MAIN TEMPLES OF BALI
Bali is the only island in Indonesia where 84% of the population is Hindu. In the rest of the country, the majority is Muslim. Balinese Hinduism is a religion unique in the world, full of rituals and beautiful ceremonies.
The temples or Pura in Balinese, are the core of the society because they are sacred places where the locals go to perform their rituals. There are over 10,000 temples in Bali and they are said to protect the island and its inhabitants from evil spirits.
When entering Hindu temples, it is mandatory to wear a sarong to cover your legs. In some temples, they borrow or rent them for those who do not own one, but there are temples where this option is not available and you will have to bring your own sarong. If you plan to visit temples on your trip to Bali, we recommend you to buy a sarong when you arrive on the island and always carry it with you.
You can buy a sarong in any tourist area and the price ranges from 25,000 to 100,000 IDR (€1.5 – €6) depending on the quality and design. We recommend you to compare the price in different shops before you buy it and to bargain if they ask for more than 100,000 IDR.
- In addition to wearing the sarong, there are a few other rules that you must respect when visiting the temples in order to avoid bothering the people who go to pray.
- Be respectful to the people who pray in the temples. The Balinese are very open-minded people and don’t usually bother if you observe them while performing their rituals, but try not to interrupt them. Do not take off your sarong while you are in a temple. Both men and women must wear sarong throughout the visit.
- Be discreet when taking pictures. In most temples, it is allowed to take pictures, but they are sacred places and must be treated as such to avoid offending people. Also, if you want to photograph people, remember to ask permission.
- Be careful not to step on the offerings that are placed on the floor and at the entrances of the temples.
To avoid crowds and enjoy the temples quietly, we recommend you to visit them first thing in the morning.
The most important temple in Bali is Pura Besakih, the Mother Temple, but there are also other temples of major importance that we recommend you visit. On this page, you will find a list of the most important temples in Bali and a map with the location for each one of them.
Besakih - el Templo Madre
Pura Besakih, also known as the Mother Temple, is considered the most important temple by the Balinese, is the oldest and most sacred on the island. The Besakih Temple is located about 1,000 meters above the sea level, at the slopes of the Agung volcano, and every day thousands of Balinese people go there and bring their offerings to the gods.
The Mother Temple was built more than a thousand years ago and is a complex formed by 23 temples that house statues, pavilions, courtyards, and sanctuaries very representative of the Hindu culture. Besides the secondary temples, it has three main altars that represent the Hindu trinity: Shiva (the destroyer), Brahma (the creator), and Vishnu (the preserver). At the highest point of the complex stands Penataran Agung, the most important temple whose long staircase passes through seven terraces representing the layers of the universe and which only Hindus can climb.
The entrance fee for the Pura Besakih is 60,000 IDR (around €3.5) and they offer you guided tours which claim to be mandatory, but this is not true. The temple can be visited easily without a guide and it’s your decision whether you want to hire someone to explain the history of the complex or not.
Despite being the most important temple in Bali, many travellers skip it because it is far from other sights. Our advice is to not leave Bali without visiting Pura Besakih.
Ulun Danu Beratan - the temple on Lake Beratan
Pura Ulun Danu Beratan is considered the second most important temple in Bali and stands out for its location on the shores of the volcanic lake Bratan, surrounded by vegetation and mountains. This landscape is completely different from other temples you will see in Bali.
Ulun Danu Beratan is dedicated to Dewi Danu, the goddess of water, fertility, and prosperity in Balinese mythology and is believed that she protects the lake. This temple is especially important for the local farmers who go on pilgrimage to Dewi Danu praying for water and a favorable climate for their plantations.
This temple is one of the most beautiful temples in Bali and the favourite of the tourists who visit the island, so we recommend you to go early in the morning.
If you have more time to spend in the area, you can combine your visit to the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple with other nearby sites such as the Bedugul Market, the Botanical Garden, Nungnung Waterfall or Handara Gate. The entrance to the Ulun Danu Beratan temple costs 50,000 IDR.
