Visiting Temples in Bali

Find out about some of the main temples (pura) in Bali...

Bali is commonly known as the island of a thousand temples, but in fact there are said to be over ten thousand temples, or pura, in Bali, most of which are traditionally orientated from the mountains to the sea. The temples commemorate virtually every aspect of life: harvest, rain, prosperity, life, death and protection from evil spirits. During festivals, they may be transformed into places of great activity, with traditional dancing, offerings and rituals.

Visiting Temples

There are strict rules regarding Hindu temples which must be observed by everyone, including visitors to Bali. A waist sash (selandong) and often a sarong are required before entering a temple or holy place. In general these can be lent to visitors, or can be purchased just about everywhere on the island. Other things to take into account when visiting a temple include:

  • Check with attendants before taking photographs in a temple to ensure this is permitted
  • Never touch temple offerings
  • Never climb onto temple walls or shrines

Directional Temples

There are nine kahyangan jagat, or "directional temples", in Bali; they are considered so important as to be owned by all of Bali, and not just their local communities. From this list, six are classed as sad-kahyangan, or World Sanctuaries, although this list is often disputed.

The nine directional temples are listed below:

  1. The Besakih Temple, or Mother Temple, located in Besakih, in the district of Karangasem, East Bali, is the biggest and holiest of all the temples in Bali; it is perched on the slopes of Mount Agung, which is 1,000m (3,000 feet) high. It was built in the 11th century, and is a place of pilgrimage to offer thanks for prosperity. It is said to be a male temple.
  2. Ulun Danu Temple (Batur) is located 900m above sea level in Kintamani in the Central Mountains, and appears to rise out of the waters of Lake Batur. A complex of nine temples, it is said to be the home of Sang Hyang Dewi Danu, the god of prosperity, and is considered to be the female counterpart to the Besakih temple. This is a World Sanctuary.
  3. Uluwatu Temple the thousand-year-old water temple, is Bali's most spectacular temple, and is located high on a cliff top on the southernmost part of Bali. Dedicated to the spirits of the sea, it has spectacular views and is a popular place from which to view the sunset. It is one of the six World Sanctuaries, and is located near Jimbaran Bay, on the southwestern tip of Bukit Peninsular.
  4. Luhur Batukau Temple is a remote temple dedicated to the gods of Mount Batukau, and is popular with flower-lovers and bird-watchers. The temple is situated on Gunung Batukau, the third of Bali's three major mountains, in the Central Mountains.
  5. Ulun Danu Temple is a Hindu/Buddhist temple built on Lake Bratan in Candikuning, near Bedugul in the Central Mountains. It is dedicated to the goddess of waters, Sang Hyang Dewi Danu, and is the focus of ceremonies and pilgrimages to ensure the supply of water.
  6. Goa Lawah Temple is located in a cave filled with thousands of bats, and is revered as a sacred site for the worship of the god of the sea Bhatara Tengahing Segara, or Bhatara Baruna. It is believed to protect Bali from evil spirits, and is situated near Padangbai on Bali's southeast coast.
  7. Sambu Temple is in a remote location in the east of Bali, on the southern slopes of Gunung Agung, Bali's biggest volcano.
  8. Lempuyang Luhur Temple is not visited much due to its remote location; it is near Tirtagangga in East Bali.
  9. Masceti Temple is rarely visited, and is located on the coast south of Gianyar.

There are many other important temples and places of religious importance in Bali which include the following:

  • The Elephant Cave, or Goa Gajah, is one of the most historical sites in Bali. It was developed in the 11th century as a place to meditate and worship Lord Ganesha, the Hindu God of knowledge and wisdom and is situated on the western edge of Bedulu Village, near Ubud
  • Tanah Lot Temple on the west coast near Denpasar is Bali's best known and most photographed temple, built by one of the last priests to travel to Bali from Java in the 16th century. It is one of Bali's most important sea temples, and pays homage to the guardian spirits of the sea. Perched on a rocky islet, surrounded by the sea, it is a popular place to visit at sunset
  • Gunung Kawi, or Carving in the Mount, is a 10th century Hindu temple complex near Ubud with a 300-step stone stairway and ten seven-metre-high memorials carved into the rock face which are said to be the shrines of the king's concubines and his family. These days, Gunung Kawi sanctuary is used for ritual ceremonies, and locals gather periodically to offer gifts and to pay homage to God, the ancient king, and his family
  • Penataran Sasih Temple, also known as The Moon Temple, is one of the oldest temples in Bali, and is situated near Pejeng, Gianyar. It houses a collection of pre-Hindu objects, such as the Pejeng Moon, which, at two metres in length, is Asia's biggest bronze kettle drum. It is thought to date from 300BC, and is widely regarded as Indonesia's most important Bronze-Age relic. Temple festivals are held in the ninth month of the Balinese calendar
  • Taman Ayun Temple is a royal shrine built in 1634, and known for its distinctive pagodas, which symbolise the sacred mountain Mahameru. It is located in Mengwi, Badung in West Bali.
  • Garuda Wisnu Kencana Monument, or GWK, is a newly-completed 150m-tall statue of Garuda, set in a cultural park, with food halls and performance spaces. It is situated on Bukit Peninsula, on the southern tip of Bali