9 Must-See Temples in Bali

A trip to Bali is not really complete without visiting at least one temple. There are over 20,000 temples in Bali (pura in Balinese). Even though it’s impossible to visit them all, a few of them are really worth the time and effort.

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, which always included on the itinerary Bali tour packages. Remember to wear proper attire on any Bali temple visit. A sarong and sash are mostly provided 'for rent' at all sites. Below are the list of the 9 Must-See Temples in Bali.

1. Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu Temple

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. Read More ...

2. Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot Temple is one of Bali’s most important landmarks, famed for its unique offshore setting and sunset backdrops. An ancient Hindu shrine perched on top of an outcrop amidst constantly crashing waves; Tanah Lot Temple is simply among Bali’s not-to-be-missed icons. The onshore site is dotted with smaller shrines alongside visitors’ leisure facilities that comprise restaurants, shops and a cultural park presenting regular dance performances. The temple is located in the Beraban village of the Tabanan regency, an approximate 20km northwest of Kuta, and is included on most tours to Bali’s western and central regions. Read More ...

3. Besakih Temple

Besakih Temple

Besakih Temple, known as Bali’s ‘Mother Temple’ for over 1,000 years, sits 1,000 metres high on the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung. Besakih is an artistic and unique complex that comprises at least 86 temples which include the main Pura Penataran Agung (the Great Temple of State) and 18 others. Besakih is the biggest and holiest of the island's temples and is surrounded by breathtaking and scenic rice paddies, hills, mountains, streams, and more. Perched nearly 1000 meters up the side of Gunung Agung, it is an extensive complex of 23 separate but related temples with the largest and most important being Pura Penataran Agung. The temple is built on six levels, terraced up the slope. The entrance is marked by a candi bentar (split gateway), and beyond it the Kori Agung is the gateway to the second courtyard. Read More ...

4. Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

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. Read More ...

5. Tirta Empul Temple

Tirta Empul Temple

Tirta Empul is a national cultural heritage site. It dates to 960 AD during the old Balinese kingdom rule of the Warmadewa Dynasty. Its name means ‘holy water spring’ and is actually the name of a water source located within the temple. This spring flows into various purification baths, pools and fish ponds. The water then flows into the Tukad Pakerisan River nearby. Various sites and archaeological relics throughout the region relate to local myths and legends. Another nearby and prominent site on top of a hill is the presidential palace, Istana Tampaksiring. This landmark was built during the years of the nation’s first president, Soekarno. Read More ...

6. Batuan Temple

Batuan Temple

Pura Batuan Temple, referred to locally as ‘Pura Puseh lan Pura Desa Adat Batuan’, is a focal landmark in the namesake village of Batuan, well-known for its traditional Balinese arts and paintings. Located in Batuan Village, Sukawati District, Gianyar Regency, Bali. It is just 45 minutes away from Denpasar airport. Within only a 10km transfer south from Ubud central, the site features a grand complex of shrines laid out within its 0.65Ha complex. Well preserved sandstone bas motifs and well-preserved traditional Balinese temple architecture are its main draws. Read More ...

7. Taman Ayun Temple

Taman Ayun Temple

Pura Taman Ayun Temple is a landmark in the village of Mengwi, Badung regency, located 17km northwest of Denpasar. This temple complex boasts magnificent traditional architectural features throughout its courtyards and enclosures as well as expansive garden landscapes comprised of lotus and fish ponds. The temple was built circa 1634 by the then ruler of the Mengwi kingdom, Tjokerda Sakti Blambangan, with Chinese architectural inspirations, and underwent a significant restoration project in 1937. Towering tiers from the temple shrines make up most of the profile of Taman Ayun and are a gesture of the people of Mengwi’s reverence to their deified noble ancestors, for the temple complex is considered the ‘mother temple’ of Mengwi. Read More ...

8. Goa Gajah Elephant Cave Temple

Goa Gajah Temple

Goa Gajah known locally as Elephant Cave Temple is a historically significant archaeological site and popular tourist attraction, located on the western fringe of Bedulu Village just minutes from central Ubud. Despite its name, you won’t find any pachyderms here, unless you count the stone figure of Ganesh, a Hindu lord with an elephant’s head. A special place to visit, tourists staying in Ubud won’t need more than an hour to explore the relics contained in the courtyard, meditation cave, fountains, bathing pools and rock-wall carvings. Read More ...

9. Lempuyang Temple

Lempuyang Temple

Lempuyang Temple is an ancient Mountain Temple that located in east part of Bali, and locally referred to as Pura Lempuyang Luhur. It is also believed to predate the majority of Hindu temples on the island. Definitely a highlight on any travel itinerary for the fit and adventurous, the main temple lies at 1,175m above sea level, up on the peak of the namesake Mount Lempuyang in East Bali. The heights are reachable via a steep staircase of over 1,700 steps, with attractions along the way including several other temples and hordes of grey long-tailed macaques that inhabit the surrounding cool mountain forests. Read More ...