Besides its beautiful beaches, Bali is also famous for its historic temples: complete with stunning architecture and elaborate decorative features. In the town of Ubud in particular, it is not difficult to find a number of fascinating temples, located either in the town centre or a few short kilometres away from our hotels in Bali, such as the Blue Karma Resort Ubud – one of Indonesia’s best eco boutique hotels.
Below are just five of the best temples in and around in Ubud. Make sure, however, you respect the temple etiquette by covering up modestly and not entering if you have any open wounds. The best times to visit are early in the mornings or late in the afternoons to avoid the crowds of tourists that sometimes appear.
Found in the Pakerisan Valley north of Ubud, Gunung Kawi is one of the largest ancient monuments found on the entire island, set down a long trail of stone steps looking out onto miles and miles of rice fields. Once down in the valley, you’ll discover ten shrines (or candi) which have been cut into the rock face, and it is believed this was done in honour of the 11th century King Udayana and his family. These shrines are spread out over a couple of kilometres, making for a beautiful stroll in this tranquil valley.
Pura Taman Saraswati (Water Palace)
Pura Taman Saraswati is located right in the heart of Ubud town itself, though it is hidden from the main road behind a few cafes. Designed by one of the town’s best loved architects, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, the temple’s carvings largely honour the goddess of knowledge and art, Saraswati. As you approach the temple, you’ll also be greeted by a picturesque pond overflowing with pretty lotus flowers. By night, you may also see the temple in a new light with a variety of cultural performances.
Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave)
Two kilometres south-east from Ubud is the Elephant Cave, which is said to date back to the 11th century and was once the sanctuary of a Hindu priest. Inside you’ll find a statue of the elephant-headed Ganesha, as well as a worship area decorated with stone yoni and lingams. Before you enter though, you’ll also find a series of bathing pools in the courtyard, as well as stunning views out over the surrounding valley and the distinctive entrance carved from stone.
Gunung Lebah Temple
Surrounded by a lush bamboo forest and criss-crossing rivers, the Gunung Lebah Temple is one and a half kilometres from central Ubud, and marks the beginning of the Camuhan Ridge walk. Built by the Javanese high priest Rsi Markandya in the eighth century, this temple is often regarded as the birthplace of Ubud.
Pura Samuan Tiga (Temple of the Meeting of the Three)
Largely unknown to tourists and slightly off the beaten track is the Pura Samuan Tiga, a historic temple which also includes seven pretty courtyards. Located in the Bedulu village, the temple was first built in the early 11th century, though it has been rebuilt since following an earthquake in 1917. One of the highlights of visiting this temple is the detailed main gate, designed once again by architect I Gusti Nyoman Lempad.