When you think of Bali, there are a couple of things that come to mind. Beautiful beaches, the Instagram famous Bali swings, gorgeous landscapes, rice fields, and temples! Lots of them in fact. Besakih Temple also known as, Pura Agung Besakih just happens to be Bali’s Biggest Hindu Temple.
Just to put things in perspective, when you drive around Bali, you are guaranteed to see a temple every two to five minutes distance. That’s how frequent temples are in this part of the world.
Besakih Temple dates back to nearly 2000 years ago (similar to the time of the Pyramids). It’s been a Hindu temple since the year 1280 and consists of 86 temples located in its compound. The best part is you can get an arial view of the the entire premise right from the top.
The temple is dedicated to three main Hindu Gods – Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Bramha.
But Why Should YOU Even Visit This Ancient Temple?
1. First and foremost, to admire the gorgeous architecture of this compound. The sheer grandeur of the place will give you that ‘aha’ moment. I visited a bunch of temples in Bali, some quite famous ones like Uluwatu Temple, Tanah Lot etc, but this temple just topped it.
A lot of websites, guides will give you a big list of temples to visit in Bali. Honestly you don’t have to visit them all. The ones that really stand out (in my order of preference):
- Besakih Temple (For views, photos, less crowd)
- Tanah Lot (Kecak Dance performance, temple surrounded by water)
- Uluwatu Temple (cliff top ocean views)
Given an option, I would choose to not visit Goa Gajah, Tirta Empul and other temples. I did visit these and in comparison, they are sort of ok-ok.
2. If you hate crowds, and can’t wait to get to a location to get gorgeous solo shots, then this place is perfect. You won’t find an audience when you pose, and your frame will have hardly few people around even at peak tourist hours of the day.
We arrived here post noon, and while it was hot as hell, the exploration went fantastic. It is however better to get here early in the morning or somewhere later half of the afternoon.
I am not all that religious and still ended up spending a good three to four hours admiring everything about Besakih Temple. Here’s the thing. Even though you maybe spiritual, Bali doesn’t allow tourists to really venture into the core areas of the temple where the idols are kept. You only get to visit the in and around premises. We tried telling our guide that we are Hindu, and even so, we were not allowed.
3. Every nook and corner is picturesque, and whether you come in the morning, or afternoon, the scenery is quite spectacular. Photos just don’t do justice to this place.
While we were here, we did get a guide to help us understand the history behind the temple better. I recommend you do the same. There is a logic for the temple placements, the various rituals that take place here etc etc. If you don’t get a guide, it will simply look like mere structures all around.
For instance, the biggest most prominent temple is Lord Shiva’s. All the surrounding smaller temples are for his immediate family – Parvati, Ganesha, Kartikeya and so on.
Did you know…
- In 1963, there were a series of volcanic eruptions in Mount Agung, Bali which is approx 20kms from this temple. Apparently, the lava flows missed the temple by a few metres.
- Every year somewhere in the month of April, a priest from India gets Gangajal here in this temple. People of Bali celebrate their new year during this time. The gangajal is used for purification of the temple.
- Bali Hindu Temples unlike ours in India are not at all fussy about wearing footwear inside the temple. In fact it’s allowed. They are also quite lenient about food choices. You can be be eating worms, animals, birds whatever, and they don’t have any rule book that says you can’t.
How To Plan A Day Trip To Besakih Temple
We visited Besakih Temple on Day 1 of our Bali trip. Our Day 1 was mostly about covering the main temples of Bali. I think we did one or two more temples on the way. I pretty much just stopped on the road anywhere that I found interesting.
My itinerary was as follows:
- 7 AM: Leave from Ubud
- 7:15 AM: Explore Tegallalang Rice Terrace
- 10 AM: Move to Tirta Empul
- 1:00 PM: Besakih Temple
- 3:30 PM: Lunch at Kintamani overlooking Mount Batur
- 3:30 PM: Kintamani Lake + Mount Batur
- 5:30 PM: Back in Ubud
- 7:00 PM: Cultural Program at Royal Palace Ubud
Would I want to change anything about this itinerary?
Well not really. Here’s why. Tegallalang Rice Terrace is probably *the* most popular place in Ubud. Every single tourist that comes to Bali comes here. So we wanted to get that out of the way right at the start of our trip. Rice terraces usually open to public around 9 AM. But anyone can just walk in. So before the crowd came in, we were done with that place.
By 10 AM Bali gets really hot. I generally don’t tend to sweat, but I was dripping mostly because all of these destinations are open air, natural and the sun is harsh. Period. So you got to have the sun on your side.
We decided that we want to be in the car driving around during the peak hours. The distance from Tegallalang to Besakih is almost 1.5 hours away. In between we did hop skip a few more destinations. But that was alright.
Mode of Transport
We booked a private cab exclusively from Klook every single day in Ubud. We didn’t try for Grab and GoJek. In fact on the main street in Ubud, we saw a sign board that strictly didn’t allow for these cabs to work there.
Klook is in my opinion the best way, most hassle free way to plan your rides in Bali. The prices are fixed and you get pretty good English speaking drivers. We checked with local drivers, and they were charging anywhere from INR 3000-3500 for a day trip not even confirming the number of hours.
We have tried Klook in Singapore, and our friends also used Klook recently for their Bali trip. Everyone has had a good experience with them.
We paid roughly INR 2,300 to INR 2,600 for 10 hours day trip. We also paid an additional amount of INR 250 as tip for the driver.
Dress Code For Temples in Bali
There is no particular dress code that needs to be followed for coming into a temple in Bali. You can be as covered or skimpily dressed and that is alright. The only compulsion in temples is to wear a sarong. The temple provides you with the sarong. You don’t need to buy them.
I was covered head to toe keeping in mind we were going to the temple. However, no matter how much you’re covered, or you think you’re modestly dressed, you’ll still need to wear a sarong around your waist.
Both men and women have to wear sarongs. The good part is, you can ask the people to matchy-match your sarong with your spouse/partner. If in case you want to do that. My boy pretty much said no to matchy-match, so we went with our own colour scheme. Basically, forget about fashion.
What we didn’t know at the time was, you can remove the sarong for picture purpose only with permission. Our guide let me remove it when there were no other crowd in an around. So you can try checking with them. But for the most part, keep it on.
Temple Entrance and Other Fees
We paid IDR 60,000 roughly INR 300 each as entrance fees. This included the ticket and the sarong to wear to the temple. Please note that they do not have any electronic audio guide tours. You need to hire a person to take you through the temple (optional)
I’m not sure how much the guide charged us for the tour. It was minimal, and way below the ticket price. The guide stays with you till the very end and also helps with pictures.
Shopping in Besakih Temple
If you want traditional rice terrace conical hats, then this is the place to buy them. The prices are pretty good. They have a huge variety of hats starting for IDR 35-50k onwards i.e. roughly INR 250. Similar hats in Ubud art market will cost you a minimum of IDR 100k ~ INR 500+.
Unfortunately, this way our day 1 in Bali. I had heard so much about Ubud art market, that I ended up not picking the hat from here. I thought we would get better pricing in Ubud.
Now I’m digressing from the topic here, but let me tell you Ubud Art Market was a big disappointment. The prices are crazy high and there are so many other markets around Bali that sell these and other artsy stuff for a fraction of the price. But let me stop the rant right there. More about that in another post.