There are an estimated 10,000 (or even 20,000) temples in Bali. There is one at every turn and corner. You will also find that Balinese temples come in an amazing variety of sizes and descriptions – from tiny little personal shrines to large elaborate complexes. There are “puras” (Balinese for temple) on the top of rugged cliffs, besides lakes, in the middle of lakes, in the midst of jungles, in caves, at the seaside and on islands. So it is no wonder Bali is called “the island of a thousand puras.”
Here is a selection we found fascinating.
This is Bali’s holiest and largest temple. Considered the “Mother Temple,” Pura Besakih is actually a grouping of 23 temples and pavilions. The temples are situated near the village of Besakih on the slopes of Mt. Agung, Bali’s largest volcano and tallest mountain. Many of the temples are over 1,000 years old and serve different purposes. The largest and main one, Pura Penataran Agung, is really impressive as its meru (tower) consists of six levels.
Pura Taman Ayun
Pura Tamn Ayun was built by King I Gusti Agung Putu of the Mengwi Empire in 1634. It is a Royal Family temple. Its name means “beautiful garden” and fittingly so. It is definitely one of the loveliest temples in Bali.
It has a moat around it, a picturesque landscaped courtyard, gardens and merus rising up several levels within its precincts.
Pura Goa Lawah (Bat Cave Temple)
This temple is radically different from the others in Bali. It is a cave temple. It has inherited its name from the thousands of bats that inhabit it. The temple is also a preferred cremation site for the Balinese. Bathing in the temple’s pool is supposed to purify worshippers. Located in south eastern Bali, it was established as a temple early in the 11th century.
Pura Luhur Lempuyang
Luhur Lempuyang is not on the regular tourist trail but it is definitely worth a visit. For the Balinese, it is an important shrine because it is one of the six “temples of the world” (sad kahyangan) and one of the nine directional temples offering a defense against evil spirits.
To get to the temple visitors and worshippers have to walk up 1,700 steps cut into the mountainside with a jungle all around. Once atop, the location also provides some really awesome views of the island.
Pura Tanah Lot
This temple has a spectacular setting. It sits on a rock outcrop just off the shore, in the sea. Its name aptly means “land in the middle of the sea.” It is also a very pretty one, especially at sunset when it can turn magical. You can only get to it at low tide. It was built in the 15th century by local fishermen under the guidance of the priest Niratha.
Balinese temples are functioning places of worship and it would be advisable and respectful to dress properly when entering any one of them. Legs should be covered and tops should not be too revealing. You may have to wear a sash in some temples, which you can rent at the entrance. Sarongs are also available to cover the legs.