The Ultimate List Of Iconic Temples In Bali You Must Visit
Bali is popularly known as the ‘Land of Gods’ for a good reason. There are over 20,000 temples on this Indonesian island, each of which has its own vivid history, legends, and awe-inspiring architecture. These temples are dedicated to several religions and beliefs; one can find Hindu, Buddhist, and even Chinese temples, all within walking distance of each other. Every temple offers a unique experience – some will give you a panoramic view of lush paddy fields while others will take you on top of volcanic mountains while still others are perched right on the cliffs of the Indian Ocean.
We compiled a list of some of the most popular, picturesque and pleasing temples in Bali that you must include in your itinerary. These are your gateways to get to know the Indonesian culture and history more intimately and take some Instagram-worthy photographs.
1. Tanah Lot Temple
Visit this temple for its setting. The Tanah Lot Temple is built on top of a rock that juts out into the sea and has been shaped over the centuries by the tides. Tanah Lot means ‘Land in the Sea’ and is one of the seven sea temples that can be found along the Balinese coast. It is believed that Dang Hyang Nirartha, a high priest from the Majapahit Kingdom in East Java built this temple in the 16th century to honor the sea god, Baruna. The site has been influenced by both Hinduism as well as Balinese mythology. If legends are to be believed, venomous sea snakes lie at the base of the rock and guard the temple against any intruders and evil spirits. Tanah Lot is one of Bali’s most famous landmark and if you are heading out here, the best time would be late in the afternoon when you can capture the offshore setting and unique sunset vistas.
2. Uluwatu Temple
Uluwatu Temple is a Balinese Hindu temple built on the edge of a cliff, 70 meters high above the Indian Ocean. This site had everything a temple visitor enjoys – a large number of shrines, a mix of ancient, archaeological remains and lush gardens. Uluwatu Temple is one of the six major temples which are considered to be the spiritual pillars of Bali. It is believed that there was a temple on the same site far earlier, but the temple as you will see during your visit was built by a Javanese sage, Empu Kuturan during the 11th century.
Designed in the Balinese architectural style, one of the prime features to observe on the temple grounds is the centerpiece of Pura Luhur Batukaru, a 7-tiered Meru (a wooden pagoda-like structure) which is dedicated to the Lord Mahadeva. A dance show, the Kecak Dance (a traditional Hindu Balinese dance dating back to the 1930s) is performed daily in the evening from 6 pm to 7 pm. You must watch this show, and it is recommended that you get to the temple early so that you can enjoy it as the sun sets. Uluwatu Temple is also a place of pilgrimage and once a year, during special festivities, thousands of devotees can be seen trekking up to the peak of Mount Batukaru for worship.
3. Pura Besakih
Pura Besakih, also known as Bali’s Mother Temple, is a temple complex that lies on the south-western slopes of Mount Agung and comprises of 23 temples. The most famous of these is the Pura Penataran Agung (the Great Temple of State). Sitting high at 1,000 meters, Pura Besakih is a unique and highly artistic world in itself. It is built on six levels, terraced up the slope. The exact date of the temple’s beginnings are unknown, but its importance as a religious site dates back to prehistoric times. The stone bases of the temples are similar to megalithic stepped pyramids and date back to at least 2,000 years.
When the first Javanese conquerors began to settle in Bali, Pura Besakih was used as a place of worship by the Hindus. During the 15th century, it became a state temple of the Gelgel dynasty and even today remains one of the holiest Hindu temples in Bali. At least seventy different festivals are held in the temple complex every year, with each shrine celebrating its own yearly anniversary. Located in the middle of a highly scenic mountain, surrounded by streams and rice fields, Pura Besakih is a vision to behold during spring when all the flowers burst into blossom around the temple.
4. Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is a major Shaivite water temple in Bali. It is situated on the Lake Bratan in the mountains near Bedugul, 1,200 meters above the sea level, giving it a gorgeous picturesque setting. The temple was constructed in 1633 and offerings have been made since then to Dewi Danu, the Balinese goddess of water, rivers, and lakes. The most outstanding feature in the temple complex is the 11-story Meru, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Parvathi. There is also a statue of the Buddha in the temple. Surrounded by a tranquil lake, manicured gardens, and even some wild animals, the temple offers several photo opportunities. You can also indulge in several fun activities around the temple complex, including boating, jet skiing, and paragliding.
