If you think I went to Bali just to go around some Hindu temples… then you are right. From Uluwatu to Ubud, here’s my list of the best Bali temples you should visit when you get here.
As someone who grew up in Metro Manila and known only Christian churches, it is always refreshing to see other countries’ places of worship.
Hinduism heavily influenced the lifestyle in Bali — from the food, traditional clothing, and the architecture. In the morning, you can see leaf plates on the floor, filled with flowers, biscuits, and incense as an offering. In the afternoons, you can spot women carrying jars of fruits on top of their heads, making way to the temples. Everywhere you go, there are many beautiful private roadside family temples. No wonder the best Balinese temples are located in unique terrains such as cliffs, mountains, rivers, and fields.
Seeing the intricacy and the enormity of the best Bali temples listed here, I’ll have to agree that Hinduism is a religion that takes much effort. Each temple is oozing with stories passed down for generations, that I felt I had to visit as many as I can. So if you think I came to Bali just to visit hundred years old temples… you are right.
Here are my top 8 best Bali temples that I visited and found magical:
Best Bali Temples #8: Yeh Pulu Temple
Pura Yeh Pulu is an archaeological site carved around the 14th century and discovered only in the 1920s. I leanred that the name means “spring” or “stone water container”. It’s on the stone corners of a rice field, beside lush greens of rice paddies and coconut trees and near to the streams of Petanu and Pakerisan Rivers.
It basically features a 25-meter long relief with large shadow figures on the rocks depicting the Balinese daily life of the ancient kingdom. If you look closely, you’ll see the smallfolk carrying jars of palm wine, priestesses and maids walking towards temples, heroic depictions of men with axes or on horses whilst hunting, and gods with menacing faces. It’s said that the giant Kebo Iwa carved Yeh Pulu with a fingernail.
The trip here for me is a short one — nakakabitin. At the very end is a hermitage where you’ll meet an elderly caretaker who does not speak English. She pointed us to the fountain inside what used to be a bathing pool, perhaps where Yeh Pulu got its name. She sprinkled us with the tirta (holy spring water) and gave me a frangipani to put on my hair. I truly loved the provincial feel and natural rawness of its rock carvings. I just wished there was more to see.
- Entrance fee: IDR 10,000 parking is at IDR 5,000
- Time open: 8AM – 4PM (to be confirmed)
- Location: Jalan Yeh Pulu, Blahbatuh, Bedulu, Kec. Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar
- Tip: Best paired with a trip to Goa Gajah and Pura Samuan Tiga
Best Bali Temples #7: Tanah Lot Temple
Pura Tanah Lot is considered Bali’s most popular among the best Bali temples. It’s also one of Indonesia’s most-known landmark, next to Central Java’s Borobodur Temple. Many tourists come to see the sunset, the crashing waves on its shores, and to see the temple nestled atop a boulder. Within the temple complex, there are souvenir shops and restaurants serving dinner with live cultural performances.
Apparently, the word Tanah Lot came from the rock’s original name “Tengah Lod” meaning “in the sea”. The story goes that in 1489, a high priest from the Majapahit Kingdom, East Java, reached Bali and found a temple that honors the sea god Baruna. He started teaching the villagers about Hinduism, but the village chief wanted to cast him out. Fleeing, he shifted a huge rock formation by the sea, turned his sashes into sea snake to guard the rock, and meditated there until finally, the village chief relented.
Personally, I found Tanah Lot Temple way too crowded with tourists that it’s impossible to enjoy the view. You’ll have to cross smaller waves depending and the tide and potentially get yourself wet, even though the temple itself is restricted from visitors. I also found the entrance fee a bit expensive if you come only for the temple and not to shop.
- Entrance fee: IDR 60,000 inclusive of parking; sarong not required
- Time open: 7AM – 7PM
- Location: Beraban, Kediri, Tabanan Regency (accessible via Canggu or Kuta)
- Tip: Best time to go in time for the sunset
No decent picture of Tanah Lot due to tourist traffic, so here’s my face. 😛
Best Bali Temples #6: Goa Gajah
Literally translating to “Elephant Cave”, Goa Gajah is an archaeological site dating back to the 11th century. It was carved beside a hill where two streams of the Petanu River meet. The temple can be seen as a tribute to Ganesha, the Hindu elephant god, whose menacing face and mouth serve as the cave entrance, with various forest animals carved at its face.
