A visit to Bali won’t be complete without a journey to see some ancient & exotic Bali’s temples. There are thousands of them here on the island of gods. According to a 1979 survey, the number of temples in Bali was 5,259. While the number of temples in Bali is now estimated to have reached more than 10,000 temples consisting of 9 Bali Kahyangan Jagat, 714 Dang Kahyangan, 4,368 Kahyangan Tiga, and several other temples. This number does not include the sacred place of worship of ancestral holy spirits called Pura Kawitan (usually at home).
Bali temples are such an important part of Balinese life and culture that a visit to them is a great way of gaining some insight into how the locals live. Plus, some of the very best temples in Bali are just stunning. Suffice to say, no visit to Bali is complete without at least checking out one of the temples on the island.
You don’t need to see all of those Bali temples in one go, but you do have to see some of the most exotic temples listed below. Some temples can be visited in a single tour (Pura Tirtha Empul, Gunung Kawi, and Goa Gajah Temple) you can visit others in another day if you still want to explore those exotic temples. In any case, the trip will be more interesting if you come to those temples during the Odalan or Temple’s Special Day.
Besakih, known as the Mother Temple is important to all Indonesian Hindus. A grand complex of different clan temples and shrines on the south-western slopes of Mount Agung. At least 70 celebrations are held at Besakih yearly, as each shrine has its own anniversary. Exploring the whole site can take a day. Even so, most visits cover only the largest central complex, Pura Penataran Agung.
Pura Batu Madeg contains a central stone which shows that the area of Besakih Temple has been considered a sacred place since ancient times. In the 8th century, a Hindustan monk had a revelation to build houses for people during his exile. Throughout the process, many of his followers died due to illness and accidents. After completion, it is called ‘Basuki’, referring to the dragon god ‘Naga Besukian’, who is believed to inhabit Mount Agung. The name eventually developed into ‘Besakih’.
Other holy sites were gradually built up and Besakih Temple was made the main temple during the conquest of Bali by the Majapahit Empire in 1343. Since then, Besakih Temple has undergone several restorations due to the earthquake in 1917 and a series of eruptions of Mount Agung in 1963 damaged the complex. The lava flow avoids Besakih Temple – the locals believe that he deities want to show their power without completely destroying the sacred complex.
Uluwatu Temple is considered to be one of the 6 key temples believed to be Bali’s spiritual pillars, locally known as the “Sad Khayangan”. It is located at the top of a steep cliff approximately 70 meters above the sea level. With no doubt, many tourists from around the world will be amazed by its natural beauty since you can see the view of the Indian Ocean directly from the temple. Uluwatu Temple, in particular, is one of the best places to see the Bali sunset.
For more than a thousand years Balinese worshipers have been drawn to Pura Tirta Empul, whose sacred spring is said to have been created by God Indra and to have curative properties. The tradition continues almost unchanged at the temple today. Pura Tirta Empul is located in the village of Tampak Siring, 30 minutes away from Ubud. The souvenir stands outside the temple specialize in the local craft, carved bone jewelry. The main attraction here is a long rectangular pool carved of stone, filled with koi and fed by the sacred spring via 12 fountains. Worshippers first make an offering at the temple, then climb into the main pool to bathe and pray. Balinese people believe if they take a bathe here their soul will be purified, and make their mind calm. This will be a great opportunity for you to try a local tradition as you are on the island of Gods.
The Ancient Elephant Cave or locally known as Goa Gajah Temple is one of the most popular historical sites in Bali and is also listed as World Heritage Site in 1995 by UNESCO. According to its name, you won’t find any elephants roaming around here or any other stuff related to an Elephant, what you can find instead are a lot of ancient relics, an ancient meditation cave, rock-wall carvings, The Hindu bathing pools and fountains, and as well as local souvenir shops. Goa Gajah was built in the 11th century with various structures that showcase Hindu influences from the 10th century, and some elements of Buddhism from earlier than the 8th century.
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is both a famous picturesque landmark and a g significant temple complex on the western side of Beratan Lake in Bedugul. Administratively, Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is located at Candikuning Village, Baturiti Subdistricts, Tabanan regency in Bali, Indonesia. Approximately 50 km to the north from Denpasar, by the main street connecting Denpasar and Singaraja. The whole Bedugul area is a popular upland weekend and holiday retreat for locals from the more urban areas in the island’s south. The smooth reflective surface of the lake surrounding most of the temple’s base creates a unique floating impression. The misty Bedugul mountain range surrounding the lake complements the temple’s scenic backdrop.
Taman Ayun is a historical temple complex and a landmark situated in Mengwi Village, Badung Regency, at about 8 km southwest of Ubud and 18 Km Northwest of Denpasar. The temple complex is well-known for its magnificent traditional architectural features spread throughout its courtyards and enclosures. The temple also has expansive gardens with beautiful lotus-filled fish ponds.
The temple was built in 1634 by then ruler Mengwi kingdom. It was built with Chinese architectural inspirations and underwent a significant restoration project in 1937. Towering tiers from the temple shrines make up most of the profile of Taman Ayun and are a gesture of the people of Mengwi’s reverence to their deified nobles.
The Taman Ayun temple was to serve as a main site of worship among Mengwi people, to save them having to travel long distances to the larger temples like Besakih in East Bali, Batukaru in Tabanan, or Batur in Kintamani, it also served as a unifying symbol among the Mengwi royalty and the people.
Lempuyang Temple is one of Bali’s oldest and most highly regarded temples, on par with Besakih Temple (aka the mother temple of Bali). It is also believed to predate the majority of Hindu temples on the island. Definitely a highlight on any travel itinerary for the fit and adventurous, the main temple lies at 1,175m above sea level, up on the peak of the namesake Mount Lempuyang in East Bali. The first to come into view on the pilgrimage, this temple offers an impressive sight with its towering dragon staircases – perfect for photos and the Gate of Heaven itself with a magical view of Mount Agung behind the Gapura gate.
Goa Lawah is one of Bali’s most important temples. Loosely translated to “bat cave”, Goa Lawah is famous for its temple with shrines built around the cave opening. This temple was established in the 11th century by Mpu Kuturan, one of the early priests who laid the foundations of Hinduism on the island. The locals and the temple guardians believe that the tunnels inside the cave lead to three different areas, Mount Agung (Besakih), Talibeng, and Tangkid Bangbang. This belief is also based on various accounts such as the emergence of ash from the cave when Mount Agung erupted in 1963. Besides complex of temples, you can also see the hordes of nectar bats (Eonycteris spelaea) chirping in a frenzied din around and behind the shrines at the cave opening.
Tanah Lot Temple is one of Bali’s most important landmarks, famed for its unique offshore setting and sunset backdrops. An ancient Hindu shrine perched on top of an outcrop amidst constantly crashing waves, Tanah Lot Temple is simply among Bali’s not to be missed icons. Arrive at about 4.30 Pm so you have enough time to explore the area before you watch the kaleidoscope of colors as the sun sets into the sea. Make a donation and touch the holy snake, will be an unforgettable and challenging experience.
The onshore site of Tanah Lot temple complex is dotted with smaller shrines together with visitors leisure facilities that comprise restaurants, shops and cultural parks where regular dance performances are shown regularly. The temple is located in the Beraban village of Tabanan Regency, an approximate 20km north-west of Kuta. Arrive at about 4.30 Pm so you have enough time to explore the area before you watch the kaleidoscope of colors as the sun sets into the sea. Make a donation and touch the holy snake, will be an unforgettable and challenging experience.
Batuan Temple is one the oldest temple in Bali built in the year of 1020 AD or in the 11th century. This temple is located in Batuan Village, a village in Central Bali that is known for its artworks and style of painting which originated in the village since the 1930s and has emerged into a major Balinese artistic style, known as Batuan Painting. Within only a 10km transfer south from Ubud central, the site features a grand complex of shrines laid out within its 0.65Ha complex.
Well, preserved sandstone bas motifs and well-preserved traditional Balinese temple architecture are its main draws. This 11th-century temple faces a separate large communal hall from where most visitors start their visit. When there’s no major temple ceremony on, which otherwise occupies this space with towering fruit and flower offerings, it is filled with local artists and craftsmen displaying their latest work, from batiks to framed paintings and statuettes. With a compulsory sash and cloth around your waist, you can cross over the road to enter the main temple grounds.
The Gunung Kawi Temple complex comprises a collection of ancient shrines carved into the face of a rock cliff in central Bali. The main site overlooks the sacred Pakerisan River, which also flows by the Tirta Empul Temple a kilometer up north. Across the river from the ancient reliefs is a temple courtyard featuring old Hindu shrines in a more contemporary architectural style.
Bali’s Pejeng region is famous for its rich collection of archaeological sites, and Gunung Kawi Temple is a popular stopover on itineraries through the central uplands of the Gianyar regency. The 300 steps further down to the river flanks lush paddy terraces and a gorgeously green valley – they transport you back in time and away from modernity.
Kehen Temple is an ancient Hindu temple complex that has unique architectural features. The temple courtyard is reachable from the roadside and up 38 flights of stairs. Carved sandstone statues depicting mythical animals and Balinese folklore figures adorn the staircases and the central vestibule. The temple’s walls are also ornate with porcelain plates, harking back to the historical relationship between the local Balinese kingdom and China.
You can reach Kehen Temple within a 45-minute drive from Ubud. The temple is located in the village of Cempaga, a cool upland region that is also famous for fruit plantations, palm sugar cottage industries, and scenic rural countryside. The primeval aura of this 11th-century temple is further augmented by the overgrowth of centuries-old banyan trees around the walls of the complex.
Before you go: Keep in mind that Bali’s temples are sacred sites, so you should dress accordingly. If you’re wearing shorts or a skirt, you’ll need to bring a sarong, and if you’re wearing long pants or an ankle-length skirt or dress, you may need a sash. Sarongs and sashes can be usually hired at the entrance to each temple for the price of a small donation.
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