Bali is an island known for its fabulous beaches and surf spots, up-and coming-restaurants or warungs, and numerous spiritual temples. You might have already heard of the ever-popular Balinese temples of Tanah Lot and Uluwatu Temple, the oft-photographed Pura Lempuyang (also known as the Gate of Heaven), and the sacred sites of Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and Pura Tirta Empul. If you haven’t had that chance to see these temples yet, we suggest visiting them first.
If you’re looking for less famous but equally alluring Balinese temples to add to your bucket list, here are seven of our personal favourites:
If you’ve ever seen photos of a creepy, almost demonic face carved into a rock wall with a hole in place of its mouth, then you’ve probably already seen Goa Gajah. Also known as the Elephant Cave—not because of the animal but due to its proximity to the Elephant River—it lures many visitors with its surrounding forest, lush gardens, ancient bathing pools and relics, and more. Definitely a must-visit if you’re near the Ubud area. Who wouldn’t want a photo by that striking face?
The mother of all temples, the Besakih Temple is one of the most important, holiest, and biggest temple complexes on the island. With 23 individual temples built across six levels on the slopes of Mount Agung, you could spend the whole day exploring the area and still come back the next day for more.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Taman Ayun Temple is a huge royal water temple with a surrounding moat, complete with impressive Balinese architecture. The name literally translates as ‘Beautiful Garden’, a description you’ll have to agree with as you explore the vast swathes of greenery and ponds full of fish and lotus flowers.
If you want to witness prayer and worship at a Balinese temple up close, then head on over to the Goa Lawah Temple to respectfully observe the locals offer colourful gifts of food and petals to their gods. While not as popular with tourists, the temple’s dark facade and community of bats living nearby make the ‘Bat Cave Temple’ an interesting site to scope out.
The ‘Holy Water Temple’ is another sacred site in Bali. You can even take part in the holy bathing ritual—one that locals believe cleanses you of negative energy and helps purify your life. It’s a temple you can find deep within the heart of Bangli, and one not many tourists visit.
This temple is a homage to Balinese art, with countless statues and detailed sculptures carved into the frontage of the temple by local talented artists. Many of the carvings tell stories of Hindu mythology and can be viewed by simply walking along the exterior of the temple. You can also visit the nearby Batuan Village, which is a famous art village known for producing local and artisanal paintings and textiles.
Dating back to 1266, this lesser-known Balinese temple once served as the state temple of the once-powerful Pejeng Kingdom. Today, locals come here to worship presumably the Hindu god Ganesh, as there lies a large stone structure built in his honour. Another interesting feature of the temple is the huge hourglass-shaped bronze drum known as the Moon of Pejeng.