The expansive courtyard is several feet below the ground, suggesting that years have buried the old temple on the ground. Beside the cave is a bathing pool with water fountains from the vases held by stone moss-covered deities. What’s interesting is that the elephant cave and the bathing pool were excavated in separate years! The tall trees within the complex are around a hundred years old and some of the relics found here date way back the 8th century.
The entrance to Goa Gajah is so narrow that tourists enter and exit in single file, waiting for their turn. Inside is a T-shaped hall, dark, cool, and soot-laden due to burning incense. At both ends in which you can each find the statues of Lingnam (three holy-phallus — yes, penises) and Ganesha himself. I truly enjoyed a visit to this cave even though the visit is short, which is why I consider this one of the best Bali temples to visit.
- Entrance fee: IDR 20,000; sarong included, parking at IDR 5,000
- Time open: 8AM – 4PM
- Location: Bedulu village, Blahbatuh District, Gianyar
- Tip: Best paired with a visit to Pura Samuan Tiga and Pura Yeh Pulu
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Best Bali Temples #5: Taman Ayun Temple
One of the farther temples is Pura Taman Ayun, which literally translates as “beautiful garden”. It’s a bit out of the way, located near Central Bali, and is filled with garden landscapes, lotus and fish ponds, and towering tiers that are called gopuram, a symbol of reverence to deified ancestors.
It is also considered the “mother temple” of Mengwi region. Built in 1634 by a former ruler of the Mengwi Kingdom, the temple formerly served as royal recreational places, where palace maids would sail canoes along its vast encircling pools and moats. This makes it seem like the temple is floating from a lake.
Like the other best Bali temples, it has three courtyards that symbolize the three cosmological levels — the world of man, the realm of gods and deities, and the divine level. The fourth and most sacred court, Utama Mandala, is not accessible except during special ceremonies. For me, Pura Taman Ayun is well-kept, neat, and tidy — almost like a park given its wide, grassy grounds. This makes it somehow lack the mysterious or eerie quality of the other Hindu temples.
- Entrance fee: IDR 4,000; sarong included, parking available for free
- Time open: 9AM – 4PM
- Location: Jl. Ayodya No.10, Mengwi, Kabupaten Badung
- Tip: This is a great stop on the way to Bedugul Temple, or Northern, Western, and Central Bali
Best Bali Temples #4: Besakih Temple
Eastern Bali is the place for the largest, holiest, and most significant temples. The one on top is Pura Besakih, the “mother temple” or the spiritual center of Bali, carved within the slopes of Mt. Agung, which is the highest point and an active volcano in Bali island. The name Besakih is said to originate from the dragon deity residing in Mt. Agung, named Naga Besukian.
Parts of Besakih Temple dates from the prehistoric times, with its stone bases and pyramids believed to be laid 2,000 years ago. It was already a Hindu place of worship when discovered by Javanese conquerors in 1284. In 1963, Mt. Agung’s eruption, which killed more than a thousand people, damaged Pura Besakih with an earthquake. But the lava flows missed it by only several meters, which Balinese Hindus regard as a miraculous sign from the gods, who display menacing power but show mercy.
Sadly, Besakih temple is most known in TripAdvisor for extortion from tour guides and vendors. This almost made us not take the trip considering it is also very far from Ubud proper. But upon getting there, we did not get so aggressively harassed. Just be sure to buy the ticket straight to the stall, which already includes entrance fees and tour guide. After the tour, your guide may aggressively negotiate for a high tip, which is optional. Should they insist and you don’t want to be bothered, a tip of IDR 20,000 – 30,000 would suffice for an entire group.
- Entrance fee: IDR 60,000; includes a sarong, entrance fees, and tour guides. Parking depends on the stall you park in front of, usually at IDR 5,000.
