“America's Taj Mahal”
A golden temple full of sculpted lions, palace grounds swarming with peacocks, and a massive garden filled with over a hundred fountains and endless rows of blooming flowers – would you believe us if we told you that you could find this all off a back road in... West Virginia? It’s true! New Vrindaban is a community of Hare Krishnas tucked away in the Appalachian hills. Pinch yourself all you want: this dreamscape is real. Nicknamed America’s Taj Mahal, New Vrindaban’s Palace of Gold is the gilded centerpiece of this surreal destination. Originally intended to serve as a home for A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Pradhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (say that ten times fast), plans for the palace changed gears after the spiritual leader’s death five years into its construction. The humble home-turned-memorial-palace was built by untrained volunteer laborers, but you wouldn’t know it from its gilded grandeur. Let’s put it this way: “bling” is an understatement. Swirling gold leaf and semi-precious stones adorn the entire building, inside and out. Barefooted visitors walk marble floors as sunlight streams through intricate windows made of over a thousand pieces of jewel-toned stained glass. The late Pradhupada is far from forgotten in this shrine: you’ll find wax figures in his likeness, serenely lotus-posed on thrones under a 4,200-piece crystal ceiling. Living among the grandeur as a worshipping Hare Krishna disciple may seem regal, but it’s not for the weak of faith. Starting at 5 a.m., devout followers head to a temple created to mimic those of ancient India, complete with tall pillars topped with sculpted lions and mural-adorned walls. Visitors are welcome to observe prayer in action and marvel at the golden altar and ceremonial golden swing, which took a whopping thousand hours to create by hand. But priceless onyx and sparkling gold aside, the ultra-tranquil grounds of New Vrindaban are built for wandering. The Palace Rose Garden is home to 150 different types of roses and other blooms including marigolds and zinnias. Oh, and be on the lookout for the roaming peacocks… don’t worry, they won’t bite you as you sit next to the hilltop Lotus Pond and enjoy the swans, colorful flowers, and the breathtaking view overlooking 3 states. Peacocks aren’t the only pets you’ll find at New Vrindaban, either: you’ll pass many statues of various animals on your way to Goshalla, where peaceful cows provide residents with milk. Even after they can’t produce milk anymore, older cows are treated with the same care and respect as they live out their last few days. You can really get a taste for life New Vrindaban at Govinda’s, their onsite restaurant. They offer all kinds of vegetarian and vegan food, from rice and naan to veggie curries and traditional desserts. Indian cuisine doesn’t get more authentic than that! And if you’ve got a pickier palate, don’t worry; they offer other options, like pizza and fries, as well. But the best part about this Hare Krishna utopia? You can actually stayhere! They offer a variety of guest accommodations, including temple guest rooms, lodges and cabins. Cozy furnishings and wood-paneled walls will make you feel right at home among the glitz and glamour of the Palace. Pro tip: nab cabin 6, 7, 8 or 9 for spectacular views of swans gliding over Lotus Lake. Any weekend in New Vrindaban is worth a trek, but if you can get choosy with it, definitely attend the Festival of Colors, the New Vrindaban celebration of Holi, a traditional Indian festival. This popular spring event celebrates friendship through Kirtan, a call-and-response singing, and by dousing friends in brightly colored powder to re-enact a favorite pastime of Lord Krishna and his devoted followers. It’s not often you get to walk in the steps of a deity by turning your closest pals into a Pollock-esque work of art, so we recommend taking the chance when you get it. Sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t! This enchanting and mystical wonderland can only be found in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. - Roadtrippers
Visited on this past Labor Day. What an amazing experience?! I've never set foot in a Hindu temple much less even seen one. However, this was a wonderful experience. The grounds are very serene and quiet, a great place to just take in nature. You don't have to know who Krishna is to take a tour, they're actually very welcoming. We were the only ones on our tour not in saris. But I thought enlighten still. It doesn't cost anything just to walk the grounds, but if you want to see inside the temple it will take you about 20 minutes and cost you eight dollars. They also sell candles and posters that are available in the temple as a fundraiser. I really liked the gift shop and walked away with a little elephant. The Rosegarden is a little sparse because they are transitioning to organics but it was still a beautiful place. I really liked seeing the animals and how well they were taken care of. Even on a holiday they were quite a few people there. The road is Windee to get there however you're driving in West Virginia so we didn't really expect less. It is a bit far out there and when you look off the road you can see down into the valley which can be a little intimidating. There is also the state pen, a toy museum, and a paranormal archives nearby. So we plan to head back and visit again plus the other great spots. Apparently there is also a restaurant on site, but we never found it. I would pack a cooler next time. There is a water fountain near the bathroom so if you have a water bottle it's easy to refill there. The palace is it made of solid gold it's goldleaf so you will see where it is wearing down but I think that adds to the character of the place. Go early in the morning if you want to get a better look at the cows and even milk them yourself. Really great place for people of any age.
Literally one of the wildest places I've EVER been to. Regardless to how far out of the way this is, you will not be disappointed. Great statues, beautiful wildlife & plants (which includes free-roaming peacocks) and strangely friendly locals. The tour is worth the $6 or whatever it costs. Sometimes they give free tours as well - just be sure to remove your shoes!!
After many (MANY questionable roads through the backroads of the most rural area that I've ever been in...) we arrived at the Palace of Gold.
There is a quiet serenity that accompanies this place. Perhaps it's the peacocks that are wandering about, or the ample gardens, or the fact that it's completely out of place where it sits, but whatever the case, this was a wonderful find.
Lush, exotic gardens line the path and in front of you is an aging, but beautiful, building. The landscaping was immaculate, and as you climb the stairs your eyes are greeted with a buffet of color and peacefulness of the empty mountains. You truly feel alone in the vast green and blue of the surrounding landscape.
We purchased a small silver elephant from the gift shop, and the gentleman behind the counter engaged in pleasant small talk with us, excited that we had stopped at the temple.
If you're in the area, and don't mind a death defying drive through roads that dip and turn on a dime without notice...then this is definitely worth the visit.
This palace really is looks like a Palace of GOLD because of its amazing architectural building. It was very peaceful and beautiful. You can really see that the palace is taking cared of very well. Its a long way to drive before to get to this place but its worth to visit.
Beautiful temple and surrounding nature. Walk around to see the many peacocks roaming the surrounding grounds. This is a New Vrindaban Hare Krishna community but anyone is welcome to tour and explore.
They are in the process of constructing the palace to better it. It was beautiful, it does cost almost $10 per person to take tour of the palace. It was worth it, it was neat. You learn about the religion while taking the tour.
The people were so friendly! I had so many conversations with the devotees and learned so much. Also, we were able to have a free vegetarian lunch that was FANTASTIC! So yummy! It was under construction when we went, but it was still beautiful with plenty of photo opportunities!
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Palace of Gold (New Vrindaban)
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