Uluwatu Temple in Bali: Where the Land Ends and the Sea Begins - WanderWisdom - Travel
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Uluwatu Temple in Bali: Where the Land Ends and the Sea Begins

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I spent a month in Bali in 2014 and fell in love with the island's profound beauty, culture, architecture, and (most of all) people.

Silhouette of Uluwatu Temple against a shimmering Indian Ocean.

Silhouette of Uluwatu Temple against a shimmering Indian Ocean.

Uluwatu Temple, also known as Pura Luhur Uluwatu, is a Hindu temple located on the southern tip of Bukit Peninsula on the island of Bali. It is one of the most famous temples in Bali. The temple itself is small, but what makes it so remarkable is the location—perching on a limestone cliff more than 70 meters (230 feet) above the magnificent Indian Ocean, Uluwatu Temple appears to float in the realm between the land and the sea.

Architectural and Cultural Heritage

In Balinese, ulu means "edge" and watu implies "rock" or "cliff." According to legends, the temple was built 1,000 years ago by a Hindu holy priest to honor the gods of the sea. It has survived the test of time and still stands tall on the edge of the soaring cliff. Today, Uluwatu Temple is one of the six most sacred places of worship in Bali for thousands of Hindu devotees.

The oldest parts of the temple are the main shrine and its imposing stone gate carved with intricate floral designs, dating back to the 10th century. There are several ancient stone sculptures of Hindu deities standing guard in the courtyard, protecting the temple from evil spirits.

The newer parts of the temple include the vertigo-inducing cliff edge trail: winding concrete stairways path that takes you to the south end of the rock cliff. A stone wall was built along the path to protect it from the elements—and to keep people from accidentally tumbling off the cliff! There's also an open-air amphitheater where visitors can watch Balinese dancers perform the epic Kacek and Fire Dance in the evening against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset over the Indian Ocean.

Crashing waves at the bottom of the cliff.

Crashing waves at the bottom of the cliff.

Left: One of the stone sculptures. Right: Details of stone carving on temple's gate.

Left: One of the stone sculptures. Right: Details of stone carving on temple's gate.

A sculpture of the half-lion-half-dragon creature guarding the temple.

A sculpture of the half-lion-half-dragon creature guarding the temple.

Visiting Tips and Temple Etiquette

  • According to Balinese custom, men and women must wear a sarong and/or a sash when going into a temple. At the entrance of Uluwatu Temple, you will be handed a purple silk sarong to wear. Just wrap it around your waist, over your regular clothing. Return the sarong after your visit, it is not for you to keep!
  • The best time to visit the temple is in the morning when it's much less crowded. Busloads of visitors arrive in the afternoon, and most stay for the Kacek Dance performance at dusk.
  • If you don't mind the crowd, then come to the temple in the late afternoon. Stake out a spot on the cliff, get your camera ready, and wait for the unforgettable sunset!
  • The cliff edge trail is not for the faint of heart! A round-trip hike takes about 1 hour. The steps are narrow and steep. If you are prone to vertigo or afraid of heights, stay away from the low stone wall along the trail! There are occasional gaps in the wall that open to…um…sheer drop to the rocky shoreline far below!
  • Please refrain from climbing all over the shrine or stone sculptures to take selfies! Be respectful and remember that this is a sacred place of worship.
  • It is not necessary but might be a good idea to be accompanied by a local tour guide when visiting Uluwatu Temple. The guide can provide more insights into the history and spiritual importance of the temple.
The half-mile long cliff edge trail and its wall.

The half-mile long cliff edge trail and its wall.

Following the tourists throng on the cliff edge trail.

Following the tourists throng on the cliff edge trail.

Beware of the Monkeys!

As seen at many other temples in Bali, a large group of monkeys inhabits Uluwatu Temple. These are the long-tailed macaques, and they are notoriously mischievous and quick to snatch things from unwary tourists. Hold on tight to your sunglasses, hats, smartphones, and cameras! They are known to jump on your shoulders and brazenly unzip your backpack looking for a snack!