5. Goa Gajah
Goa Gajah, also known popularly as the Elephant Cave, is an archeological delight, situated at a historical cave site in Bali. A Buddhist temple, Goa Gajah is surrounded by rice paddies on the banks of the River Petanu and is enclosed within a cave. It has several fountains, a bathing area and a meditation center in its premises (but no elephants as the name may indicate). Goa Gajah was built as a sanctuary in the 9th century. It became a favorite of hermits who would come here to pray and meditate.
One can find a fusion of both Buddhist and Hindu (Shivaite) influences at this temple. Right at the entrance, menacing carvings of faces in stone greet the visitor; they were once intended to ward off any evil spirits. Inside the cave are ancient inscriptions that lead via a passageway to the end where you will find two alcoves – one with a statue of Ganesh and the other with representations of lingam and yoni (symbols of Shiva and female creative energy). There is also a pond in the garden which is believed to contain holy water and is used during religious ceremonies.
6. Pura Ulun Danu Batur
Dedicated to the goddess of water, rivers and lakes, Dewi Danu, and Lord Vishnu, Pura Ulun Danu Batur is a temple complex consisting of 9 temples and 285 shrines and pavilions. Pura Penataran Agung Batur is the prime temple in this complex. The temple was initially located at the base of the Batur Volcano but was destroyed in 1926 during a volcanic eruption. The only survivor was an 11-story Meru which was restored and can be found at the present site. Pura Ulun Danu Batur is a famous temple in Bali and is believed to maintain the harmony and stability of the entire island.
7. Pura Tirta Empul
An ancient Hindu Balinese water temple, Tirta Empul is located in Central Bali and is an important natural and cultural heritage site in Indonesia. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple was built in 962 A.D. during the reign of Warmadewa dynasty. It is famous for its temple pond that gives out fresh, holy water where Balinese Hindus have been going for ritual purification and healing for over a thousand years. Several Hindu shrines, including those dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu, ShivaIndra and Mount Batur, are located behind the springs. Other highlights at Torta Empul include archaeological relics, green lawns adorned by a host of tropical plants and flowers and a large pond teeming with koi fish.
8. Pura Gunung Kawi
Pura Gunung Kawi is an ancient Hindu temple complex that is known for its ten shrines carved out on the 7-meter high rock cliff. It was built during the 11th century as a temple and funerary complex. Surrounded by rice paddies in Tampaksiring, and on the banks of the Pakerisan river, Pura Gunung Kawi is situated at a very serene location and was dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana dynasty. It is regarded to be one of Bali’s unique archaeological sites. The shrines are believed to be the memorials of the King and his family. There are several small caves as well that were used for meditation by Buddhist monks. There are 250 steep steps that you will have to climb to get to the main complex.
9. Goa Lawah Temple
Pura Goa Lawah is a famous Balinese Hindu temple. It lies on a rocky outcrop in Klungkungin, Bali. It is regarded as one of the six holiest places of worship in Bali, which are also known as the Sad Kahyangan Jagad or the ‘six sanctuaries in the world.’ The temple was constructed in the 11th century by Mpu Kuturan, one of the priests who introduced Hinduism in Bali. The temple was one of the strategic points during the War of Kusamba in 1849, between the Dutch and the Klungkung kingdom. One of the fascinating things about the site is that it lies around a cave filled with bats (hence the name). The main sanctum on the inside has three Meru towers, one of which is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
10. Pura Taman Ayun
Pura Taman Ayun is a Balinese temple surrounded by an extensive garden with several water features including canals and ponds. Built in the year 1634 by Tjokerda Sakti Blambangan, the ruler of the Mengwi kingdom, the architecture of Pura Taman Ayun has been inspired by Chinese influences. The royal temple is surrounded by a wide moat and was the most important temple of the Mengwi kingdom, which existed till 1891. The temple was renovated extensively in 1937. Pura Taman Ayun is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
11. Pura Taman Saraswati
Pura Taman Saraswati is a water temple located in Ubud, Bali, and is dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, literature, and arts who is also the patron deity of Ubud. The temple compound is notable for a large lotus pond which is a highly admired tourist attraction. Several intricately decorated gates lead to different shrines. It was constructed in 1952 and designed by an art master, Gusti Nyoman Lempad who was also a notable stone sculptor and architect. One of the most serene temples on the island, Taman Saraswati conforms to the style of Tri Mandala, a sacred hierarchy zones where you’ll find a number Hindu mythological sculptures, pavilions, and red-bricked Agung gates.
12. Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang
Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang is one of the Balinese Hindu temples of Bali, located 600-meters above sea level, on the slopes of Mount Lempuyang in Karangasem. It is a highly regarded place of worship. According to Balinese legends, the temples on Mount Lempuyang are the pivotal points of Bali and provide the island with a spiritual balance. Balinese cosmology divides the mountain into three sections, the base (Sang Ananta Bhoga) corresponding to the mount of Brahma, the middle of the mountain (Sang Naga Basukih) corresponding to the mount of Vishnu and the top of the mountain (Sang Naga Taksaka) corresponding to the mount of Shiva.
13. The Underwater Temple (Devata Vishnu Temple)
Unlike all the other temples in Bali, this one is bound to be an extraordinary experience for any traveler. The Devata Vishnu Temple is an underwater temple, located 90 feet beneath the ocean’s surface near the Pemuteran Beach in North West Bali. It is a man-made temple which was constructed as part of an artificial reef project by the Sea Rovers Dive Center in association with the Australian Agency for International Development. The ancient-looking Hindu and Buddhist statues and structures you see during your dive were explicitly built to create a marine ecosystem so that coral and other sea creatures can anchor onto the structures. There are two sites underwater – at the first one there are a dozen stone statues and a 4-meter high temple gateway and at the second site, created for the less experienced divers, there some more impressive sculptures.
14. Bali Batuan Temple
Locally known as the Pura Puseh Batuan, this is a small Balinese Hindu temple, maintained by the residents of the Batuan countryside. The Batuan Temple was constructed in 1020 and is one of three temples in the village dedicated to the Hindu trinity gods. The roof is one of the most beautiful features of the temple and is made from the fiber of black palm tree. The detailed carvings, the Balinese architecture of split gates and the ancient relics and shrines make this a good tourist spot.
15. Beji Temple
Beji Temple is dedicated to Dewi Sri, the rice goddess and has a profound importance for the farmers in the area and is also the village’s central temple. Built over a well, it dates back to the 15th century when Brahmins first came to Bali from the Hindu Majapahit Kingdom of Java. The temple complex has a lush tropical garden with shrines and sandstone walls that draw inspiration from Hindu epics and fables.
16. Ling Gwan Kiong
Ling Gwan Kiong is a Taoist temple and was constructed in 1873 and has strong ties with the Ching Dynasty. There are several things to be admired at this place – from the mini gardens to the red and gold dominated murals. A bridge over lotus ponds leads the visitors to the main temple which has elaborate carvings of Chinese deities. You can spot turtles roaming around in the premises and find large koi fish in the ponds. Besides these, everywhere in the temple, you will find Golden statues of the Buddha decorated with textiles.
17. Maduwe Karang Temple
Maduwe Karang Temple is a Balinese temple and is one of the main temples of Bali. It is known for the unique decorations found in North Bali – the flowery, flowing style of carvings and architecture. The temple was built in 1890 by people who arrived at Kubutambahan from an extinct Balinese village of Bulian and is dedicated to Batara Meduwe Karang, a god who offers protection and maintains the fertility of the agricultural land. It also has shrines dedicated to the Sun God and Mother Earth. At the entrance of the temple is a parade of 36 stone figures representing characters from the Indian epic Ramayana. The relief of a person riding a bicycle, the wheels of which are made from lotus is one of the most interesting features at the temple. The person who rides the bike is believed to be Nieuwenkamp, a painter from the Netherlands who liked to paint all the places he visited in Bali. The temple is also known for several other reliefs depicting the local stories and culture.
18. Pura Agung Jagatnatha
Pura Agung Jagatnatha is the largest temple in North Bali. It is famed for its Padmasana, a lotus-shaped shrine made of white coral, symbolically representing the three parts of the Balinese Universe. It has an empty throne, which symbolizes heaven, on top of a cosmic turtle and two mythological serpents that symbolize the foundation of the world. The temple is dedicated to the supreme god, Sanghyang Widi Wasa, the god of divine gatherings. Pura Agung Jagatnatha has sprawling courtyards with a number of shrines arranged around them. There is a highly ornate gateway with delicate patterns and wall carvings that depict stories from Hindu epics.
19. Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal
Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal, also known as The Great Temple of Death, is a Hindu temple within the south-western part of the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. One of the three Hindu temples located in the complex, it is known for its morbid stone carvings. It was built around 1350 and is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
20. Pura Gede Perancak
Pura Gede Perancak is a prominent Hindu sea temple. This magnificent temple overlooks the river Perancak and commemorates the site of Dang Hyang Nirartha’s arrival in Bali in 1546. Bull runs are organized here. The alluring temple is built with wide white stone entranceway. Not only that, there is a large lake planted with mangrove trees behind the temple. You will find several boats moored along the shore, that are ready to take you along the lake for a pleasant ride.
21. Pura Goa Giri Putri
The Goa Giri Putri Temple is a major tourist site on Nusa Penida in Bali. Worshippers consider the water flowing from the spring in Goa Giri Putri Temple to contain healing properties. The entrance is a narrow opening in a rock face, and you will need to squeeze through it to get inside the temple courtyard. The flooring is covered in white marble and stalagmites, and stalactites hang overhead. There are six praying spots at Goa Giri Putri Temple, the last of which is devoted to Chinese deities such as Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy), as well as the god of the earth and sky.
22. Pura Griya Sakti
Pura Griya Sakti is another Balinese Hindu temple and happens to be the main temple of a dominant Brahman caste in the village of Manuaba. It is built over a craggy outcrop. The temple was founded by Pedanda Manuaba, the grandson of Pedanda Nirartha, who is famously considered to be the first Brahmin to have arrived from Java to Bali. The current site underwent modernization and renovation during the 1990s. The temple has enormous intertwined trees that you can take a stroll under with the permission of the temple attendant.
23. Pura Maospahit
Pura Maospahit is a Balinese Hindu temple. It was established in the 14th century, at the time the Majapahit arrived from Java. After an earthquake in 1917 which damaged the temple, extensive restoration was undertaken. Today, the red-brick building Candi Raras Maospahit still exists and become the main shrine of the Pura Maospahit temple complex. The temple is known for its red-brick architecture. Pura Maospahit is also the only temple in Bali which was built on the concept of Panca Mandala, where the most sacred area of the temple is at the center instead of being built in the direction of the mountain.
24. Dalem Sakenan Temple
Dalem Sakenan Temple is a Balinese Hindu temple located at the north-western shore of Serangan. It was constructed in the 10th century by Mpu Kuturan, a notable priest who is believed to have arrived in Bali in 1001 A.D., and was instrumental in the introduction and the establishment of Balinese Hinduism in the island. Pura Dalem temple is associated with rituals concerning death. Among the notable elements of the temple is a large tree, which is also used as a shrine. The temple has two significant areas, the largest having undergone renovation in recent years, except for its ancient walls. A smaller part of the temple continues to retain its original features. The original temple was built of limestone and corals sourced from the surrounding coastal reefs.
25. Pura Kehen
Pura Kehen is a Balinese Hindu temple, dedicated to Agni, the Hindu God of Fire and is set on the foot of a hill. Established in the 13th-century, Pura Kehen was the royal temple of the Bangli Kingdom. You will have to climb up the steep 38 stairs before you reach the beautifully decorated entrance of this mystical temple. Both sides of the main staircase are flanked by sculptures of menacing-looking guardian statues taken from the famous Hindu epic of Ramayana. When you arrive at the entrance, the first thing you see is the courtyard, which is shadowed by a huge banyan tree. You will also see Dutch relics present in the complex, including white and blue Dutch pottery, plates, and bowls adorning the exterior walls. There is also an 11-tiered Meru tower, each tier covered with thatched black trunks from the palm trees.
26. Pura Lempuyang Luhur
Pura Lempuyang Luhur, one of the oldest temples of Bali, is situated at 1,175 meters above sea level, on the peak of Mount Lempuyang in East Bali. It will take you 1700 steps to reach the top of this temple. The temple is dedicated to Ida Betara Hyang Iswara, the guardian of the east. It is one of the Sad Kahyangan Jagad, also known as the “six sanctuaries of the world” or the six holiest places of worship on Bali. Pura Lempuyang Luhur predates a lot of Bali’s Hindu temples.
