15 best temples in Bali to visit

written by Rough Guides Editors

updated 2.05.2023

Known as the 'Island of the Gods', Bali is home to an array of stunning temples that offer a glimpse into the island's rich cultural heritage. These temples serve as spiritual sanctuaries for the Balinese people and attract visitors from all over the world seeking to immerse themselves in the island's unique serenity. So, whether you're seeking spiritual enlightenment or simply looking to explore Bali's diverse cultural offerings, be sure to include these 15 must-visit temples in your itinerary.

1. Pura Tanah Lot

Pura Tanah Lot, situated just 30 minutes from Canggu, is a breathtaking temple that embodies the mystique and charm of the island. Perched atop a dramatic rock formation, this ancient sea temple is renowned for its stunning sunset vistas, where the fiery orange sun dips into the horizon, casting a magical glow upon the temple and the surrounding ocean. The temple complex is a testament to the ingenuity of Balinese architecture, with its tiered shrines, intricately carved stone structures, and ornate pagodas.

It is believed to have been built in the 16th century as a place of worship dedicated to the sea gods. To reach the temple, you must traverse a winding pathway lined with vibrant market stalls, offering a plethora of Balinese handicrafts and souvenirs. As the waves crash against the base of the rock, creating a melodic symphony, the sense of awe and reverence is palpable.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Canggu.

Enjoy a luxurious stay in Bali, with hand-picked 5 Star Hotels. This Royal Bali trip includes privately guided tours as well as leisure time, ideal for families with kids. Highlights include the sea temple Tanah Lot, Jatiluwih rice terraces and Uluwatu temple with its famous Kecak dance.

Tanah Lot Temple, Bali © Shutterstock

Tanah Lot Temple, Bali © Shutterstock

2. Lempuyang Temple, Karangasem

Nestled in the enchanting landscape of Bali, is a sacred haven that captivates the hearts of visitors with its awe-inspiring beauty and profound spiritual significance. Perched on the slopes of Mount Lempuyang, this ancient temple offers a pilgrimage-like experience as one ascends a grand stairway consisting of over 1,700 steps. As you climb, the vibrant greenery and breathtaking panoramas unfold, revealing a sense of serenity and harmony with nature.

At the top, you are rewarded with the iconic split gate, known as the "Gateway to Heaven," framing a picture-perfect view of Mount Agung. The temple complex itself exudes an air of tranquillity, with its ornate stone carvings, intricate architecture, and sacred shrines honouring the deities.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Karangasem.

Pura Lempuyang Luhur located in Mt. Lempuyang, Bali, Indonesia © Shutterstock

Pura Lempuyang Luhur located in Mt. Lempuyang, Bali, Indonesia © Shutterstock

3. Goa Gajah, Gianyar

Also known as the Elephant Cave, is an ancient archaeological site nestled in the lush jungles of Bali. This mystical and enigmatic cave temple holds great historical and spiritual significance. Dating back to the 11th century, Goa Gajah features a striking entrance carved into the face of a towering rock, depicting menacing creatures and guardian spirits. As you venture inside, they are greeted by a cavernous space adorned with ancient stone carvings, bathing pools, and meditative spaces.

The atmosphere exudes a sense of mystery and reverence, inviting contemplation and introspection. The name "Elephant Cave" stems from the nearby bathing pool, where a stone statue of an elephant once stood. The combination of natural beauty, intricate carvings, and spiritual ambiance make Goa Gajah a compelling destination for those seeking to delve into Bali's rich cultural heritage and connect with its ancient traditions.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Gianyar.

Discover a new you with this rejuvenating Bali-based yoga retreat. Enjoy personalised yoga and meditation classes, together with revitalising Ayurvedic treatments, all in idyllic surroundings. The cuisine is a treat for all the senses; you will also have the chance to explore the temples of Bali.

The entrance to the elephant cave "Goa Gajah" on the Indonesian island of Bali © Shutterstock

The entrance to the elephant cave "Goa Gajah" on the Indonesian island of Bali © Shutterstock

4. Luhur Batukau Temple, Tabanan

Southwest of the Bedugal highlands, along the winding artery skirting the mountains, is one of Bali’s most venerated temples, Pura Luhur Batukau, situated near Batukau on the slopes of Gunung Batukau (2,276 metres/7,467ft high).

The western Batukau highlands are famed for magnificent landscapes, and the view from Jatiluwih village takes in the whole landscape of southern Bali. Nearby, Yeh Panas surges hot water from the riverbank, graced by a small temple for prayers and offerings. The springs are part of a modest resort and are open for a fee.

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Pura Luhur Batukau Batukaru Hindu temple in Tabanan, Bali © Shutterstock

Pura Luhur Batukau Batukaru Hindu temple in Tabanan, Bali © Shutterstock

5. Taman Ayun Temple, Sobangan

Mengwi, principality, 6km (4 miles) north of Kapal, was, until 1891, the centre of a powerful kingdom dating from the Gelgel dynasty.