Lempuyang Luhur - the temple of the Gate of Heaven
The Lempuyang Luhur temple is located more than 1,000 meters above sea level on Mount Lempuyang and is one of the most photographed temples in Bali. Surely you have seen pictures of its Gate to Paradise with Mount Agung in the background on the internet. This impressive temple, dedicated to the God of the Peace, is without a doubt one of the most surprising visits in Bali.
To reach the main temple, located at the top, you have to climb 1,700 stairs. This will take you about an hour and a half and requires a good physical condition. The architecture of this temple may not appeal to you if you have already visited other temples on the island, but we assure you that the effort is well worth it when reaching the top, where you will find a breathtaking view of the Agung volcano.
You can include Tirta Gangga, Taman Ujung, and Goa Lawah (the Bat Cave) on your trip as all these sights are located close to Lempuyang Luhur.
The Lempuyang Luhur temple does not have a set price for the entrance, but you will be asked to make a donation. In this temple, in addition to the mandatory use of the sarong, you must also cover your shoulders.
Tanah Lot - the temple standing on an islet in the sea
Tanah Lot, also known as the temple of the land in the sea, is a temple that was built on top of a rocky compound found in the sea, about 100 meters from the coast. It’s one of seven temples in Bali that worship the god of the sea and one of the most touristic for its proximity to Kuta and Canggu.
A legend tells that at the foundation of this temple live snakes that defend it from evil spirits and that the well that springs up in the cave under the islet carries sacred water that is used by the priests for the Balinese baptism ceremony.
The entrance to the interior of the temple is forbidden for tourists, but if you visit at low tide you can cross to the islet where it stands.
The best views of the Tanah Lot temple are from the distance and at sunset, as from here, you can see one of the best sunsets in Bali.
If you have enough time and want to make the most of your trip, we recommend visiting Batu Bolong Temple, which is right next door. It is quite similar to Tanah Lot, but less crowded and therefore you can enjoy the sunset more peacefully.
To visit the Tanah Lot temple you have to pay an entrance fee of 60,000 IDR and another 2,000 IDR to park the bike. In the Tanah Lot compound, there is a huge bazaar where you can stop for lunch or buy souvenirs and local crafts at very affordable prices.
Tirta Empul - the temple of the holy spring
Tirta Empul is another of Bali’s most sacred temples and is built over a holy water spring that has healing properties for those who make offerings and bathe in its pools. Legend says that this spring was created by the god Indra as an antidote to the water that was poisoned by an evil king. The Balinese go to this temple at least once a year to perform their purification rituals.
You can also experience the purification ritual, but you have to rent a special water sarong. The sarong you borrow at the main entrance is for visiting the temple and cannot be used in the pools. Before getting into the water, take your time, and observe the ritual of the locals. This consists of placing offerings before entering the pool and, once inside, washing your face and hair in each of the jets in the three pools.
You can use all the jets except the two longer ones, which are reserved for the deceased and their families.
As they believe in reincarnation, when a Balinese dies, they pour water from these two jets on the body to purify it before performing the ceremony for the death and in this way reach the state of balance that will allow them to reincarnate.
We recommend you to do the ritual in a discreet way in order not to disturb the locals.
The entrance fee for the temple costs 50,000 IDR (less than €3), the rental of the water sarong costs 10,000 IDR (€0.5) and renting a locker to store your belongings while you perform the ritual at the pool costs 15,000 IDR (less than €1).
Uluwatu - the temple at the edge of a cliff
Luhur Uluwatu is another of the most important and famous temples in Bali and was built to protect the island of Bali from the evil spirits. It’s located on the eastern side of the peninsula of Bukit in the Badung Regency, at the edge of a 70-meter cliff from where you can see the waves of the Indian Ocean. Its name is very significant since Ulu means the end of the land and Watu means rock.
We recommend you to be very careful with the monkeys that live in the temple as they have a special ability to steal any object in sight (food, hats, glasses, cameras, mobiles, accessories, etc). No matter how cute they are, it’s best to be cautious and put all your belongings in your backpack or purse before entering the compound.
Uluwatu temple is a very special place and we suggest to dedicate enough time. To see the temple with the sunset, the best thing is to walk along the cliff walk until you get the best perspective.
It is also worth mentioning that in the Uluwatu temple there are traditional Balinese dance shows called Kecak Fire & Trace. Make sure you buy your ticket in advance so you don’t miss the opportunity to see it if you visit the area.
