Near Tay Ninh town, in Long Hoa village, this temple is considered the greatest of all Vietnam’s Cao Dai temples. Founded in 1926, the Cao Dai Temple (Tòa Thánh Tây Ninh)
complex functions as a Holy See for the Cao Dai religion (Caodaism), Vietnam’s third most popular belief system after Buddhism and Catholicism. Visitors are welcome at prayer sessions in the Great Temple.
Besides the Great Temple, the complex is home to offices, accommodations, and a traditional herbal medicine hospital, but most tours focus on the colorful Great Temple. Tay Ninh is roughly 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, from where most day trips depart.
Tours are by far the easiest way to see the temple, and many day tours pair the Cao Dai Temple with the Cu Chi Tunnels, underground tunnels from the Vietnam War that are also northwest of Saigon. Tours typically visit to coincide with the noon prayers, which you can both witness and photograph.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Cao Dai temple is Cao Dai’s answer to the Vatican: Dress respectfully (no shorts or sleeveless T-shirts).
- A Cao Dai temple tour is a must for anyone interested in culture and religion.
- While you are allowed to photograph prayers from the upstairs balcony, ask permission before photographing worshippers.
How to Get There
Self-driving in Vietnam is risky, and Tay Ninh is around 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. By far, the easiest way to reach the Cao Dai temple is by joining a day tour, perhaps paired with a Cu Chi tunnels excursion, from Ho Chi Minh City. Many tours include door-to-door round-trip transfers from central hotels.
When to Get There
The Great Temple hosts four prayer sessions a day—suspended during Vietnamese New Year (Tet)—so time a visit to coincide with one of those. Most tours visit during noon prayers, so if traveling independently or on a private tour, aim for the 6am, 6pm, or midnight prayer meetings.
The Cao Dai Religion
Unique to Vietnam and founded in 1926, the Cao Dai religion is a fusion of various religions, including Christianity, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Cao Dai saints include Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Julius Caesar, and Sun Yat-sen. The symbol of an eye in a triangle, which you’ll see at Cao Dai temples around Vietnam, represents God.