Bali is famed for its beaches, coasts and surf breaks, but it’s also known for its numerous ancient temples, many of which have become iconic landmarks, thanks in part to their beautiful locations on mountain slopes, cliff tops and by the sea. Some are so well known they have become iconic landmarks and as there were at last count some 20,000 temples all over the island, they could easily form part of an interesting itinerary.
If you do intend to visit these sites it would be good to be properly attired – covered adequately with a waist cloth and sash. A donation is often appreciated at the sites as well.
If you haven’t been to Tanah Lot you’ve probably seen a picture of it. The offshore temple is often featured in sunset images of Bali and it is superb to see, if you can handle visiting it with hordes of other tourists – access to the temple is only possible at low tide so it’s often full. The temple is located on an outcrop off the coast from Beraban village, 45 minutes from Kuta. Given its location near other main tourist areas it is a popular spot and nearby facilities include restaurants, shops and a cultural park with dance performances. It’s a good spot for a sundowner.
Located near Tampaksiring in a lush green river valley, this ancient monument consists of 10 rock-cut shrines to honour the kings and queens of the 11th century. The shrines are carved into 8 metre high niches in the cliff face.
Located near Gunung Kawi is this other landmark monument featuring springs bubbling up into pools. These are located within the temple and the water exits through spouts into a bathing pool where Balinese Hindus go for purification. The same water gushes by the nearby Gunung Kawi. It is possible to bathe in the free public baths here but it can be crowded.
The “mother temple” on the slopes of Mount Agung is located at 1000m and considered Bali’s holiest and largest. You will need a whole day to visit the sprawling complex with various temples and shrines, some that date back as far as the 10th century. Mount Agung is Bali’s tallest mountain and still an active volcano – a lava flow in 1963 just missed the temple.
This isn’t a temple per se but a water palace revered by the Hindu Balinese and located near Mount Agung. It’s such a lovely setting it should be included in this list. It was built in 1948 and features a maze of pools, gardens, fountains, stone carvings and statues. Surrounding it are lush green rice paddies that add to the beauty of the area. It’s possible to bathe here for a fee.
This archaeological complex near Ubud is known as the “elephant cave” but don’t be fooled as there are no elephants in the cave. Rather the temple takes its name from the Elephant River nearby. The entrance to the cave is rather menacing but a key attraction – it’s carved into the rock and you enter through the open mouth. There’s a meeting hall, temple courtyard and bathing pool here.
This is another of Bali’s famed temple sites. This one also boasts a seaside location but unlike Tanah Lot it is located atop a cliff 70 metres above the water and the breaks so popular with surfers. Nightly kecak performances are held here re-enacting the Ramayana. There are fabulous views from the temple and it’s also another good sunset spot.
Ulun Danu Beratan
This temple lies along and in Beratan Lake in the central highlands and the 11 roof pagoda that lies on an island in the lake is often pictured with clouds silhouetted in its waters. This is only one part of the temple however, the rest is on the main shore. The lakeside gardens and shrines are very picturesque. Paddleboats can be rented for riding around the lake.
Pura Luhur Lempuyang
You have to climb 1700 steps through jungle to reach this temple but it’s worth it. At the top are amazing views of Gunung Agung over paddy fields. The temple itself is one of just nine directional temples on the island that are said to protect native Balinese from evil spirits. It is located about 10km from Tirta Gangga on the slopes of Mount Lempuyang.
Pura Taman Ayun
This royal public temple was built in the 1600s by King Mengwi whose descendants still sponsor it today. Part of its attraction is its lovely setting by rice paddies. It’s also surrounded by a lovely moat and has plenty of tiered pagodas. The temple is on the drive to/from Bedugal and the Jatiluwih rice terraces and therefore popular with organised tour groups.