Finally, remember that Luhur Uluwatu is located in the south of the island, close to the best beaches in Bali, so you may want to combine your visit with some of them. The entrance fee to the Uluwatu temple is 50,000 IDR.
Taman Tirta Gangga - the temple of the Water Palace
Tirta Gangga literally means Water of the Ganges and is a royal palace known for its gardens full of exotic plants, statues, fountains, and pools. It stands out for the perfect harmony between water and local tradition, with pools full of fish where you can walk across stone slabs. This place is one of the most typical postcards of Bali.
In 1963 this site was partially destroyed by the eruption of the Agung volcano, but it has been rebuilt and it still has some original spots. These are a set of ponds surrounding a palace built by the king of Karangasem, using the sacred waters of a nearby spring.
When you enter, you’ll find a large 11-level fountain next to the main pool full of statues and fish with small platforms that allow you to walk over the water. You will surely be able to see some Koi fish swimming under your feet and take some pictures. We recommend going there first thing in the morning if you want to take pictures without people in the background. Also, don’t stop only at the entrance, take a walk through its courtyards with impressive gardens, palaces, pools, and traditional statues.
The entrance fee to Tirta Gangga Palace is 30,000 IDR (less than €2). If you have more time and want to swim in the same pool where the Raja of Karangasem used to swim, you can do it for an extra 10.000 IDR.
Goa Gajah - the Elephant Cave Temple
Goa Gajah, also known as the Elephant Cave, is located a few kilometers outside of Ubud. This temple is famous for the huge elephant carved into the rock that serves as the entrance to the cave. Inside the cave, you will find a sculpture of Ganesha (god of science, associated with intelligence and wisdom), which looks like an elephant.
In the compound, you can see several pools for purification, a garden with several fountains with lots of vegetation, and a huge tree that was planted the same year that the temple was started.
The entrance fee is 15.000 IDR and although it is not as popular as the previous ones, it is one of the most beautiful temples on the island that we recommend you to visit, especially if you are staying in Ubud.
Taman Ayun - the temple of the Beautiful Garden
Pura Taman Ayun also called the Temple of the Beautiful Garden, is known for the moat that surrounds the main area of the temple, which makes it look like it’s floating on the water, and the surrounding vegetation.
The entrance to the main part of the temple is forbidden to visitors, but even so the visit is very interesting and beautiful. You can go around it and contemplate it behind the walls that allow you to have a detailed view of the numerous pagodas (or merus) of different heights found inside.
The temple is quite small, so in about half an hour you can visit it. It’s not as well known by tourists, but it’s worth a visit if you want to get off the beaten track. Nearby you can find large extensions of rice fields that are part of the subak tradition, the Balinese irrigation system recognized by UNESCO in 2012.
Outside the temple, there is a market where you can eat, have a refreshing juice, try some fruits, or buy souvenirs.
The entrance fee to Taman Ayun is 20,000 IDR.
Gunung Kawi - the Temple of Kings
Pura Gunung Kawi, known as the Temple of Kings, is situated among the rice fields in the Tampaksiring village, not far from Ubud. This temple is slightly peculiar and quite different from other temples you’ve seen before. It stands out for its candi, which structures are up to eight meters high, carved into the rock, representing the tombs of King Udayana and his royal family in a spiritual way.
Although it is not actually a temple, this is considered a worship site for the local people, but not a physical burial site. Inside the candi there is no one buried even though people say otherwise. The bodies of the kings are buried in a nearby cave.
Access to this site is not easy and you have to descend about 300 steps on a path close to the rice fields. The path to the tombs is very beautiful and has incredible views, passing through the rice fields and vegetation of the area. If you have enough time, you can even go a little further into the rice fields to find a hidden waterfall that only a few people go to see.
The entrance to Gunung Kawi costs 50,000 IDR (less than €3) and the visit to this temple can be combined with the visit to Tirta Empul as they are within walking distance of each other.
Taman Saraswati - the temple dedicated to the goddess of wisdom and art
Taman Saraswati is a small but beautiful temple and although it will not take you more than 15 minutes to visit it, it is a must-see and is one of the best places to visit in Ubud. This temple is dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and art. It’s located on the main street of the cultural capital of Bali and has an outstanding entrance, surrounded by two ponds full of lotus flowers and water lilies.
