Bali offers unique sights that you’ll unlikely see elsewhere, and even if you think you’ve seen them all, you’ll be surprised at what you may still find ‘hidden’, off the beaten tracks, and simply waiting for you to discover. For the adventurous at heart, here we’ve compiled the most unusual places to visit on the island. Some places are outright bizarre, others eerie and mysterious – spread out across Bali, from the remote central highlands to the offshore island of Lembongan.
You might want to break away from the confines and usual offerings of your five-star luxury resort, and seek out the unknown, the odd, and the peculiar in Bali. If you think you’ve seen ‘Bali temples’, here are some outright exceptional ones. Discover Bali’s strangely beautiful, and beautifully strange, and satisfy your curiosity with our list of the 10 most unusual and odd places to visit in Bali.
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Sanur has a spooky ‘ghost town’ on Padanggalak Beach, a remote coast far away from the main Sanur hub. It is the vast ruins of derelict theme park Taman Festival Bali, which closed down shortly after its establishment in 1997 due to marketing and financial difficulties, before being handed over to the local government. No plans are underway for its resurrection, so we believe it will still be around for a while. The deserted main entrance gates, ticket booths, empty cafeterias and deteriorated main buildings with partly collapsed roofs all give it a creepy sensation even in broad daylight. Dense foliage and creeper vines have grown over broken windows, and ornamental stone figures loom over in the open spaces, making it a great post-apocalyptic setting to try your nerves. The locals believe long-abandoned sites like this are ‘borrowed’ by lost spirits. One thing for sure is extra care must be taken due to the failing structures. Read More...
- Location: Jalan Padanggalak, Padanggalak Beach, Sanur
For something truly macabre, head up to the highlands where the ancient Bali Aga (native Balinese) village of Trunyan lies. The village is on the eastern side of the Batur Lake and usually requires a boat trip from the other side. While the general Balinese Hindus are known for their lavish cremation ceremonies, the people of Trunyan are best known for neither cremating nor burying their dead. Instead, the bodies of the deceased are wrapped and brought by boat to the designated village graveyard and laid out on the ground around a large ancient fragrant tree and covered by a wooden cage to protect the remains from scavenging animals. This tree, known as the ‘taru menyan’ (which the village also gets its name from), is known to only grow here. Quite puzzling to many is no odour from the decomposing bodies is present, which the locals believe is neutralized by the tree’s myrrh-like fragrance. Skulls and bones on moss-covered stairs are quite the scene here, definitely not for the nervous type. Read More...
- Location: Trunyan Village, Batur, Kintamani
The 'Bat Cave' Temple of Goa LawahKlungkung
As one of Bali's most important temples, Goa Lawah is not a kept secret. But the odd sight of a majestic Balinese Hindu temple complex built around an eerie cave opening that is inhabited by hordes of bats can still give you the creeps... even in broad daylight. The 11th century temple is an easy stopover on your tours to Candidasa and the island’s east. Best time to visit is during dusk, when the hordes of nectar bats swarm the skies over the temple as they feast on airborne insects. Also great during the piodalan temple anniversaries when the temple scene becomes truly exotic with pilgrims thronging in temple prayers and colourful parasols and banners go in contrast to the dark cave opening. One mystery yet to be solved is whether the legend that tells of the secret cave passage through to Besakih Temple, some 25 kilometres northeast at the foot of Mount Agung, is true. Read More...
- Location: Jalan Raya Goa Lawah, Pesinggahan Village, Dawan District, Klungkung
Bengkala, Village of The DeafNorth Bali
Bengkala, a village in the district of Kubutambahan, Buleleng regency, north Bali, is known as the ‘village of the deaf’ due to over two percent of its population are congenitally deaf. The village has seen high incidences of deafness that spans over seven generations, and the people, known locally as ‘kolok’, have developed a sign language known as ‘kata kolok’. The kolok people also have developed their own form of performing arts, from deaf dances to martial arts, and have a unique social system for carrying rituals and social roles. There is a belief in a deaf god, which both the deaf and hearing villagers share.
- Location: Bengkala Village, Kubutambahan, Buleleng, North Bali
Lost Plane #1Jimbaran
Going along Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai from the airport towards Nusa Dua, keep your attention to the left as around 500m from the Benoa Square and right beside Dunkin Donuts is this bizarre old white Boeing 737. The plane is parked in a yard, and rumour has it that the owner had plans to make it into a quirky restaurant but all fell through and the plane now just sits as a nice eye candy for passersby.
