Bali, the picture perfect paradise is most commonly known as the island of the gods or the island of a thousand temples. This lush tropical paradise is home to a large Hindu population (although the rest of Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country) and thus the reason behind the vast collection of temples which dot its varied landscape.
Balinese Hinduism is remarkably unique and you can experience the authenticity of this glorious destination by exploring the best temples in Bali.
The best temples Bali has to offer are in fact many, and visiting ALL will be impossible. It is also important to take into consideration that these temples are located in different parts of Bali, and getting to them takes a lot of time (Bali has a LOT of traffic).
To make the most of your time in Bali and to ensure that you see the best Bali temples it is recommended to combine your visit with other cultural sights. After having spent 10 days in Bali these are the 8 best temples in Bali I recommend that you add to your itinerary.
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Everything you need to known about the Balinese Hinduism, culture and offerings
Hindu ceremonies are a vital part of the Balinese culture and everyday life. You will instantly come to notice the daily offerings known as the canang sari which are placed in front of temples, doorways of shops, homes and anything that needs protection.
The offerings consist of a small palm leaf basket which are filled with colourful flowers, incense and foliage. Sometimes money and other objects are added to the offering.
The canang sari is laid out based on a colour coding and each element honors an individual Hindu deity. There are three elements to the offering, each honoring the human, natural and spiritual worlds.
Balinese Hinduism called Agama Hindu Dharma is different from the Hinduism which is practiced in India, and it is rather a union of Hinduism and Buddhism, thus some religious Buddhist writings are vital in the Balinese Hinduism traditions.
Every simple gesture of daily life, no matter how big or small is filled with profound meanings that trace back thousands of years.
In Balinese Hinduism three is a crucial number. Tri Hita Karana – which translates as the “three causes of wellbeing” or “three reasons of prosperity” is the core principle that dictates the everyday life on the island.
This principle is based on the belief of living in harmony and it determines the daily rituals – 1. Among people, 2. With nature and 3. With God.
Om is the most important sound in Balinese Hinduism, every mantra and every payer starts with it. It is a custom to pray three times per day: at 6am, 12pm and 6pm.
Pura is a Balinese Hindu temple, it originates from the word pur which means city or walled city. These have been designed as open space places of worship surrounded by walls. There are two types of gates in Balinese architecture, the split gate known as the candi bentar and the roofed tower gate – paduraksa or kori agung ( commonly found in classical Hindu-Buddhist period). The first is usually found at the entrances of the temple and the later two are located in the middle and the holiest place of the pura (temple).
As a Visitor what you should know when visiting the best Bali temples
- You must dress respectfully, meaning long dresses or skirts and covered shoulders for women (if it is an active temple). A sarong is given at the entrance of the temple. It should be worn by men too, even if you are wearing long trousers.
- There is an entrance fee to visit each temple. Entry price varies but is usually approximately Euro 3 +/-. Have cash on you, although many places in Bali accept credit cards, you will need cash to buy your entry ticket. If you are driving you will also need to pay for the car parking.
- Women who are menstruating are not allowed to enter any temple in Bali or participate in ritual activities because menstrual blood is considered “dirty” and will cause the temple to become impure.
Pura Tirta Empul
This is one of the most beautiful temples in Bali and the busiest one too. Pura Tirta Empul, meaning water gushing from the earth is Bali’s sacred water temple famed for its several holy springs that have said to be created by the God Indra. Its blessed waters are known for their unique powers to purify those who bathe here.
Pura Tirta Empul tops the list of the five most holy temples in Bali and is regarded as one of the holiest water sources in Bali. The temple dates back to 926 A.D and is an active temple which is considered a sacred worship place for the locals.
Regardless of your religion, tourists are welcome to participate in the special purification ritual which is truly a magical and humbling experience.
Where is Pura Tirta Empul Located
The Pura Tirta Empul is located in the village of Manukaya, near the town of Tampaksiring, 14 kilometres from Ubud (approximately 30 minutes). You can get here by car, scooter or join one of the guided tours.
The Melukat Hindu Purifying ceremony at Pura Tirta Empul
You will need a sarong to enter the temple, in case you don’t have one you can rent one at the entrance. For the purifying ceremony known as melukat I recommend renting a local guide, they charge approximately $20. The guide will explain the whole process of how the purifying ceremony is performed. You will need to wear special sarongs in order to enter the pools, those can be rented from the temple.
Prior to starting the purifying process one must first make an offering and then pray and set your intentions for coming here to take part in this special purifying ceremony. Sincere intentions must be laid out here. Once you have completed the prayers you will then enter the sacred pool area.
Inside the inner courtyard there are two sacred pools. The holy water gushes through the 30 waterspouts and the worshippers must stand in line and start the cleansing process from the first waterspout.
