Bali is often referred to as the island of a thousand temples. Plan your visit with our guide for where to find the most magnificent and important temples of Bali.
Bali is a small, but fascinating island that has captured the imagination of explorers, dreamers, artists and nature lovers since the tourism boom of the 1930s. Travellers are drawn to Bali for many reasons…. the beautiful sandy beaches, rich culture, dramatic scenery and friendly people being principal amongst them.
For my part, the magic really resides in exploring the many beautiful temples that reflect the vibrant religious life of the islanders.
Religious Temples in Everyday Balinese life
Religion plays an important part in Balinese life, with villages, families, clans and organizations all having temples. Villages have at least three temples (some may be small shrines) that protect the village. Temples are generally oriented towards the mountains or the sea and are spectacularly decorated. Bali’s temples are usually peaceful, quiet places, but during temple anniversaries and festivals they come alive with ornate decorations, traditional dance performances and enchanting ceremonies.
An Introduction to Bali’s Most Visited Temples
Goa Lawah is one of the most important temples in Bali. The temple is believed to have been established in the 11th century by a high priest named Mpu Kuturna. The large complex features a cave inhabited by bats. The locals are convinced the bats help protect the temple and surrounding area from maligning influences. Late afternoon or sunset is the best time to go, as visitors can bear witness to the bats issuing forth from the cave. Of the sacred buildings, some shrines date back thousands of years. Look out for the bale decorated with the mythical dragon, Naga Basuki, who according to legend keeps the cosmos in balance.
The Tanah Lot temple is located on a large offshore rock.
It is claimed that the 15th-century priest Nirartha, who rested on the rock during his travels, built the temple. The temple is a shrine to the Balinese sea gods and low tide is the best time to visit. If you arrive at the right time, be sure to stand and enjoy the spectacular sunset as shafts of light glint on the waters and throw the temple buildings into sharp relief.
Bali has a number of temples along the coast and Pura Luhur is another temple with a spectacular setting atop cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean.
At sunset 100 men perform the Ramayana Monkey Chant and Fire Dance – a display that depicts a scene from the ancient Sanskrit epic The Ramayana.
Besakih Temple is a collection of temples in the village of Besakih located on the side of Mount Agung.
Over 1,000 years old this temple was narrowly missed by lava flows when Mount Agung erupted in 1963, considered a sign from God by the locals.
Amongst my favorites is Tirtha Empul – famed for its sacred spring, the waters of which are believed to have healing properties.
Worshippers bring offerings and then bathe in the waters. Taman Ayun Temple at Mengwi is considered one of the most beautiful in Bali. Other temples worth seeing are Ulun Danu, Goa Lawah, Lempuyang, Gunung Kawi and Rambut Siwi.
Travelling Around Bali
For travelling around Bali the best option is to have your own transport, either a car or a bike for greater flexibility and access to places off the beaten track. A driver may be hired along with a car. Public transport is cheap, but is only really useful for major routes. Tourist shuttle buses are quicker, more convenient and comfortable than public buses. They do not provide direct services, but will stop en-route by request; however, they do not go to some of the emerging tourist destinations.
Accommodations in Bali
Accommodations in Bali range from budget hostels to luxury villas. The luxury accommodations have modern amenities.Search for Bali luxury villa (http://www.cantikbalivillas.com/) and you will find stunning properties featuring amazing views and locations, authentic Balinese-style accommodations with open-air baths, spas, lush tropical gardens and swimming pools. Luxury resorts offer excellent service, spa treatments, excursions, free airport transfers and fine dining.
Photo Credits – Flickr: #1 Jo@net, #2 koni_aiko, #3 yeowatzup, #4 satujamsaja, #5 skyfish81