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Bali Temples Guide: Everything You Need to Know + The Best Temples to Visit

looking down from the top of besakih temple

Bali is often called “The Island of the Gods” – and for good reason. As the only Hindu-majority island in Indonesia, it’s a unique place all its own. Whether you visit the thousands of Bali temples or simply witness the daily offerings lining the street, the feeling of spirituality percolates throughout the island.

Although tourism and development have changed a lot in Bali in recent years, the locals’ commitment to their religion is still there – and you don’t have to look hard to find it. There are temples in every house, village, office, on mountains and beaches, even in the rice fields.

So take a break from the beach for a day or two and immerse yourself in Balinese culture by visiting a few different Bali temples.

Bali Temples Guide

Over the course of the month and a half that I spent in Bali, I visited many different temples and learned so much. This guide to Bali temples is the accumulation of all of that knowledge and will hopefully help you on your own travels around Bali!

How to Visit Temples in Bali

Visiting Bali’s temples is not hard at all, and there are absolutely loads of them. Many of the temples are accessible from Bali’s main tourist hubs, such as Ubud, Uluwatu, and Canggu and can often be visited on your own if you have a scooter or book a Grab.

You’ll likely have to pay a small admission fee (No more than 100,000 IDR, approx. $7) which will usually include the required sarong and sash.

Bali Temples Tour

If you’re looking to visit several temples in one day, or would just like a bit more insight into temples in Bali, then you might consider taking a temple tour.

I took this Alternative Bali Temples tour from Ubud, which visits 6 different temples in one day and was absolutely fantastic.

This tour takes you to some of Bali’s more famous temples, including Goa Gajah and Titra Empul, and ends with sunset at Tanah Lot. A great way to cross off some major bucket-list spots!

If you’re interested in visiting the Uluwatu Temple for the Kecak Dance, this one will get you there. It also includes a stop for a delicious seafood dinner in Jimbaran Bay.

Helpful Info

Dress Code

If you’re planning on visiting Bali’s temples, then you should be aware of the dress code for entering. Not only is adhering to this respectful, but it is also required for entering.

A sarong and sash are required to enter all temples in Bali for both men and women. You can usually rent these at the entrance to the temple, and they are often included in the ticket price.

It is also important to be dressed conservatively on top, as this won’t be covered by a sarong.

Temple Etiquette

Along with the dress code, here are a few more tips to help stay respectful when visiting Bali temples.

  • Don’t enter a temple when bleeding – This includes if you have cut yourself or are menstruating. This is because it is forbidden to spill any kind of blood in a temple, not for sexist reasons. Although they’re not going to check if you’re on your period, and you could theoretically go inside, it would be beyond rude.
  • Don’t enter a temple when pregnant – If you are pregnant or have given birth in the last 6 weeks, you should also not enter a temple.
  • Don’t point your feet towards the shrines – Feet are considered unclean, so they shouldn’t be pointed towards the shrines. When sitting down to pray, men sit with their legs crossed and women kneel.
  • Don’t stand higher than the priest – It’s considered disrespectful to have your head higher than that of the priest’s.

Different Types of Temples

a pillar wrapped in gingham cloth on the cliffs of nusa cenigan
A small sea temple on the cliffs of Nusa Cenigan

There are many different types of Bali temples, and I highly recommend visiting a few different ones if you can. Here’s a short guide to the different types of temples in Bali.

  • Pura desa – The main temple in the middle of a village or city.
  • Household or family temples – Small temples located inside a family’s house.
  • Pura kahyangan jagad – Temples built on mountains or volcano slopes. The mother temple Besakih is a mountain pura.
  • Pura tirta – Water temples. Some have sacred water for cleansing rituals. Others are built in lakes or are in charge of water for the subak rice irrigation system. Pura Titra Empul, near Ubud, is a water temple.
  • Pura segara – Sea temples. Built by or even in the sea to appease sea gods. Tanah Lot and Uluwatu are sea temples.
  • Pura puseh – Temples specifically for worshiping the god Vishnu.
  • Pura dalem – Temples specifically for woshiping the gods Shiva, Durga, Mother nature, Banaspatiraja (barong), Sang Bhuta Diyu, Sang Bhuta Garwa, and other deities.
  • Pura mrajapati – Temples specifically for worshiping prajapati (the lord of people) or the cosmic might.

Temple Layout

Balinese temples are built to be open-air places of worship, enclosed with walls but open to the sky. There are generally several different walled compounds within each temple which have shrines, pavilions, and towers.

There are 3 different zones in Bali temples:

  1. Nista mandala (jaba pisan)The outer zone that connects the temple to the outside world.
  2. Madya mandala (jaba tengah) – The middle zone, which is where most of the activity takes place.
  3. Utama mandala (jero) – The inner zone, which is the holiest and most sacred zone in the temple. You will generally not be allowed in this zone as a tourist.

The Best Temples to Visit in Bali

Insta-Famous Bali Temples

Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu Temple is probably one of the most famous Bali temples out there, and for good reason! This sea temple is perched on the dramatic cliffs of Uluwatu, and is one of 6 key temples considered to be Bali’s spiritual pillars.

A small forest surrounds Pura Uluwatu and is home to tons of monkeys who are said to be the loyal guardians of the temple.

