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Must visit Iconic temples in Bali

Ancient Bali temples boasts the magnificent centuries-old architecture. Several have become island’s most iconic landmarks. Great for photos, they're usually set against exotic backdrops. They’re most colourful during festive temple anniversaries. Such events occur twice a Gregorian year since dates are based on a local 210-day calendar.

On any other day, these temples are great places to visit at least once during your visit. Each temple is unique. Try Besakih, ‘Bali’s mother temple’, set against majestic Mount Agung, for instance. Or, the mysterious ruins of Goa Gajah near Ubud. Uluwatu and Tanah Lot against golden sunsets can be truly magical. Proper attire – a sarong and sash – are mandatory for Bali temple visits.

I have compiled a list of some of the most popular, picturesque and pleasing temples in Bali that you must include in your itinerary. These are your gateways to get to know the Indonesian culture and history more intimately and take some Instagram-worthy photographs.

1. Tanah Lot

About 20 kilometres northwest of Kuta, Pura Tanah Lot ("Pura" means temple in Balinese) is one of Bali's most iconic temples. Its spectacular seaside setting, on a rocky islet surrounded by crashing waves wows all who visit.

For the Balinese people, it is one of the most sacred of all the island's sea temples. Every evening, throngs of tourists from Kuta, Legian, and Sanur find their way through a labyrinth of lanes lined by souvenir sellers to watch the sun setting behind the temple.

Although foreigners can't enter any of the temples, you can walk across to the main temple at low tide, and it's fun to wander along the paths taking photos and soaking up the magnificent setting.

Dress Code

There is a dress code that is informally enforced at Tanah Lot. Women are required to cover their legs, usually with a sarong or a kebaya (native Indonesian dress) along with covering their shoulders (such as the use of a scarf). Men must follow the same rules, along with wearing an udeng (Balinese headdress made from folded clothes).

How to Reach

Because it is an important tourist destination, Tanah Lot is easy accessible. If you are using public transport, it is just a 45-minute drive from Kuta or Seminyak and a 30-40 minute from Ubud. During the pre-sunset and post-sunset rush, these timings can extend by almost an hour because traffic builds up and it stretches for kilometres on end with bumper-to-bumper traffic. I'd suggest that you plan your travel in such a way that you avoid these traffic hours.

Address : Beraban, Kediri, Tabanan Regency, Bali

Timings : 7:00 AM - 7:00PM

Entry Fee : Indonesians: Adults: IDR 20,000, Children: IDR 1,500,

Foreigners: Adults: IDR 60,000, Children: IDR 30,000

2. Ulu Watu Temple

A trip to see the magnificent sunset at the Uluwatu Temple in Uluwatu should be on everyone’s Bali bucket list. The temple offers the most amazing views of both the ocean and skyline.

Perched on a rock which overlooks the Indian Ocean, imagine how the sunset can be from here. Moreover, get here to see the traditional Kecak dance, one of the places in Bali you should not miss! At sunset, the stage is lively with this incredible Balinese fire dance.

The locals believe that the divine trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, become one at Uluwatu, and so the temples is a place of worship of Rudra, the Balinese Hindu god of all elements and protector against evil sea spirits.

Uluwatu's beaches are incredibly beautiful, but it is ultimately a surfing destination because of its tricky waves. These are not suitable for swimming. So if you aren’t inclined to go surfing in Uluwatu, keep in mind that it’s mostly a destination to relax and there isn’t much to do around here.

Best time to Visit

The best time to visit Uluwatu beach and Uluwatu temple are before sunset. It's a fantastic view of orange, yellow, and red hues illuminating the sky while the ocean calmly flows below.

How to Reach

You can reach the temple from Bali Airport via JL Raya Uluwatu Pecatu, taking you around 45 minutes. Or take a cab that will cost you approx 300,000 IDR or board the Perama bus. You can also take scooters to reach the temple at an affordable price.

Address : Pecatu, South Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali

Timings : 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Entry Fee : Adults: IDR 30,000, Children: IDR 20,000

3. Tirta Empul Temple

This traditional spring water temple is a peaceful oasis not far from Ubud and the Tegallalang rice terraces. It’s a sacred place for Hindus, and the water is supposed to be spiritually cleansing.

Whether you bathe in the holy water, look at the traditional Hindu temples and architecture, or simply walk around and enjoy the gardens and tranquillity it is definitely worth a visit whilst in Bali!

Once built as places of worship, over time the ancient monuments of Bali have become star tourist spots as not only temples but also beautiful works of art. Pura Tirta Empul or the Holy Water Temple is one such temple, highly cited and visited by both locals and tourists alike. A gorgeous 10th-century structure dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it is revered by the Balinese Hindus. Tirta Empul's rich lore and legend, and the mystery behind its healing spring draw curious travellers here from all over the world.

