From the moment you arrive in Bali, you can’t miss the ritualistic daily routines the locals participate in with the laying of offerings in their homes, hotels, and businesses. Sometimes they are as simple as Frangipani flowers dotted up the entry stairs to the more ornately filled palm leaf baskets keeping away the demons and making it all safe. These rituals are a daily part of the lives of the Balinese, especially the women who spend many hours a day both preparing and putting out the offerings. This is only part of a larger commitment to their Hindu religion and while an integral part of their culture, the more major ceremonies happen in the Temples dotted across the Island. This makes visiting at least one temple an essential part of your Bali holiday, although it is important to remember there are dress requirements to visit all temples, normally you can hire a sarong before you enter. So here are our favourite temples that we have discovered on our many trips to Bali.
Tanah Lot Temple Bali
Tanah Lot meaning ‘land in the sea’, is probably the most well-known and most visited temple in Bali. This being due to it’s closeness to the main tourist areas and of course the shots on Instagram. Situated on rocks just off the coast it really is spectacular, especially at sunset although the downfall is the surrounding area is covered with swarms of people trying to get the perfect shot. What is often missed by many is the importance of this temple to the Balinese people as one of the seven Sea Temples built along the South Western Coast and as a place of pilgrimage. We enjoyed visiting in the day more than at sunset as there are not as many visitors and you get the chance to actually see pilgrims visiting to be blessed. If you want to visit the Temple itself it is only possible at low tide so check here before you finalise your plans and if you want to experience Tanah Lot during one of the main festive pilgrimages try going during Kuningan for a spectacular explosion of colour and tradition.
Pura Luhur Uluwatu Bali
Another popular coastal temple is Uluwatu, with its perfect postcard image perched on a cliff face. Situated on the peninsula to the south of the airport it is easily accessible from the many main tourist areas. Most famous for its nightly Kecak Dance or ‘Tari Kecak’ a traditional dance using a large fire as the centre of its stage, Uluwatu is also beautiful to visit during the day, we arrived well before the sunset so we could enjoy wandering around the complex taking in the stunning ocean views and buildings in the complex. Our one warning is to be aware of the monkeys that live in the nearby forest, while they may be there guarding the Temple against bad influences they are not beyond some bad influence of their own. They are very cute but notorious for their thieving behaviour and it does become a challenge to retrieve anything they snaffle. On our visit, we saw sunglasses and hats disappear with frustrated owners trying to coax them back with bananas conveniently on sale nearby.
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
We have been to visit Ulun Danu Beratan several times now and I honestly still can’t tell you whether the attraction is the stunning beauty of the temple on the edges of Lake Beratan or the Dikubu Strawberry Farm close by with their delicious strawberry milkshakes and pancakes. The temple itself is so peaceful and gives the illusion it is floating on the lake as it is so calm and serene, there never seems to be large crowds either which may help with that illusion. The Bedugal area is also much cooler than the coast, so it is the perfect escape on a really hot day. The lake is surrounded by mountains and the temple gardens seem to always be blooming with lots of colour at all times of the year. If you are really keen you can take to the water in a variety of craft to enjoy the temple from another angle so it is a perfect day out.
Taman Ayun Temple
Taman Ayun Temple meaning ‘garden temple in the water’ appropriately named as is situated on an island in a river is situated close to Mengwi Village. A Royal Family Temple from the Mengwi Empire built in the 17th Century to symbolise the mythological home of the gods, also using Chinese architecture as part of its inspiration. In the centre you will find a series of nine fountains that represent Dewa Nawa Sanga the main gods of Balinese Hinduism which give the area a cooling feeling. The complex has a large number of individual almost mini temples and my memories are that each time we have visited there seemed to be a family of cats and kittens living in each one, it adds to atmosphere watching kittens play in the shadows. We found it a very relaxing place to visit.
Goa Gajah Cave Temple
While this 11th-century cave temple is referred to as “the elephant temple although according to Atlas Obscura, no one actually knows why it may be a lost in translation thing over time as there have never been any elephants there and there are none featured in the intricate carvings in and around the cave. Situated on a hillside, near Bedulu Village on a river junction the site was seen as sacred and the temple has become a place for prayer and meditation. To get to the Temple you need to walk down a flight of stairs, passing by some lovely places to just sit and have a cooling drink. The temple complex has a variety of ponds and structures that are said to date back to the 8th century including some beautiful old statues. Stepping inside the cave through the ‘mouth of hell’ you come to a small inside area where there are three stone idols wrapped in cloth with areas where priests used to sit and meditate. While the Goa Gajah Cave Temple may not the most spectacular Temple to visit it certainly is a quirky one.
So they are our recommendations of temples to visit while you are in Bali, do you have any to add to the list?
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