You've probably visited enough churches and cathedrals to notice that over the past couple thousand years, Westerners perfected the domes, spires, and elaborate facades of their religious buildings. But let your feet take you much, much further east. While Europe was staining glass and smoothing stones, architects in India, Southeast Asia, China, and Japan were erecting Buddhist and Taoist temples with their own distinct flair: pagodas, which are just as welcoming, just as stunning, as their Western counterparts.
Some of the oldest date back to ancient times; others keep popping up as shrines or monuments or curiosities -- or, in the case of a Taiwanese landmark, one of the most technologically advanced buildings in the world. The architectural features are distinct: ornate eaves, stacked pedestals, and -- in places like Thailand and Myanmar -- their own spectacular take on spires and domes. Most are in Asia, but tour these and pretty soon you'll notice pagodas all over the world.