12 Ancient Temples in Bali Indonesia

By Deepak Kannan on Feb 20, 2019
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Shining through ages, fighting the odds against the test of time, the historically marvelous temples of Bali carry the rich tradition, heritage, and culture of the tropical island proclaiming its greatness to the world. Now on your next visit, skip the cliched attractions and take time in exploring these 12 mystical temples in Bali for a magical holiday experience.

1. Tanah Lot Temple

PC: Koyne/flickr.com

Sitting on top of a large offshore rock formation of Tanah Lot that has been shaped up continuously over the years with strong ocean tides, Tanah Lot Temple is a pilgrimage temple in Bali from the 16th century. Being a part of the Balinese Mythology for centuries, Tanah Lot Temple is said to be guarded against the evil spirits and the intruders by a venomous giant snake.
Translating to 'Land in the Sea', Tanah Lot Temple is like no other temple in the world offering a unique experience to its visitors. While you are here at Tanah Lot Temple, make sure you capture the beautiful sunset that adds to the magical setting of the temple which is one of the best temples in Bali.

2. Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary

hindu temple in BaliPC: Antonia/flickr.com

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a nature reserve and a Hindu temple complex in Bali. Spread over 27 acres of land, Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary comprises of over 115 different species of trees and a huge population of monkeys. The forest grounds are also home to three holy temples in the name of Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal, Pura Beji, and Pura Prajapati.
Famously known as the monkey temple in Bali, the temples and the park grounds of Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary attract over 10,000 tourists every month. The place is also considered as a spiritual, economic, educational, and conservation center for the village. God Hyang Widhi is the center figure of worship.

3. Uluwatu Temple

PC: Pixabay.com

Built at the edge of a 70-meter high cliff, Uluwatu Temple is a Balinese Sea temple that dates back to the 11th century. Dedicated to Hyang Widhi Wasa, Uluwatu Temple is renowned for its extraordinary location that is complete with Balinese architecture and ancient sculptures.
With the backdrop of the enchanting Indian Ocean, Uluwatu Temple makes up for a perfect location to catch sight of a delightful sunset. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the vast spread Indian ocean and feel the thundering force of the wind as you stand at the edge admiring the view.
Right at the front of the Temple is a small forest full of monkeys, who are believed to guard the temple from bad forces. There are two entrances to the temple and the Uluwatu beach below the temple is a great surfing spot.

4. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Temple in BaliPC: Whyyan/flickr.com

Perched on the shores of Lake Bratan, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is a water temple in Bali. Constructed way back in 1633 as a means to commemorate the main irrigation source of Bali - Lake Bratan, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is a major Shivaite temple containing the sacred 11 pelinggih meru (meru tower) dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Floating on the Lake Bratan and encircled by the majestic scenery of the mountain range of the Bedugul region, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is a picturesque temple in Bali, popular both among the locals and the international travelers seeking holiday retreat.
Situated at a height of 1200 meter above the sea level, the temple is ideal for photography and sightseeing. Activities like paragliding, jet skiing, and boating are also available around the temple area.

5. Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul - temples in BaliPC: Jelle Oostrom/flickr.com

Tirta Empul is a Hindu Balinese water temple located in the village of Manukaya in central Bali. Comprising a temple pond that gives out fresh water regularly, the natural cultural heritage site of Tirta Empul is one of the ancient temples in Bali.
Found around 962 A.D., the legendary walls of Tirta Empul carry the historical story of Bali. Get purified by taking a spiritual bath at the Holy Spring water in the petirtaan which is considered holy by the Balinese Hindus for its unique purifying properties and enjoy the archaeological relics.
When you have finished exploring the temple, do take a trip to the nearby attraction of the presidential palace of Istana Tampaksiring. The exterior of Tirta Empul temple is lined with souvenir shops, food stalls, and markets.

6. Pura Besakih

Pura Besakih - Temples in BaliPC: Deni Saputra/flickr.com

Pura Besakih or Bali's 'Mother Temple' as it is popularly called, is a temple complex set at a height of 1,000 meters over the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung. Holding over 23 different but related temples including the largest and the popular Pura Penataran Agung, Pura Besakih is a separate world in itself.
Set in the midst of scenic mountains, rice paddies, and streams, Pura Besakih is colorful during the time of the spring and seduces its visitors with its artistic beauty. While visiting the temple of Pura Besakih, it is advised to take along the locals with you as the temple is usually crowded with several self-professed tourist guides.
There are at least 70 festivals celebrated inside the complex and it is based on 210-day Balinese Pawukon calendar year. Built on six different levels, Pura Besakih is one of the largest and the holiest Hindu temples in Bali.

