Many claim that there are actually more temples than homes in Bali. Strictly speaking, many temples are really shrines but the number of religious compounds in Bali is said to be over 10,000 and the number is spread throughout the far-flung corners of the island, from mountain and hilltops to low-lying coastal areas.
Normally peaceful and uninhabited, Bali’s temples transform into scenes of great activity and are ornately decorated during festivals and temple anniversaries with traditional dance performances, cockfighting and gambling. You’ll find that each of Bali’s temples is unique and that they either face towards the mountains, the sea or towards sunrise.
Most Popular Temples in Bali
Other Temples in Bali
Gunung Kawi (meaning ‘carving in the mount’) is a 10th century Hindu temple complex located in the Gianyar regency. To explore the entire site, descend the 300-step stone stairway leading to a beautiful valley where you will find ten seven-metre-high memorials carved into the rock face.
Four can be found on the west side and five on the east side of the river, while to the south across the valley lies another. According to legend, these ruined temples are the memorial shrines of the king's concubines and his family. These days, Gunung Kawi sanctuary is still used for ritual ceremonies and locals gather periodically to offer the usual gifts and to pay homage to God, the ancient king, and his family.
- Location: Tampaksiring north east of Ubud
Pura Blanjong was built as a cenotaph of Sri Kesari Warmadewa and commemorates his journey to the east. Sri Kesari himself was a Syailendra descendant (a Buddhist-ruled dynasty which ruled Java) and the founder of an architectural wonder, Borobudur Temple. According to the Blanjong inscription dated 914 A.D. Sri Kesari was a Buddhist apostle who soon established a Mahayana convent at Blanjong village. Along with the inscription, 15 metres northwest, is a Ganesha statue (the elephant-headed son of Shiva). Pura Blanjong is characterised by its coral instead of brick wall and twin sitting calf statues inside, sadly from which both heads have been removed. Apart from being one of the most sacred temples, Pura Blanjong shows you things of architectural and archeological interest.
- Location: Sanur Beach
Pura Penataran Sasih
Pura Penataran Sasih is situated six kilometres northwest of Gianyar and two kilometres north of Pejeng. It is also known as ‘The Moon Temple’ and derived its name from an ancient bronze kettle drum (or nekara) called ‘Moon of Pejeng’ which is now kept in its inner chamber. It is the largest bronze kettle in Southeast Asia at about two metres in length and allegedly dates from 300 BC. The design is associated with the Dong Son culture of Southern China and Northern Vietnam of around 1500 BC. This highly valued and ornate gong is in the shape of an hourglass and is beautifully engraved: it is regarded as Indonesia’s most important Bronze-Age antique.
- Location: East of Ubud in Gianyar Regency
Although Pura Petitenget (found at the T-junction on Jalan Petitenget) is not as big and as popular as Bali’s other major temples of Pura Besakih, Pura Uluwatu and Pura Ulun Danu, it is famous for its legend. This temple is believed by Hindus to be one of nine pillars known as 'Kayangan Jagat', temples of nine wind eyes built in the 11th Century by Empu Kuturan (a Javanese Sage) who came to Bali bringing religious law and the formation of traditional villages.
The nine eyes are also believed to protect the island from southward threats through their intricate positioning. Another story relates that Pura Petitenget is known as the Temple of the Secret Box – a name inherited when a holy man from Java arrived in Bali intending to teach the Balinese community about good manners. He brought a box and accidentally left it behind when he returned to Java. The Balinese people, in fearfulness of the holy man, dared neither to touch nor open it, and so decided to build a temple around it. It’s your choice to either believe it or not, but be sure to stop by this temple on special occasions and holy days: you’ll witness a spectacular ceremony here.
- Location: Jalan Petitenget, Seminyak
Pura Samuan Tiga
Samuan Tiga Temple is strategically located set back a little from the main road between Ubud and Tampaksiring, and used to be one of the most popular tourist destinations. This sacred temple was the royal temple of the Udayana Warmadewa dynasty (a Balinese King who ruled in the 10th century). Samuan Tiga means three (tiga) meetings (samuan) and the temple is assumed to be the venue for the great meeting between Gods, deities and saints.
Pura Samuan Tiga offers unique architecture and a stunning view, flanked by two rivers, the Pande and Tegending, on the east side and the remains of an ancient pool on the west side, with sacred Banyan, Pule and Curiga trees growing around the site. The temple has seven courtyards separated by walls and split gates, but connected by stairs leading up to the innermost courtyard, believed to be the meeting hall of three holy spirits.
This stunning architecture and history provides the annual stage for the oldest Balinese Hindu ritual. Siat Sampian (sampian wars) takes place during the 10th full moon (in Balinese called Purnama Kadasa, it falls every April) and normally lasts from 06:00 to approximately 13:00. The 'war' is performed by over 200 males and dozens of females, who attack each other using young-coconut leaf arrangements called sampian. Make sure you don’t miss this unique amazing ritual while you’re here for holiday in April.
- Location: Between Ubud and Tampaksiring
Temples in Kuta Beach
Kuta does not have a popular main temple to visit, but sprinkled along the main road you can find regular temples worth a peek at during your holiday here. Positioned on Jalan Pantai Kuta you’ll find Pura Batu Bolong; on Kuta Sidewalk is Pura Penataran; and on Kuta Beach a few metres east from the main gate is Pura Kalangan Majelangu. Every morning and late afternoon right after sunset, the Balinese who live in the neighbourhood come here to pray and present offerings.
The temple is busy only on special occasions during holy days and ceremonies such as Melasti: three or four days prior to Nyepi (the day of silence that falls on Bali’s Lunar New Year), the Balinese gather to send prayers and offerings to Sanghyang Widhi/Vishnu-Devas-Bataras on the beach to respect them as the owners of the land and sea.
- Location: Kuta Beach