There are 13 waterspouts in the first pool and only two must be skipped as they are only meant for cleansing the dead and are prohibited to be used by the living for the melukat ritual. In the second pool the worshippers must perform the same ritual under the two waterspouts which are connected to ones karma.
When visiting the Pura Tirta Empul make sure not to miss the jeroan which is the inner courtyard where the local people come to pray. The front part is dominated by an imposing pool that feeds the purifications pools. Once you exit the Pura Tirta Empul you will come across a large pool filled with koi fish, you can buy some food and feed them.
Bali: Sacred Temples and Sunset Private Tour
Pura Tanah Lot
Pura Tanah Lot is a sea temple that offers the most breathtaking scenery as it is perched on a rock overlooking the ocean. Tanah means earth and Lot the sea, thus the name for this unique Bali temple which is one of the most important and sacred temples in Bali.
This shrine dates back to the 16th century and was built to worship Bhatara Segara, or the sea God. The temple is located 300 meters from the shore and can only be reached if there is a low tide.
The most popular time to visit Pura Tanah Lot is usually during sunset, we came here in the morning and could only admire it from afar as there was a high tide.
There are several restaurants and coffee shops on the grounds of the temple overlooking Pura Tanah Lot which are perfect to enjoy breakfast, lunch or a sunset drink with the most spectacular view of the most photographed temple in Bali. There are also several souvenir and art shops located along the road that leads to the entrance of the temple.
Where is Pura Tanah Lot Located
Pura Tanah Lot is located in Beraban Village, approximately an hour’s drive from Ubud and 30 km away from Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpasar.
Ubud: Monkey Forest, Rice Terrace & Tanah Lot Private Tour
Pura Luhur Uluwatu
Pura Luhur Uluwatu is one of Bali’s most sacred temples which enjoys a unique location as it is perched on a cliff offering a dramatic setting, 70 meters above sea level. The beach underneath the cliff is one of the popular surfing points in Bali.
The name Luhur means “something of divine origin”, ulu – the land’s end and watu the rock. The name implies that it was built at the edge of the land to protect the evil spirits.
Findings show that this temple was made of stones which date back to the 10th century.
The small forest area surrounding the temple is also home to the long-tailed macaques. It is said that they are here to guard the temple from bad influences. Beware of your belongings, especially sunglasses and shiny objects.
These monkeys are highly skilful thieves and in case they do steal your possessions it is handy to have something enticing to bargain with.
This temple is the perfect spot to watch the sunset. There is also an amphitheatre where the famous Kecak fire and dance show takes place. It is a wonderful way to end your visit to the Pura Luhur Uluwatu.
The famous performance depicts the story of Sri Rama, prince of the Ayodya kingdom, who was sent into exile by his father King Dasaratha following an evil trick by his stepmother Kaikeyi. Deep inside a monkey forest, Rama is accompanied by his wife Sita and loyal younger brother Laksamana.
The evil Rahwana, who had a crush on Sita, plots to kidnap her. The 2 brothers are joined by the monkey king Hanoman and his monkey troops in their efforts to find and rescue Sita. The two lovers are re-united once the sun sets.
The Kecak show usually starts at around 6pm and concludes shortly after sunset.
Where is Pura Luhur Uluwatu Located
Pura Luhur Uluwatu is located on the southern tip of Bali in Pecatu Village at the Bukit Peninsula. It is approximately 25 kilometres south of Kuta and 54 kilometres from Ubud (1 hour and 15 minutes, depending on traffic).
Bali Sunset: Uluwatu Temple, Kecak Dance and Jimbaran Bay
Pura Taman Saraswati
One of the most beautiful temples in Bali, Pura Taman Saraswati is set right in the heart of Ubud next to the Ubud Palace. This imposing temple is surrounded by a stunning lotus pond and is a perfect oasis inside the bustling Ubud where one can enjoy a moment of serenity while enjoying a meal or a refreshment at Cafe Lotus located on the temple’s grounds.
This glorious temple was designed by I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, a famous Balinese sculptor who was commissioned for this project by the Royal family. Its construction began in 1951 and was completed in 1952. The pura is dedicated to Sarasvati, the Hindu deity of learning, literature and art.
In the evenings you may enjoy a traditional dance performance which is held on the grounds of the Pura Taman Saraswati. Tickets may be purchased on the spot, there are also vendors selling tickets along the street or online here.
Entrance to the Pura Taman Saraswati is free.
