Bali temples are the perfect place to learn about the local culture, as they are closely linked to the Balinese history and traditions. While in most of the Indonesian territory the principal religion is Islam, Bali has a Hindu majority.
Therefore, most of the temples of Bali, known as Pura, are Hindu, although their constructions differ to a large extent from the Hindu temples that we can find in other countries. The main feature of the Balinese temples are the Merus, stepped pagodas made with straw that are the major icon of the temples in Bali. As you will see, this type of structure is spread throughout the island.
It is overwhelming to know how many temples are in Bali; with thousands of religious buildings, we would need more than a year to visit them all. To make it easy when planning a trip to Bali, in this article you will find a selection of the best Bali temples.
Please note that neither during the 10-day Bali itinerary that Dan took or the Bali 1 week travel itinerary I did, we could complete the list, so do not stress if you don’t know how to visit them all in during your Bali itinerary.
The key thing is to know which are the must-see Bali temples and to keep in mind that you will need to return to the Island of the Gods to visit all the temples of Bali you missed.
Best Temples in Bali
Below you will find in-depth information, but summing up these are the best temples of Bali that you cannot miss:
- Besakih Temple: Mother Temple. The largest temple in Bali.
- Lempuyang Luhur Temple: It is popularized by the “Gates of Heaven.”
- Taman Ayun Temple: Temple of the beautiful garden surrounded by a moat.
- Ulun Danu Beratan Temple: It is located between the mountains on Lake Bratan.
- Gunung Kawi: Temple of the Kings. It stands out for its Candis, where the souls of the royal family are buried.
- Taman Saraswati Temple: Temple dedicated to the Goddess of Wisdom and Art.
- Ulun Danu Tamblingan Temple: During the monsoon, the only way to get to this temple is by canoe.
- Tanah Lot Temple: This Bali temple is situated on an islet in the sea.
- Tirta Gangga Temple: These palace gardens are some of the most beautiful in Bali.
- Goa Gajah Temple: In the Elephant Cave we can find a statue of the Goddess Ganesha.
- Tirta Empul Temple: One of the most sacred temples in Bali, where the locals come to purify themselves.
- Alas Kedaton Temple: Temple full of monkeys. Be a responsible tourist and don’t give them food!
- Uluwatu Temple: Located on a cliff of 70 meters is one of the best temples in Bali to watch the sunset.
How to visit the Bali temples
When visiting the temples of Bali, please remember to do it respectfully. As they are Hindu temples, you will be asked to cover your legs with a sarong in most of them. The sarong is a garment used by the Balinese to enter the temples. If you don’t have one you will have to rent it, so I recommend you buy one when you arrive on the island and take it with you.
It will be also very useful to cover your body in those places with air conditioning, and it is also a beautiful souvenir from Bali, so I definitely recommend to get one.
In my case, I didn’t visit any temple where they asked me to put my shoes off, although as I didn’t go to all the Bali temples, it may be a requirement in some of them, as for example if you travel to Singapore and visit the Hindu temple of Sri Mariamman.
1. Pura Besakih Temple
Pura Besakih, known as the Mother Temple, is located on the slopes of the Agung volcano and is the largest temple in Bali. This monumental complex is composed of 22 temples, including Penataran Agung (the Great Temple of the State).
The most representative landmark of this temple is a long staircase that rises about 7 different levels and represents the 7 levels of the Hindu universe. Only Hindus are allowed to climb this stairway, so please, be respectful.
The entrance fee to the Pura Besakih is IDR60,000 ($4.19).
Although this temple is one of the most important in Bali, many travelers overlook it as it is away from other points of interest. If you don’t have transportation, this tour will take you to this and other Bali temples located at the east of the island, like the next one.
2. Lempuyang Luhur Temple
Lempuyang Luhur is one of the most photographed temples in Bali. Its “Gates of Heaven” with Mount Agung in the background is, without any doubt, the most representative image of Bali. This temple, dedicated to the God of Peace, is 3280 feet above sea level, so to get there you need to be in good shape because you have to climb many stairs.
As it is located somewhat away from the main cities of Bali, it was still a fairly quiet place a few years ago. However, with the fast-growing tourism in Bali and the rising popularity of the Balinese temples, there are even big queues to take the famous photo which has made this temple one of the most famous temples in Bali. In this photo, you can see Mount Agung at the background and the Gates of Heaven reflected in a pond that is actually a mirror held by a Balinese that will charge you to take the photo.
