Sacred Bali temples to visit

With the moniker of Indonesia’s Island of the Gods, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bali takes its places of worship very seriously. With temples littered in all four corners of the island, no trip to Bali is complete without a spiritual journey through these sacred sites.

Far from being simply spots to jazz up your Instagram account, some of the temples even allow non-Hindu visitors and foreigners to partake in the island’s religious traditions. If late-night partying at the beach club has become too blasé for you, visit these 8 sacred Bali temples and immerse yourself in the island’s spiritual side.

1. Tirta Empul Temple – purify yourself in the temple’s holy water

tirta empul melukat purification
Participating in the melukat purification ritual
Image credit: @jnaspriya

There might be prettier or more famous temples in Bali but if you’re looking for a genuine spiritual experience, Tirta Empul Temple is where you want to go. The name roughly translates to holy water in Balinese and here, visitors get the chance to partake in a purification ritual known as Melukat.

In this ritual, worshippers dip into the temple’s bathing pool and purify themselves using the water spouts attached to the side of the pool. Locals believe that the temple’s bathing pool was created by the Hindu deity Indra and that the temple’s water possesses mystical properties.

koi pond tirta empul
Feeding the kois at Tirta Empul
Image credit: @hyacintrv

Humans aren’t the only ones enjoying the temple’s water however as past the bathing pool, visitors can enjoy the sight of colorful giant koi fishes frolicking at the pond. Don’t forget to look up too as the Tampaksiring Presidential Palace, built in the 1960s under the orders of President Soekarno, cuts a pretty impressive sight above the temple.

tampaksiring palace tirta empul
Tampaksiring Presidential Palace visible from the temple
Image credit: @kusuma_nyoman

Do note that those interested in undertaking the Melukat ritual must pay an additional Rp. 15,000 (~USD1.01) fee as you’re required to wear a special green sarong for the ritual.

Address: Jl. Tirta, Manukaya, Tampaksiring, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80552
Opening Hours: 8AM-6PM, Daily.
Admission: Rp. 50,000 (~USD3.37) for foreigners

2. Gunung Kawi Temple – Bali’s own Valley of the Kings

stone reliefs gunung kawi temple
Reliefs carved into the cliff face at Gunung Kawi
Image credit: @tha_dartha

Dubbed Bali’s own Valley of the Kings, the 7-meter reliefs carved into the cliff face in Gunung Kawi Temple is a must-see if you’re in Bali. The temple was built in the 11th century in dedication to the ancient Bali king Anak Wungsu with the reliefs carved in honor of the king and his multiple wives.

Reaching the temple takes some dedication as you’re required to navigate through several hundreds of stairs going in and out. The surrounding rice terraces and lush jungle setting do make the process all the more worthwhile though, especially if you’re on the hunt for some pictures.

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The jungle backdrop of Gunung Kawi temple
Image credit: @ajlittlejourney

At the bridge, you’ll see the Pakerisan river flowing beneath you and the river’s water actually comes from Tirta Empul located just upstream. It’s common for tourists to visit both places in one go so make sure to dedicate an entire day if you want to see everything both temples have to offer.

Address: Banjar Penaka, Tampaksiring, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80552
Opening Hours: 8AM-6PM, Daily
Admission: Rp. 50,000 (~USD3.37) for foreigners

3. Uluwatu Temple – picturesque cliffside temple with daily kecak performances

kecak sunset uluwatu temple
Kecak performance with a gorgeous sunset backdrop
Image credit: @travelatparadise

Perched on the edge of a 70-meter cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean, Uluwatu Temple is the textbook definition of picturesque. Below, the sight of the waves crashing against the cliff is nothing short of stunning while the temple’s west-facing position makes it the perfect spot to catch the sunset.

uluwatu bali temple
The temple’s Meru tower perched at the cliff’s edge
Image credit: @balionedaytrip

In fact, the view isn’t all you’re going to get as the temple also holds daily Kecak dance performances based on the Ramayana epic at 5PM. Tickets to the dance show cost an additional Rp. 100,000 (~USD6.74) and the seats are always filled to the rafters.

uluwatu temple views
Cliffside views from the temple
Image credit: @luobangsawanp

Yes, you can technically see Kecak being performed on stages all over the island but none can match Uluwatu in sheer majesty with the fire dance being performed with a gorgeous sunset backdrop. If you’re visiting the temple, make sure to time your visit accordingly.

uluwatu macaques
Uluwatu’s infamous long-tailed macaques
Image credit: @principe.maxi

One little warning, the temple is surrounded by a small forest inhabited by long-tailed macaques. Locals believe they act as the temple guardian but these macaques are known to be mischievous and we highly advise you to watch your belongings, especially if you’re bringing food to the premises.