27. Pura Luhur Batukaru
Pura Luhur Batukaru is a Hindu temple and is one of the nine directional temples in Bali believed to protect the island from evil forces. It is located on the southern slopes of Mount Batukaru, Bali’s second-highest volcano and is the first stop one must take when ascending to the summit of Mount Batukaru. Initially constructed in the 11th century and dedicated to the Tabanan royalty, the temple was destroyed in 1604. It was subsequently re-built in 1959. The temple’s most famous shrine is a 7-tiered Meru which is dedicated to Mahadewa, the God of Mount Batukaru. Today, the temple serves as an extremely sacred site of worship for Bali’s Hindu population. The temple complex is off-limits to visitors during the various ceremonies and events that take place here throughout the year.
28. Pura Luhur Rambut Siwi
Pura Luhur Rambut Siwi is a significant sea temple located in West Bali and is one of the biggest Hindu temples on the island. It sits atop a cliff with views of a wide black-sand beach. When Danghyang Niratha first arrived here, it was to heal the villagers of a terrible disease. Grateful for his assistance, the villagers begged him to stay back, but he left them with a lock of his hair instead, as a token for protection. The lock of hair (rambut, from which the temple gets its name) is still kept at the temple in a sandalwood box.
29. Pura Pasar Agung
Pura Pasar Agung is one of the nine directional temples of Bali. It is situated high up on the south side of Mount Agung, the highest volcano in Bali and also happens to be the highest point of Bali. It is located above Besakih (the Mother Temple of Bali), which itself is halfway up the same mountain. Since there is a lot of walking involved, you will have to be fit enough to climb over 300 steps as well as navigate steady uphill inclines. The views from the top are worth the effort of making the arduous climb, with impressive views of forests full of pine and banana trees.
30. Pura Penataran Sasih
Pura Penataran Sasih is a Hindu temple which was founded in 1266 AD and served as the state temple of the Pejeng Kingdom. A collection of 10th to12th-century Hindu sculptures were brought here from other parts of the island. In the central courtyard, you can find a very tall stone seat of Lord Ganesh. The celebrated Moon of Pejeng, an ancient and revered bronze drum can also be seen here. The hourglass-shaped drum, estimated to be about 1000 to 2000 years old, is 186 centimeters long and is the largest single-piece cast drum in the world.
31. Pura Pulaki
Pura Pulaki is a Balinese Hindu temple located to the west of Singaraja, Bali. The temple is set on flat land with rocky outcrops in the background. Pura Pulaki is one of the Balinese sea temples, set around the island to form a chain of temples which protect the island. In the late 15th-century, Dang Hyang Nirartha, a Hindu priest from arrived in Bali and introduced the Shaivite culture and traditions. Nirartha built several temples on Bali, one of which is the Pura Pulaki. The temple was founded in the 16th century, but archaeological discoveries indicate the site may date back to prehistoric times. Pura Pulaki is the main temple among a group of temples in the area, which are together called the Pesanakan. The other temples around Pura Pulaki are Pura Pemuteran, which is well-known for its hot springs, Pura Kerta Kawat, and Pura Pabean. The big draw here is the grand vista of the Javanese Sea with the temple in the foreground. The best views and photos are available at the top, where a path exits the temple and winds into fields of local corn.
32. Pura Samuan Tiga
Also known as Temple of the Meeting of the Three, Hyang Indra, Hyang Mahadewa, and Hyang Pasupati, the Pura Samuan Tiga Temple is a 10th-century temple that was built during the Warmadewa dynasty. It features intricate sandstone carvings and grand temple gates. The story of this temple resembles that of the Olympian gods who came down to earth, disguised as mortals to save humanity. Unlike three courtyards that are common in Balinese temple architecture, Samuan Tiga boasts seven courtyards. Each courtyard is separated from another by walls and split gates. Staircases connect them, which lead up to its inner courtyard. The gardens of Pura Samuan Tiga Temple are well-maintained. Sacred banyan and large old trees grow around the site. The temple also offers stunning views. The temple is flanked by two rivers, the Pande and Tegending on its eastern side, and the remains of an ancient pool on the western side. Intricate sandstone carvings and grand gateways. The temple is believed to represent the consensus between three sects of Hinduism.