By Amanda Little
Bali is known around the world for its incredible holistic sites, spiritual temples, and breathtaking scenery. Find your zen while visiting these must-see temples on your trip to Bali!
Goa Gaja, or “Elephant Cave,” is a stunning sacred site with demon carvings and creatures swarming over the stone entrance. Wander through the sacred site to see the melancholic relic-filled courtyard and striking rock-wall carvings, go for a dip in the bathing pools, seek enlightenment in the meditation caves, or wander past the Hindu holy trinity, Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. You won’t find any actual elephants here, only the single elephant statue at the entrance.
There is an entrance fee of 15,000Rp for adults (about $1) and 7,000 for children (about 50 cents) and all must be appropriately dressed to enter the temple. Shoulders and legs must be covered, so no tank tops and no shorts, even when it’s hot. Souvenir vendors on the way to the temple will pick out tourists wearing shorts to sell sarongs to, but the price of admission includes a rental sarong for your visit if you don’t want to buy one. Ubud, Bedulu, Blahbatuh, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia
Known as Bali’s “Mother Temple,” Besakih Temple has sat for over a thousand years on the slopes of Mount Agung. This incredible and unique temple complex is over 3,200 feet tall, and is comprised of 86 main temples including the Pura Penataran Agung, plus 18 small ones. The location set atop a mountain offers stunning views and an otherworldly atmosphere to the sacred space. Often regarded as Bali’s holiest temple, the pilgrimage up the many stairs leading to the temple has a spiritual feel.
While many of the smaller temples are closed to the public, the three main ones, Pura Besakih dedicated to Shiva the Destroyer, denoted by white banners, Pura Kiduling Kreteg dedicated to Brahma the Creator, denoted by red banners, and Pura Batu Madeg dedicated to Vishnu the Preserver, denoted by black banners, are open to all. Those visiting should know the temples get crowded in the middle of the day with tourists and hawkers alike, and proper dress of a shoulder-covering top, sarong, and sash is mandatory. Official guides wearing symmetrically patterned Batik shirts are available for hire as well, but are not necessary to enter and explore. Desa Besakih, Kec. Rendang, Karangasem, Besakih, Karangasem, Kabupaten Karangasem, Bali 80238, Indonesia
One of the six spiritual pillars of Bali, Uluwatu Temple is known for its incredible location on the edge of a cliff about 230 feet above the crashing sea. Follow the fortified, winding pathway up through the small forest teeming with monkeys to arrive at the front of the temple. The stunning architecture coupled with spectacular sunsets and daily traditional Kecak dances make a visit here one-of-a-kind. Be sure to keep sunglasses, phones, and cameras close to you, since the monkeys are prone to grabbing them. While you may not always get it back, sometimes they can be tempted to return them with peanuts or bananas. As usual, saraongs, sashes, and appropriate tops are required at the temple. Pecatu, South Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali, Indonesia
Tanah Lot Temple
Famed for its offshore setting and breathtaking sunsets, the ancient Hindu Tanah Lot temple is a must-see on your trip to Bali. It is easily one of Bali’s most recognizable landmarks because it sits alone on a rock just off the coast. Legend says the sea god moved it there himself, while others say it was erosion over time. No matter which is true, when the tide is low you can walk across the sand to the temple. Be sure to get there in time to see the sunset - people come from all over the world to witness it and meditate. Be weary of the large waves near the rocks, because they are dangerous. There are warning signs and lifeguards on duty to ensure your safety. You can also watch traditional dances or find a restaurant to enjoy dinner. Jl. Tanah Lot, Beraban, Kediri, Kabupaten Tabanan, Bali, Indonesia
Ulun Danu Temple
Step lightly while visiting what may be the quietest place on the island. The Ulun Danu Temple is a serene space on the edge of Baratan Lake in Bedugul. The temple itself is dedicated to the goddess of the lake, and is the perfect spot for self-reflection and meditation. Among the main temple, there are many different shrines, each dedicated to a different god. Wander by the many shrines, drift below intricate carved gates, and uphold the peace that this place harbors. Danau Beratan, Candikuning, Baturiti, Tabanan Regency, Bali 82191, Indonesia
If you enjoyed "Eat, Pray, Love," you may recognize this stunning temple complex from the film. Just outside Ubud, Tirta Empul features pools filled with water fountains. The water here is said to be sacred, and Hindus from all over Bali travel to this temple just to swim here. Anyone can swim in the water and splash under the perpetual fountains, but there is even more to explore by foot. Wander by ancient architecture, ornate statues, and beautiful buildings dedicated to the gods. Jalan Tirta, Manukaya, Tampaksiring, Manukaya, Tampaksiring, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80552, Indonesia
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
This Hindu complex is all monkey business. The Monkey Forest is one of Ubud’s main attractions and is home to over 500 macaques! The three temples the monkeys call home date all the way back to the 14th century, and you can explore them to your heart's content. However, you will not be alone. Many people buy bananas at the entrance to feed the monkeys, and if you have food, or even just look like you have food, the monkeys will be nearby. If you hold food out, they’ll even jump on you to take it! Be sure to keep anything small that they can grab tightly in your grasp or put away. The monkeys have been known to pilfer sunglasses, water bottles, cellphones, and more! Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia