No holiday to Bali is complete without seeing at least one of the amazing Balinese temples. The daily spiritual life of Balinese revolves around their community temples and is a significant and integral part of daily life. From weddings, funerals and coming-of-age ceremonies to the observance of a busy calendar of spiritual rituals, the hundreds of temples in Bali aren’t just tourist attractions — they are daily places of worship and celebration.
The style of Balinese temples is unique, but from the humble temples found in every Balinese household, business, village and community, they follow a common design aesthetic based on principles and architectural practices that are hundreds of years old.
Tanah Lot Temple is a must-visit for anyone holidaying in Bali. Tanah Lot, which means “Land in the Sea” in Balinese, is the most visited tourist attraction in Bali for a reason. It really is one of the most iconic images of Bali and makes for a spectacular day tour.
The surrounding car park, markets and parks make it quite a large area, with the main attraction being a path leading down to the rocks where you can walk out to the temple itself during low tide. When the tide is coming in the local guides sometimes have to convince swathes of tourists to get off the rocks, which can be covered by water quite quickly.
Along the way, there is a large market where some of the best souvenir shopping and deals can be had on the island. Surprisingly, perhaps because of the competition and the sheer number of tourists visiting, the prices can be much better than other markets in the tourist enclaves of Kuta, Seminyak and Nusa Dua, so I recommend taking the time to go shopping instead of rushing through the complex.
As you approach the gates leading to the temple, I recommend taking a right turn around the parks surrounding the oceanfront to get a look at Tanah Lot from a higher perspective. From there you can also get a decent view of the rocks and check the tide before venturing down.
The incoming tide can catch unwary visitors on the rocks between the land and the temple.
Looking at the temple from the land there is a pathway up to the left which provides spectacular views of the temple, especially at sunset. There are around a dozen cafes with outside seating overlooking the temple, with the best views towards the top.
I recommend doing the right side first, then down to the rocks, tide permitting, before going up the pathway for another view of Tanah Lot, which is stunning at sunset.
Entrance Fee: IDR 60.000
Location: Beraban, Kediri, Kabupaten Tabanan
Opening Hours: Mo-Su 07:00-19:00
Uluwatu Temple is, according to the Bali Tourism Board the 2nd most visited attraction after Tanah Lot, with over 1.7 million visitors in 2015. Apart from the extensive and spectacular temple complex situated on a cliff 70m above the sea, it is also known for the Balinese Kecak and fire dance performance.
I highly recommend taking the Ultimate Uluwatu Day Tour + Kecak Dace Sunset Show.
Entrance Fee: IDR 30.000
Location: Pecatu, South Kuta
Opening Hours: Mo-Su 08:00-19:00
Ulun Danu Beratan
The Floating Temple, Pura Ulan Danu Beratan in Balinese, is one of the iconic images of Bali. The temple sits on the western shore of Lake Bratan in the mountains near Bedugul, and its position in the lake can give the illusion of floating on the water. It takes a full day to get there as the temple is located around 57 km from Seminyak, making it ideal to combine with other attractions along the way.
I have a tour specifically for Danu Beratan, but because it’s on the way to several of Bali’s most spectacular waterfalls, it’s also included in several other tours, including the Gitgit and Aling-Aling Waterfall tours.
Tirta Gangga – The Water Palace
I love Tirta Gangga. It’s one of my favourite Balinese temples, quite unique in design and the roads around this area overlook some truly beautiful valleys and ricefields.
Tirta Gangga is the former royal palace of the Kingdom of Karangasem located in Eastern Bali. The one-hectare complex was built in 1946 by the late King of Karangasem but was almost completely destroyed by the eruption of Mount Agung in 1963, having since been rebuilt and restored.
One of the unique features of this beautiful temple complex is the stepping stones across the fish pond. The ticket booth sells fish food which can be used to entice the Koi up to the edge of the steps laid out across the main fish pond allowing for spectacular photos.
You can read more about Tirta Gangga including day tours, location and entrance fees.
Pura Tirta Empul
Pura Tirta Empul is a Hindu Balinese water temple dating back to the 10th century and is one of the holiest in Bali, located near the town of Tampaksiring, around a half-hour drive (15 km) north of Ubud. The temple pond has a spring which gushes fresh water regularly, which Balinese Hindus consider to be holy – Tirta Empul means Holy Spring in Balinese.
You can bathe in the springs alongside locals if you observe a few simple courtesies and protocols. Start from the left, and if there is someone praying alongside to the right, simply join in the queue (or start one) and be patient.
Work your way right until you get to the end of the first pool, and hop up and across into the second one. It’s an extraordinary experience, and one I highly recommend with two provisos.
One, there was an outbreak of e.coli in 2017 due to contaminated water leaking into the water table upstream from the springs in. The water has been cleaned up since then, but if another outbreak happens I’ll send word through the email newsletter, which you will want to sign up for.
Two, the facilities for changing beforehand and washing afterwards are rudimentary at best, and very unhygienic at worst. You are best off getting changed into your swimsuit in your car beforehand and having a towel and a change of clothes for afterwards.
Regardless of the poor changing facilities I highly recommend bathing in the temple. It’s a unique and enlightening experience and well worth the effort to plan ahead.
Pura Tirta Empul is only 1.3 km from Gunung Kawi, so it makes sense to visit them both on the same trip or a day tour.
Read more about Tirta Empul including day tours, location and entrance fees.
The Elephant Cave as it’s known – Goa Gajah in Balinese – is an ancient temple on the outskirts of Ubud. While the steps down to the temple complex are fairly steep, it’s only a 5-minute walk and not difficult for average fitness levels.