Dress Code

Similar to the dress code for other temples in Bali, a sarong is required to enter Tirta Empul. It is fine if you forget to carry one though; sarongs can be rented at the temple's entrance in exchange for a small donation. Also, while a regular sarong is alright for exploring the temple premises, a special green sarong is required to enter the purification pools.

Best time to visit

One of the best times to visit Tirta Empul would be on a full moon night. On such a night the Balinese Hindus perform their rituals inside the temple and it is a sight to behold. Afternoon is also a good time as the waters of the purification pool stay warm for a dip from noon to evening. The temple can get really crowded on religious holidays. You might want to avoid visiting on weekends or days of religious festivities.

How to Reach

The Pura Tirta Empul Temple located in Manukaya Village, district of Tampaksiring, Bali is quite close to Ubud and Denpasar. It is also relatively easy to get to. You can either rent a car or hire a taxi to the temple. The drive from Ubud to Tirta Empul could take 30 minutes and from Denpasar around one hour.

Address : Jl. Tirta, Manukaya, Tampaksiring, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali

Timings : 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Entry Fee : Adults: IDR 15,000, Children: IDR 7,500

4. Lempuyang Temple

Pura Lempuyang Luhur is a Balinese Hindu temple located on the slopes of Mount Lempuyang in Karangsem. Lying 1175m above sea level, reaching the temple requires a steep climb of over 1700 steps. However, one can stop along the way to take some beautiful pictures of the panoramic Mount Agung and the candi bentar gate.

Lempuyang Temple is one of Bali's oldest temples which at par with the Baisakh- 'the mother temple of Bali.' The temple is one of the most revered temples for the Hindus and has a beautiful gateway which is described by many people as 'the gates to heaven.'

Lempuyang Temple is known as 'sad kahyangan' derived from the Sanskrit word, 'sad' which means six and 'kahyangan' which means places of the Gods. Today Lempuyang Temple is one of the six holiest places of worship in Bali as it forms the pivotal focal point of spiritual activity.

Rituals/ Festivals

The Piodalan or puja wali festival (Pura's anniversary) is a Balinese religious festival which follows a host of celebrations. The temple becomes a symbol of eternal beauty by the delicate and authentic decorations coupled with the lively atmosphere. The festival is celebrated once in every six months on Waraspati (Thursday), or a day after the Galugan festival.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit the Lempuyang Temple is during the morning since it is at this time that one can experience the freshness and beauty of the place. If one reaches at the time of sunrise, one is sure to find some terrific Instagram worthy pictures to boast for a lifetime.

How to Reach

Lempuyang Temple is located at the eastern part of the island, and it is approximately a 2-hour drive from Ubud and 2 and half hours from Canggu.

Address : Jalan Pura Telaga Mas Lempuyang, Tri Buana, Abang, Karangasem

Timings : 7:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Entry Fee : IDR 15,000

5. Goa Gajah

The Goa Gajah ‘Elephant Cave’ is an archaeological site on the cool western borders of Bedulu Village, 6 km out of central Ubud. To the unknowing, Goa Gajah’s name can be slightly misleading, often creating an impression that the site is a gigantic dwelling full of elephants.

The Goa Gajah caves are spread across a vast area, surrounded by lush jungle and architectural wonders that amplify the magnificence of the caves. It is also a spiritual and cultural attraction filled with Buddhist and Shaivite relics and carvings. A wide-eyed demon-like structure welcomes you at the cave entrance, which further leads to a serene pool inside. The intricate stonework makes this a must-visit for anyone looking for a glimpse into Indonesian architecture and heritage.

Dress Code

There is a strict dress code that is to be followed by every visitor coming to Goa Gajah caves. Since it is a temple area, it is compulsory that you cover your knees and chest before entering the complex of the caves. It is compulsory for both men and women.

If you are wearing something otherwise, you will get a sarong (scarf) to cover your body while purchasing the ticket. The cost of Sarong is included in the ticket cost.

How to Reach

Goa Gajah caves are located 6 km from Ubud, and approximately 30 km from Seminyak. If you are travelling from Ubud, you can hire a taxi which is the best and most convenient mode of transport. You can also hire a bike which is a cheaper way to reach Goa Gajah. There is cab facility available if you are travelling from Seminyak.

Once you reach the drop-off point, you need to climb down the stairs to reach the main temple complex of Goa Gajah Caves.

