I recently had the chance to explore the amazing state of Bali in Indonesia. Indonesia is a collection of over 18,000 islands with Bali located in the south. While Indonesia is a Muslim country, Bali is mostly Hindu, which is the reason for the many temples scattered throughout the state. Every town, city and village has a temple and there are even family temples. Life in Bali revolves around the temple. In fact, the temple is more important than family and work.
Carole B. Rosenblat
With such importance placed on temples, I’d like to tell you about a few important ones which you should definitely include in your itinerary if you’re visiting for a few days, or even longer.
First, a great place to use for your home-base is a town called Ubud. Located fairly centrally, Ubud is famous for its Monkey Forrest, where thousands of monkeys wander freely allowing visitors an up-close and personal (you may seem some mating going on) view of the cute, furry creatures. Be sure not to bring any food with you, and hold onto your sunglasses as the monkeys aren’t nearly so cute when they’re climbing on you and stealing your Ray Bans.
Ubud also has great food. If you’re looking for a good, inexpensive meal (it’s all very inexpensive compared to Western prices), head over to Sagittarius. Want a nicer meal? The Three Monkeys Restaurant will only set you back about $10 including a drink and you’ll enjoy a view of rice paddies and a fish pond, located at your feet inside the restaurant. If you want some middle of the road food or, perhaps, a bit of pizza or Mexican food, stop by Lemonade. Its sister Green Leaf is also sure to please.
After dinner, head over to the Laughing Buddha which hosts a different band every night. The fun begins around 8:30pm and, whatever night you choose to come, you’re sure to hear some incredible blues, soul, or rock. This place is a can’t miss.
Now that you have a base, here’s the scoop on the temples
First, Pura Besakih, aka, the Mother Temple. Located just over an hour from Ubud, this is the holiest of all temples in Bali and, at 3,000 feet in elevation, you’ll have a great view of the surrounding area. Pura Besakih boasts 23 temples within it, some dating back to the 10th century. While you’re up here, catch some lunch at one of the restaurants on the hill where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the XXXX volcano and the lake at its base.
Bali- Pura Besakih, aka, the Mother Temple
The perfect day trip
Up next are three places which are great to do all in one day, as well as being very doable on a motorbike should you dare to rent one (I did).
First, go to Tirta Empul. Known as the Holy Water Temple, it’s only about thirty-minutes from Ubud in the village of Tampak Siring. Built around 926 AD, the temple is dedicated to the God Vishnu. There’s a constant flow of fresh water supplied by three underground springs. If you go, bring a sarong and plan to get wet. The three pools all have different rituals and different meanings. And while you don’t have to go in, it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience which you should fully participate in. And, if you forget your sarong, that’s no excuse as, for the smallest of fees, you can rent one to walk around, and another to wear in the pools.
Get a guide who will explain the meaning of the rituals and how to properly do them.
Next, stop by Gunung Kawi, also known as Carving on the Mount, or Rock Temple. It’s just a few kilometers away from Tirta Empul. Where Tirta Empul is dedicated to water, Gunung Kawi is dedicated to rocks. You’ll climb down (and thus up) many steps to wander through this temple in the jungle. It’s worth it to see the carvings in the rocks which will leave you breathless, some in their size, some in their intricacy and all in the care which went into carving them.
Finally, head over to Goa Gajah, Known as the Elephant Cave it’s only six kilometers from Ubud and a good stop on your way back. Built in the 11th century as a spiritual place for meditation, it’s now an archaeological site, with the main attraction being the cave with an incredibly intricate carving at the entrance. You’ll only need an hour or less here.
Finally, hop back on your bike (or in the car) and head back into town to end the day with some great food at one of the many restaurants, as well as some truly fantastic music.