In Bali, monkeys are thought to be the reincarnation of some Hindu deities. Many Balinese revere the monkeys, believing that they are the guardians of temples and villages, protecting people from evil spirits.

Hang on to your belongings and keep a safe distance from the monkeys. Never try to feed or pet them (not even the adorable baby monkeys), as they may give you a nasty bite!

Macaque monkeys can be seen throughout the temple. (How many monkeys you see in this photo?)

Macaque monkeys can be seen throughout the temple. (How many monkeys you see in this photo?)

Climbing up the stairs at the temple's entrance.

Climbing up the stairs at the temple's entrance.

Other Nearby Attractions

Here are some interesting tourist attractions near Uluwatu Temple. You can easily visit them all on the same day trip.

Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park: This spectacular 150-acre park is built on a former limestone quarry and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. A giant statue of Vishnu can be found on the central plaza. Cultural exhibitions, events, and shows are held daily. Plenty of souvenir shops and cafés and an excellent restaurant offers international cuisine and gorgeous views of the Bali coastline.

Pandang Pangdang Beach: A picturesque stretch of golden sand and great swells make this beach a popular hangout for surfers, sunbathers, and swimmers. Every year in August, Pandang Pangdang Beach hosts a professional surf competition. This highly anticipated event attracts elite professional surfers from all over the world and hordes of spectators.

Malini Agro Park: This unique retreat promotes organic farming, sustainable living, and the protection of the environment. Take a tour of the farms and learn how they grow fruits and vegetables without using any chemicals. Relax and enjoy the delicious juices and healthy foods served at the clifftop café overlooking the ocean.

Jimbaran: This fishing village is known for the dozens of seafood warungs (family-run restaurants) that line along the beach. You may pick out live lobsters, prawns, or catch-of-the-day fish from the saltwater tanks and have them prepared to your liking. Or try some tasty Balinese classics like sate lilit (meat satay on lemongrass skewers) and nasi campur (rice topped with curries and vegetables). Enjoy your dinner at one of the tables set up on the sand, with candles flickering in the ocean breeze and waves lapping at your feet!

View of the main shrine from the cliff edge trail.

View of the main shrine from the cliff edge trail.

How to Get There

Uluwatu Temple is located near Pecatu Village, about 25 km (15.5 miles) south of the beach resort town Kuta.

There's no public transportation from Kuta to the temple. You must hire a local driver or join a tour group. Many tour groups in Bali offer full- and half-day trips to visit Uluwatu Temple and other nearby attractions.

Land and sea, heaven and earth - Uluwatu Temple is a truly captivating place.

Land and sea, heaven and earth - Uluwatu Temple is a truly captivating place.

All photos were taken by the author with an Olympus Stylus TG-630 iHS digital camera and iPhone 6.

© 2018 Viet Doan

Comments

Liz Westwood from UK on August 28, 2018:

That is definitely a challenge. People get everywhere when you are taking photographs.

Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on August 28, 2018:

Thanks Liz! Glad you enjoy the photos. I took almost 60 photos at this Temple. It was a challenge because I tried not to have people in the photos.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 27, 2018:

Great photos in this article.

Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on August 26, 2018:

Thanks Linda, Uluwatu Temple is definitely a great place to visit for photographers. The cliff edge trail, however, is not for everyone! I remember walking very slowly on the trail because I was terrified of the heights. Other tourists got so annoyed with me, LOL!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 25, 2018:

This sounds like a lovely place to visit. I'm not comfortable with heights so I might find some parts of the tour difficult —especially if a wall is missing— but the photo opportunities would be wonderful!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 25, 2018:

For us, too. We were really impressed by that Temple.

Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on August 25, 2018:

Hi Mary! It was a challenge for me to hike the cliff edge trail because I have an acute fear of heights. And I'm also afraid of monkeys, LOL! That's great you've been to Uluwatu Temple. It was one of the most memorable places on my Bali trip. Aloha!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 25, 2018:

We visited this temple with a guide and it was the right decision as we appreciated it much more knowing more about it. The newer parts were not yet there so we did not walk the rockcliff path but missed that beautiful sunset.