Bali is very famous for all its temples; it is for that reason that the Island is often referred to as The Island of the Gods.
Every single house in Bali has its own family temple, so you can already count the amount of small temples around the island. On top of that there is a minimum of 3 temples in each village, who are symbolic to the three main Gods in Balinese Hinduism; Brahma (the creator), Visnu (the protector) and Shiva (the destroyer). And these are just the regular village temples, which are basically the same all over the island.
But Bali has a few very special temples, which have become a tourist destination as well due to its beauty, its uniqueness and its location. Some of these temples can get very busy, so we always suggest you to visit them early in the morning.
Please do note that you are required to wear proper attire when visiting a temple, meaning a sarong to cover your knees, a scarf around your waist and shoulders covered. At most bigger temples you can hire these on the spot. For women it is important to know that you are not allowed to enter a temple whilst menstruating.
So from all of these amazing temples, which ones are our favorites? We will list 5 of our top temples in Bali to visit. If you have any addition to the list, please do let us know!
- Besakih Temple – The Mother temple
The first temple we want to highlight is the most important temple in Bali, Besakih Temple, also called the Mother Temple. It is the most important, the largest and holiest temple of Hindu religion in Bali, and one of a series of Balinese temples. Located nearly 1000 meters up the slopes of Mt. Agung, it is an extensive complex of 23 separate but related temples with the largest and most important being Pura Penataran Agung. The temple is built on six levels, terraced up the slope. As Mt. Agung is considered the holiest place of the Island, the Besakih temple automatically is as well.
All temples of every Balinese home and family temple comes together at the Besakih temple. It is also the only temple open to every devotee from any caste groups. This is because of its nature as the primary center of all ceremonial activities.
The complex is very impressive to visit, as well are the views. Knowing that this is the most important place for the Balinese in their religion, it makes it a very special spot to visit.
The best visiting times of the day are in the early morning and in the evening as the complex is much quieter during these hours. The official guides are easily identifiable by their traditional Batik shirts.
The Besakih temple is about 1,5 – 2 hours’ drive from Ubud. We suggest you to go by car as the roads can be challenging.
- Tirta Empul – The holy water spring temple
The Tirta Empul temple is probably the most visited temple by our volunteers as it is located close to Ubud, at about a 30 minutes’ drive. This temple visit is often combined with other sights in the area such as Tegallalang rice terraces, coffee plantations and Kintamani and Lake Batur. Tirta Empul is a special temple, as it is not just only a temple to pray but also a place where Balinese come for cleansing and purification. Tirta Empul means Holy Spring in Balinese. The temple pond has a spring which gives out fresh water regularly, which Balinese Hindus consider to be holy.
The temple compound consists of a large bathing structure, famous for its holy spring water, where Balinese Hindus go to for ritual purification. The water in the pools is believed to have magical powers and therefore local Balinese come here to purify themselves under the 30 water fountains that goes into the pools.
Behind this area there is a large temple area where the Balinese pray after the purification.
It can get very busy at this temple, as it is very popular by both tourists as local Balinese. Especially on auspicious days such as Full Moon, the pools are full with Balinese who come for the cleansing ritual.
We suggest you to come early morning, and if you are interested to experience the purification ritual, make sure you bring proper and spare clothes. In this case we strongly suggest you to go with a local Balinese guide who can explain the process to you and guide you through it.
- Lempuyang Temple – The Gateway to Heaven
Lempuyang is located in the highlands of Bali on the peak of Mount Lempuyang. It is one of the oldest temples on the island. Getting to the temple is a steep climb, there are 1,700 steps, and you need to be reasonably fit. The view from the top of Mount Lempuyang is worth it though and if you arrive on a clear day you can even see Mount Rinjani in Lombok.
Not all areas of the temple are open for visitors due to its very holy and sacred location. However just seeing the complex and wandering around can give you a very spiritual feeling.
This temple is arguably the temple with the most stunning view in Bali. The temple gates located high up the mountain with an astonishing view towards Mt. Agung is the reason for this temple’s nick name; the gateway to heaven. Over the past few years this temple has developed as a very popular spot, and is even called the Instagram temple, thanks to its amazing photo spot in between the two gates. You have probably seen the pictures around on social media 😉 Do keep in mind that these days there are actual waiting lines (sometimes up to 3 hours) to take that famous picture!
Located on the most eastern point of the island, the Lempuyang Temple is around 2 hours drive from Ubud.
- Tanah Lot – The temple in the sea
After these temples located in the North of Bali, we head down South for probably the most touristic temple in Bali, the Tanah Lot temple. Even though this temple is very touristic, which does not always makes it a pleasant visit, we do put it on our list here as we think it is definitely a must visit whilst you are in Bali.
The Tanah Lot temple complex is located atop of a rocky island just off the West coast of Bali. The setting is beautiful. Your first look at the temple is from the top of the cliffs. You can, and should, climb down to the beach for a closer look. You can even walk across the rocks and enter the temple at low tide (after you’ve received a blessing). The best time to visit is around sunset when you get all the amazing colors in the sky and the water.
The whole area is nice to walk around. There is a large garden up the hills with some restaurants as well and down at the beach there are many spots to sit down and enjoy the views. Please do note you won’t be the only one, especially around sunset time.
- Uluwatu Temple – Temple on the cliffs
The last temple on our list is the Uluwatu temple. Located in the most Southern part of Bali, on the Uluwatu cliffs. Just for those views this is one of our favorite temples, well actually places in general, in Bali. The sunsets from this spot are truly amazing, and reason enough to visit this temple during sunset hours. And while you are there, make sure to watch the traditional Kecak Fire Dance at the large open space in the middle of the temple. It is absolutely magical to see the sun set into the waters and watch this unique traditional dance at the same time.
The temple is also home to a lot of monkeys, which is fun of course for pictures, but make sure to keep an eye on your belongings, as these monkeys are very cheeky and love your sunglasses!
Besides being it one of the top touristic destinations and therefore busy every day, the Uluwatu temple is also a very important temple to the Balinese.
The Balinese Hindus believe that the three divine powers of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva become one here. That belief results in making Uluwatu Temple a place of worship of Siva Rudra, the Balinese Hindu deity of all elements and aspects of life in the universe. Pura Uluwatu is also dedicated to protect Bali from evil sea spirits.