Staying in East Bali gives you the perfect opportunity to explore the traditions and culture of the Balinese. The Hindu religion is the centre point of Balinese life. You’ll see this all over the island in the form of colourful processions, temple ceremonies and rituals in local peoples’ homes.
To learn a little more about this fascinating island you must get out and see some Bali temples or pura in the local language. Here are 3 in East Bali you’ll enjoy visiting. We’re also including a guide to temple etiquette at the bottom of the article.
1. Pura Besakih
Besakih is Bali’s most important temple, often called the mother temple. All other temples on the island must be situated so prayers can be made facing towards the northeast and Besakih. And the temple is of course located 1000 metres up the slopes of Mount Agung, Bali’s largest volcano, which is spiritually very important to the Balinese.
Besakih is an incredible complex of over 80 temples, including Pura Penataran Agung, the most important of all the temples. Built on 6 levels, you can tour some of the levels but will be asked to be respectful of people praying and to stay out of restricted areas.
From Lotus Bungalows Candidasa Besakih is about a 1-hour drive. It’s a good idea to take a driver or guide, as there have been reports of tourists being extorted by local ‘guides’ trying to charge extra fees to enter the temple.
Pura Lempuyang Luhur is located 1,175m above sea level on the peak of Mount Lempuyang. It is believed to predate most Hindu temples on the island of Bali and is therefore one of the most highly regarded.
However, it’s a serious trek to the top of the 1,700 steep so many tourists don’t include it on their itinerary. It’s definitely worth the sore legs though; the views from the top are truly breath taking. On a clear morning Mount Agung is perfectly framed in the split gates that lead into the temple at the top of the stairs.
3. Goa Lawah
Goa Lawah or the Bat Cave Temple is a fun trip from Candidasa. It’s only a 25 minute drive so it can be done in less than half a day or even on the way as it’s right on the main coast road.
Visiting Goa Lawah you’ll soon understand why it’s call the Bat Cave Temple. This complex has been built around a cave opening inhabited by thousands of bats. The temple was established in the 11th century by one of the earliest Hindu priests on the island. Local legend says that the cave extends all the way to Besakih and is inhabited by Naga Basuki, the mythical dragon who is believed to keep the cosmos at in balance.
Locals stop here to pray on their way past and also come for pilgrimages after the cremation of a family member. You can tour the cave and if you arrive just before sunset you’ll be treated to the site of the bats heading out to hunt for the night.
Bali Temple Etiquette
The Balinese are very welcoming to foreigners in their temples but you must be aware of certain rules when you enter a Balinese temple.
- Wear appropriate clothing
Both men and women should wear a sarong and sash. Most temples have sarongs and sashes at the entrance you can either borrow or rent. It’s always a good idea to carry them with you though. You should cover your shoulders (men and women) in a t-shirt at least.
- Don’t enter the temple if you’re menstruating
Blood is seen as spiritually unclean by the Balinese, so Balinese women with their periods are prohibited from entering temples. Even though no one may know you have your period you should follow this rule as well.
- Be respectful of locals
Balinese temples are used on a daily basis by Hindu worshippers. You must be respectful of locals in the temple and follow their lead. Don’t climb or sit on anything, don’t step over people in prayer, and don’t get in front of or disrupt them to try to get the perfect photo.
We hope this has been useful and has given you an appetite to explore the beautiful Balinese temples of East Bali. Do you enjoy cultural tours and visits to temples? What is it about temples that are so interesting to you? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.