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Best Temples in Bali

When there are so many Temples in Bali to choose from, how do you decide which ones to see?  Some are very commercialized and others are pretty far off the beaten path. Others are only accessible at low tide. Use this list as your ultimate reference guide for visiting the best temples in Bali.

Hindu is the predominant religion in Bali, making it one of the most ornamental places we’ve ever been to. The temples in Bali are beautifully ornate. Each one is different from another. Along with that, the continuous ceremony, offerings, incense throughout the day give Bali an extra spiritual presence. It’s not something we’re used to where we’re from, which makes everything more exotic and beautiful.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before visiting temples in Bali.

How to Dress

Balinese people show respect in temples and at religious ceremonies by dressing conservative in a traditional sarong. This is a sarong that goes past the knees, a sarong belt, and a shirt that covers your shoulders. You do not need a special sarong, although Balinese have particular outfits for going to the temple. Visitors can rent sarongs at each temple for a small fee. However, sarongs are so inexpensive at Bali markets that it makes sense to simply purchase one and take it everywhere with you.

We carried our sarongs in our day packs and if we wanted to visit a temple. We wrapped them around our waists over our shorts. This way, we were always prepared to visit a temple, but saved money in the long run. Some temples are even more strict and require more coverage such as close-toed shoes. It is important to be respectful and either follow the rules, or do not enter a temple if you cannot cover yourself appropriately. Balinese people are not confrontational. They typically will not stop you for being dressed inappropriately. But you will offend them and it will show great disrespect for their religion and their culture.

What to Expect

Most of the larger, more commercialized temples, will charge a fee for you to visit.  Therefore, these fees go towards maintaining the temple, the offerings, and prayer services. Expect that many Balinese businesses rely on tourists to spend money on everything, and the temples are no exception.

During your visit, there may be a prayer ceremony occurring. This will vary by temple, but tourists are (typically) not allowed to enter that area of the temple during the ceremony.  That area of the temple will be closed off or have signage saying that it is open for prayer only. We accidentally walked into a ceremony once, where the signs weren’t posted and the gate was wide open. Incidentally, we wandered into the service. But we were quickly chased out by a member of the temple (we were mortified!!). Be aware as you walk around. If you notice a lot of people kneeling in an area, avoid that section of the temple so as not to intrude. 

What to Expect

That being said, Balinese people are incredibly friendly!  Most of the temple is open for visitors to walk around, take pictures, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the temple. You are welcome to bring your own offerings. There are vendors that sell incense and offerings everywhere.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of visiting temples in Bali, let’s talk about which ones are the best.  There are literally thousands of temples in Bali. In addition, they range the entire spectrum of size and grandeur. Most of the commercialized temples are tourist hot spots because they are beautiful and have some significance such as the oldest, or largest temple in Bali.

Tanah Lot

A temple on an island just off the coast of Bali, Tanah Lot is one of the most photographed temples in Bali. Since it is only about 20 minutes North of Canggu, a popular tourist and surfer town, it is easily accessed by taxi or scooter. We were staying in Canggu for a few days and rented a scooter from our hotel for a few hours to check it out. For tips on How to Rent a Scooter in Bali, read our blog!

The temple itself is the only thing on the small island, but you can walk to it at low tide. Back on the main coast, there are many paths and gardens to wander, offering different viewpoints of the temple. There are several small shops and restaurants where you can shop and eat. Tanah Lot is a popular destination to watch the sunset because the temple is on the west coast. Many tourists seeking a view of the temple at sunset find a table at one of the small cafes and enjoy dinner as the sun goes down. This makes it one of the best temples in Bali.

Goa Gajah

A cave temple near the Yoga capital of Bali, Ubud, this temple offers a different experience than others we visited. Goa Gajah is also known as the Elephant Cave, because the dominant figure in the cave is thought to have been a giant stone elephant. The cave itself is a relatively small part of the temple grounds. But it is really neat to go inside and experience something that feels like it was made a really long time ago. It’s definitely the oldest thing I’ve ever been exposed to. What an indescribable experience to be in a place that has so much history!  

The temple grounds are beautiful too. Because Goa Gajah is in the jungle near Ubud, the whole area is lush and green. In addition, the trees are tall, with huge spreading roots. There is also a beautiful old bathing pool, with ornate stone carvings surrounding it.

temples in bali

Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal

This temple is one of the best temples in Bali because of its location in the Monkey Forest of Ubud. The Monkey Forest is a sanctuary for local monkeys of the area. They are technically free to roam and are not fenced in, but they do not wander far because they are fed by temple staff. It is, by far, the most popular tourist attraction in Ubud. Walk around the gardens that are decorated with ornate statues, see monkeys up close, and also enjoy the beautifully built temple area.  

There is a lot to see in the monkey forest other than monkeys  The Monkey Forest is a magical place, with stairways covered in moss and vines. Statues peek out from the jungle’s overgrowth, being slowly swallowed up. You can also visit a small spring with holy water.  

Aside from the monkeys that scream at each other, steal each other’s food, and fight for territory and dominance, it is really quite peaceful. You need to be cautious around the monkeys. If you go, read up on how to avoid a confrontation with a monkey

temples in bali

Goa Giri Putri Temple

Nusa Penida is a small island off the coast of Bali, where this temple is worth a visit. Since you can visit almost the entire island on a scooter in a day, stop for an hour and check it out. Another cave temple, it is a HUGE cave system. Once you crawl inside, the cave opens up into a large cavern. There is a large area for prayer with benches and a stage for ceremonies. Tourists are allowed to self-tour the entire cave and there are several big caverns that haven’t been developed. It was an exotic experience, and this temple is off the beaten path, so it wasn’t very crowded with tourists.

Besakih

Besakih is typically described as the largest and best temple in Bali. In truth, Besakih is a complex of 23 different temples, each honoring a different Hindu deity. This temple is an incredibly important site for Balinese people, with the largest temple onsite being Pura Penataran Agung.

When we were there, it was the last day of a special ceremony. It was decorated in such an ornate fashion, with many beautiful flags, umbrellas and offerings. We spent almost all day touring the temple complex, noticing the slight differences between each one. Sometimes it was the color of the flags, other times it was a difference in the main statue.

temples in bali

The Besakih Temple 

This temple is special to us, because we were invited to pray inside by someone at the temple. Usually, tourists aren’t allowed inside the temples, as the inner area is for prayer only. Earlier in the day, we accidentally wandered into another area where we weren’t allowed. We were respectfully asked to leave., so we were a little confused by the invitation at first. We followed the gentleman into the temple and he showed us how to pray. As we lit our incense, we kneeled over our offerings. Then we prayed for life and health, for our family, and for our success. He blessed us with holy water and holy rice.

It was an unforgettable experience, and we feel lucky to have been standing at the entrance the moment he walked up. Despite being in the largest temple complex in Bali, we happened to find the one temple where someone was willing to share a small piece of the Balinese culture with us. He explained that he liked to see other people happy.  If praying makes us happy, then he was glad to share it with us. 

And it did.

We hope you enjoy tour trip to Bali as much as we did.  Please check out our blog about Essential Travel Accessories for your Bali Adventure for a packing list!

Also be sure to read about Travel Insurance and 3 Reasons Why You Need Travel Insurance for your trip.