the temple complex houses a quaint and unique collection of artefacts from Samui's past, ranging from brass and earthenware vessels and cooking implements to wooden agricultural tools, armadillo skins; dried pufferfish, swords, muskets, ancient bicycles, and a 2,000-year-old metal ceremonial drum unearthed in Lamai village. The fact that there are no explanatory notes in English means that you have to use your imagination to compose mental images of Samui's bygone days.
- Location: Route 4169, Lamai.
Wat Nara Charoen Suk
This temple building is unique in that it has a very long, thin tower built into its facade. 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 (about three kilometres) the road turns sharply to the left and from there it's just another kilometre on your left to the entrance road.
Wat Plai Laem is a Buddhist temple compound on Samui's north-east coast of Samui, featuring a striking white 18-arm image of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. Close to the Big Buddha temple, Wat Plai Laem offers visitors a view into Chinese-Thai beliefs as well as some elaborate Buddhist-themed art and architecture. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Wat Plai Laem is open to visitors all day during daylight hours, and is particularly lively during Chinese festival events such as Chinese New Year.
Built around 250 years ago, this temple is believed to be Koh Samui's oldest. As well as the temple itself, Wat Pradoem also has a wooden hall full of ancient scriptures and ornate carvings. The temple is located near the Butterfly Garden and is signposted.
- Location: Route 4173