A visit to Bali is incomplete without a visit to at least a couple of the temples, some of which have become synonymous with the island itself. Not only are they architecturally astounding, but also set against stunning backdrops. Here are a select few for you to pick and choose from:
The Ulan Danu Bratan
The most-iconic temple of Bali – period – so iconic that it has taken prominence in the Indonesian currency. Highly popular amongst tourists, so expect huge crowds at any time of the day. Good luck dodging selfie sticks, and souvenir stalls. If you do want a bit of privacy, visit it during the wee hours in the morning, or around the sunset time when the day-trippers are gone. About an hour and a half’s drive from Ubud, we recommend combining it with the Twin Lakes in the region, and with one of the waterfalls in the north.
Looking for something that is not so crowded (relatively)? Head to East Bali to visit the Instagram-worthy Penataran Lempuyang, about a 2-hour drive from Ubud. One of Bali’s oldest temples that can rival the history of the Besakih, Lempuyang isn’t for the faint-hearted. To access the Insta-famous Gates of Heaven, you need to climb – wait-for-it, about 1,700 steps – that takes you along other temples in its wake, and several encounters with macaques yearning for your attention. But after a 2-hour hike amidst cool mountain forests, the temple welcomes you to the Gates of Heaven which gives you access to a spectacular view with a sense of calm that may not be usually present amongst other Bali temples.
Pro tip: We recommend visiting the temple in the second half of the day so that you can stay back for the sunset at the top. Combine the visit with a slight detour to the Tukad Cepung waterfalls, to take a dip in the amazing waterfalls.
Another postcard temple that is synonymous with the image of Bali. Not only is the place iconic for its temple, Uluwatu is also a surfers paradise. Situated on a clifftop, 70 metres above sea level, the temple offers amazing sunset views of the Indian Ocean. The temple boasts of an open-air amphitheater that hosts the Ramayana ballet or Kecak dance during the sunset hours. With driving times under an hour, the temple is best visited from the beach towns of Kuta, Seminyak or Nusa Dua.
Another highly popular temple amongst both tourists and locals alike, the Tanah lot is culturally important to the Balinese, which might be slightly difficult to ascertain, amidst the crowds clamoring for the sunset. The most photographed temple in Bali has one downside – the crowds, the souvenir stalls, the locals visiting the temple. What we recommend is, if the sunset is not per se important, to visit during the sunrise, when the temple is way less-crowded and a lot more calm, with an almost-equally beautiful view.
The largest and considered the holiest by the Balinese, the Besakih is more of a temple complex with 23 different temples located close to the slopes of Mount Agung. The largest and most important temple is the Pura Penataran Agung, that has six different levels. You might need an entire day to visit the temple but we recommend sticking to the highlight alone, which is the Pura Penataran Agun.
The Tirta Empul Temple
Tirta Empul, the largest and the busiest of the water temples in Bali, is situated in the village of Manukaya, about a 40-minute drive from Ubud. The temple has a central area known as the ‘Jaba Tengah’ which is home to the holy springs that lead to two purification pools, wherein you will find local Balinese and Hindu worshippers stand in long lines to dip their head under the water spouts for the purification ritual. Moreover the Presidential Palace, built by Indonesia’s first President, is situated right above the temple. The temple and the palace together provide some of the best vistas. Tirta Empul temple can be combined with a visit to the Tegalalang rice terraces or the Besakih temple nearby.
Ulun Danu Tamblingan
If you are sick of the crowds in Bali, and looking for a temple that resembles the Balinese vibe but not so crowded, Tamblingan is your best bet. It is one of the remotest temples in Bali, and consequently the most calm, and one of the most beautiful temples. The temple is on Lake Tamblingan, which itself is inside the crater of a volcano. What makes a visit to the temple a bit unique is the fact that during most of the year, when the water levels are high, the temple is accessible only by a canoe. Remote temple, in the middle of nowhere, accessible only by a canoe – what more could you ask for a more romantic experience?
Underwater Temple in Pemuteran
The most unique temple of the entire list would be the underwater temple in Pemuteran. Situated at about 90 feet below sea level, and about 5000 years old, this temple offers once-in-a-lifetime experience for scuba diving enthusiasts. Located off the coast of Norhtern Bali, near the beach town of Pemuteran, the temple has many artificial reefs constructed around it to facilitate diving in the area. For less experienced divers, there is a site that is only about 15 metres deep, where you can find a dozen stone statutes on the ocean floor, flanked by tall gateways. The dive site is also an important marine habitat with a good aquatic life and coral reef, making it a must visit during your trip to Bali.
So, whether you are fascinated by architecture, or want to experience the local culture, or enjoy scenic vistas these temples will have you covered. All that you have to do is, explore some of these Bali packages that boast a visit to some of these temples, along with other unique experiences to be covered in Bali.