Uluwatu Temple is perhaps most famous, however, for its sunset kecak dance, where 50 chanting male performers accompany the story of the Ramayana using only their voices. This dramatic dance is done as the sun sets behind the temple, and it’s an absolutely amazing sight to see!

The kecak dance is pretty touristy and very popular, but still worth the trip, so get there as early as possible. You’ll pay 50k IDR for entrance to the temple and then an additional 100K IDR for the show itself.

Tanah Lot

tanah lot temple, perched on a rock in the sea, at sunset

Just outside of Canggu, the water temple of Tanah Lot is another extremely famous water temple in Bali.

Situated on a small rock island-like outcropping, it makes for a dramatic photo no matter what time of day, but if you go for sunset you’ll be treated to a particularly stunning display.

The temple is said to be guarded by venomous sea snakes, protecting it from evil spirits and intruders. But as long as you pay the entrance fee you should be just fine!

Tirta Empul Temple

people bathe in the fountains at Titra Empul temple in Bali

By Jacqueline of The Travel Deck

Tirta Empul, one of Bali’s major temples and places of worship is just 30 minutes North of Ubud. This is one of the island’s temples that gets attention both from Hindus and foreigners alike. 

This temple is testimony how Bali still holds firmly onto its culture and religious beliefs. If you’re looking for an authentic, Balinese cultural site, Tirta Empul should definitely be added to your Bali itinerary. 

Everyday, hundreds of Balinese Hindus and foreigners are drawn to this major temple, with the draw focusing on its bathing pools set right in the centre of the complex. 

Crystal clear pools are lined with intricately carved spouts flowing with holy water. 

One after another, the Hindus (also foreigners) immerse themselves in the cold mountain water. And through the series of spouts flowing with holy water, the devotees purify themselves. 

This purification ritual is without a doubt the highlight of your trip. 

However, take your time and explore the rest of Tirta Empul. Pretty gardens, adorned with religious states and a large fish pond with huge fish are another 2 of this temple’s highlights. The temple is rather big and will take some time to wander around. But is well worth the time.

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Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave)

Entrance to Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave)

If you’re looking for a unique temple experience just outside of Ubud, then you can’t go wrong with a visit to Goa Gajah. Better known as Elephant Cave, you might get a bit confused, as there isn’t actually any elephant imagery on site.

Instead, the name is thought to have come from the face over the entrance to the temple, which might represent the Hindu god Ganesh, who is famous for having the head of an elephant.

Once inside the temple, you’ll find a large communal bath like the waters of Titra Empul, though people don’t get in this one.

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

tiered bali temple on a lake with mountains in the background

Ulun Danu Beratan is probably one of the most photogenic–and most photographed–temples in all of Bali. Located on the shores of Lake Beratan, with mountains rising up in the background, it’s an absolutely stunning sight to see.

Another water temple, Ulun Danu Beratan is used to give offerings to the lake and river goddess Dewi Danu.

At 1200 meters above sea level, it’s also unlike any other temple you’ll visit in Bali.

The temple is a 1 1/2 hour drive from Ubud, so if you want to see it you’ll likely need to hire a private driver or join a tour like this one.

Off-the-beaten-path Bali Temples

Goa Lawah Temple

One of the most stunning and interesting temples that I visited in Bali had to have been Goa Lawah temple. Also known as the Bat Cave temple, Goa Lawah is built into the side of a cave where thousands of bats make their home, which makes for a seriously amazing atmosphere.

Considered one of the six main temples of Bali, Goa Lawah is where the Balinese come to pay respects to their deceased loved ones before making a procession to the sea across the street.

When I came to visit, a service was underway, and it was an absolutely amazing thing to watch. Coming with a guide through the alternative Bali temples tour I took was also invaluable, as he explained everything to me.

Although the temple is one of the six main temples of Bali and does receive quite a few tourists, it’s definitely not Insta-famous, so I still count it as off-the-beaten-path!

Besakih Temple

Basakih Temple, otherwise known as the Mother Temple, is the most important temple in all of Bali. Located on the slopes of Mount Agung, it is an absolutely huge temple complex, with over 86 clan temples and shrines, and is a must-visit while you’re in Bali.

Non-Hindus can’t enter much of the temple, but you can walk up to the top of the complex for amazing views over it all. The steep staircases leading up to the temple complex are an amazing sight to see, as well.

Kehen Temple 

the rising roof of kehen temple, a sleepy bali temple

Unlike the other temples on this list, Kehen Temple is a simple, sleepy village temple. It was included on the alternative Bali temples tour that I took, and was such a different experience from the more crowded and significant temples that we visited.

My guide and I were the only ones in the temple, so it felt almost deserted while we were there. Set on the side of a forested hill, it’s amazingly atmospheric.

Final Thoughts on Bali Temples

Bali is an incredibly fascinating island when it comes to its religion, and the island is absolutely filled with temples. Visiting a few Bali temples on your trip is a great way to take a break from the beach and experience a bit of the culture.

Whether you visit the more Insta-famous temples, or explore some of the off-the-beaten-path ones, I highly recommend hiring a guide for the knowledge that they provide. And please do your best to be as respectful as possible, as the temples are places of worship.

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Addie Gray is a recent college grad and a passionate solo female traveler. Having traveled to more than 20 countries, she now shares her knowledge on budget travel, solo female travel, and travel photography.

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