Address: Pecatu, South Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali
Opening Hours: 7AM-7PM, Daily
Admission: Rp. 30,000 (~USD2.02) for foreigners

4. Ulun Danu Bratan Temple – floating temple in the middle of Lake Beratan

ulun danu bratan temple
Postcard-perfect view of the Ulun Danu Bratan Temple
Image credit: @natural_beauty_chakra

Known to Indonesians simply as that temple from the back of the old Rp. 50,000 paper bill, Ulun Danu Bratan Temple has plenty to offer for visitors. Located 1.2km above sea level on Lake Beratan, the area’s temperate climate is a nice change of pace from Bali’s typical tropical heat and the stunning view doesn’t hurt either.

ulun danu bratan temple garden
Relaxing at the garden surrounding the temple
Image credit: @dektajuna

If you’re lucky enough to be there on a clear day, the lake’s reflective surface forms a gorgeous mirror image of the floating temple, ideal for photographers looking for the perfect shot. The surrounding mountains of Beratan also make for a gorgeous backdrop.

boat ride ulun danu bratan
On a boat ride to Lake Bratan
Image credit: @simaun_

For those simply wanting to take in the view though, there are plenty of locals in the area offering boat rentals. On the other hand, those wishing to stay on dry land might simply want to relax in the flower garden around the main temple area.

Do note that unlike other temples on the list, sarongs aren’t provided for rent with the admission fee so make sure you’re dressed properly when visiting Ulun Danu Bratan.

Address: Danau Beratan, Candikuning, Baturiti, Tabanan Regency, Bali 82191
Opening Hours: 7AM-7PM, Daily.
Admission: Rp. 50,000 (~USD3.37) for foreigners

5. Taman Ayun Temple – stunning Balinese architecture with a cockfighting diorama

meru towers taman ayun
The numerous Meru towers of Taman Ayun Temple, with the moat visible in the foreground
Image credit: @rafagonzruiz

If you’re looking to see authentic displays of Balinese traditional architecture, you can hardly do better than Taman Ayun Temple. Even from a distance, the sight of the numerous Meru towers inside the complex beckons your attention.

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The garden area of Taman Ayun Temple
Image credit: @florida26

These towers aren’t just for show as they all are dedicated to different Hindu deities with the height of each tower signifying the status of the deity in question. The temple is also a popular relaxing spot, thanks to the garden area inside and the calming moat surrounding the temple complex.

cockfighting diorama taman ayun
Cockfighting diorama inside Taman Ayun Temple
Image credit: @florida26

If you’re curious about Balinese life, there’s also a cockfighting diorama housed in one of the temple’s pavilions. While a bit unseemly, cockfighting is a huge part of life for Balinese men and can still be found being staged in many parts of the island.

Address: Jl. Ayodya No.10, Mengwi, Kec. Mengwi, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351
Opening Hours: 8AM-6.15PM, Daily
Admission: Rp. 50,000 (~USD3.37) for foreigners

6. Lempuyang Temple – the famed ‘Gate of Heaven’ with a stunning backdrop of Mount Agung

gate of heaven bali temple
The famed Gate of Heaven with Mount Agung visible in the background
Image credit: @whyditaaa

Nicknamed the Gate of Heaven, you’ve probably seen Lempuyang Temple before in your fellow globetrotters’ Instagram feeds. Situated along the hiking path of Mount Lempuyang, the temple is known for its stunning view of Bali’s highest mountain, Mount Agung.

paduraksa lempuyang temple
The three Paduraksa portals leading into the middle sanctum of the temple. The left one is used for entry while the right one is used for exiting, with the middle one open only during special occasions.
Image credit: @annaagustinabetan

Lempuyang actually refers to a series of temples but visitors typically flock to the main Penataran Agung Lempuyang temple at the base of the mountain where the ‘Gate of Heaven’ photo spot is located. Do note that the reflecting pool you might’ve seen on Instagram is just a sheet of glass added for dramatic effect but the view is still very much worthy of a visit.

jungle pathway lempuyang temple
Jungle stairway leading into the Lempuyang Luhur Temple
Image credit: @wayandedysuarnawa

If you’ve got the time (and the legs), consider going up the 1,700 steps through the jungle path to reach the secluded Lempuyang Luhur temple. The quiet, misty surroundings add a level of spirituality to the temple but beware of the long-tailed macaques populating the area.

Do note that if you’re planning on hiking to the top, refrain from complaining about the hike as locals deem that behaviour to be taboo. There’s no fixed admission fee to the temple complex but donations are encouraged and sarongs are available for rent at the entrance for Rp. 10,000 (~USD0.67).