The tour that leads to Pura Lempuyang is the same as the one that takes you to Pura Besakih.
3. Taman Ayun Temple
Pura Taman Ayun is one of the best-known Bali temples. Its name means the temple of the beautiful garden and stands out for the moat surrounding the temple and the lush vegetation of the area.
The access to the sacred area is forbidden for tourists, so to visit it you will have to surround it with a wall in between that allows very detailed views of the numerous merus that are inside.
4. Ulun Danu Beratan, one of the must-visit temples in Bali
Ulun Danu Beratan is one of the most beautiful temples in Bali. This temple, which seems to float on Lake Bratan, is without a doubt one of the main attractions in Bali.
The temple was built to venerate the Goddess of Water Dewi Danu and the entrance fee is IDR30,000 ($2.09).
Located between the green mountains of the center of the island, the landscape changes radically compared to other temples in Bali, so I recommend you not to miss it.
5. Gunung Kawi Temple
Gunung Kawi (The Temple of the Kings) is one of the essential temples of Bali since it doesn’t resemble any others on the island. It stands out for its “candi”, which are shrines constructions carved into the rock that represent the tombs of the royal family in a spiritual sense (the bodies are buried in a nearby cave).
In addition, this temple is surrounded by beautiful rice fields and roads that are worth visiting. If you are exploring the island during the best time to visit Bali, the vegetation and rice fields will show an intense green color creating one of the most beautiful postcards you will find on the island.
6. Pura Taman Saraswati Temple
Taman Saraswati is the temple of Bali that honors Saraswati, Goddess of knowledge, literature, and art. It is located on the main street of the cultural capital of Bali, Ubud, so visiting this temple is with no doubt the best thing to do in Ubud.
It is an extremely small but beautiful temple, although it will not take you more than 10 minutes to visit it. The highlight is its entrance, flanked by two ponds filled with lotus flowers and water lilies. Unlike other temples in Bali, admission is free.
7. Ulun Danu Tamblingan Temple
Ulun Danu Tamblingan is one of the most remote temples of Bali, but one of the most beautiful at the same time.
This temple is located on Lake Tamblingan, which is a lake inside the crater of a volcano. It is one of the three picturesque lakes that are located in this area, along with the lakes Buyan and Bratan.
What makes this temple special is that during a big part of the year, when the water level grows due to the rains, it is only accessible by canoe.
If you visit this temple, you should know that it is the only one with two different sanctuaries. The first meru was used by the members of the Regency of Tabanan and the second by the locals of the populations of Catur Desa.
8. Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot is one of the most visited temples in Bali. Its name in Balinese means “land in the sea” and it is located on a small islet on the southwest coast of Bali. This is one of the 7 temples of Bali that venerate the God of the Sea and without a doubt, it is the most visited temple in Bali.
It is especially popular at sunset when the low tide makes the temple accessible on foot. In addition, when the tide is low you will see a cave where the monks bless you by placing some grains of rice on your forehead in exchange for donations.
The upper part of the temple cannot be visited, and you can get the best views of the temple from the distance and at sunset, where you will witness the sun setting over the sea.
Within the same location we will find another temple, which from my point of view is one of the most beautiful temples in Bali; the Batu Bolong, located on a stone bridge.
The entrance fee to both temples is IDR60.000 ($4.19) and the best way to get to them, if you haven’t rent a scooter in Bali, is by hiring this tour that also includes the visit to another of the essential Bali temples in Bali, the Ulun Danu Beratan.
9. Tirta Gangga Temple
Tirta Gangga is one of the most popular temples in Bali. Its name means “Sacred Water of the Ganges” and is known for its beautiful gardens full of exotic plants, rock sculptures, impressive fountains, and ponds.
The most magnificent area is a koi pond where there are small platforms that allow you to walk over the water and where you can find a majestic fountain of eleven falls.
In addition, inside the temple, there is a swimming pool where you can have a bath by paying an additional fee of IDR5,000 ($0.35) over the standard price of IDR30,000 ($2.09).
Although today Tirta Gangga is not a temple but a Royal Palace, we couldn’t leave it out in our list of the best Bali temples. This visit is also part of one of the main tours in Bali.
