10 Must-See Temples in Bali

Most Beautiful Temples of Bali

Ancient Bali temples dot the highlands and coasts. Several of them have become the island’s most iconic landmarks. They feature magnificent centuries-old architecture. Great for photos, they're usually set against exotic backdrops. Best is to witness them during temple anniversaries. Such events occur twice a Gregorian year, since dates are based on a local 210-day calendar.

On any other day, these temples are great places to visit at least once during your time in Bali. Each temple is unique. Try the Besakih ‘mother temple’ against the cloudy peaks of Mount Agung. Or, the mysterious ruins of Goa Gajah near Ubud. The golden sunsets and silhouettes of Uluwatu and Tanah Lot are also magical. Remember to wear proper attire on any Bali temple visit. A sarong and sash are mostly provided 'for rent' at all sites.

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Tanah Lot

Tabanan, West Bali
Tanah Lot

Tanah Lot is perhaps the most frequently featured temple on Bali’s postcards. It features a unique offshore setting. The sunsets here are not to be missed. The temple is on the coast of Beraban village in the Tabanan regency. An ancient Hindu shrine on top of an outcrop stands amidst constantly crashing waves. It is simply among Bali’s not-to-be-missed highlights on tours to Bali’s west. The temple is also an easy standalone trip, as it's a mere 45-minute drive from Kuta. The onshore site consists of smaller onshore village temples alongside visitors’ leisure facilities. These include restaurants, shops and a cultural park presenting regular dance performances. Best time to visit this Bali temple is during the holy day of Kuningan and on the temple’s anniversary, five days later. Festive pilgrimages usually take place during such events. Read More...

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Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu, Jimbaran
Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu is one of Bali's picture postcard temples. The temple is also known among surfers as an exotic surf spot. The temple is on a southwest cliff top, 70 metres above the crashing waves. 'Pura Luhur Uluwatu' similarly shares the splendid sunset backdrops of Tanah Lot. However, its higher altitude provides broader seascapes. The Ramayana ballet or Kecak dance performs in an amphitheatre nearby. The show takes place during the golden sunset hours, perfect for memorable pictures. It's definitely one of the top places on the island to go to for scenic and sunset moments. You'll also witness the ancient architecture and sculptures from up close. A dense forest inhabited by grey long-tailed macaques surrounds the temple. Read More...

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Besakih Temple

Karangasem, East Bali
Besakih Temple

Often referred to as Bali’s ‘mother temple’, Besakih is a grand complex of different clan temples and shrines. Besakih is at 1,000 metres above sea level on the south-western slopes of Mount Agung. There are at least 70 celebrations held here each year, as each shrine has its own anniversary. Exploring the whole site can take a day. However, most visits cover only the largest and central complex, the Pura Penataran Agung. Another temple called the Pura Pasimpangan is east of the Pura Penataran Agung. On the higher slopes is Pura Pengubengan, which offers great vistas. Sarongs and sashes are available, usually for a 'donation fee' at the main entrance. You can also buy some colourful souvenir textiles at the many kiosks around the parking area. Read More...

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Goa Gajah

Ubud, Central Bali
Goa Gajah

Even though its name translates to ‘Elephant Cave’, you won’t find any pachyderms here. Goa Gajah is an archaeological complex with historical significance. It's great for a brief stopover on tours to the Ubud region. The cave was initially built as a meditation site back in the 11th century. Down a flight of steps from the roadside, you reach a vast complex. In front of the mysterious ‘cave’ is a ‘wantilan’ meeting hall and a temple courtyard. Near an open-air collection of large stone relics is an ancient bathing pool excavated in 1954. You can enter the pool with its angelic statues holding waterspout vases. The ‘cave’ is shallow, containing stone idols and meditation spaces. The legendary Petanu River flows behind the temple grounds, towards an expanse of beautiful rice paddies. Read More...

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Ulun Danu Beratan

This picturesque landmark temple in Bali’s central highlands is on the western side of Beratan Lake. The smooth reflective surface of Beratan surrounds most of the temple’s base, creating a unique floating illusion. The mountain range provides the temple with its hazy, dreamy backdrop. The striking scenery and cool atmosphere of these uplands have made the temple a favourite sightseeing spot. The large flowering lakeside gardens offer an enjoyable time with many photographic moments. Recreational activities include short boat trips on the lake. You can also enjoy leisurely rides for two on duck paddle boats, and a host of other water sports. Read More...

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Tirta Empul Temple

Gianyar, Central Bali

Tirta Empul is a national cultural heritage site. It dates to 960 AD during the old Balinese kingdom rule of the Warmadewa Dynasty. Its name means ‘holy water spring’ and is actually the name of a water source located within the temple. This spring flows into various purification baths, pools and fish ponds. The water then flows into the Tukad Pakerisan River nearby. Various sites and archaeological relics throughout the region relate to local myths and legends. Another nearby and prominent site on top of a hill is the presidential palace, Istana Tampaksiring. This landmark was built during the years of the nation’s first president, Soekarno. Read More...

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Gunung Kawi Temple

Northeast of Ubud

The Gunung Kawi Temple complex is one of Bali’s most unique archaeological sites. The temple comprises a collection of ancient shrine reliefs carved into the face of a rock cliff. The main site overlooks the sacred Pakerisan River. This is the same river that flows by the Tirta Empul Temple, a kilometre north. A temple courtyard featuring old Hindu shrines is across the river from the ancient reliefs. You can reach the temple on foot down a paved walkway, passing art shops and small local warungs food kiosks. Lush paddy terraces and a gorgeous green valley accompany your further 300 steps towards the river. The whole view transports you back in time, away from modernity. Do not be confuse this temple with a similarly named temple: Gunung Kawi Sebatu. Read More...

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The 17th century Taman Ayun temple is the main landmark of the Mengwi village in the Badung regency. It is a great example of traditional Balinese Hindu temple architecture. The temple has magnificent courtyards and enclosures. Inside is an expansive tropical garden and water features with lotus and fish ponds. The temple is a heritage site of the Mengwi kingdom and its late ruler, Tjokorda Sakti Blambangan. You can find hints of Chinese influence throughout the temple's architecture and reliefs. Towering tiers from the shrines make up most of the profile of Taman Ayun. Read More...

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The Pura Taman Saraswati is a beautiful water temple in central Ubud. You can access the temple from the Jalan Kajeng side street off the main road of Jalan Raya Ubud. The temple is a great stopover along your leisure walks through Ubud town. You can enjoy sightseeing and photo opportunities with its classical Balinese temple architecture. Its beautiful foyer features ponds filled with blooming pink lotuses. Entry into Pura Taman Saraswati is free. However, as with any temple visit in Bali, a sash and sarong around the waist is compulsory. You can also drop into Café Lotus for a minimum dinner cover charge of IDR 200,000 or USD 15. This will get you the best view over the lotuses and to the temple’s open stage. Regular traditional dance performances are held in the evenings here from 19:30. Read More...

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Lempuyang Temple is one of Bali’s oldest and most highly regarded temples. It's on par with Besakih Temple (see above). This temple is also believed to predate the majority of Hindu temples on the island. It's a great addition to any travel plans for the fit and adventurous. The main temple lies at 1,175m above sea level, up on the peak of the namesake Mount Lempuyang in East Bali. Meanwhile, the more grander Penataran Agung temple at the slope of the mountain (pictured here) is highlight for photos. If you wish to reach the temple at the peak, it's a steep climb up over 1,700 steps. At the top, the prize view is a sweeping panorama over East Bali's lush topography.  Read More...

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