Bali temples: a Bali temple tour along the most beautiful and sacred temples!
One of Bali’s nicknames is Bali Seribu Pura which means Island of a 1000 temples. And there is a reason for that. You just can’t get around the many sacred temples scattered all over the island. If you like culture and would love to visit some of those holy places, then a Bali temple tour is an absolute must. With so many temples to visit we’ve selected our fav’s, the really interesting ones, the temples that do well in photos and the temples with fascinating sacred stories. This complete temple guide makes planning your Bali holiday and temple visits just a tad bit easier.
The Island of the Gods: important holy days
Unlike all other Indonesian islands, in Bali, the main religion is Hindu and then specifically Balinese-Hindu which is a mix of animism, Hinduism and honoring ancestors. Another name people use when referring to Bali is Island of the Gods due to the many gods the Balinese worship. The most important holy days are Galungan and Kuningan. Galungan is celebrated every 210 days and represents good overcoming evil. Kuningan is celebrated on day 10 of Galungan and marks the end of Galungan. Another important day for the Balinese is Nyepi, Balinese Day of Silence. The island shuts down completely for Nyepi: the airport, shops, restaurants. Everything is closed. If you’re visiting Bali around any of these important holy days, it is extra special to visit the temples on the island as they get decorated very beautifully and you’ll find many Balinese in traditional clothing visiting the temples.
Bali offerings: the meaning of Canang Sari
Everywhere in Bali, you see offerings: small woven baskets with flowers, cigarettes, candy, incense and sometimes they even have money in them. These offerings are called Canang Sari. Every day the Balinese make new offerings to honor the Gods and to thank them for the protection they give them. It’s a daily routine for the locals that represents self-sacrifice, gratitude and immense attention to detail. Especially early in the morning, you see women carry plates with offerings on their head and place them at several points around a temple or house. After placing the offerings, they bless them with holy water. It’s a beautiful routine to witness.
Temple courtesy: how to behave when visiting Bali temples
When going on a Bali temple tour, there are certain rules that you have to follow. Temples are a holy place for the Balinese and visitors should respect that.
Don’ts at a Bali temple:
- Women who are menstruating are not allowed inside temples.
- People with an open wound are not allowed inside temples.
- Both men and women have to cover up their knees when entering a temple. So, make sure you bring a sarong with you. Popular temples have sarongs you can loan, but the less visited temples don’t.
- Don’t show too much of our upper body, so out of respect, it is better to wear a t-shirt or long sleeves.
- Take off our shoes before entering a temple.
- Don’t climb on anything or touch anything.
- Don’t disturb people who are praying or doing a ceremony by taking their pictures using your flash.
- When there is no entrance fee, a donation is much appreciated.
Besakih Temple: Bali Mother Temple
The Besakih Temple also called Mother Temple, is situated on the slopes of the Mount Agung, about 1000 meters high. The Pura Agung Besakih is the biggest temple of Bali and consists out of more than 80 temples. It is a temple that every Balinese should visit at least once in their life. You will need to pay an admission fee to enter the temple and will be lent a sarong for when you don’t have one yourself. You will also get a local guide to go with you and tell you everything about the history of the temple and the ceremonies that take place here.
Uluwatu Temple: cheeky monkeys and traditional dances
The Uluwatu Temple is located on the peninsula in the south of Bali. It is one of the most popular and scenic temples on the island, due to its location on the tip of a slope, 70 meters above sea level. It was built in the 11th century and is one of the most important sea temples on the island. From the temple, you will have a stunning view of the ocean.
Kecak dance Uluwatu temple
A traditional Kecak Fire Dance is something you don’t want to miss when you are in Uluwatu. The dance might be very touristy but is a traditional and unique Balinese dance. The show starts around sunset and tickets are between Rp. 70.000-100.000. Watch out for the many monkey’s that live at the temple, so be careful with sunglasses, jewelry and food.
Tanah Lot Temple: Sea Temple
The Tanah Lot temple is situated on a rock and surrounded by the sea, 20km northwest of Kuta. This temple is famous for its location: in the ocean. During high tide, the temple will flood and is not accessible, but at low tide, you are allowed to cross and go inside. This crossing is a slippery path but worth it. The Tanah Lot was built to honor the God of the Sea, which is why a part of the temple is situated in the ocean. As a tourist, you are not allowed to visit every part of the temple. Some parts are only meant for the locals. For the best picture of this extraordinary temple, the best time is around sunset or around dawn, when the light is at its best.
Lempuyang Temple: Gateway to Heaven
Instagram made this temple famous: the Lempuyang Temple, also called the Gateway to Heaven. It is located in the north of Bali with gorgeous views of Mount Agung. This temple consists out of 7 temples and the most famous one is the first you can visit upon entering, the Pura Penataran. Make sure you arrive before 8am to avoid the crowd and the heat since people have known to wait in line for a couple of hours to get their picture taken at this temple. For the active ones among us, you can hike all the way up to the other temples with dazzling views on Mount Agung when not cloudy. That is also why the best time to go is early morning when the weather is most clear. Side note: the Instagram foto’s you’ll find of this temple arent matching reality. The reflection you see in the ‘water’ is an optical illusion.