10. Goa Gajah, one of the most interesting temples in Bali
Goa Gajah is one of the most interesting temples in Bali. This temple, located half an hour by bicycle from Ubud, is known for the Elephant Cave, a cave which access resembles the mouth of an evil figure carved into the stone.
Inside the cave, we will find a small black figure with the shape of an elephant that represents the Goddess Ganesha, but don’t expect too much; the cave is tiny.
Outside, there are ponds where water drains through human rock sculptures and other smaller religious buildings where monks give blessings in exchange for donations.
I also recommend walking around, where you will find a lot of vegetation and in particular a tree full of bare roots that was planted the same year that the construction of the temple started in the eleventh century.
11. Tirta Empul Temple
Tita Empul is the most sacred temple in Bali. The Balinese go there to purify themselves in the waters of a spring that comes out by twelve pipes, and it is considered to have healing properties.
I suggest seeing the religious rituals performed in this temple. Having a bath is allowed only in 10 out of the 12 pipes since the other two are reserved for the deceased and their families.
One of the most popular things to do in Bali is having a bath in this pool with the Hindus who are purifying their spirit. However, please try not to bother them, since, otherwise, it is very likely that in the near future they will forbid tourists on this temple.
12. Alas Kedaton Temple
If you have already visited the Ubud Monkey Forest, the Alas Kedaton will not surprise you. Even so, if you are passing by, you may want to stop at this curious temple in Bali.
Once there, there are many monkeys and you can also see flying foxes, a bad of gigantic size. These bats are not wild, but a local will ask you for money to take a picture with them. Please do not do it. Animals suffer when used in tourist attractions.
At the entrance of the temple, there will be many guides who will tell you that you need to hire them to enter the temple. We paid attention to our tour driver and we didn’t pay them. It is not mandatory to hire a guide to enter.
13. Uluwatu Temple
Uluwatu It is one of the most famous temples in Bali. It is located on the edge of a 280 feet cliff at the east of the Bukit Badung Peninsula, the south peninsula of Bali.
In addition, there is no equal place to enjoy the best of Bali, the sunsets. If you visit the temple in the afternoon, you will have to take special care with the monkeys that live nearby, since they become very active and often steal things away from tourists.
Also, you should know that the Uluwatu temple is one of the best places to attend a traditional Kecak Fire & Trace dance exhibition, so make sure you book it in advance.
The perfect plan for an evening is to watch the sun setting over the horizon from this temple, enjoy the Kecak dance and go to Jimbaran for an exquisite seafood platter.
The entrance fee to this temple is IDR40,000 ($2.79).
Other temples in Bali
As we told you at the beginning of the article, these are the best 13 Bali temples that we recommend to visit. However, there are many more, where we could mention:
- Pura Kehen
- Ulun Danu Batur
- Pura Luhur Batukaru
- Brahma Vihara Arama
- Goa Lawah
Map of the best temples of Bali
To finish, you will find all the Bali temples we mentioned on a map below. Also, if you want to use it offline, I recommend you download this touristic map of Bali, where you will find other major attractions on the island.
I hope you find this map of the Bali Temples of any use and don’t forget to leave us a comment to tell us which one you liked the most.
Tips for visiting the temples of Bali
Finally, I leave you some tips that you should keep in mind when visiting temples in Bali.
- Be respectful. The Balinese people are very open and respect all religions. They don’t mind letting you observe their rituals, so you must respect them while they are following their ceremonies.
- Don’t take off your Sarong. Men and women carry Sarong in most of Bali’s temples. If they ask you to wear it, keep it in place throughout your visit.
- Don’t go beyond the limits. In some temples, it is allowed to be with prayers while they are practicing their religion. It’s okay if you want to capture the moment, but it’s a temple, not a photocall.
- Get up early. The most popular temples in Bali may be overcrowded during the day and afternoon so I advise you to visit them first thing in the morning.
- Take your own Sarong. In many temples, they charge you to rent the sarong, so if you buy one at the beginning of your trip you will save a lot of money. Also, it’s a nice souvenir of your trip to Bali.
- Relax, you are in Bali. Do not stress if you cannot see all the temples of the Island of the Gods. Keep in mind that even the best hotels in Bali that have their own temple, so you will need to return to Bali to continue exploring.
- Be a Compassionate Travel. The huge amount of tourists in the temples of Bali make many locals try to find customers for their businesses, some of them mistreating animals like with elephant rides, photos with exotic animals, etc. Do not hire them.