Bali is the only Hindu island in a nation of Muslims – this is one of the very reasons that makes Bali so special and different. Indonesia has one of the highest population of Muslims in the world, yet Bali has its own religion – Balinese Hinduism, an ancient form of the religion and dominates all aspects of life on the island.
Travellers who first visited Bali, long before the throes of tourists now, experienced a magical and spiritual Bali that few today get to see. However, the main form in which the religion is preserved and maintained is through the daily visits by the locals to some of the many beautiful temples across the island. The temples’ architecture is like nowhere else in the world and has served as inspiration for Balinese themed cafes or hotels, but nothing really beats visiting these incredible temples first-hand.
How to Decide Which Temples to Visit
There are more than 20,000 temples, or puras on this tiny island. This really gives an indication of how important the Balinese worship of the Gods is to the people. Tmples vary from small shrines by family homes, to huge complees that dominate the landscape.
One of the key factors in deciding which temples to visit will be geographical location. Whilst Bali is not a huge island, its hilly and winding roads can make relatively short distances fairly long journeys.
Based on this, I have only visited temples within an hour or two driving from the airport and two of these have really stood out as totally spectacular – Uluwatu and Tirta Empeh – and for very different reasons.
Its location is what makes this revered temple so special. Perched high above the famous cliffs of Uluwatu, the views are incredible and the waves crash against the foot of the cliffs.
The temple complex is extensive and worship activities happen regularly here. Beware though – there is a resident monkey population who are rather overzealous in their greetings. Watch your stuff!
The incredible Tirta Empeh, meaning holy spring, is built around a sacred spring, and offers a unique experience as you can actually enter the waters at this temple. Locals visit this temple for ritual purification, and visitors to Tirta Empul are also welcome to do this. The idea is to cleanse your body and spirits by bathing in the natural spring flowing through the temple. The water pours from the incredible showers lining the pool. You must be covered to enter this water.
It is reasonably close to Ubud and can be easily included on a day’s sightseeing around the area.
Things to Know Before Visiting Temples in Bali
1. One of the most important things to note, is the important of dressing modestly. Everyone must wear a sarong, even men and even over trousers.
2. Secondly, not all temples welcome tourists. It will be made very clear if it is open to tourists and if the local village or priest has given permission for visitors to enter.
3. Another key rule – and only for women- is that females are not permitted to enter a temple if they are menstruating. Odd though that may seem, there will be enough signs. Obviously no-one is checking, but you kind of feel like you might be disrespecting the Gods if you are not honest. The real ideology behind this is that its an ancient custom to protect the temple and honour the Gods by not allowed blood to spilled inside a temple. This can be from any source.
4. You’ll notice as you wander around Bali that the locals lay out a small bamboo square every single day, filled with things like flowers, reed, rice, and often these are lit and softly smoking. This is the offering the locals do three times a day. It is to say thank you to the Gods and to display respect for what the Gods have given them.
5. You have to pay a small entry fee to get in, and with it, they’ll provide a sarong (to be return afterwards). This has to be paid in cash.
Other Temples to Visit
Getting templed-out is a real thing, and I recommend only visiting a couple before they all blend into one. But if you really want to check out a few more, I would recommend:
Pura Tanah Lot – a spectular temple located in the sea a few miles West from Seminyak.
Besikah Temple – located 900m up the steep slopes of the sacred (and occasionally active) volcano Mount Agung. This incredible complex actually consists of 22 temples and warrants a good half-day exploration.
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple – if you have time to travel into Bali’s central highlands, this lakeside temple is stunning and mountains behind create an incredible back drop.
Must-See Temples in Bali
So here’s my guide on the must-see temples in Bali, particularly focusing on Uluwatu temple and Tirta Empeh temple. As I mentioned above, a temple visit is such a unique experience and provides such an interesting insight into Balinese life.
I hope this post has been useful for anyone wondering which temples to pick on their Bali trip.
Feel free to ask any further questions regarding temples in Bali in the comments section below. If you’re looking for further guides in Bali, please check out my other blog posts here and check out my review of Kalapa Resort & Spa in Bali here.
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