Bali is commonly known as the “Island of Gods” but did you know that it’s also referred to as “Island of a Thousand Temples”? There are in fact over 10,000 temples and smaller shrines throughout the island, many of which are extremely well-known while others are less famous but still worth a visit.
In this blog post our Editorial team share their personal favorite temple in Bali, taking you from the cliffs of Uluwatu, to the lush, cool area around Tegalalang near Ubud, then on to a coastal temple on the West Coast and finally to a unique Hindu temple visited by Muslim devotees.
1. Tanah Lot
Who hasn’t seen this famous Balinese landmark? Tanah Lot is one of Bali’s most popular cultural icons and is often used in promotional videos and other advertising to attract tourists to the island. It’s the most visited and photographed temple in Bali, with about 3 million visitors per year.
Pura Tanah Lot is located in the village of Beraban, which is north-west of Seminyak and Canggu and about 40 minutes from Kuta.
The uniqueness of this temple is its location perched on a large rock in the middle of the sea (the name Tanah Lot means “Land in the Sea” in Balinese). The temple is only accessible at low tide, when you can cross over and walk to the base of the temple.
There are several variations on the history of Tanah Lot. It was built around the 15th century by a Majapahit priest from Java named Nirartha who traveled to Bali to spread Hinduism. He saw the unusual rock-island’s beauty and felt it to be a holy place to worship the Balinese sea god, Baruna, and so he instructed some fishermen to build a shrine there.
Tanah Lot is one of the seven sea temples (or pura segara) built along the south-western coast of Bali to honor the gods of the sea. Some of the other sea temples include the popular Pura Luhur Uluwatu and Pura Sakenan on Serangan Island.
Poisonous sea snakes are believed to guard the temple, thought to have been transformed from Nirartha’s sashes when he established the island.
After years’ of erosion from the crashing waves, the base of the rock started crumbling and some areas became dangerous. The Japanese government provided funding for the conservation of the temple and today, approximately one third of Tanah Lot is actually artificial, although visitors would never know it.
With an entrance fee of Rp. 30,000 for foreign tourists and Rp. 10,000 for domestic tourists, you can see the spectacular natural beauty of Tanah Lot. In addition to the temple itself, there is also a beautiful garden as well as other facilities for visitors to enjoy.
After visiting the temple, take a break on the shady lawn or if hungry there are many small warungs or restaurants to have a bite to eat – the Sunset Terrace located at the top of the cliff is the place to be to enjoy a meal and stunning scenery.
Various souvenir stalls also sell typical Balinese keepsakes such as paintings, sculptures, sarongs and batik. Remember that prices aren’t set and bargaining is part of the experience!
If you have the time, head to nearby Surya Mandala Cultural Park just five minutes’ walk away where an entertaining Kecak fire dance performance takes place every day at sunset.
If you’re lucky you might just be at Tanah Lot when traditional and cultural activities are held at the temple. For example, every 6 months Piodalan ceremony takes place while once a year, during the lead up to Melasti Nyepi Day, various activities surrounding the ceremony are held at Tanah Lot.
2. Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple
Not many tourists know about this tranquil temple located in Central Bali. Gunung Kawi Sebatu temple is just 12km northeast of Ubud, in the village of Sebatu, Tegallalang.
Not to be confused with another similarly named temple known simply as Gunung Kawi in Tampaksiring, Sebatu temple features beautiful lush gardens and crystal clear pools filled with colorful fish.
It’s almost always quiet (unless a ceremony is taking place), and you may very likely have the whole complex to yourself, other than a few locals who may come to bathe at the two designated bathing sections.
A picturesque water garden features a large pool filled with fish and a statue of the goddess Sarasvati. There’s also a “floating” pavilion from which you can feed the fish (fish food is available to buy for just Rp. 5,000).
Strolling around the temple grounds in the cool, fresh air is a refreshing and calming experience, and it’s something special not having dozens of other tourists around. The only company you may have are a few guinea fowl that roam freely around the complex.
As with all temples, the appropriate attire should be worn (sarong and sash). Both are available to rent from the ticket booth, or you can try your hand at haggling a good price for a sarong from one of the vendors opposite the car park.
3. Pura Gede Luhur Batu Ngaus Cemagi
Another temple that is not well-known to tourists is Pura Gede Luhur Batu Ngaus Cemagi. The full name is a bit of a mouthful, with most locals simply referring to it as Pura Batu Ngaus.
Located on Mengening Beach on Bali’s west coast, this temple is a little like Tanah Lot in that it is built on a rock in the middle of the sea. Most beaches in the area have the same characteristics – black sand and strong currents – and Mengening Beach is no different.
The temple is connected to the mainland by a road, making access very easy for visitors. Made from black stone, the temple is surrounded by coral reefs and crashing waves which adds to the natural beauty of the location, especially at sunset.
If you want to enjoy sunset at Batu Ngaus Cemagi temple, take into account the traffic around Canggu when everyone heads home from work and perhaps leave a little earlier. If you’re too early for sunset, stop in at some of the other beaches in the area such as Echo Beach, Batu Bolong or Seseh Beach.
To get to Pura Batu Ngaus Cemagi, head towards Tanah Lot from Canggu and continue to Cemagi village. Cemagi is still very traditional and you’ll feel this immediately. The houses are typical Balinese style and you’ll see farmers out drying their harvest in the sun.
Coming to the end of the village you’ll see lush rice fields with views of Mount Agung in the distance (on a clear day). The paved road eventually splits in two; head right and continue past several villas until the road ends at Pura Batu Ngaus.
4. Pura Keramat
Bali is the only island in the Indonesian archipelago that is predominantly Hindu, and that is what makes Pura Kramat a very unique temple. Located on Seseh Beach in Mengwi, Pura Kramat is visited by both Hindu and Muslim pilgrims.
The reason for this is that the temple holds the tomb of Prince Mas Sepuh, the son of the first Hindu King of Mengwi and his Muslim wife who came from Blambangan in East Java. Historically, mixed marriages were not that uncommon as the Hindu culture actually began in Java as the Majapahit Empire in the 14th century.
The Prince was raised by his mother in Blambangan and when he was older he came to Bali to find his father. Prince Mas Sepuh was buried at Pura Kramat around 1667 and today it is a popular stop for visiting Muslims from Java who come to visit a series of sacred places in Bali.
Uniquely, the prince’s tomb is under the care of a Hindu priest whose family and its descendants are prohibited from eating pork, out of respect for the prince.
Pura Kramat of course also holds regular Hindu ceremonies for the local community, one being Odelan or the anniversary celebration of the temple. This important celebration attracts thousands of Hindu devotees from the surrounding area, and is as much a social as it is a religious event.
The main aim of Odelan is the ritual purification of the temple and its congregation, and its a fascinating occasion to witness if you happen to be in Bali at the time.