Top 10 Temples in Bali

Mother Temple Hayley Duszynski

With thousands of temples to choose from, here are my top picks. 

Bali is known for many things, namely its beaches, rice fields and, of course, its temples.

Being the only Hindu island in Indonesia, within Bali there are over 20,000 temples on the island of all shapes and sizes. Each and every house in Bali also has a private temple for private worship. There are many beautiful temples across the island you can visit. Here are my top ten:

1. The Saraswati Water Temple 

This beautiful temple also known as the Ubud water palace is located within the city of Ubud in the middle of Bali. Dedicated to the Hindu goddess Saraswati the colourful orange bricks and ornate details make this temple a quiet, serene and unique part of Ubud. The Goddess is a patron deity of Ubud. She is known as the symbol of music, art and learning.

What makes this temple unique is the lotus pond, which also provides water to the local rice fields giving it its name of water palace. There is also a cafe overlooking the beautiful water feature with good food and coffee. The sculptures within this palace are also very unique due to the delicate details. This temple is very small making it an easy place to visit on your journey. They also have traditional Balinese performances every day.

2. Tanah Lot Temple

Known as the floating temple, the spot is used to worship the guardians of the sea. Tanah Lot Temple is located in Beraban Village, 13km from downtown Tabanan, located off the side of the cliff next to the Sunset Beach. Its history is based on the legend of spreading Hinduism from Java to Bali.

Due to the ocean there are only certain times of the day you can visit this temple. There are also sea snakes which reside in the caves under the temple; legend has it the snakes guard the temple from negative forces. Holy water is also made at this temple and is located in one of the caves under the temple. It is believed if you drink the water your life will positively improve and remove all negative feelings from your body.

3. Uluwatu Temple

Built on the side of a 70-metre-high cliff, this temple is located at the south of the Bali island in Uluwatu. This temple—which is said to represent the division between heaven and earth—has many different statues facing in different directions. The Balinese Hindus believe that the powers of the Hindu Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva) come together here. 

For visitors, the main attraction is its resident monkeys (watch out, as they're known for stealing food and tricking tourists) and the 6pm traditional Balinese dance at sunset, which is a must-see. 

4. Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

This floating temple is said to be the most photographed temple in Bali. Located in northwest Bali on Lake Beratan, the island's second largest lake, locals believe it represent universal balance. It's also the core of all the water temples in Bali; in fact, "Ulan Danu" translates to "above the lake"  and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.This temple consists of three colours to represent the three gods Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu.

There are two types of ceremonies which take place within this temple. Every six months there is a Temple ceremony, and a Pekelem, which is more regular and can be held anytime. 

5. Besakih Temple

Located on the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung, Mother Temple, Besakih is the largest, most important and the most sacred in Bali. Being the holiest temple on the island there are at least 70 ceremonies that take place every year.

Due to the size and location of this temple, a whole day is needed to visit. (Many locals visit this temple as a pilgrimage, if that gives you any indication.) It has three main temples dedicated to the Hindu trinity. In 1963, the temple survived a volcano eruption many believed to be a miracle. 

6. Goa Gajah

Also known as the elephant cave. There are no elephants, though! This temple is very unique due to the ornate doorway, which leads through a cave. This very small temple is home to beautiful banyan trees. Outside, there is a pool with a shower for taking holy water for ceremonial purposes. This shower is made in the form of five angel statues.

7. Tirta Empul

Also known as the holy spring temple, Tirta Empul is built around the sacred spring at Tampak Siring, which is believed to have curative powers. The most visited temple in the Ubud area, it's believed that the holy water removes all the negative things in your body and soul. The Tirta Empul is dedicated to Vishnu, the Hindu God of Water.

8. Gunung Kawi Temple

The main temple site consists of 10 beautifully carved shrines.The shrines also provide a lot of historical insight into the past lives of the Balinese people. When visiting you walk through a stone archway with pillars, each holding a vase full of holy water. You sprinkle this water onto yourself before further entering as a sign of purification. This temple reflects the idea that Buddhism and Hinduism both co-existed in harmony due to the many statues and meditation sites. Even former President Obama visited this site! 

9. Lempuyang Temple

The "instagram temple" or Gates of Heaven, Lempuyang is one of the most Instagrammed temples in Bali due to the mirror reflections—but these are actually fake! There is no water or lake at this temple, simply a man holding a mirror attached to your phone!

Located in the Karangasem regency amongst the highlands of Mount Lempuyang, it is known as one of the most sacred parts of the island of Bali. This temple is known for its long queues to take pictures at the famous Gates of Heaven. People have been known to wait over two hours to take a photo! 

10. Ubud Royal Palace

One of the most prominent landmarks in Ubud serving the royal family, also well-known as Puri Saren Ageng. The front main section is open during the day for photo opportunities. There is also traditional dances that take place here every day. Despite being recently renovated the temple has many original ornate details. The style of this palace is influenced by Hinduism philosophy. It is also known as a centre for art and culture with many events taking place here.  

Many of the temples have strict rules and dress codes so be sure to read up before you travel.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Hayley Duszynski

Hayley Duszynski is a designer, doodler, writer and picture taker. She began blogging for Verge as an intern in China. Now, she is working remotely as a digital nomad in Southeast Asia, where she's trying not to get eaten alive by insects.


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