Historic Bali Temples

We were able to travel to Bali when we photographed a destination wedding at a private estate in Uluwatu. We opted to stay at the Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa on the cliff above the Pantai Suluban break—if you are an avid surfer, this is the place to be! We loved how the hotel infinity pool overlooked the Indian Ocean and we enjoyed the daily Indonesian buffet breakfast in the dining room atop the cliffs. My favorite was their Nasi Goreng (fried rice)!

Blue Point Bay Villas of Bali

One of our first stops on our tour of Bali temples was at the Pura Luhur Uluwatu, a sea temple perched on the southwestern tip of the Bukit Peninsula, atop sheer cliffs dropping straight into the pounding surf. Inside the walls, coral bricks are covered with intricate carvings of Bali’s mythological menagerie. The real attraction of this temple is where it is located and the best time to visit is during sunset as one can walk around the cliff top south of the temple. But beware of the monkeys! They are trained to snatch sunglasses, prescription eye glasses, purses, hats and anything else within reach. And if you want your items back, you’ll have to pay a fee!

Cliffs of Uluwatu Bali
Monkey at Pura Luhur Uluwatu Bali

For the next few days we hired a driver from the hotel front desk to take us to a few of the main attractions in Central and West Bali. Our first stop was Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) at Bedulu Village, about 2km. southeast of Ubud. The main attraction here is a cave dating back to the 11th century. The entrance is an ornately carved demon’s mouth and inside you’ll find fragmentary Lingam and Yoni statues, as well as a statue of Ganesha.

Fountains at Goa Gajah Bali
Trees at Goa Gajah Bali

After visiting Goa Gajah we had lunch at the Beratan Bamboo Restaurant at the Saranam Eco Resort, overlooking the rice terraces in Pacung, Baturiti Village. The view and the surroundings were so beautiful and peaceful. Rice is a huge staple in Asian cuisines and culture and rice cultivation has shaped the social landscape in Bali. The intricate organization necessary for growing rice is a large factor in the strength of Bali’s community life.

Tegallang Rice Terrace Bali

As we headed north we arrived at Gunung Kawi (poet mountain). Also dating back to the 11th century, this is presumed to be the burial complex of King Anak Wungsu and his numerous wives. In order to get to the temples one must climb down 371 steps. The view at the bottom of the steep Pakerisan River Valley is just stunning. The smaller area on the south side of the river is presumed to be for the King’s wives while the larger area is for the King himself and his favorite concubines.

Pura Gunung Kawi Sebatu in Bali

The best place (and also the most crowded) to watch the sunset in Bali is at Tanah Lot where the famous sea temple, Pura Tanah Lot is. It’s the most popular and most photographed temple in all of Bali. For the Balinese, Pura Tanah Lot is one of the most important and venerated sea temples. Just like Pura Luhur Uluwatu, it is closely associated with the Majapahit priest, Nirartha. It’s said that each of the sea temples was intended to be within sight of the next, and as a result they formed a chain along Bali’s southwestern coast.

Pura Tanah Lot Sea Temple

The next day we arrived in Central Bali and found ourselves in the volcano and lake region of the country. We stopped by a restaurant in Lake Batur for a buffet lunch with stunning views of the lake. We even welcomed the cool, crisp temperatures that came with the higher elevation!

Batur Lake Bali

Our next stop was the huge state temple of Pura Taman Ayun. Surrounded by a wide, elegant moat, it was the main temple of the Mengwi kingdom. The kingdom survived until 1891 when it was conquered by the neighboring kingdoms of Tabanan and Badung. The large and spacious temple was built in 1634 and was extensively renovated in 1937. It’s a truly beautiful place to wander around. The first courtyard is a large, grassy expanse and the inner courtyard has a multitude of meru (multi-roofed shrines).

Pura Taman Ayun of Bali
Pura Taman Ayun
Plants at Pura Taman Ayun Bali

As we headed down the mountain we stopped at the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. This is a very important Hindu-Buddhist temple which was founded in the 17th century. It’s dedicated to Dewi Danu, the goddess of the waters, and is actually built on small islands, completely surround by the lake. It is an absolutely beautiful temple with a classical Hindu thatch-roofed meru reflected in the water and silhouetted against the often cloudy mountain backdrop. A large banyan tree shades the entrance and you’ll walk through manicured gardens and beside an impressive Buddhist stupa to reach the lakeside for a breathtaking view of the temple.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan in Bali


Blue Point Bay Villas & Spa
Jl. Labuansait – Uluwatu, Pecatu
Bali 80364, Indonesia
[email protected]

Helpful Hints

Take a tour of the Wedang Sari Coffee Plantation and try the hot chocolate!
Make time to see the Twin Gitgit Waterfalls in North Bali.
For a view of one of the most famous rice terraces in Bali, stop by Tegallalang.

Evonne & Darren Wong are a husband-and-wife duo who specialize in wedding and lifestyle portrait photography. They share a lovely studio loft in the San Francisco Bay Area with their 2 long-haired Scottish Fold cats, and they travel worldwide to document beautiful weddings and events.

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