- Location: Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai, Jimbaran
Lost Plane #2Bukit Peninsula
This abandoned plane is in a slightly hidden location up in the hilly limestone area of the southern Bukit Peninsula. The site is within only a kilometre north from Pandawa Beach, and sits on a privately-owned hectare of a carved limestone hill. Again, rumour has it that it will be transformed into a cool hangout, complete with a restaurant and bar, and we believe this will soon see fruition. We’ll stay tuned.
- Location: Kutuh
The Goa Giri Putri Temple is one of Nusa Penida Island’s major cultural attractions. The large cave temple is in the village of Suana, on the north-eastern part of Penida. Clear signs lead you to the site along the Jalan Ped-Buyuk main road. A shrine and a priests’ praying shelter guards its entrance. The entrance itself is uniquely a narrow opening in a rock face. You'll need to stoop down low to be able to squeeze and get through. Inside, you’ll discover a spacious temple courtyard. Floorings before the main shrines in the cave’s corner are partly covered in white marble. Read More...
The Underground House (Goa Gala-Gala)Nusa Lembongan Island
One of your most likely stopovers on your visit to Nusa Lembongan Island is this underground house, known as the ‘Goa Gala-Gala’. The limestone underground house is labyrinthine featuring connected chambers. What started out as a passionate cave project by house owner Made Byasa, who was inspired by an episode from the Mahabharata epic in which the Pandawa heroes fled persecution from the Koravas by hiding in a cave, turned into a decade-long building obsession, which he finally completed in 1976. After the 7 metre descent down a hole in the ground, you will be astonished by his feat. He successfully built a kitchen, sleeping quarters, and a living room deep under the ground.
- Location: Lembongan Village, West Nusa Lembongan Island
The 'Haunted Hotel' of BedugulBedugul, Central Bali
This abandoned mountain resort is something that you will easily notice on your trip to the central highland, particularly on your visit to the Beratan Lake or the Ulun Danu Temple. The crumbling, abandoned building is the P.I. Taman Rekreasi Hotel & Resort, a project in the early 90s that never saw fruition and was halted midway. As with our ‘ghost town’ theme park above, most locals dare not enter such a long abandoned place, as it is easily ‘haunted’. Now over two decades, extra caution must be taken around the deteriorating structures.
- Location: Jalan Raya Baturiti, Batunya, Bedugul, Central Bali
The Stalactite Cave Temple of Goa GongJimbaran
Goa Gong temple is a unique cave temple hidden away behind the modern development of the Jimbaran resort area. Up the hill from the Udayana University campus facility in Jimbaran, the namesake Jalan Goa Gong leads you through the small Batu Ngongkong community and a sharp left turn puts you face to face with a pair of big cat statues ornate in red and chequered cloths. Eerie gargoyles under a banyan and tamarind tree guard a flight of stairs to the cave opening. No admittance is provided unless the temple’s supervisor and keeper, priest Mangku Gurun Simpen, is onsite. Inside, a large dim-lit cavity reveals dedicated stone shrines with soothing sounds of dripping water from the rocky cave’s stalactites. A huge stalactite hangs behind the shrines, which is in fact a functioning stone gong. It is struck during rituals, particularly during the temple anniversary.
- Location: Jalan Goa Gong, Jimbaran
The 'Dark Cave' of Goa PetengJimbaran
Here’s for spelunkers (which means cave exploring, as if you didn’t know). Descend into the heart of darkness at Goa Peteng, an impressive natural limestone sinkhole that is located right beside the resort grounds of the Ayana Resort and Spa in Jimbaran. Goa Peteng, literally ‘dark cave’ in the local tongue, is located on a farming field owned by local resident Pak Ketjuh and his son Nyoman Suparka. A large banyan tree with an accompanying shrine guards the cave opening, and daylight becomes scarce after only several meters down. Vines grow further down into gaps and openings, reaching beyond tight spaces inside the cave. Dense air and bat chirps fill the hollow surroundings. Stalactites and stalagmites shimmer throughout. If you can stand the smell of guano and can endure the approximate 150 metre or 15-minute descent, you’ll reach the freshwater pool at its base. It is said that on a full moon, a narrow passage opens as the water level lowers revealing a causeway that leads into a ‘hidden chamber’.
Pura Paluang Car TempleNusa Penida Island
Nusa Penida is the largest island among the group of three off Bali’s southwest coast, but one of the least visited. One site to behold is this unique temple complex featuring shrines in the form of a house and automobiles! As one of the many mysterious temples that dot this remote island, the Paluang Temple is located within the local community of Sebun Ibus in the Karangdawa village on the island’s southern peninsula. Read More...
- Location: Karangdawa Village, Southwest Nusa Penida