Pura Saraswati is one of the few temples in Bali where the entrance is free.
Ulun Danu Tamblingan Temple - the temple on the banks of the Tamblingan Lake
Ulun Danu Tamblingan is the temple situated on the banks of one of the three lakes in the area, Tamblingan. The other two lakes are Buyan and Bratan. This is one of the least visited temples in Bali, but no less important. Although you can not see the interior, there is the option of taking a ride on the lake in a traditional boat and seeing the temple from another perspective. This is exactly what makes this temple special: during most part of the year, the lake’s water level is quite high due to the rains and the temple is only accessible by boat.
As a curiosity, this is the only temple with two different sanctuaries, the first meru is used by the members of the Tabanan regency, while the second is used by the locals of the town Catur Desa.
Brahma Vihara Arama - the Buddhist temple of Bali
Brahma Vihara Arama is one of the few Buddhist temples in Bali and the biggest one. This temple is located in northern Bali, in the Banjar Hills, about 20 kilometers away from Singaraja. Built-in 1970, it’s considered a smaller version of the Borobudur temple (island of Java) because of its bells made of black stone and its structure in different platforms.
This monastery is perfect for meditation or walking in its beautiful gardens, a peaceful and quiet place (even for non-Buddhists). We recommend you to go up to the last level and visit the main pagoda.
If you visit the northern area of Bali (e.g. Lovina) or the Banjar Thermal Springs, you will find Brahma Vihara Arama very close by.
This temple doesn’t have a fixed price for the entrance, but it is recommended to make a donation.
Pura Luhur Batukaru Temple - the temple at the slopes of the Batukaru volcano
Pura Luhur Batukaru, located at the base of the sacred volcano Batukaru (second highest volcano on the island after Agung), is another of the nine directional temples (kayangan jagat) in charge of guarding Bali against evil spirits. Although its architecture is not as spectacular and is not as big as the mother temple Besakih, it is a sacred and important place for the Balinese.
This is a mandatory stop, especially if you are going to visit the famous Jatiluwih rice fields because they are full of vegetation, stone sculptures, and pagodas.
The entrance to the Batukaru temple is free, but they ask for a donation.
Pura Kehen - the smaller version of the Besakih Mother Temple
Pura Kehen, located in the regency of Bangli, is a temple that stands out for its large staircase at the entrance and for the details of its stone sculptures. It is considered a smaller version of the Besakih mother temple because of its similar architecture with 8 terraces.
Kehen temple is dedicated to the god of the fire and many offering ceremonies are held inside of it. This temple is not usually included in the tourist circuits, so there are usually not many people there.
The entrance fee is 15.000 IDR.
Ulun Danu Batur - the temple at the foothills of the Batur volcano
Ulun Danu Batur, located in Kintamani, is situated at the base of the Batur volcano and is another of the nine directional temples (kayangan jagat) in charge of protecting Bali from evil spirits.
Situated at 900 meters above the sea level, it has stunning views of the Batur volcano and the lake which emerged in the middle of the crater. The Ulun Danu Batur temple is dedicated to Dewi Danu, the goddess of lakes.
It is very important not to mistake this temple for Pura Ulun Danu Beratan. Although the most sacred area is not accessible, this temple is worth visiting, especially if you are visiting the area around Mount Batur.
The entrance fee is 50,000 IDR (less than €3).
Pure Goa Lawah - the temple of the bat cave
Pura Goa Lawah is a temple located beside a cave full of bats, near the beaches of Candidasa. This is also one of the directional temples (kayangan jagat) that protect Bali from evil spirits.
The cave is said to connect to the Goa Raja temple (near the Besakih Mother Temple), about 30 kilometers away, through an underground river. However, no one has confirmed this theory because they fear being preyed upon by the legendary giant Naga Basuki snake.
Pura Goa Lawah has great importance for the Balinese people as it is the place where the deceased are purified before cremation. This temple is not very big and does not have as much appeal as others but if you happen to be in the area you can stop and see a traditional ceremony.
The entrance fee is 15.000 IDR.