Spirituality is one of the central vibes of Bali and it is no surprise that the place is dotted with many temples. The main religion here is Balinese Hinduism and a Hindu temple here is known as pura. Most of the pura (known as temple) in Indonesia is concentrated in Bali though you may find some in other parts where there are many Balinese people. The term pura is originated from the Sanskrit word which means “walled city” or “palace” but now the word had evolved to be known as a temple complex in The Balinese language.
Here in Bali, the most important pura (temple) is the Mother Temple of Besakih, known as the largest and holiest of all temples in Bali. Since there are so many puras built here on Bali, it had been aptly called “the island of thousand puras”.
Since there are thousands of temples (maybe less but a lot) of temples in Bali, it would be pretty hard to cover all of it during your travel to Bali. Here is our take of Top 10 Temples in Bali for you:
Besakih Temple (Mother of Temple)
Pura Besakih is the most well-known and the holiest temple in Bali and being the mother of all temples as aptly named, this pura so one of the oldest in Bali. It is revered for its importance and being over 1000 years old. Mount Agung that stood nearby erupted in 1963 but the lava flows jut off the temple by few meters, and people had taken it as a sign from the gods. The temple’s main axis align with the peak of Gunung Agung, which is the tallest mountain in Bali, making them significant. Besakih temple complex consists of 23 separate temples, with some dating back to the 10th century.
Uluwatu Temple, also known as Pura Luhur, is a famous Balinese sea temple. It is one of the nine directional temples of Bali which are meant to protect it from the evil spirits. This spectacular temple is perched at the edge of the rock overlooking the raging sea. The word Luhur means “something of divine origin” and ulu means “land’s end” while watu means “rock” in the old language, and as you can see it is aptly describing this inspiring temple. It is one of the six most important temples after Besakih temple. Most travelers enjoy the view of the temple from two different vantage points – northern and southern.
This temple is known as the “land in the middle of the sea” as it sits off the coast on a majestic rock. Pura Tanah Lot is another very popular temple in Bali, being well known for its serenity and cultural significance. It is part of the seven temples that form a ring at the southwest of Bali. Traveler’s tip is to go there during low tide so that you can walk across the water to the temple, an experience you do not want to miss! This temple dates back to the 15th century and believed to be the work of the priest Nirartha, whereby after spending a night on that same place, he instructed the local fishermen to build a temple there.
Pura Tirta Empul Temple
Another one of the six important temples of Bali, Pura Tirta Empul is known for its sacred spring water with healing properties. This temple dates back to 926 AD and well revered by the locals. Many people climb up to the temple for a bath and meditation in the long main pool because it is believed to bring good fortune and health. Legend has it that this spring is created by the god Indra as an antidote to the poisonous spring by an evil demon king.
Another very significant temple, especially to the rice farmers in Bali, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan at Bedugul is situated on the shores of Lake Bratan. It is the primary temple of the many temples that is for the popular Bali’s subak irrigation system. The temple is dedicated to worship the goddess of lakes and rivers and one of the section seems to float on the lake just off the mainland of the temple complex. It also has a towering pagoda over the beautiful placid lake.
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Goa Lawah, which means “bat cave” is located in the southeast of Bali. It was founded in 1007 AD and as its name, is filled with thousands of bats. It is also one of the directional temples that is protecting Bali from the evils spirits. The temple is a popular site for post-cremation purification that is culturally important to the Balinese people. It is believed that the Javanese priest Nirartha had visited the cave before and that the interior of the cave extends over to connect with Pura Besakih.
Taman Ayun Temple
This royal temple of Mengwi empire is located in Mengwi village. Not exactly a well-known temple to travelers but it is well worth a visit as off the beaten tracks. It is a family temple, built back in 1600 by King of Mengwi. Now it survives as a beautiful example of a royal public temple. Taman Ayun means beautiful garden, and this complex stands surrounded by a moat that makes it appear as if floating on water. The front courtyard has an ornamental gate while the inner courtyard has a number of multi-tiered pagodas (meru).
Pura Gunung Kawi Temple
This temple, known as the “valley of the Kings’ is located in the cliffs between rice fields at the south of Tampaksiring, Bali. The Pakerisan river flows through the ravine and flanking the river is the shrines and carved stones that are meant to commemorate the 11th-century kings and queens. Though technically not a temple, it is still revered as a holy place by the locals. This site is more of an actual tomb for the royalties that are cremated here base on Balinese customs.
Pura Luhur Lempuyang
This temple is one of the most obscure of the lot but not lacking in importance as a religious site. It is one of the six sad kahyangan (temples of the world) which is dedicated to the supreme God – Sang Hyang Widi Wasa and also one of Bali’s nine directional temples to protect from evil spirits. Visiting this temple requires a bit of an effort as you need a serious 1.5 hours hike to the top of 1,700 steps, which cuts into the mountainside jungle. At the peak, you also get a grand view of Gunung Agung with the temple gate framing it. One of the best time to visit here is the day after Galungan to see the Lempuyang during its odalan.
Though small in size, this temple is beautiful in its own rights with beautiful lotus ponds on it temple grounds. A temple dated back to the 19th century, it was built by the royal family of that time to dedicate to the Goddess of Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge and Learning). The temple has exquisite exterior design while the interiors resemble the typical Balinese temples with stone carvings. The splendor of this temple is because it stood amidst the beautiful lotus pond lined with trees. Pura Saraswati is also used for many dance performances on Thursday evenings. You may visit the temple for free but there is a fee for the dances.