Where is Pura Taman Saraswati Located
Pura Taman Saraswati is located in the heart of Ubud town. It is accessible from the Jalan Kajeng side street off the main road of Jalan Raya Ubud, next to Ubud palace, and just behind Café Lotus. Also check out our post on 4 Special Bali Palaces To Add To Your Itinerary
Best Temles in Bali: Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang – Gate of Heaven
Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang or Lempuyang Temple is one of the most important temples in Bali, and is one of the six holiest places of worship in Bali which are meant to provide spiritual balance to Bali. Today, thanks to the influence of Instagram it is commonly referred to as the Gate of Heaven.
Pura Penataran Agung is located on the slope of Mount Lempuyang (one of the most sacred natural points in Bali), in the eastern part of Bali at 1,775m above sea level.
The complex is made up of seven sanctuaries. This is an active temple and the dress code is quite strict. You must wear a sarong and a shawl to cover your shoulders. In case you are not properly dressed you can borrow a sarong and a shawl at the entrance.
A shuttle bus takes visitors to the temple, there is a separate fee for the shuttle bus (approximately Euro 3) and for the entrance to the temple (approximately Euro 3,50). Be prepared to wait for a very long time in oder to get your photo taken. There are dedicated photographers here who will take your photos with your phone, make sure to pose fast.
If you do decide to visit the Gate of Heaven, it is advisable to get here as early as the temple’s opening which is at 7 am. We got there at about 9 am and had to wait for 4 hours for our turn.
Where is Penataran Agung Lempuyang Located
Pura Lempuyang Temple is located in east Bali within the highlands of Mount Lempuyang. For those staying in the areas of Nusa Dua, Kuta and Seminyak you will need about 2 to 3 hours to get here, depending on the time of day and traffic.
It took us roughly 2 hours to get here from Ubud, we departed at 7am.
The best way to get here is by renting a car with a driver or on a guided tour. Combine your visit with other popular sites like Tirta Gangga and Taman Ujung Water Palace.
Bali: Full-Day Instagram Highlights Tour
Bali: Besakih Temple & Lempuyang Temple Gates of Heaven Tour
Pura Dalem Agung – inside Monkey Forest
This Hindu Temple is one of the three temples that make up the temple complex located inside the Ubud Monkey Forest and it’s name translates as the great temple of death.
The temple is located in the southwest part of the Ubud monkey forest area. It is said to date back to the 14th century and was built in honor of God Shiva.
Where is Pura Dalem Agung Located
Pura Dalem Agung is located inside the Sacred Monkey forest in Ubud. To enter it you must pay an entrance fee for the Ubud Monkey forest.
Pura Taman Ayun one of the Best Temples in Bali
From the many temples that dot Bali, one of the most beautiful temples in Bali is the Pura Taman Ayun – which in fact translates as a beautiful garden.
This beautiful temple was built in the 17th century for the royal family of Mengwi Empire and could only be accessed by the royals. Today it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Pura Taman Ayun is a fairly large complex that consists of four different courts surrounded by beautiful blooming gardens and ponds.
On the grounds of the temple there is also an exhibition area where local artists display their art which is also available for sale.
Where is Pura Taman Ayun Located
Pura Taman Ayun is centrally located on the main road between Denpasar to Singaraja. It is located approximately an hour and a half from Denpasar, Kuta or Seminyak and roughly 45 minute drive from Ubud.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is one of the most important Balinese temples and should definitely top your list of the best temples to visit in Bali. Located at a higher altitude at 1200 meters above sea level this architectural marvel is surrounded by a mystical lake Beratan. This is the second largest lake in Bali and its name comes from the word Brata which means that one must fill the 9 primary needs in life.
The temple was built by I Gusti Agung Putu in 1634 AD and is made up of five compounds, it was constructed to honor Goddess Danu, the queen of water, lakes and rivers.
It is an important religious site for Hindus, who come here to pray to Almighty God on its manifestation as “Tri Murti” (Brahma, Visnu, and Shiva) for the fertility of soil, human wealth, and the preservation of the universe.
The highlight and the most photographed part of the temple complex is the 11-tiered and the three-tiered meru (the principal shrine of a Balinese temple) which sit atop a small island on the lake.
This magnificent Bali temple is featured on the 50,000 rupiah bill.
The temple complex features a large garden area and is truly a magical experience.
Where is Pura Ulun Dani Bratan located
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is located in Jln in the highlands of Bedugul, Baturiti distric, right in the centre of Bali. It is approximately one hour and 30 minute drive (45 kilometres) from Ubud and 54 kilometres north of Denpasar. For those staying in the area of Kuta it will take almost 2 hours to reach here.
Other posts you might enjoy
If you are planning a trip to Bali, here are some of my other posts:
The Ultimate Visitor’s Guide To Bali Monkey Forest
4 Special Bali Palaces To Add To Your Itinerary
A Guide To Visiting Tegalalang Rice Terrace in Bali
34 Exciting Things To Do In Ubud
14 Fun Things To Do in Seminyak, Bali