Most people visit Bali to enjoy it’s beaches, and also visit it’s unique temples.  Many of the temples reflect the predominant Hindu culture on Bali. Well known for their beautiful architecture, their designs have been used in homes and gardens everywhere. There are many temples in Bali, but if you only have a short time, then just visit the more famous ones.

The well known temples are usually crowded with tourists and locals, and you might not even experience the serene atmosphere that you see in photographs. On my recent trip to Bali, I only had half a day for temple sight-seeing in the afternoon. Wanting to capture sunset photos with the temples, I picked the 2 more well known temples that are located on the western coast of Bali.

Tanah Lot

Entry fee: Rph 30,000

This is one of the most important temples in Bali, and is also the poster child of Bali. You will probably see more photos, posters and advertisements of Bali with this temple in it. The temple is built on a large rock along the coast. During high tide, the temple is isolated from the coast, but during low tide, visitors can cross onto the temple.

After getting off at the carpark, we had to go through a gauntlet of souvenir shops and restaurants before we finally came to the temple.

Tanah Lot, the most photographed temple in Bali. I was trying a long exposure shot with a ND100 filter.
Tanah Lot, the most photographed temple in Bali. I was trying a long exposure shot with a ND100 filter here.
It was low tide when I arrived and visitors were climbing all over the place.
It was low tide when I arrived and visitors were climbing all over the place.

Legend has it that the area around the temple is guarded by sea snakes. But that doesn’t deter the hordes of tourists that clamber all over the rocks.

Tourists risking their lives to get that wave breaking shot.
Tourists risking their lives to get that wave breaking shot.
More Chinese tourists trying to get a selfie with the waves breaking behind them.
More Chinese tourists trying to get a selfie with the waves breaking behind them. I wonder if anyone ever falls into the sea.

Besides, the temple itself, there are a couple of interesting rock formations in the area.

Another long exposure shot with a rock arch on the other side of Tanah Lot.
Another long exposure shot with a rock arch on the other side of Tanah Lot.
The rocky coast line around Tanah Lot.
The rocky coast line around Tanah Lot.

As I had to choose only  one temple to station myself during sunset, I decided not to pick Tanah Lot. There a couple of reasons, foremost is that Tanah Lot gets extremely crowded towards evening as almost every tourist comes here hoping to see a beautiful sunset with the temple rock. You would be hard pressed to find a peaceful spot to take your photos, or to enjoy the sunset without a selfie taking tourist getting in your way.

Secondly, depending on the time of year, you may not get the setting sun directly behind the temple. So if you are planning for that perfect shot, it pays to do some prior research first.

So off we went to the second and last temple of the day, which I hoped to get some postcard worthy photos.

Uluwatu

Entry fee: Rph 50,000

Uluwatu Temple is located right at the southern most tip of Bali. This is one of the 9 key directional temples of Bali (Tanah Lot is one of the 9 temples too). Built onto the edge of tall spectacular cliffs, I find that Uluwatu is visually more impressive than Tanah Lot. On a clear day, it is said that you can see Uluwatu Temple from Tanah Lot.

Before entering the temple itself, you would have to walk through a monkey forest. The monkeys are known to grab visitors’ belongings and you have to offer the monkeys some food to try to get your stuff back. So keep all loose items like sunglasses, hats, cameras, and food hidden. Visitors also have to wrap a sarong around their waist before entering the temple and these are given out at the entrance.

The spectacular and imposing cliffs of Uluwatu.
The spectacular and imposing cliffs of Uluwatu which look out into the Indian Ocean.

The temple itself is quite small and is closed off to visitors. So we could only walk around the outer courtyards and pathways. Being built on a towering cliff, you will find yourself looking at the ocean waves crashing into the rocks far below.

Another reason for coming here is to watch the Kecek Dance which is performed every evening at 6pm. The entry fee is Rph 100,000 and we decided to skip it as it was quite pricey and actually takes place in an amphi-theatre outside the temple. The dance starts at 6pm and lasts until after sunset. So if you would like to watch a traditional Balinese dance with fire elements, and the sunset as a background, this is the thing for you.

Another view of more cliffs and the amphi-theatre that houses the Kecek Dance.
Another view of more cliffs and the amphi-theatre that houses the Kecek Dance.

By not watching the Kecek Dance, we had a lot of time to look around. So we settled ourselves along the pathway that runs along the cliff edge and waited for sunset.

Impressive sight of the temple built along the cliff edge.
Impressive sight of the temple built on the cliff edge.
As the sun set, the cliffs started taking on an orange glow.
As the sun sets, the cliffs started taking on an orange glow.
More tourists risking their lives taking selfiies by the cliff edge.
More tourists risking their lives taking selfiies by the cliff edge.
The sun was finally setting. Beautiful sight!
The sun was finally setting. What a beautiful sight!
A classic Balinese shot I must say.
A classic Balinese shot I must say.
And the day ends in fire.
And the day ends in fire.

 Getting Around

The best way is to hire a car with driver. There are many of these drivers available and you can check their service and prices through the internet or enquire in Tripadvisor. The temples are very far apart and you will not be able to cover all of them in a day. Travel time is always extended due to the traffic jams and narrow roads which often limit traffic to one lane per direction.

From this trip, I would say that Tanah Lot and Uluwatu can be covered in an afternoon. You only have to choose which one you want to watch sunset from.

3 thoughts on “Temple Hopping, Bali

  1. Nice photos and sounds like you had a nice relaxing holiday. Bali has always been a nice place to unwind for me. And about the Chinese Tourists, hmmm somehow i dont have any nice things to say. I endured these ppl during the EU trip and it was OMG moments! haha

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