Visiting Besakih Temple | Bali Itinerary | Travel Guide & Tips

July 05, 2018

Pura Besakih, known as the Mother Temple is the largest, the most important, and is considered to be the holiest temple in all of Bali! This 1000-year-old temple is located 1000 meters above the sea level on the slopes of the sacred Mount Agung, the tallest mountain and highest volcano in Bali (talk about a dramatic setting).

The fact that the Besakih temple complex remained intact during the volcano that erupted in 1963 is regarded by the Balinese people as miraculous. It was apparently one of the largest and most devastating eruptions in Indonesia's history and is said to have destroyed several villages around the temple but the lava flows missed the temple complex by mere meters, a miracle indeed!




So naturally, visiting this world heritage site was high up on our Bali itinerary (despite reading some bad tourist experiences about it online, more about it below). And I am so glad that we did not heed to the reviews (of course, we proceeded with caution) and made it to the temple as it was definitely a very unique, peaceful and spiritual experience, and an ideal welcome to Bali for us as this was our first stop - we went there straight from the airport (which was a smart thing to do, read below to learn why). 


Pura Besakih is a massive complex of cascading small temples with about 23 separate yet related temples, each of which serves a different purpose. Temples at Besakih fit into various groups, for example, Panca Dewata has 5 temples housing the 5 gods of the 4 directions and the center. The Trimurti has 3 temples Pura Kiduling Kreteg representing Brahma (the Creator), Pura Batu Madeg representing Visnu (the Preserver), and Pura Penataran Agung representing Shiva (the Destroyer)





The Pura Penataran Agung is the most impressive and the most important temple in the complex. The temple is built on six levels and the main entrance has a split gateway called a Candi Bentar - it is basically a candi-like structure split perfectly in two to create a passage in the center for people to walk through (a very common sight in many Hindu temples in Bali). The passage is usually elevated with a flight of stairs to reach it. As you walk up the stairs, it really feels as if you are heading up towards paradise. With breathtaking views all around you and a sense of serenity and calm, it is no less than any divine experience (which can only be experienced but not explained). 







Our guide took us around the temple complex explaining the legend behind the temple, and the important ceremonies held here throughout the year. We were lucky enough to visit the temple right before one of their most auspicious celebrations, Purnama Kedasa (10th Full Moon). This special full moon is considered highly significant amongst Balinese Hindus and many major temples celebrate the festive rituals which are attended by thousands of devotees. ‘Pura Besakih also holds a special ceremony known as 'Betara Turun Kabeh' on this special day, inviting the gods and deified ancestors for their blessings.’ During our visit, the entire temple complex was adorned with white, red, black and gold umbrellas, fabrics and flags for the occasion. Balinese people dressed up in traditional attire were walking towards the temple in large groups with offerings in their hands and/or on their heads. It was a beautiful sight to see them all lined up in several rows inside the temple offering their prayers. 






Due to its importance and popularity, Pura Besakih has also gotten the reputation of being a tourist trap, but follow these tips to have a great experience without putting yourselves through the hassles of all the terrible reviews you read online…


ENTRY FEES: You ONLY have to pay 60k IDR per person for the ticket and you do NOT need to pay for anything else. This ticket includes entrance into the temple complex, a local guide, a sarong, and a one-way drop in a motorbike. 
   
 

SARONG: Both women and men need to wear a sarong if your clothes do not cover your legs below the knees. But you DON’T need to buy it from the stalls (regardless of what the shopkeepers say), as I mentioned above, it’s already included in your entry ticket. 





OFFERINGS: It is completely optional, so you do not have to buy anything from the sellers who walk alongside you trying to sell one thing or another stating that you need to take a certain item to the temple to pray. Nor do you have to give a donation. 



HAVE AN OPEN MIND & PROCEED WITH CAUTION: Quit complaining and be aware that this is a tourist destination, so like many other places there will be people trying to sell you stuff or worse, trying to scam you. Remember that you DO NOT have to buy anything if you don't want to, don’t let anyone pressure you, politely decline and keep walking, even if they seem persistent (I mean, what’s the point in letting that get to you?). Tip the guide if you like the experience (much like you would when you visit a place in the US, I don’t understand why people complain so much about having to tip someone in Asia but are happy to oblige elsewhere). 




PRO TIP: Best time to visit the temple is either early in the morning or later in the evening when the temple is not too crowded and you get a real feel for the place. If possible, make Besakih temple your first stop after you land in the airport, saves you a ton of time commuting back and forth as it is quite a distance from any popular place you might stay at on the island. And ideally, this works best if you are staying in Ubud during the first part of your trip and then in Kuta/Seminyak during the last part of your trip (again, a smart thing to do, will explain why in an upcoming post).

 

All in all, visiting the Besakih Temple was truly an enriching and spiritually uplifting experience for us! There are over 20,000 temples in Bali but if there is only one that you can visit then it SHOULD BE the Besakih temple. I can’t stress enough that this is a place not to be missed, after all, it is the Mother Temple for a reason!

“The way you feel in the temple is a pattern for how you want to feel in your life.”
xoxo,
Kusum

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