The Indonesian island of Bali is famous for its beaches, but we found much more interesting things to do in Bali than lie on a beach. Bali’s Hindu Temples have interesting architecture and spectacular settings making them a must-see on your next visit to Bali.
Set on the edge of a 70m cliff, high above the breaking surf, Uluwatu Temple has one of the most dramatic settings. This 11th century Hindu Temple’s name indicates its location. Ulu means ‘edge’ or ‘land’s end’, watu means ‘rock’. The temple is built in typical Balinese architectural style with stone gates and a tall meru which is a multi-tiered thatched roof shrine. Merus are the principal shrine in a Balinese temple and add interesting architecture to the sites.
Uluwatu is a very important temple to Balinese Hindus because it one of 9 Directional temples. They are set along Bali’s coast and are believed to provide protection from the evil spirits of the sea.
Fee – there is an entrance fee of IDR 30,000 for foreigners, IDR 15,000 for Indonesians.
In front of the temple is a small forest inhabited by cheeky long-tailed macaques. They are famous for their ability to steal anything and everything so be careful of your belongings. We saw one grab a camera and take it up a tree. Temple staff had to retrieve the camera by bribing the monkey with bananas. From the temple, there is a walkway, high above the coast that offers great views of the temple and the raging ocean below. There are plenty of monkeys here too.
Below the temple is a popular surf beach. Uluwatu Beach, also called Suluban Beach, is a small, sandy beach with large, interesting rock formations. It’s hidden from crowds by a long staircase leading to a small opening between giant boulders. It’s a great place to hang out away from the Bali crowds. We weren’t there during surf season, so the beach was quiet.
Tanah Lot Temple
One of the most stunning temples is also one of the most touristy. Before you get to the temple, you walk through a local market selling religious items, handicrafts and touristy trinkets. The shops are decorated with lovely bamboo penjors that are high above your head and make it prettier than an average market. The entrance to the temple complex is through a large, stone Balinese gate. Beyond it are many old stone carvings of Hindu gods and deities, including a colourful one.
Tanah Lot Temple has one of the most stunning locations. Set on a rocky outcrop just off-shore, the temple appears to be floating in the ocean during high tide. It’s better to visit during low-tide though as that’s the only time you are able to access the temple. The 16th century structure was eroding from centuries of crashing waves so in the 1980s the temple’s rocky base was rebuilt. Today about 30% of the base is artificial rock but is based on the look of the original structure. There are Hindu Sadhu’s giving blessings at the base of the rock; expect to give a donation. Tourists can take the stairs to visit the first floor of the temple where there are a few shrines.
Fee – the entrance fee is IDR 60,000 for foreigners, IDR 20,000 for Indonesians.
After visiting the temple you can walk along the cliff edge in both directions. To the north is a small shrine on another rocky outcrop. This one has developed an interesting hole underneath caused by the constant waves. It’s very picturesque. To the south are a number of restaurants with patios offering amazing views of Tanah Lot.
Taman Ayun Temple
This impressive temple complex is set in a lovely garden with several lotus ponds and is surrounded by a moat. Taman Ayun Temple is very important to Hindus as it is one of 6 royal temples in Bali. There are several interesting entrance gates to various parts of the complex. Some are in typical Balinese style consisting of tall stone roofless columns others are large stone gates with vaulted archways. When we were there, worshipers were preparing for a festival. Many were arriving with offerings to the gods and the walkways were decorated bamboo penjors that hung over the sidewalks. Inside the gates are many interesting stone temples and bales (pagoda style shrines). They were also decorated in yellow or black and white sashes. It had a very festive feel.
In one area there are dozens of tall merus lined up beside a lotus pond. These are the most important type of Balinese shrine and are recognizable with their multi-tiered thatched roofs. During our visit the merus were also decorated in colourful scarves. The 17th century architecture in this complex is stunning and shouldn’t be missed.
Fee – the entrance fee for foreigners is IDR 20,000 and for Indonesians, IDR 10,000
Near the temple is one of the craziest museums. Ogoh Ogoh Bali Museum houses giant statues of mythological creatures from Hindu legends. They are used in the annual Nyepi parade. It’s definitely worth a stop after visiting the temple. Entry fee is by donation.
Ubud Palace is the traditional residence for the Ubud royal family. It’s close to Taman Ayun Temple and is a nice complex to visit after the temple. The front gardens of the palace are open to the public, but the back section is still private quarters for the family. Ubud Palace is composed of tall red brick buildings with interesting stone sculptures on the walls. Inside the gardens a small Puri Saren Agung (Palace Temple). There are many stone pavilions called ‘bales’ where we saw worshipers leaving offerings for the gods.
What to wear to Bali Temples
While the Bali culture is quite liberal, this doesn’t include temple attire. Both men and women should dress conservatively when visiting temples. This means covering legs with a sarong, long skirt or pants. Some of the temples have ones you can borrow, but not all. Out of respect, visitors should also cover their shoulders, but this is not enforced.
What else is there to do in Bali?
No trip to Bali is complete without a trip to Ubud. The stunning landscape includes many green, tiered rice paddies at the sides of the roads. Some have tea shops where you can enjoy the view and even walk through the rice fields. Tegalang Rice Terraces is probably the most famous and for good reason. It has the picture-perfect location, easy access and a few cafes with open patios to enjoy the view. It’s very touristy, but world’s away from the busy beaches of Bali.
The streets in Ubud are also very interesting. Many were decorated with bamboo penjors hanging in front of houses and businesses. They are temporary shrines and are typical in Bali during Hindu festivals. They add a beautiful component to the streets.
Coffee lovers, Bali has something interesting to try. Kopi luwak or civet coffee is a Bali original. They say that wild luwaks (civets) will selectively chose the best coffee beans to eat. After the luwaks have eaten and processed the beans through their digestive system, workers collect the droppings, clean and roast them. The beans are then ground as usual for brewing a pot of coffee. We stopped at a local luwak roaster to see the process and try a cup. It wasn’t the worst cup of coffee we’ve had, but I can’t say it was the best either. It is though, probably the most unique, but it’s expensive. 100g of coffee sells for $100 USD in Bali.
Why not take in a traditional Indonesian show in Bali? One of the most lively is called Kecak. It’s a dance performance recreating one of the five episodes of the Hindu Ramayana epic. Dancers dressed in elaborate costumes are accompanied by traditional music and take you through Rama’s story. The show ends in an incredible fire dance. There are also many performances with dancers and singers in traditional costumes performing traditional dances.
How to get to the sites in Bali
There is no public transportation to tourist sites in Bali. You can either hire a taxi for a full or half day tour, join an organized tour or rent a motorbike for the day. Parking is available at all of the temples for a fee.
We give Bali Temples 3/3 – definitely worth a visit
Coming up next: Komodo Dragons and Island Cruising
For extra pics from this trip go to Gallery Indonesia. For extra pictures from other blogs go to Gallery at monkeystale.ca
To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.
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