If you are visiting Bali, you can’t miss spending some time in the picturesque region of Ubud. Ubud is known to be the spiritual center of Bali, so it is a good occasion to explore the temples and learn more about the religions and traditions of the Balinese people.
Here are 5 temples in Ubud that you shouldn’t miss.
PURA TIRTA EMPUL – UBUD SACRED WATER TEMPLE
Founded in 926 AD, Tirta Empul temple is one of Ubud temples famous to be a purification center. Still active today, it is used by locals and tourists alike. At the center of the complex is the holy spring, the water source feeding the purification pools. Behind the springs are colorful Hindu shrines, where you might see people pray.
The purification process can be performed by anyone, so long as they follow the rules: Enter the bath and head towards the left side of the pool. Cleanse your head and face under the first spout, and then make your way through all the spouts, until you reach the opposite side of the pool. Two of the spouts are only meant for the dead, so follow the locals to make sure you avoid these!
There are changing rooms and lockers for both genders, and the ladies will be provided with a dedicated sarong, to wrap themselves in before stepping into the pool.
Around 40 min drive from Ubud center.
PURA GUNUNG KAWI TEMPLE
Gunung Kawi Rocky temple is one of my favorite temples around Ubud, just because of how different it is from any others.
Tucked at the bottom of a green valley, Gunung Kwai Rocky temple is one of Bali oldest and largest temple complexes. It is made of 10 shrines, directly carved into the cliff, separated by the sacred Pakerisan River. Apparently, the 10th shrine is tucked away quite far from the others and can be reached with a small trek.
To reach the temple, you will have to go down hundreds of steps, lined up with little stalls selling food, drinks souvenirs. The descent offers beautiful viewpoints over rice terraces and the lush valley. Keep in mind that going back up can be quite tedious, especially under the typical Bali humid heat! But it is all worth it, I promise!
Around 40 min drive from Ubud, nearby Pura Tirta Empul.
GOA GAJAH – UBUD ELEPHANT CAVE TEMPLE
Goa Gajah temple is the sight of both a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple (mostly destroyed though). Quite similarly to Tirta Empul, the center of Goa Gajah temple is a purification bath, with 6 statues pouring sacred water. However, the most interesting part of the temple is the entrance of the “Elephant cave”: a giant, slightly menacing face whose wide-open mouth forms the doorway to a 15 min long corridor. At the end of the corridor is a small meditation chamber engulfed in incense smoke.
On the right side of the purification baths is the ground of a former Buddist temple, that mostly collapsed down. While walking around the lush grounds of the former temple, don’t miss the very impressive Banyan trees and the small waterfall.
We agreed to have one of the temple guides take us around and it was actually very nice and insightful to chat with him. We paid him 15 USD, which is what he indirectly asked for. After 2 years without tourism in Bali, we were happy to support.
Around 20 min drive from Ubud center.
PURA TAMAN SARASWATI TEMPLE
No need to go far away from Ubud to some beautiful temples. Pura Taman Saraswati is located right in the center of town, a couple of minutes from Ubud Palace. The entry to the temple is particularly beautiful, with a pathway lined up with Hindu mythological figures, built over a beautiful lotus-filled water pond.
The temple’s name comes from the Hindu goddess Saraswati, the goddess of art, literature, and wisdom. The temple regularly organizes traditional dance shows in the evening and has a little restaurant, Café Lotus, overlooking the pond. The entrance to Ubud Pura Taman Saraswati temple is free.
Pura Besakih is one of the largest and most sacred temples in Bali, and well worth the 90 min drive from Ubud.
Located 1000 m high on the flanks of Mont Agung volcano, the complex is composed of 86 temples, overlooking the Easter regions of Bali, some of them dating back to the 10th century. Pura Besakih is a great temple to visit if you are planning to hike Ganung Agung (which I highly recommend for its memorable sunrise views!).
Around 90 min drive from Ubud.
GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING TEMPLES IN UBUD
- “Pura” means temples in Bahasa.
- The temples in Bali are welcoming both male and female visitors of any religion.
- Most temples in Bali are still active prayer sites, so be extra respectful and quiet if you see people praying.
- As for most spiritual places, dressing modestly is recommended. Don’t show up bare chest, wearing an alcohol branded shirt, or a cropped top.
- Both ladies and gentlemen will have to borrow a sarong to cover exposed legs. Borrowing one is usually included with the temple entrance tickets.
- Technically women who have their period shouldn’t visit the temples, as they are considered impure.
- As of April 2022, the entrance fee of most of the temples we visited around Ubud was 50k IDR (±3.5 USD).