Goa Gajah Temple: The Elephant cave
Near Ubud you’ll find Pura Goa Gajah or The Elephant Cave. This temple dates back to the 11th century and is named after the Hindu god Ganesh who had an elephant-shaped head. Since 1995 the Goa Gajah Temple is listed on the UNSECO World Heritage Site. Despite the small size of the temple, it is very popular among both tourist and locals.
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple: Temple of the Lake Bratan
After the Besakih Temple, the Ulun Danu Bratan temple is the second most important temple in Bali. It is located 1200 meters high in the lake of Bratan, near the village of Bedugul. The route to the temple is beautiful with lakes, small villages and rice fields. Due to the high location of the temple, you’ll find it often fogged up which gives it a bit of a mysterious feel. The complex consists out of several temples on small islands in the lakes. Pura Ulun Danu was built to honor the goddess of rivers and lakes, Dewi Batari Ulun Danu. The three pagodas where the temple is famous for, symbolizes the gods Vishnu, (the tallest pagoda), Brahma (the second tallest pagoda) and Shiva (the smallest pagoda). You can go on a tour of the lake around the complex with a guide. Perfect for gorgeous pictures taken from a different angle!
Tirta Empul Temple: Water Temple Bali
In the Bali temple guide, we can’t skip Pura Tirta Empul! This temple is dedicated to the Hindu god of water, Vishnu. It might be one of the busiest temples of Bali as it’s location is only about a 30-minute drive from Ubud. The meaning of Pura Tirta Empul is ‘temple of the holy water’. In the temple complex, you will find several water basins where both locals and tourists can cleanse themselves. Especially on Balinese holidays, this temple is very popular and you will need to stand in line to get into the basins. The locals believe that the holy water gives good fortune and expels evil spirits.
Gunung Kawi Temple: Impressive Jungle Temple
Pura Gunung Kawi is not far from Pura Tirta Empul, this makes it easy to combine these two during your Bali temple tour. Built in the 11th century in a deep valley, this temple is located in the east of Bali and is divided by the Pakrisan river. Large and impressive statues have been carved out of the rocks, making it a truly spectacular sight. The rice field scenery when you walk down the (300 steps!) stairs make this a beautiful complex to visit. At the back of Gunung Kawi you will find some smaller temples and small waterfalls. Best part; not that many tourists go here!
Ulun Danu Batur Temple: Head of the Lake Temple
Pura Ulun Danu Batur is located in Kintamani in the central part of Bali. After volcanic eruptions in 1917 and 1921, partly destroying the Ulun Danu Batur, the temple was relocated in 1926. It now sits 900 meters above sea level. The temple complex consists out of 9 temples and around 300 shrines, dedicated to the Goddess Dewi Danu. Inside the temple, you will find a Buddhist pagoda, which makes this temple, not like other temples on Bali, where the main religion is Hindu.
Taman Ayun Temple: Temple in a beautiful garden
The Taman Ayun Temple was built in 1634 near Mengwi, west of Ubud. After the Besakih temple, this is the biggest temple complex on Bali. It is a very serene place, located in a park with a lotus pond and lots of trees. The temples are surrounded by canals connected to the pond. Pura Taman Ayun consists out of several Meru towers which symbolizes the mountains where the gods live. Best time to visit, as for many other temples, is early in the morning before the heat and the crowds.
Pura Taman Saraswati: Temple in Ubud center
Taman Saraswati is located in the center of Ubud, close to the Ubud Palace and next to Starbucks. It is a must visit when you are staying in Ubud. It was built from 1952-1953 to honor the god Sarasvati, the Hindu god of music, literature, art and knowledge. From the Lotus restaurant, you’ve got a very nice view of the lotus pond. Inside this authentic temple, you can enjoy dance performances. Unlike many other temples, you don’t have to pay an entrance fee to enter the complex.
Batu Karu temple: the father temple
Besides the Mother temple (Besakih), Bali also knows a father temple: the Batu Karu temple. Located in the Tabanan region near the Batu Karu volcano (west of Ubud) you’ll find this beautiful temple with its awesome pagoda’s. Many areas of the temple are closed for tourists as the Batu Karu temple is one of the most sacred once on the island. The Batu Karu temple is one of the temples that should protect the island from evil spirits.
Bali Temple Tour
Can’t wait to go explore all of these beautiful Bali temples after reading this temple guide? With our above tips, you can easily arrange your own temple tour. You can book a private driver and tell him exactly which sights you want to visit. If you prefer a pre-arranged tour, here is our top 3 recommended Bali temple tours:
Did visiting all of these temples make you hungry?