Pura Taman Ayun, built in the 18th century, has a surrounding moat, giving the impression of a garden sanctuary, explaining the name taman, or garden. From the bustling nearby town of Tabanan a scenic road heads north to Pura Luhur Batukau.

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Experience Bali's brilliant beaches and temples with this stunning Bali trip. Marvel at ancient temples like Tanah Lot and Pura Besakih, soak in stunning sunsets, stroll bare-footed along the best beaches in Bali and haggle at local markets.

Taman Ayun Temple - Bali, Indonesia © Shutterstock

Taman Ayun Temple - Bali, Indonesia © Shutterstock

6. Rambut Siwi Temple, Mendoyo

Pura Rambut Siwi (Lock of Hair Temple) was founded by High Priest Danghyang Nirartha in the 16th century. Perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, the pavilions west of the temple offer panoramic views over rice fields and the ocean.

It is said that Nirartha’s stopover here relieved the village of a devastating epidemic, and before moving on, he presented the people with a lock of his hair, explaining the temple’s name. His hair and some of his personal belongings are enshrined in the inner courtyard of the main temple.

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Pura Rambut Siwi temple, Bali © Shutterstock

Pura Rambut Siwi temple, Bali © Shutterstock

7. Luhur Uluwatu Temple, Uluwatu

At the western tip of Bukit Badung, where rocky precipices drop almost 100 metres (330ft) to the ocean, is Pura Luhur Uluwatu, 70 metres (230ft) up on a dramatic promontory. Originally dating from around the 16th century, it is one of the Sad Kahyangan, or Six Temples of the World, revered by all Balinese.

The holy Javanese priest Danghyang Nirartha established this temple, and it is said he achieved enlightenment here. The innermost sanctuary, jeroan, is off-limits to non-worshippers but can be viewed from the side.

South of the temple and car park, a panoramic short path leads along the cliff top. Uluwatu is famous among tourists for its spectacularly located nightly performance of the Kecak dance. Most visits are on organised excursions, but tickets are also available at the gate.

RoughGuides Tip - make sure to read all about the best tours in Bali

Pura Luhur Uluwatu, Bali © Shutterstock

Pura Luhur Uluwatu, Bali © Shutterstock

8. Besakih Temple, Uluwatu

On the slopes of Mount Agung lies Pura Besakih, the Mother Temple. Easily accessed from Besakih village, the temple houses ancestral shrines for all Hindu Balinese, who regard the complex as the pinnacle of sanctity.

Besakih originated in the 8th century as a terraced sanctuary honouring Gunung Agung’s gods. Over a period of more than 1,000 years it was enlarged, and today it comprises 30 public temples with hundreds of shrines.

Nonworshippers are not allowed into the inner temple unless they wish to pray, but the layout can quite easily be seen from the open gates. Do not enter the grounds unless invited, and be sure to be dressed in a sarong and a temple sash.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Uluwatu.

Main Bali temple Pura Besakih at the foot of the volcano Agung © Yolya Ilyasova/Shutterstock

Main Bali temple Pura Besakih at the foot of the volcano Agung © Yolya Ilyasova/Shutterstock

9. Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, Lake Beratan

Nestled serenely on the shores of Lake Beratan in the highlands of Bali, Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is a captivating sight that blends natural beauty with spiritual tranquillity. Also known as the "Temple of the Lake," it is one of Bali's most iconic and picturesque landmarks. The temple complex is dedicated to the goddess Dewi Danu, the deity of water, and serves as a place of worship for the Balinese Hindu community.

The temple's unique architecture stands out, with its tiered shrines and pagodas seemingly floating on the crystal-clear waters of the lake, creating a harmonious union between the earthly and divine realms. Surrounding the temple are meticulously manicured gardens, adorned with colourful blooms and lush foliage, creating a serene and peaceful atmosphere. As mist often gently blankets the lake, creating an ethereal ambience, you are transported to a realm of tranquillity and introspection.

Find more accommodation options to stay near Ulun Danu Beratan Temple.

Pura Ulun Danu temple panorama at sunrise on a lake Bratan, Bali, Indonesia shutterstock

Pura Ulun Danu temple © Shutterstock

10. Pura Tirta Empu, Tampaksiring

Pura Tirta Empul, located in the tranquil village of Tampaksiring in Bali, is a sacred water temple renowned for its purifying and healing powers. Built in the 10th century, this revered Balinese Hindu temple is dedicated to the god Vishnu and is considered one of the holiest sites on the island. The temple's focal point is a series of natural springs that feed into a large bathing pool, where locals and visitors alike come to participate in a cleansing ritual known as "melukat."

Devotees immerse themselves in the crystal-clear water, following a prescribed sequence of rituals to purify their bodies and souls. The temple complex itself is a captivating blend of traditional Balinese architecture and intricate stone carvings, surrounded by lush tropical gardens and picturesque rice fields.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Tampaksiring.

Holy Spring Water Tirta Empul Hindu Temple , Bali Indonesia © Shutterstock

Holy Spring Water Tirta Empul Hindu Temple , Bali Indonesia © Shutterstock

11. Kehen Temple, Cempaga

The largest and most sacred temple of Bangli is Pura Kehen, an ancient terraced mountain sanctuary and state temple. Below the foot of the stairway is an old temple that houses a collection of bronze plate inscriptions.