The Elephant Cave temple is located 5 km from Ubud, 31 km from Seminyak and 58 km from Nusa Dua.
You can read more about Goa Gajah including day tours, location and entrance fees.
Gunung Kawi Temple is an 11th-century temple complex that sits on either side of the Pakerisan river. It comprises 10 rock-cut shrines (candi in Balinese) that are carved into 7-metre-high sheltered niches of the sheer cliff face.
These funeral monuments are thought to be dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana dynasty and his favourite queens. The temple overlooks the Pakerisan River, which also flows past Pura Tirta Empul, a kilometre to the north.
Read more about Gunung Kawi including day tours, location and entrance fees.
Besakih Temple (also known as the Mother Temple) is the largest and most holy of all Hindu temples in Bali. Located in the village of the same name on the slopes of Mount Agung, the temple complex is quite far from the tourist areas, 66km from Seminyak and around 2-2.5 hours depending on traffic.
Besakih Temple is more impressive, in my opinion than Lempuyang Temple, which is a huge deal on Instagram, thanks to the fake reflective-pool photos taken using a mirror on the camera lens, creating a false illusion of what the temple actually looks like.
Entrance Fee: IDR 60.000
Location: Besakih, Rendang, Karangasem Regency
Opening Hours: Mo-Su 07:00-22:00
While Lempuyang is spectacular, there are so many photoshopped images on Instagram it can be a disappointment for many people. It’s a spectacular setting, with a steep climb up several stone stairways to get to the top of the temple complex. In my opinion, most tourists are missing the point of trying to get the perfect shot looking back through the temple gates back toward Mount Agung (the active volcano that disrupted flights in 2018).
The reality is Mount Agung can only be seen clearly for a few short hours after dawn before the clouds set in. And those mirror-like Instagram photos that make it look like a lake are completely fake.
That being said, if you are in Bali for longer than two weeks I highly recommend the trip to Lempuyang as the temple complex is inspiring for the walk up to the main stone staircase looking up towards the gates.
It’s best visited during an East Bali Day Tour taking in the water palace further down the valley as getting there will take several hours. However, if you are keen enough to wake up around 4 am I recommend the Lempuyang Sunrise Tour. I also have a day tour from South Bali to Lempuyang and ending at Ubud and another Lempuyang Instagram Tour that hits 4 of the most popular attraction in Bali.
Read more about Lemuyang Temple including day tours, location and entrance fees.
Taman Saraswati Temple
Pura Taman Saraswati honours the Hindu goddess of knowledge and arts, Saraswati. It’s located in the centre of Ubud only a 2-minute walk from the Ubud Art Market. A beautiful temple with stunning ponds filled with pink lotuses, I highly recommend making a visit before going shopping at the Ubud Art Market, for no other reason than you don’t want to be carrying your shopping around.
While entry into Taman Saraswati temple is free, like any temple in Bali bare legs and shoulders must be covered before entering. Traditional dance performances are held every evening at 7:30 pm. You can buy the tickets at the entry, but during the high season it is best to be there before 6:45 if you want a good seat.
Address: Jl. Kajeng, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar
Entrance Fee: Free
Taman Ayun Temple
Located in the village of Mengwi 17km from Ubud and 21km from Seminyak, its main features are the traditionally thatched pagodas, fish ponds and lotus gardens.
Address: Jalan Ayodya No.10, Mengwi, Kabupaten Badung
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 9am-4pm
Entrance Fee: IDR20,000 per person
Ubud Royal Palace
Puri Saren Agung, more commonly known as the Ubud Royal Palace is located in the centre of Ubud and used to be the official residence of the Ubud royal family.
The Ubud Royal Palace is located 1.4 km straight up the western side of Ubud from the Monkey Forest. Because it’s located in the centre of Ubud it’s a popular tourist attraction and makes an excellent stop before exploring other parts of Ubud Village by foot. The traffic around this part of Ubud can be pretty intense, so it’s a good base to get your driver to park close-by while visiting the other attractions before heading off again.
Like all Balinese temples, the Ubud Royal Palace has spectacular entrance gates and beautiful grounds. It’s not a large complex, and you’ll be able to get a good look around within an hour.
Address: Jl. Raya Ubud No.8, Ubud
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 8am-7pm
Entrance Fee: Free
Holy Water Sebatu Temple
Pura Tirta Dawa Gunung Kawi Sebatu is the local name for this wonderful temple, off the beaten track a little north of Tegalalang Rice Terraces in the village of Sebatu, 14km north of Ubud and 44km from Seminyak.
While you can visit without a guide, this is one place where I highly recommend you pay a small fee so for a local guide to show you the three places where you stop along the way to make blessings and then be shown how to properly prepare yourself to be presented to the holy waterfall fed by natural springs.
Address: Sebatu, Tegallalang, Gianyar
Entrance Fee: IDR15,000 per person
Penataran Sasih Temple
Pura Penataran Sasih is a Hindu temple in Pejeng village, Bali. It was founded, according to a modern chronogram displayed at the entrance, in 1266 AD, and served as the state temple of the Pejeng Kingdom, 1293 – 1343 AD.
Address: Jl. Raya Tampaksiring, Pejeng, Tampaksiring
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 7am-6pm
Entrance Fee: IDR10,000
Being polite in temples
I've been to Bali before and planning another trip with my wife and kids. Your knowledge about how to be polite at temples is really useful stuff. I've seen people with phones going off before and it was horrible, but some of the other points I didn't know about. Great confidence builder. Thanks Michael!