These must-see temples in Ubud offer a glimpse into historical Bali through their ancient reliefs and classical Balinese temple architecture. Some are among Ubud’s central landmarks and are easily accessible, while others around the neighbouring villages of Tegallalang and Tampaksiring are hidden within mountain valleys, which add a bit of mystery to your adventures in Bali’s cultural heartland.

    Add these most beautiful temples to see and visit in and around Ubud on your fun sightseeing days out. Just remember to not only get your camera and spare memory cards ready but also to wear a customary sarong and sash around your waist whenever visiting any temple in Bali. And consider yourself lucky if a colourful temple anniversary happens to be taking place at the same time!

    Tirta Empul is a beautiful temple complex and holy mountain spring that’s also a national cultural heritage site. If you ask a local, they’ll tell you that it serves as a legendary setting for the traditional tale of dharma (good) against adharma (evil). The 10th-century temple bears silent witness to the old Balinese kingdom years, particularly the Warmadewa Dynasty.

    The main highlight here is the series of freshwater pools, lined with over a dozen fountains where pilgrims wade through and seek spiritual purification by ritually praying and going under each fountain in succession. On the hills nearby is the presidential palace, Istana Tampaksiring.

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    Location: Jalan Tirta, Manukaya, Tampaksiring, Gianyar, Bali 80552, Indonesia

    Open: Daily from 9am to 5pm


    Often translated as ‘Elephant Cave’, Goa Gajah doesn’t have any pachyderms roaming its grounds. This archaeological site is some 6 km east from the Ubud hub and welcomes you to a relic-filled valley with its centrepiece bathing pool, a temple complex and the namesake carved stone cave that was formerly a meditation site for Buddhist and Shivaite priests.

    The 11th-century hermitage was excavated in 1954. You can peek inside the shallow cave to find stone idols and indentations that served as seats for meditating priests. If you have the time, you can venture further south of the complex to a rainforest trail with many other relics scattered along the Petanu River.

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    Location: Jalan Raya Goa Gajah, Pejeng Kawan, Tampaksiring, Gianyar, Bali 80582, Indonesia

    Open: Daily from 8am to 4pm


    Gunung Kawi

    Gunung Kawi is a unique temple complex that’s hidden in the Pakerisan River valley. It’s one of Bali’s more significant archaeological sites, with a collection of ancient shrine reliefs carved into the face of a rock cliff. You can reach the temple within a short drive north from the Tirta Empul temple and half an hour from Ubud central.

    Not far from the massive stone reliefs, you’ll find a more contemporary temple complex. You can reach both sites down a 300-step descent from the starting point that’s lined with art shops and rice fields. Local legend goes that these stone shrines are memorials built to honour the deified Balinese King Udayana and his royal family.

    Location: Banjar Penaka, Tampaksiring, Gianyar, Bali 80552, Indonesia

    photo by _paVan_ (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Gunung Kawi Sebatu, locally referred to as Pura Tirta Dawa Gunung Kawi Sebatu, is a beautiful water temple that boasts an impressive set of bathing and purification pools. All water features are naturally fed by a mountain spring. Its one of the least-visited temples in Ubud, so a day trip here lets you enjoy a very quiet and serene highland atmosphere, with well-manicured gardens and lawns where fowls roam free.

    Several large garden ponds are filled with blooming lotuses and carp (you can buy fish food on-site), while the sanctified inner pools are sources of holy water and places for purification rituals.

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    Location: Sebatu, Tegallalang, Gianyar, Bali 80511, Indonesia


    You can make a brief stopover at the beautiful Taman Saraswati temple on your leisure walks through the centre of Ubud town. The temple boasts classical Balinese architecture and is surrounded by blooming lotuses in its ponds. The ‘water temple’ is accessible right in from the Jalan Kajeng side street, just off the main Jalan Raya Ubud road.

    Alternatively, you can also book a table for an evening at Café Lotus to enjoy the best views facing the temple’s open stage, where regular traditional Balinese dance performances are held to accompany your dinner. Visiting the temple by day lets you admire the sandstone bas reliefs that honour the Hindu goddess Saraswati from up close.

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    Location: Jalan Kajeng, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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