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Prince Siddhārtha Gautama – you might know him as Buddha – is one of history’s greatest spiritual leaders, and Buddhism continues to play an important role in the global culture.

Amongst the many teachings of Buddhism, the concept of zen is perhaps one of the most commonly found in today’s world – you don’t have to be a Buddhist to apply this idea to your own life and find a little peace. Here’s our run-down of the top five places to find your zen in Asia – tranquil spots where you can rejuvenate mind, body and soul…

Finding Zen in Asia

Kyoto temples, Japan

Okay, maybe this is cheating, but we couldn’t narrow down one spot in Kyoto. There are over 1,600 Buddhist temples in this city, each as gorgeous and serene as the last. Zen gardens surround the structures, blooming flowers bringing stunning colour and delicate bridges spanning tranquil streams and ponds. This is the ultimate Zen city.

Taking you there: Kyoto trips

Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma)

inle lake at sunsetInle Lake at sunset 

High in the Shan Hills lies one of Myanmar’sgreatest treasures. Inle Lake is a shimmering expanse of freshwater, bordered by sleepy towns and green banks. Little boats drift across its surface, rowed by locals using their legs rather than arms, allowing them to stand and see clearly over the thick vegetation as they row. Beneath the surface numerous species of fish, which are unique to the lake, dart to and fro, scales flashing in the sunlight.

Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Bhutan

Paro Taktsang, or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, is a magnificent temple complex perched high on the side of a towering, craggy cliff. Said to have been the site at which Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tiger before meditating and emerging in eight holy forms, the monastery offers stunning views of the misty, forest-covered valley below.

Taking you there: Bhutan trips

Mongolian Steppe

At the end of a long day’s cycling through Mongolia, you’ll lay down your bike amongst the traditional gers. Your camp will be in the midst of the vast expanse of the steppe, with golden grasses swaying in the cool wind in every direction and mountains sketched across the horizon. The sun sets the sky alight before giving way to sparkling vistas of starlight. This is the ultimate in relaxation.

Taking you there: Mongolia trips

The Tibetan Plateau

tibetan highwayTibetan highway 

Sometimes called the “Roof of the World”, the Tibetan Plateauextends for thousands of kilometres. Massive mountain ranges border this stunning region, a sparse but stunning space inhabited by nomadic peoples and punctuated by sky-blue lakes. It’s the silence that’s most striking – the background noise of modern life is completely absent. The world seems endless and still from up here.

Browse our zen places to visit below.