Bali Temples, Indonesia

a mossy face from a ruined bali temple, indonesia

Remnants of a collapsed temple in Goa Gajah, Bali

Bali Religion

Although Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, 93% of Balinese people practice Hinduism and the island is packed with luscious and lovely Hindu temples (pura) in all shapes and sizes.

When visiting a temple foreign tourists are expected to wear clothing that covers their legs and shoulders, so no shorts or tank tops. Some temples provide sarongs free or rental but the sensible thing to do is buy a nice one beforehand that will save money, hassles and also be a fine souvenir on returning home.

Balinese Hindu temples, people and daily rituals are serene and beautiful if you can ignore the buzz of motorcycles, the distant thump of re-development jack-hammers and the occasional grasping local.

Pura Tanah Lot

Tanah Lot temple, Bali, Indonesia

Tanah Lot temple, along the south coast of Bali, way west of Seminyak.

Bali’s most famous tourist pura, both spectacular and conveniently near to Bali’s best beaches, was built in the 16th century and dedicated to sea gods and spirits, so it’s appropriately home to toxic sea snakes that breed in caves around the rock base. Tanah Lot is particularly popular and crowded for sunset photos, just when the slippery serpents are looking for a bedtime snack.

Pura Besakih

Pura Besakih temple, Bali, indonesia

Prayer time at Bali’s most important temple (for local people), Pura Besakih. It’s not recommended for tourists, however, unless you enjoy being swindled. Photo by Sean Hamlin.

Located on the slopes of Mount Agung, a volcano in north-east Bali, Besakih is a sacred collectionof 22 temples that is particularly revered recently because during a deadly volcanic eruption in 1963 rivers of lava missed the complex by a few metres.

Besakih is a couple of hours drive from Ubud so not on the mass tourist trail which is a good thing because locals have become unpleasantly mercenary, demanding absurd sums as entry fees with mandatory temple ‘guides’ who proceed to insist on ‘gifts’ to individual temples or for ‘blessings’ etc. Fundamentally it’s a one big ‘donation’ scam on a steep hillside. Fergedaboutit.

Tirta Empul

Bali, Pura Tirta Empul bathers, Indonesia

Visitors (foreigners too) bathing in the sacred pool of  Pura Tirta Empul, to wash away their sins, as well as their dirt. It’s not far from Ubud.

Gunung Kawi

Gunung Kawi temple, bali, Indonesia

Gunung Kawi temple, an 11thC king’s family statues, Bali. Lots of up and down step walking required!  Gunung Kawi is about 15 minutes by bike/taxi from Ubud on a not especially nice road.

Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah ruined temple, Bali, Indonesia

Kind of ‘lost world’ effect, the  remains of a fallen temple in Goa Gajah, Bali, quite near Ubud.

Goa Gajah caves, Bali, Indonesia

Goa Gajah caves, fortunately only part of this temple complex experience as the caves are small and dull. The fallen bits of temple (photo above) further away are much more evocative.

Prayer offerings at shrine in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

Daily offerings and prayers at a shrine in Kuta beach. Yes, to see the real Balinese religious beliefs at work watch for women carrying small platters of food (that local wildlife will enjoy later) and incense as they gently wave a hand holding a flower, make a prayer, then leave an offering at shrines all over Bali – in hotel gardens, by the beach, up a mountain, in a forest.