Address: Bunutan, Abang, Seraya Bar., Kec. Karangasem, Kabupaten Karangasem, Bali 80852
Opening Hours: 7AM-5PM, Daily.
Admission: Free with voluntary donations

7. Besakih Temple Complex – Bali’s ‘Mother Temple’ on the slopes of Mount Agung

mount agung besakih temple
Inside the Besakih Temple Complex with Mount Agung clearly visible in the background
Image credit: @balianwater

Known as Bali’s Mother Temple, Besakih Temple Complex is the biggest and holiest temple in all of the island. With 23 separate temples located in one huge complex, exploring all four corners of the temple would definitely take up the better part of your day.

candi bentar split gateway
The Candi Bentar split gateway marking the entrance to Besakih Temple’s main complex
Image credit: @deer_zhuli

Time isn’t the only currency needed here as climbing the many, many stairs of the huge temple complex would also give your legs ample workout. If you feel like your legs are not going to make it, make sure to at least visit the topmost Gelap Temple as the view of the temple complex from up there is pretty impressive.

gelap temple besakih
At the gate of Gelap Temple, the highest point of the Besakih Temple complex
Image credit: @runaroundsuee

While there’s not much else to do in the complex, the sheer size of the temple makes this the perfect place if you’re simply looking to walk around a Balinese temple. Try to visit early in the morning or just before dusk as that’s typically when the cloud clears up and you can see the imposing Mount Agung in all its glory. 

Do note that a guide is provided with the admission fee and you have to tip them. If you just want to explore the place on your own, make sure to politely decline the guide’s service at the entrance.

Address: Jl. Raya Besakih, Karangasem, Bali 80863
Opening Hours: 8AM-6PM, Daily.
Admission: Rp. 60,000 (~USD4.06) for foreigners

8. Tanah Lot Temple – Bali’s most recognizable landmark on an offshore rock formation

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Sunset from Tanah Lot during low tide
Image credit: @d_grape21

As one of the most recognized landmarks of Bali, Tanah Lot Temple needs little introduction. The temple, located on top of an offshore rock formation accessible only during low tide, decorates many travelers’ souvenir t-shirts and is visited by throngs of tourists on a daily basis.

While the actual temple is small and tourists aren’t allowed inside, the setting and the sunset views are more than enough incentive to visit the nearby area. At the bottom lives a venomous black/silver ‘Holy Snake’ that locals believe act as the protector of the temple, and you can personally see the snake by making a small donation of Rp. 5,000 (~USD0.34).

tanah lot high tide
Tanah Lot viewed from the shore
Image credit: @intotheunknownmiko

Even if you’re not interested in the temple, we still highly recommend dropping by as playing around the shallow rocks during low tide is a fun experience by itself. Do make sure to wear proper footwear though as it can be quite slippery and always be aware of the crashing waves when you’re posing for a picture.

shallow rocks tanah lot
The area around the temple itself is popular among tourists but note that it can be quite slippery
Image credit: @viajaconsara

Small caveat when visiting the area; as Tanah Lot is a veritable tourist trap, reaching the lookout point requires wading through rows of souvenir shops and stalls – which is fantastic if you’re looking for souvenirs, but be prepared to gently rebuke overeager sellers if you don’t.

As with Ulun Danu Bratan, you’re not required to wear a sarong inside the complex as long as you’re properly dressed.

Address: Beraban, Kediri, Tabanan Regency, Bali 82121
Opening Hours: 7AM-7PM, Daily.
Admission: Rp. 60,000 (~USD4.06) for foreigners

Some ground rules when visiting Bali temples

While these temples have been made into designated tourist spots, they still function as sacred religious sites for the Balinese people. Visitors have to be mindful of their behavior inside the temple and there are several grounds rules to be aware of:

  • Wear appropriate clothes, making sure to keep both your shoulders and knees covered. Rental sarongs are typically included in the admission fee but you can always bring your own if you want and you must wear them around your waist inside the temple grounds.
  • Women on their period aren’t allowed within the complex.
  • Watch where you walk as there are usually plenty of offerings, known as canang sari, on the temple grounds. They typically look like flowers and snacks placed on a palm-leaf basket and you mustn’t step on or over them, not even accidentally.
  • Some, typically the innermost, parts of the temple are open only for worshippers and closed for visitors.
  • Act courteous and avoid excessive public displays of affection.

Bali temples to visit for a spiritual journey

The duality of Bali, where bustling nightlife sits side-by-side with deep-seated religious traditions, is what makes it so fascinating. Once you’re done cruising through the island’s famous beach clubs, make sure to visit these 8 Bali temples for a more complete trip.

For more spots to visit in Bali, check out these stories:

Cover image adapted from @taksu_tampaksiring, @whyditaaa, and @simaun_

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