Bali is an Indonesian island rich in an ancient cultural and religious heritage, which is believed to stem all the way back to 3000 – 600 BCE. All these many, many years later, the traditional Balinese culture is still celebrated through daily offerings called Canang Sari and at sacred temples where worshippers gather for prayer and ceremonies. Even tourists who travel to Bali visit these religious sites wishing to observe the culture and learn about the local customs.
Perched upon coastal cliffs, nestled away in villages and atop offshore rocky outcrops, there’s an estimated 10, 000 temples or religious compounds that exist on the island. With culture and religion having a large significance for the Balinese people and their way of life, these temples and religious complexes are something I suggest every visitor to Bali should take the opportunity to appreciate. Here are just four temples to visit in Bali:
1. Uluwatu Temple
Uluwatu Temple is massive religious complex situated on a picturesque cliff in Uluwatu. Whilst overlooking the Indian Ocean, the temple also is surrounded by trees and foliage, and, because of that, there’s lots of monkeys at the temple. Because of its coastal location, the Uluwatu Temple also draws large crowds in the evening as it’s in prime coastal position for the sunset.
What I love about this temple: Lush foliage grows throughout the complex grounds, which is contrasted with the view from the cliff-side temple to crashing waves below and out as far as the horizon. Aside from the visual elements, the spiritual story of the origins of the temple is fascinating – Uluwatu Temple is believed to be one of several temple complexes that protect the island from evil spirits.
Best time to visit: Uluwatu Temple is most popular at sunset as it faces out toward the Indian Ocean, offering a prime position to watch the sun as falls below the horizon.
Location: Pecatu, South Kuta, Badung Regency
Entry fee: IDR 40, 000 (AUD 4)
Dress code: Modest. Sarongs can be hired at the entry.
2. Vihara Satya Dharma Temple
Okay, so this isn’t a traditional Balinese temple, nor is it in a breath-taking location, like the others in this list, but I just loved the vibrancy and intricacy of this Modern Chinese temple.
What I love about this temple: You might be wondering why such a modern structure such as Vihara Satya Dharma made my list of temples to visit in Bali? Well, I was on my way elsewhere, in the backseat of a taxi, when I saw the bright red lanterns hanging in rows outside of the temple (it was during the Chinese New Year), and knew I had to stop. While the vibrant lanterns where what lured me in, the interior of the temple was so full of colour and the most intricate of detail was carved from the walls to the ceiling.
Best time to visit: Anytime. Although, if you happen to visit during the Chinese New Year the exterior of the temple will be decorated with hundreds of red hanging lanterns.
Address: Jalan Pelabuhan, Pedungan, Denpasar Selatan, Pedungan, Denpasar Sel., Kota Denpasar
Entry fee: Free, but donations can be made inside the temple.
Dress code: Modest. Remove shoes before entering.
3. Tanah Lot Temple
Becoming one of Bali’s most beautiful sunset spots, it is no wonder that visitors flock to Tanah Lot. This ancient Hindu temple perched atop a large rocky outcrop on the beach. Because of this, Tanah Lot Temple is also known as the “Sea Temple”, for when the tide is high it sits surrounded by the ocean.
What I love about this temple: The sunsets! I also love this temple for its unique setting on the coastline. At low tide, you can easily walk out to the temple and marvel at the structure up close. As the sun begins to set, the tide will slowly creep up the shore allowing the setting sun to cast vibrant golden or deep purple hues across the water’s surface.
Best time to visit: Arriving before 6 pm will allow you to make your way through the village and market stalls to the many small restaurants that offer tables overlooking Tanah Lot Temple.
Address: Jalan Raya Tanah Lot, Beraban, Kediri, Kabupaten Tabanan
Entry fee:IDR 60, 000 (adult), IDR 30,000 (child). Parking fees range from IDR 2,000 – 10,000 depending on the vehicle.
Dress code: Casual.
4. Saraswati Temple
Located in the heart of the Ubud, the Saraswati Temple (or Lotus Temple) is so tranquil and beautiful – traditionally decorated with intricate carvings, the incense from the daily offering swirling through the air, and the lotus pond, which is what distinguishes this temple from others.
What I love about this temple: Elements of nature and religion collide beautifully at this temple complex. Covered with lotus pads and blossoms, the large ponds that line each side of the pathway to the entrance of the temple structure add an extra splash of tranquillity to peacefulness and calmness already associated with many temples. The trees provide lush greenery to contrast with the golden and terracotta-coloured exterior of the temple structure. The exterior of the temple is decorated with traditional Bali art sculptures and carvings, which have grown green-moss trimmings.
Address: Jalan Kajeng, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar.
Entry fee: Free.
Dress code: Modest. No sarong is required around the pond and up to the temple’s entrance.