Travellers in Bali often seek its iridescent green rice terraces and beaches, but there is another way to explore the island: templehopping.
Bali is home to thousands of Hindu temples with charming courtyards and intricate designs. Each temple (or pura) has its own architecture, inspiring views and backstory, and templehopping can be a delightful eyeopener.
The largest and most important place of worship in Bali, this complex of more than 20 temples is often referred to as the “Mother Temple”.
Located almost 1,000m up the side of Mount Agung, it is said to have been founded in the 8th century by a Javanese sage.
Today, it has hundreds of shrines for ancestral spirits, deified kings and nature gods.
Pro tip: it doesn’t cost much to hire a guide (they’re pushy, but also open to bargaining), but you’re probably just as well off with your own guidebook.
NEXT: Pura Taman Ayun →
Vast and imposing, its name means “beautiful garden” and the description is apt.
Surrounded by a wide, elegant moat, this temple symbolises the mythological home of the gods floating in the cosmic ocean. Inside the moat are many towers, some of which honour Bali’s holiest mountains – Batur, Agung and Batukaru.
The temple is thought to ensure the harmonious circulation of water from the mountains to the rice fields, the sea and back to the mountains.
Unesco has even named it a World Heritage Site!
NEXT: Pura Ulun Danu Batur →
The second most important temple on Bali, it is located on Mount Batur, an active volcano which last erupted in 2000.
It is dedicated to the goddess of Lake Batur, a crater lake in the caldera of the volcano, who is believed to control water for irrigation systems throughout Bali.
The complex of more than 100 shrines used to be nearer the lake, down in the caldera. But an eruption in 1926 prompted villagers to move it to its present site on the caldera’s highest rim. The upside is that the temple now boasts stunning views of the lake below.
NEXT: Pura Tanah Lot →
Located on a rocky islet off the south-west coast, this striking sea temple is easily the most visited and photographed in all of Bali.
At high tide, the beach connecting it to the mainland gets submerged and the temple is surrounded by crashing waves. But when evening comes and the tide is low, busloads of tourists arrive for that compulsory sunset selfie on the beach.
The place is so commercialised that you have to walk through a maze of souvenir shops just to reach the temple. Even on the beach, expect vendors.
The upside? You do not have to worry about finding food and drink – there are restaurants and cafes everywhere and even an ATM.
And the view at sunset is as lovely as the postcards make it out to be – simply breathtaking.
NEXT: Pura Luhur Uluwatu →
Located on a cliff about 70m above the sea, this temple on the south-western tip of the islandhas dramatic views of waves crashing onto the rocks below.
While only worshippers can access the small inner temple on the jutting tip, tourists can walk along the cliff and enjoy the sea breeze and sweeping view.
At sunset, a traditional Balinese kecak or dance and music drama is performed daily, with actors enacting scenes from the Ramayana epic. Actors playing fantastical roles such as a golden deer and monkey king are accompanied by a choir of singing and chanting men. Admission is 100,000 rupiah (S$10.20).
Be warned: the monkeys there snatch hats, sunglasses – anything, really.
NEXT: Pura Goa Lawah →
This is Bali’s own Bat Cave.
Located next to a cliff, this temple has a cave filled with the winged creatures. From some locations on the grounds, the bats can be seen flying around in the cave. I have never seen so many bats during the day.
Devotees believe that a giant snake – the deity Naga Basuki – lives in the cave and feeds on the bats.
Legend has it that the cave leads all the way to Pura Besakih, about 19km away.
NEXT: Pura Tirta Empul →
Famous for its spring, which is also a river source, this temple is a favourite among locals and tourists.
Many come for a dip in its bathing pools – or just to splash their faces – as visitors believe its waters have curative properties. You are also welcome to take a dip or simply dangle your feet by the edge of the pool.
Discovered in the 10th century, the spring is believed to have been created by the Hindu god Indra, who pierced the earth to release a spring of pure and sacred water. A temple was then built around the spring.
And although not many places of worship qualify as family attractions, this one does – children can be seen gleefully enjoying themselves as if they were at a water playground in Singapore.
NEXT: Pura Besakih →
By Benson Ang, The Straits Times, 28 August 2016
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