The Uluwatu Temple, otherwise known as Pura Luhur Uluwatu, is among the nine directional temples of Bali, and one of the six Balinese spiritual pillars. Perched atop a 70-meter-high cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean, the temple is believed to protect the people of the area from evil sea spirits.
The temple is located on the south the Bukit Peninsula, about 25km from Kuta and a stone’s throw away from the famous surfer’s paradise, Uluwatu beach. This is a place full of friendly locals and you just might be lucky enough to witness their vibrant displays of culture during one of their regular ceremonies.
Pura Luhur Uluwatu has a rich spiritual history and a deep-seated value to the Balinese, who view it as a powerful guard that has kept evil spirits at bay for centuries since its construction. Travelers have hailed it as one of the most scenic locations in Bali and as a place that is rife with awe-inspiring snapshots of unadulterated Balinese culture.
The divine origins of the temple are embedded in its name. “Luhur” is a Balinese word that means “of divine origin,” “Ulu” means “the edge of the land” and “Watu” can be translated to mean “rock”. Therefore, the temple’s name, Pura Luhur Uluwatu means “a divine temple at the edge of the land.”
The temple’s inner sanctum is what is perched atop the 70-meter-high cliff that overlooks one of the best surf spots in Bali. The view here is stunning in the evenings as the sunset makes a great backdrop for the temple on a cliff.
Uluwatu Temple’s rich historical background is punctuated by stunning displays of ancient Balinese architecture. Sculptures and gateways boasting some of the exotic location’s most traditional designs give you a peek into Balinese culture, their take on religion, and their historical figures.
Ancient scripts cite a Majapahit monk by the name Mpu Kunturan as the inspiration behind the temple’s construction. It is believed that he was also behind the construction of several other monumental temples, such as the Pura Sakenan, over a millennium ago.
A Javanese sage by the name Empu Kuturan was credited with a later expansion of the temple while Dnag Hyang Nirartha, a holy priest who hailed from the Eastern part of Java, is said to have constructed the nearby padmasana shrines, where he is believed to have achieved moksha (the highest level of spiritual oneness) according to a Balinese Hindu account.
The temple remained largely inaccessible until the early 80s when it was open to public exploration. It also underwent some restorative construction following a lightning strike that set some parts of the temple ablaze.
While visiting the temple, travelers are required to observe customs by wearing sarongs, sashes, and other types of traditional clothing that are deemed appropriate for temple visits. At any of the two temple entrances, you will be met with split gates decorated with ancient flower and leaf carvings. On either side of these split, gates are humanoid statues with elephant heads atop their shoulders.
Inside the temple, you will be treated to an array of historical sculptures such as a one-piece winged stone gate from the 10th century that’s been built inside one of the courtyards of the Pura Uluwatu. This is a rare sighting even in ancient Balinese architecture.
A commemoration of the holy Javanese priest Dnag Hyang Nirartha stands in the form of a Brahmin statue that’s facing the Indian Ocean in one of the courtyards, while in another, the 16th Century Pura Dalem Jurit stands with three statues, one of which is Brahma. In the temple area, you will also get to see a sarcophagus (ancient coffin) that’s been split into two stone troughs.
Some of the cultural events you can look forward to seeing at the Uluwatu Temple include the Kecak fire dance, which takes place every evening at an adjacent cliff top amphitheater. Watching it from this location is particularly magical due to the stunning sunset backdrop.
Due to it’s fairy remote location, the best way to visit the temple is to hire a driver – this way a visit to the temple can also be combined with other activities or stops at other locations in the area. Once you’re at the temple, you’ll be offered the services of a tour guide, or your driver may also be a guide, and will be able to show you around and explain what you are seeing to enable you to make the most out of your visit.
Uluwatu Temple is home to a large troupe of grey monkeys who you’ll soon come into contact with by the temple gates; they’ll be hanging around, playing together, lying in the sun, and also quite likely be trying to beg for some food as well. There are vendors selling fruit for you to give them, but be prepared for a lot of attention the minute you hold out your fruit laden hand!
One point to note is that you should keep personal belongings such cell phones, cameras, and sunglasses well hidden as the monkey’s are pretty cheeky and love to grab what they can.
Visiting the Uluwatu Temple can be done during any time of the year, but if you want to enjoy the view with the stunning sunset backdrop, it’s best to visit between March and September, when the evening rains have abated.
A number of great hotels in the area make it possible for you to stay around the temple if you want to avoid high transport costs. The Pandawa Beach Homestay is a particularly budget-friendly option that’s only 5 minutes away from the luxurious Pandawa beach. It has air-conditioned rooms and lovely terraces where you can relax and enjoy the view.
Gravity is an option for couples since it is one of the best honeymoon retreats in Uluwatu. The charming resort has a luxurious feel to it that can make any occasion special.
Finally, but no less importantly, Yoga Searcher Bali is a great yoga and spa retreat if you’re looking to spend your vacation relaxing and being pampered. Here, you will get to enjoy the best of the organic lifestyle with fun cooking classes and numerous delectable organic dishes from gourmet chefs. You can find great accommodation options and book online at www.balihotelsandmore.com
The Uluwatu Temple is certainly a must-visit location if you like culture and scenic beauty. It is one of the crowning jewels of Balinese culture and a place with rich history and beautiful ancient architecture. Nearby places, such as the Uluwatu beach, makes it a great destination for a well-rounded day out on the beautiful island of Bali.