Many people travel to Bali for the surfing, the shopping and the nightlife, but another big draw card for visitors to this island is the spirituality. One of the most popular destinations for those looking to discover more about the Hindu culture in Bali, Indonesia is Uluwatu Temple (known in Indonesian as Pura (Luhur) Uluwatu), impressively located at the very edge of a 70 meter high cliff that juts out into the sea.
Fun Fact: ‘Ulu’ means the ‘top’ or the ‘tip’ and ‘watu’ means a ‘stone’ or a ‘rock’ in Balinese.
During our time in Bali we went for a day trip to the temple where I spent some quiet time meandering the walkways above the cliff, peeking into the private parts of the temple and watching the comings and goings of the worshippers bringing their daily offerings.
This is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon whether you are interested in the spiritual aspect of the site or not. There is plenty to see…. Balinese architecture, traditionally-designed gateways, and ancient sculptures.
I also happened to have one of the more memorable moments of my entire trip at this exact spot (picture above) when a cheeky monkey made off with my cell phone, grabbing it out of my bag while I was posing for this photo! It caused a big commotion amongst my friends and a moment of panic for me, but fortunately a quick thinking guide at the temple managed to bribe it back with some strategically thrown food!!
The temple is inhabited by monkeys because the local people believe that they guard the temple from bad influences, but I beg to differ as they seem to be the bad influencers themselves!! We were warned that the monkeys were notorious for snatching visitors’ belongings and I had even gone as far as to remove my sunglasses and silver earrings to avoid attracting their attention, but obviously I hadn’t heard the warning about how much they like technology! Oh dear. At least it’s a good story to tell my grandkids one day!
Uluwatu is also one of the best places in Bali to watch the sunset as it sits high up on the west-facing cliff offering beautiful views over the Indian Ocean
The Kecak Fire Dance
The Kecak Fire Dance is one of Bali’s most iconic art performances, famous for its dominant use of human vocals in place of gamelan instruments to accompany the dance-drama at its core.
Each day at sunset, the traditional Kecak dance performance is held at Uluwatu Temple.
Kecak was developed in the 1930s and is also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant.
It is performed by a circle of at least 150 performers wearing checked cloth around their waists and for the entire hour of the performance these men manage to keep percussively chanting “cak” and moving their hands and arms!
It certainly must be tiring to do this type of aerobic exercise every night!
A traditional Hindu story is then told through dance by some elaborately made up actors. As a Christian it was a very different experience for me but after a few minutes I decided to enjoy it for what it was… an insight into another culture completely different from my own, but interesting in it’s own way!
How to get to Uluwatu Temple
Getting to Uluwatu can be tricky as taxis are not plentiful and there is no regular or reliable public transport to the area. Going back in to town will be difficult without any prearranged ride or taxi.
The best thing to do in order to get to the area is to take a taxi from Kuta to Uluwatu (approx 30 to 40 minutes) at a cost of Rp 120,000 one-way and then ask the driver to wait for you while you visit the temple as it can be difficult to find transport back. You will need to pay the taxi driver Rp 20,000/hour to wait.
Alternatively join a tour to Uluwatu Temple via this link.
Tips for Uluwatu Temple
- Uluwatu Temple is one hour from Ngurah Rai Airport.
- There are bathrooms and shops with snacks out the front of the main entrance.
- To enter this holy site you need to be properly dressed with long pants/ skirt. Sarongs and sashes (to cover your stomach) are available for free at the entrance.
- You are free to walk around the temple grounds, but the central courtyards can only be entered during special rituals by those worshipping there.
- The temple is inhabited by large number of monkeys, who are extremely adept at snatching visitors’ belonging, including bags, cameras and glasses. Keep a very close grip on all your belongings and pack small items away in bags if possible. If you do have something taken, the monkeys can usually be induced to exchange it for some fruit. Needless to say, rewarding the monkeys like this only encourages them to steal more! Locals and even the temple priest or monkey ranger will be happy to do the job for you, for NO tip required.
- A guide is not necessary, though helpful. The service offered is hassle-free at very minimum prices.
- Uluwatu is a very well known destination among surfing enthusiasts. Most of the surf spots are only suitable for advanced or expert surfers though as the waves are huge. The main surfing spots are Uluwatu, Dreamland, Padang-Padang, Bingin/Impossibles and Suluban.
- There is plenty of space to park at Uluwatu Temple.
- The best time to visit the temple is just before sunset as you can avoid the heat of the day and enjoy a beautiful seaside sunset followed by a performance of the Kecak dance which takes place from 18:00 to 19:00 every night. Arrive early to secure a spot!
Entrance fees for Uluwatu Temple
Entrance fee for Uluwatu: IDR 30,000 and IDR 20,00 for children.
Entrance fee for Kecak Dance performance: IDR 100,000
Opening Hours for Uluwatu Temple
Open daily from 9 am – 6 pm for tourists.
For worship purposes, it is open for 24 hours daily.
To see a “live” version of the Kecak dance watch this great video of the experience by my friend Mike Corey from Kick the Grind…
A few days in Bali is certainly not enough to explore this beautiful island so before you plan your visit be sure to check this post out about things to know before visiting Bali and this one on the best restaurants in Bali. There are so many more unmissable places in Bali that I want to visit such as the best waterfalls in Bali and the incredible Nusa Penida. I’ll certainly have to return soon!
Read more about my #TripofWonders experience in Indonesia here:
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Images: Kathryn Rossiter
My trip to Indonesia was on the invitation of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism as part of the Trip of Wonders. For more information on travelling to Indonesia please visit www.indonesia.travel and follow @indtravel on Twitter or Instagram and search the hashtags #WonderfulIndonesia #TripofWonders for more incredible photos from our journey
I write reviews and feature beautiful places on my blog in order to inspire others to find new, exciting and different places to visit. As always all thoughts, opinions and images are my own (unless otherwise credited).