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Local Culture

Your guide to Uluwatu Temple

One of Bali’s six key temples, Uluwatu Temple, locally known as Pura Luhur Uluwatu (with Luhur meaning ‘something of divine origin’) is one of the most popular spots if you’re embarking on a cultural journey of the region and provides a true slice of Balinese culture. 

It’s renowned for its magnificent location. Perched atop a steep cliff approximately 70 metres above the crashing ocean below, it makes for the most beautiful backdrop at sunset.

Captivating Balinese Kecak and fire dance performances are held every evening at an amphitheatre nearby, where a troupe of around 75 male dancers descend onto the stage with extended arms and shaking hands, chanting a ‘chak!’ chorus repeatedly. As the sun goes down, fire becomes an increasing component of the ritual.

History

The history of this landmark is ancient and intriguing. Inscriptions mention that Uluwatu Temple was instigated by Mpu Kuturan, a Majapahit monk who is also credited for the establishment of several other key temples in Bali. 

Mpu Kuturan may have built a small temple on this site, but the structure was significantly expanded by a Javanese sage, Empu Kuturan in the 11th Century. Another sage by the name of Dang Hyang Nirartha is then credited for contracting the Padmasana shrines and more of the structure that unfolds at your feet today.

The Balinese Hindus believe that the powers of the Hindu Trinity — Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva — merge here. That belief results in making Uluwatu Temple a place of worship of Siva Rudra, the Balinese Hindu deity of all elements and aspects of life in the universe.

What to expect

There’s plenty of space to park on the outskirts of the temple, but a private and arranged charter is highly recommended as there is no official public transportation to get to and from the site and travelling back to your hotel will be difficult without any prearranged ride or taxi — especially if you plan on staying for sunset. 

Enter and traverse into the forest where you’ll find an abundance of native monkeys. In local culture, they are believed to guard the temple against bad influences, but in reality, they’re the ones that are prone to bad habits. If given the opportunity, they can and will grab some of your small belongings, so it’s highly advisable that you keep your valuables in a sealed bag or pockets at all times. 

The meandering pathway begins to reveal the cliff’s edge that beckons you to continue on a picturesque journey beside the ocean. This walkway, which is fortified by elegant concrete walls on the cliffside, takes around an hour, but the time flies by as you drink in the scenery and take countless pictures of the ever-changing landscape.

Pass an inviting amphitheatre, where you can watch the dramatic Kecak fire dance. As the sun sets during the performance and the sky dims, the story of the famous epic Hindu story of the Ramayana builds to a sensational fire-related climax.

There are two grand and ancient entrances to Uluwatu Temple, one from the south and one from the north. Marvel at the sight of two figures of elephant-headed men guarding the entrance, while the forward-facing parts of the gates are festooned with sculptures featuring flowery patterns. Enter to discover the inner courtyard and botanical hanging trees that provide blissful shade.

Behind the main shrine in one of the courtyards, facing the ocean, lies a Brahmin statue which is considered to be a representation of Dhang Hyang Dwijendra. The Pura Dalem Jurit temple was added in the 16th century and is where you’ll find three more stately statues, one of which depicts Brahma. 

The best time to experience Uluwatu Temple is in the evening when the sun goes down to create a wonderful spectrum of colours behind this ancient relic.

Helpful tips

As this is a continuing place of worship, respect to the religious customs should be upheld. Inside the temple itself, both men and women should wear a sarong, scarf or sash tied around the waist. A sarong and sash are provided inside the grounds, and you can borrow one for free, as long as you visit the temple.

Don’t take photos directly in front of worshippers and be careful not to step over or tread on offerings. These are commonly palm leaves that are woven into a small box holding flower petals, herbs, money or food and designed to appease the spirits. 

  • Temple opening hours — 08.00 AM to 07.00 PM
  • Kecak dance show is held daily at 06.00 PM
  • The best time to visit is just before sunset
  • A guide is not necessary but can be helpful
  • Don’t wear loose jewellery or valuables  
  • Suggested duration — 1-2 hours
  • Entrance fee is Rp 30,000 per person for adults and Rp 15,000 for children

*Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, opening times and closures are subject to government guidelines.


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