- Time open: 8AM – 5PM
- Location: Jl. Entry Pura Besakih, Besakih, Rendang
- Tip: Best paired with a trip to Lempuyang Temple
Best Bali Temples #3: Pura Samuan Tiga
Literally translates to the “Temple of the Meeting of Three”, which refers to the historical consensus among Hindu sects. Each kingdom was envision to have three main temples representing the mountain, the village, and the sea. Plus, the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
All around Pura Samuan Tiga, you can see the overgrown old trees around the yard. It is also surrounded by Pande and Tegending Rivers as well as an ancient pool. The temple complex was clean, indeed, but it also has a very mysterious air about it. Best of all, the gatekeepers were nice and mostly left us alone to wander and even observe quietly during their afternoon offering traditions.
Pura Samuan Tiga is highly underrated and there are not many visitors in this sprawling complex. It’s peaceful and quiet, a break from souvenir shops and aggressive tour guides despite the overwhelming beauty, which is why I placed it at the top best Bali temples list.
- Entrance fee: IDR 10,000; includes a sarong, parking outside is free
- Time open: 7AM – 6PM
- Location: Bedulu, Blahbatuh, Gianyar
- Tip: Best paired with visits to Goa Gajah and Pura Yeh Pulu
Best Bali Temples #2: Uluwatu Temple
Literally translating to “tip of a rock”, Pura Luhur Uluwatu is built at the edge of a 70-meter cliff with the awe-inspiring view of crashing waves and rocks below. Uluwatu Temple makes for a great sunset view overlooking Jimbaran Bay and the Indian Ocean. Located amidst a small forest where monkeys dwell, the temple is said to guard Bali island against evil sea spirits.
Pura Luhur Uluwatu was believed to be built in the 10th century by Majapahit monk who has previously built Hindu temples around Bali. After that, a holy priest from Eastern Java then chose this as his final worshipping place, and it was believed that he reached nirvana thru a lightning strike. Truly, due to its high grounds, Uluwatu Temple indeed is a hazard for a lightning strike, as it was ravaged by fire consequently in 1999.
Unfortunately, this best Bali temples entry is notorious for stealing monkeys. With years of tourist activity, they have been trained to snatch valuables for ransom, such as bananas or peanuts. My tour guide went as far as saying the monkeys were trained by some vendors themselves to steal gadgets from tourists. But I hope this doesn’t stop you from going! Uluwatu Temple is truly breath-taking and makes for a great first stop upon arrival in Denpasar.
- Entrance fee: IDR 30,000 for adults; includes a sarong, parking outside is free
- Time open: 9AM – 6PM
- Location: Pecatu, South Kuta, Badung Regency (accessible from Denpasar, Kuta, or Jimbaran)
- Tip: Keep your cameras and phones close and remove your glasses until the coast is clear. Best to see kecak cultural dance performances every 5PM as the sun sets
Best Bali Temples #1: Lempuyang Temple
Finally, we’ve reached the top of the list of the best Bali temples to visit! My number one is Pura Lempuyang Luhur, located in Eastern Bali. Like the temples Besakih and Uluwatu, Lempuyang Temple is part of the sad kahyangan temples, or the “six places of the gods” and protects Bali island from evil spirits.
Located on the steep slopes of Mt. Lempuyang, one of the most sacred natural points in Bali, the road to the temple is long, winding, steep, and… spiritual.
Scaling the entire Lempuyang Temple entails climbing 1,700 steps and around two hours. The peak of the temple itself is the peak of the mountain. People with heavy hearts, it’s believed, will never reach the top (halaaa). Many visitors stop at the first gate (see below), but I encourage you to further through the dragon stairs.
What’s great about Lempuyang Temple is the highly scenic gate against the backdrop of the mountain. Because of its distance to Ubud proper, too, the place is quieter with fewer tourists.
- Entrance fee: IDR 10,000; sarong requires a “donation” (IDR 10,000 would suffice); parking fee and toilet fee at IDR 5,000
- Time open: 7AM – 6PM
- Location: Bunutan, Abang, Seraya Bar., Kec. Karangasem, Kabupaten Karangasem
- Tip: Try to park at vacant spaces instead of in front of stalls to avoid parking fee. Best paired with a visit to Pura Besakih. Don’t go too late to allot some time for wandering
I hope you like my list of best Bali temples to visit! Just know that these are out of my personal opinions and out of the places I did visit during my brief stay in Bali. What I missed is Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (Bedugul Temple), maybe I’ll get to visit it someday!
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