Statues of mythological figures line the first terrace to Pura Kehen, from which steps lead to a magnificent gate that the locals call ‘the great exit’.

Above the gate are the frightening face and splayed hands of Bhoma, the demonic son of the earth who prevents harmful spirits from entering the temple. On both sides of the opening are figures of villagers gesturing in welcome.

An enormous banyan with a kulkul (warning drum) nestled in its branches shades the first courtyard, where the upper walls are inlaid with Chinese porcelain plates. An 11-tiered meru (pagoda) dedicated to the god Shiva dominates the inner sanctuary.

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Pura Kehen Temple in Bangli, Bali © Shutterstock

Pura Kehen Temple in Bangli, Bali © Shutterstock

12. Puncak Penulisan Temple, Penulisan

Built on the summit of Gunung Penulisan (1745m), 5km north of Kintamani in Sukawana village, Pura Puncak Penulisan is the highest temple on Bali and one of the most ancient; it is named in ninth-century inscriptions.

There are 333 steps to the top temple, Pura Panarajon, which is dedicated to Sanghyang Grinatha, a manifestation of Siwa and the god of the mountains. Up here, bale shelters ancient lingam and statues from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. Needless to say, when the clouds clear the views are spectacular.

13. Gunung Kawi Temple, Ubud

Gunung Kawi Temple, located in the lush landscapes of Bali, is a captivating masterpiece that carries with it a rich history and a spiritual essence. Nestled amidst the emerald green rice terraces and surrounded by towering cliffs, this ancient temple stands as a testament to the island's profound cultural heritage.

Carved into the rock face, the temple features impressive stone shrines that pay homage to Bali's kings and queens of the past. As one explores the temple complex, they are transported back in time, awestruck by the intricate details of the carvings and the aura of tranquility that envelops the surroundings. The lush gardens and babbling streams add to the serenity of the place, making Gunung Kawi Temple a true sanctuary for the soul.

Make sure to read our article about the best areas to stay in Bali.

14. Maduwe Karang Temple, Kubutambahan

Given that it is probably the most arresting temple in north Bali, Pura Meduwe Karang is surprisingly little visited. It lies 7km east of Singaraja’s Penarukan terminal and is dedicated to Batara Meduwe Karang – the temple ensures divine protection for crops grown on dry land, such as coconuts, maize and groundnuts.

It’s certainly built on a grand scale: the terraces at the front support 34 figures from the Ramayana, including the giant Kumbakarna battling with hordes of monkeys from Sugriwa’s army.

Yet what the temple is best known for are the carvings of Balinese villagers, including elderly people and mothers with babies. In the inner courtyard, and typical of northern temples, a large rectangular base links the three central shrines, called the bebaturan.

It is here, on the outer left wall, that you’ll find one of the most famous reliefs on Bali: a rather psychedelic cyclist in floral shorts on a bike with a flowerhead wheel. He’s sometimes named W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, a Dutch artist who explored Bali by bicycle in 1904.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Kubutambahan.

Maduwe Karang Temple, Kubutambahan village, Buleleng, north Bali © Shutterstock

Maduwe Karang Temple, Kubutambahan village, Buleleng, north Bali © Shutterstock

15. Taman Saraswati Temple, Ubud

Commissioned in the 1950s by Cokorda Gede Agung Sukawati, Pura Taman Saraswati is the work of the prolific royal architect and stone carver I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, who set the temple complex within a delightful lotus-pond garden.

It’s dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of learning, science and literature. Access to the temple is via a lane between Café Lotus and Starbucks in Ubud: walk between the lotus ponds to the red-brick kori agung (temple entrance).

The straight route into the temple courtyard is blocked by an unusual aling-aling (the wall device built into nearly every temple to disorient evil spirits), which is, in fact, the back of a rotund statue of a raksasa (demon guardian).

Inside the courtyard, the main lotus-throne shrine is covered with a riot of paras (volcanic tuff) carvings, with the requisite cosmic turtle and naga (a snake/dragon deity) forming the base, while the tower is a swirling mass of curlicues and floral motifs. Only visitors in Balinese dress are allowed inside, there’s a stall close by which rents out traditional clothing.

Find more accommodation options to stay near Taman Saraswati Temple.

Dive deep into Balinese culture from Ubud and Sidemen. Visits include rice field walks, the Gates of Heaven, water temples like Tirta Empul and Tirta Gangga as well as a traditional cooking class. Your tailor-made trip to Bali's Culture ends with the beaches of Gili Air and Jimbaran.

Pura Taman Kemuda Saraswati Temple in Ubud, Bali island, Indonesia © Pelikh Alexey/Shutterstock

Pura Taman Kemuda Saraswati Temple in Ubud, Bali island, Indonesia © Pelikh Alexey/Shutterstock

Rough Guides Editors

written by Rough Guides Editors

updated 2.05.2023

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