7. Goa Gajah

ancient temples in bali - Goa GajahPC: 湖畔老/flickr.com

Goa Gajah, also known as Elephant Cave is an archeologically rich historical cave site in Bali. As you trace your way through the intriguing stone carving at the facade, you will come face to face with the quaint Buddhist temple that is enclosed within the cave, complete with a meditation center, fountains, and a bathing area.
Founded on top of a hillside, Goa Gajah was a favorite spot for hermetic meditation and prayers. Dating back to the 11th century, Goa Gajah carries an aura of tranquility and the vibe is quite contagious, offering a sense of satisfaction to the visitors.
Be sure to neglect the crazy sellers just outside the entrance who sell the sarongs for an outrageous price.

8. Pura Taman Ayun 

PC: Sean Hamlin/flickr.com

Boasting of a magnificent traditional architecture, Pura Taman Ayun is a temple complex in Bali with an expansive garden landscape and tranquil-storied shrines. Initially built around in 1634 by the Mengwi ruler Tjokerda Sakti Blambangan based on Chinese inspiration, Pura Taman Ayun underwent a significant transformation during the year 1937 yielding to the present landmark of courtyards and enclosures.
Given the easy accessibility of Pura Taman Ayun, the temple was once the main site of worship for the Mengwi people. Adorned by towering tiers that represent the people of Mengwi's admiration to the noble ancestors and lotus ponds, Pura Taman Ayun is a refreshing spot to be in during a vacation.
Pura Taman Ayun is a part of the list of UNESCO World heritage sites and was also featured in the program of 'Around the World in 80 gardens'.

9. Gunung Kawi Temple

Gunung Kawi TemplePC: Phuongkim1981/flickr.com

Gunung Kawi is an 11th-century temple and funerary complex that lies at the bottom of lush green rice fields in Tampaksiring. Spread across both the sides of the Pakerisan river, Gunung Kawi Temple consists of 10 rock-cut shrines carved into the rocky face of the cliff which is believed to be dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana dynasty.
Take a stroll across the legendary site that reverberates with the long lost tales of the Kings and give your best shot in deciphering the mysterious that surround the landmark. Carrying the inscription of 'Haji Lumahing Jalu' meaning 'the king made a temple here', Gunung Kawi Temple is for the curious explorer in you.
Gunung Kawi is perfect for meditation given the peaceful atmosphere of the temple and its surrounding.

10. Pura Ulun Danu Batur

PC: Alex hanoko/flickr.com

Considered as one of the most important temples in Bali, Pura Ulun Danu Batur is a temple complex dedicated to Dewi Danu, the Goddess of lakes and river. The reason for Dewi Danu being chosen as the main worship figure is quite evident from the name Pura Ulun Danu Batur that translates to 'head of the lake'.
Initially situated at the foot of the Batur Volcano, most of Pura Ulun Danu Batur and the village were destroyed during a violent volcanic eruption in 1926, except for the prominent 11-storied Meru which was later moved to the present site of the temple.
The temple complex is home to nine different temples that comprises of 285 shrines and pavilions, with Pura Penataran Agung Batur being the highlight of the lot. Pura Ulun Danu Batur is one of the best temples in Bali. Visit the temple during the time of full moon for the best experience.

11. Pura Luhur Batukaru

PC: Christ06/flickr.com

Set on the southern slopes of Mount Batukaru, Pura Luhur Batukaru is a part of the nine kayangan jagat (directional temples) to protect Bali from the evil forces. Built as a dedication to the rajas of the Tabanan during the 11th century, Pura Luhur Batukaru was destroyed in 1604 and was subsequently rebuilt in 1959.
Considered as one of the extremely sacred sites for the Hindus, most parts of Pura Luhur Batukaru is off-limits to the general public during special occasions. While you are there, soak in the beauty of the centerpiece of Pura Luhur Batukaru which is a 7-tiered meru dedicated to Mahadewa, the God of Mount Batukaru.
There is a special pilgrimage that takes place once in a year involving thousands of devotees walking up to the peak of Mount Batukaru for worship.

12. Pura Taman Saraswati

Pura Taman Saraswati - the famous hindu temple in BaliPC: Jorge Láscar/flickr.com

Pura Taman Saraswati is a water temple in Ubud that captivates you on your first sight. Bounded by a naturally amazing surrounding, immerse yourself completely in admiring the opulence of Pura Taman Saraswati. As you walk along the trail over the pond populated by lotus, you could feel a sense of calmness seeping through your body, liberating you of your aches.
Ornately designed, Pura Taman Saraswati is an architecturally splendid temple that you shouldn't miss on your trip to Bali. Pura Taman Saraswati also offers plenty of room to walk and is one of the favorite leisure spots for the locals.
Impressed by the list of temples that are totally off-beat and totally special?! Start with your travel itinerary now and explore Bali in its glorious temples.
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