Address : Jalan Raya Goa Gajah, Pejeng Kawan, Tampaksiring, Gianyar, Bali

Timings : 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM

Entry Fee : Adults: IDR 15,000, Children: IDR 7,500

6. Besakih Temple

Known as Bali's 'Mother Temple', Pura Besakih is a majestic Hindu temple complex perched on the slopes of Mount Agung in Bali. The complex houses 23 separate temples and is believed to be at least 2000 years old.

Sat in the lap of nature, nestled in between rice paddies, hillsides and streams, Besakih Temple adds to the feeling of serenity the temple is known for. The primary deities of this beautiful temple are Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. This huge temple complex comprises of around 86 temple shrines. Out of this, there are three main temples which are dedicated to the trinity in Hindu mythology, that is- Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

How to Reach

Besakih Temple is located at a high altitude of almost 1000 meters above sea level on the slopes of the famous Mount Agung. If one is travelling from Kuta, Seminyak, Jimbaran, and Denpasar then take the Kusamba Bypass to Klungkung. There is no public transport available to reach Besakih Temple so it is advisable to hire a private car to the place.

Address : Besakih, Rendang, Karangasem, Bali

Timings : 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Entry Fee : IDR: 15,000

7. Taman Ayun Temple

Built in 1634 by the Raja of Mengwi dynasty to honour his noble ancestors, Pura Taman Ayun or the beautiful garden is an ancient temple in Mengwi, Bali. The ornamented gateway of the temple leads to a fountain spouting water through nine jets to represent the nine gods of Hinduism. The old-world charm and architectural marvel of this temple draw visitors here throughout the year.

Located in the Mengwi village and only 18km from Denpasar, the Pura Taman Ayun Temple complex is a standing testimony to the royal heritage and spiritual beliefs of Bali. Surrounded by a wide moat, the temple is also known as the Garden Temple due to its beautiful landscapes and fish and lotus ponds.

Best time to visit

The temple can be visited throughout the year. The visit timings are from 8 A.M to 6 P.M. One usually visits the temple as a stopover or en route other destinations in the northern and central Bali. Hence, if you travel during the peak travel season from July-August and December-January, which are holiday seasons, expect more crowds. If you are looking for cheaper rates and fewer crowds then travelling to Bali in the off-seasons, from April to June and September to November is a good idea.

How to Reach

The Taman Ayun Temple is easily accessible and is located on the roadways connecting Denpasar and Singaraja. It is about 18km from Denpasar, 24km from Kuta and 19km from Seminyak. The temple is also close to the main tourist area of Ubud. It is only about a 45 minutes’ drive from Ubud. There is no public transportation to the temple. You can hire a car and driver from your place of stay or hire a scooter too.

Address : Jalan Pemerintahan Kabupaten Badung, Badung, Bali

Timings : 8:00 AM - 6:15 PM

Entry Fee : Adults: IDR 20,000, Children: IDR: 10,000

8. Luhur Batukaru Temple

The magnificent Batukaru Temple popularly referred to as the Pura Luhur Batukaru by the locals, is situated at the foot of the southern slope of the Mount Batukaru. Visually stunning, this sacred site is encompassed by lush forests, thus offering a fascinating environment to nature lovers. Being one of the nine directional temples that are located on the island, Pura Luhur Batukaru is believed to protect the region by warding off evil spirits.

The ancient temple was originally built in the 11th century. However, it was destroyed in 1604, after a siege conducted by the Buleleng Kingdom. Again, in 1959, it was rebuilt, and since then, it stands tall till date. The glorious Pura Luhur Batukaru is dedicated to Lord Mahadeva, a Hindu deity also regarded as the God of the Batukaru Mountain.

Frequent drizzles and the surrounding sea have led this place to have a cool, misty atmosphere. In addition to being a place of worship, Batukaru Temple is also categorized as a renowned spot for sightseeing. However, a number of areas in the inner sanctum of this temple are prohibited to those people who visit this place for reasons other than the worship of the idol.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit the dignified Batukaru Temple is during the ceremonial biannual anniversaries of the temple, popularly known as ‘Piodalan’. This ceremony coincides with the Thursday that falls after the Galungan festival. The Piodalan festivities are held every two hundred and ten days apart, in keeping with the Balinese calendar.

How to Reach

Pura Luhur Batukaru is situated at Jalan Penatahan-Wongaya Gede in Tabanan. It lies about 45 kilometres to the north of Seminyak, and it takes a little over an hour to reach the temple via private transport. From Denpasar, the temple lies at a distance of around 40 kilometres, and one can get there within an hour via private transport. Public transport is not available.

Address : Jalan Penatahan - Wongayagede, Penebel, Bali

Timings : 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Entry Fee : IDR 60,000

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