Perhaps because Bali is known as the “Island of the Gods,” it has also earned the nickname, “Island of a Thousand Temples.” While that number may seem large for such a small island, the truth is even more impressive, because this fertile paradise has far more temples than that. It has so many, in fact, that the government doesn’t even bother to count them all. At 5,780-square kilometres, the island of Bali is roughly 1/50th the size of New Zealand. In order for New Zealand to have a comparable amount of temples, our hills, coasts and valleys would have to house more than 50,000 individual temples!
In Bali, temples are almost as common as monkeys, and they are nestled among its lush forests, rocky coastlines and abundant waterfalls, and they are enough of a reason to visit this beautiful Indonesian nation. While the varieties of temples abound, some of its most fascinating number only seven. These are Bali’s sea temples.
Founded by monks, saints and gurus between the 10th and 16th centuries, each sea temple is visible to the next, forming a chain of temples that line the coast like rocky, sacred guardians. Built to honour the gods of the sea, the sea temples beckon to the visitor and the devoted from a time and place that is no more. Bali’s sea temples look and feel as though they were plucked from between the pages of an ancient, Oriental fairy tale. If you’re looking for magic, wonder, history and a sense of the sacred on your next travel adventure, take a holiday to Bali and give yourself over to its sea temples.
Pura Luhur Uluwatu
Arguably the crown jewel of all of Bali’s temples, Pura Luhur Uluwatu sits atop the cliffs rising up from Uluwatu, the celebrated surf break. Located at the south-western tip of the Bukit Peninsula, legend claims that this temple actually predates the others and was built by a Hindu saint in the 10th century.
It is one of six temples in Bali called sad kahyangan, which are believed to be the pillars of the island itself. Not only is this temple breath taking and important to the Balinese people, but every night, it holds a kecak performance where chanting men and actors in masks re-enact the Ramayana — one of the most famous Hindu epics — in a dangerous and captivating fire dance.
Pura Mas Suka
Located close to Luhur Uluwatu near Green Ball Beach, Pura Mas Suka is smaller and, because it was more difficult to get to before the development boom happening on the Bukit Peninsula, less popular than some of the other sea temples, but it provides a stunning view of the Indian Ocean.
This sea temple is located on Pulau Serengan, an island situated between Benoa and Sanur. While tourists tend to find it less aesthetically pleasing than many of the other temples, Pura Sakenan is very important to the Balinese people. A pilgrimage site, the temple was built in the 11th century. While much of the temple has been rebuilt, you can still see some of the limestone and coral from the original structure.
Just northeast of Gilimanuk in Pulaki, this temple was completely rebuilt in the 1980s and is absolutely crawling with temple monkeys. It is known mostly as a place to pray to the god of prosperity.
A temple that sits high on a rock amid the raging waves and black sand to the west of Canggu and to the wouth of Tabanan, Tanah Lot is the most photographed temple in all of Bali.
The cliffs and caves surrounding the temple are covered with fruit bats, and Tanah Lot can only be reached at low tide. Its name means “Land in the Middle of the Sea,” and because of its distance from the shoreline, it’s a fitting one. Sunsets are particularly impressive at this temple, but mornings may be the best time to visit since that’s the only time you’re likely to beat the busloads of tourists to the scene.
Pura Gede Perancak
The founder of the Shaivite priesthood in Bali, Niratha, landed at this site in 1546. It is a prominent and important temple to the Hindu faithful in Bali, and one of its main draws for tourists are the bull runs that occasionally happen here.
Pura Rambut Siwi
It is at this temple to the east of Negara that Niratha made a gift out of a lock of his hair, which was then worshipped by the faithful. The name of this temple, Rambut Siwi, means “worship of the hair,” and its entrance is marked by intricately carved wild boar and dragon statues that serve as protectors.
Come to Bali, and discover its many wonders and charms. From luscious, green rice paddies and world-renowned beaches to its seven sea temples, it is a trip to a paradise you will never forget.