Saturday, July 22, 2017

10 Must-See Temples in Bali

Ancient Bali temples dot the highlands and coasts. Several of them have become the island’s most iconic landmarks. They feature magnificent centuries-old architecture. Great for photos, they're usually set against exotic backdrops. Best is to witness them during temple anniversaries. Such events occur twice a Gregorian year, since dates are based on a local 210-day calendar. On any other day, these temples are great places to visit at least once during your time in Bali. Each temple is unique. Try the Besakih ‘mother temple’ against the cloudy peaks of Mount Agung. Or, the mysterious ruins of Goa Gajah near Ubud. The golden sunsets and silhouettes of Uluwatu and Tanah Lot are also magical. Remember to wear proper attire on any Bali temple visit. A sarong and sash are mostly provided 'for rent' at all sites. 

1 Tanah Lot Tabanan, West Bali 

Tanah Lot is perhaps the most frequently featured temple on Bali’s postcards. It features a unique offshore setting. The sunsets here are not to be missed. The temple is on the coast of Beraban village in the Tabanan regency. An ancient Hindu shrine on top of an outcrop stands amidst constantly crashing waves. It is simply among Bali’s not-to-be-missed highlights on tours to Bali’s west. The temple is also an easy standalone trip, as it's a mere 45-minute drive from Kuta. The onshore site consists of smaller onshore village temples alongside visitors’ leisure facilities. These include restaurants, shops and a cultural park presenting regular dance performances. Best time to visit this Bali temple is during the holy day of Kuningan and on the temple’s anniversary, five days later. Festive pilgrimages usually take place during such events. 

2 Uluwatu Temple Uluwatu, Jimbaran 

Uluwatu is one of Bali's picture postcard temples. The temple is also known among surfers as an exotic surf spot. The temple is on a southwest cliff top, 70 metres above the crashing waves. 'Pura Luhur Uluwatu' similarly shares the splendid sunset backdrops of Tanah Lot. However, its higher altitude provides broader seascapes. The Ramayana ballet or Kecak dance performs in an amphitheatre nearby. The show takes place during the golden sunset hours, perfect for memorable pictures. It's definitely one of the top places on the island to go to for scenic and sunset moments. You'll also witness the ancient architecture and sculptures from up close. A dense forest inhabited by grey long-tailed macaques surrounds the temple. 

3 Besakih Temple Karangasem, East Bali  

Often referred to as Bali’s ‘mother temple’, Besakih is a grand complex of different clan temples and shrines. Besakih is at 1,000 metres above sea level on the south-western slopes of Mount Agung. There are at least 70 celebrations held here each year, as each shrine has its own anniversary. Exploring the whole site can take a day. However, most visits cover only the largest and central complex, the Pura Penataran Agung. Another temple called the Pura Pasimpangan is east of the Pura Penataran Agung. On the higher slopes is Pura Pengubengan, which offers great vistas. Sarongs and sashes are available, usually for a 'donation fee' at the main entrance. You can also buy some colourful souvenir textiles at the many kiosks around the parking area. 

4 Goa Gajah Ubud, Central Bali 

Even though its name translates to ‘Elephant Cave’, you won’t find any pachyderms here. Goa Gajah is an archaeological complex with historical significance. It's great for a brief stopover on tours to the Ubud region. The cave was initially built as a meditation site back in the 11th century. Down a flight of steps from the roadside, you reach a vast complex. In front of the mysterious ‘cave’ is a ‘wantilan’ meeting hall and a temple courtyard. Near an open-air collection of large stone relics is an ancient bathing pool excavated in 1954. You can enter the pool with its angelic statues holding waterspout vases. The ‘cave’ is shallow, containing stone idols and meditation spaces. The legendary Petanu River flows behind the temple grounds, towards an expanse of beautiful rice paddies.

5 Ulun Danu Beratan Temple Bedugul, Tabanan

This picturesque landmark temple in Bali’s central highlands is on the western side of Beratan Lake. The smooth reflective surface of Beratan surrounds most of the temple’s base, creating a unique floating illusion. The mountain range provides the temple with its hazy, dreamy backdrop. The striking scenery and cool atmosphere of these uplands have made the temple a favourite sightseeing spot. The large flowering lakeside gardens offer an enjoyable time with many photographic moments. Recreational activities include short boat trips on the lake. You can also enjoy leisurely rides for two on duck paddle boats, and a host of other water sports.