Kek Lok Si Temple, which translates from Hokkien as the the Temple of Serene Bliss, stands majestically on the slopes of Air Itam, a hill on Penang Island. The largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, Kek Lok Si attracts thousands of visitors with its 7-story white-and-gold pagoda, golden statues, and an elevated setting that provides panoramic views.
A religious landmark, Kek Lok Si Temple is a staple of Penang Island sightseeing tours. Travelers on a time budget can combine the temple with a tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Georgetown and Fort Cornwallis, or gain in-depth insight into Penang’s religious heritage on a tour that focuses solely on temples. Due to its close proximity to Penang Hill, Kek Lok Si Temple is most often combined with a visit to the hill, which is accessible by funicular or on foot.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Kek Lok Si Temple is a must-see for first-time visitors to Penang.
- Admission to the temple is free, but there is a small cost to access the pagoda.
- Don’t miss the 100-foot-high (30-meter-high) bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy.
- With 1,000 steps, the temple is not wheelchair-accessible.
- Make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes if you plan to explore the temple gardens.
How to Get There
To reach Kek Lok Si Temple from Georgetown, take bus 203 from the station near the Clan Jetties to the bottom of Air Itam (45–60 minutes), the hill upon which Kek Lok Si stands, then walk 15 minutes uphill. For convenience, most travelers visit the temple as part of a guided tour that includes air-conditioned round-trip transport.
When to Get There
Kek Lok Si Temple is open from 7am to 5:30pm daily. If you want to beat the crowds, which reach their peak from midmorning to early afternoon, try to visit as early as possible. During the Lunar New Year, the temple is open later in the evening and is resplendent with thousands of illuminated lanterns.
The Diverse Temples of Penang Island
Just a short drive from Kek Lok Si Temple, you can find temples that reflect the diversity of Penang’s religious heritage. One of the island’s most impressive examples of religious architecture is the Dhammikarama Burmese Temple, a vision of gilded Buddha icons. Directly opposite stands the equally beautiful Wat Chayamangkalaram, a Thai temple decorated with statues of mythical creatures.