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Bali Temples in Brief - The Ultimate Travel Guide

With more temples than homes peppering the lush green landscape of Bali, the nickname “the island of a thousand temples” is well-earned and highly accurate. Many of the Bali’s 20,000 temples not only boast exquisite architecture that dates back centuries and swoon-worthy scenery that photographers crave but ultimately, they also provide a rich cultural experience that provides a glimpse into the locals’ spiritual rituals and way of life—a must for anyone that wants to experience Bali at its fullest.

However, whether you are considering a tour package that includes temple visits or are looking to spearhead the experience on your own, there are a few things you should expect and prep for when visiting any Bali temple. Knowing ahead of time what you need will ensure you are permitted to enter and you get the most out of your experience.

Dress Code

While beach attire may be best to keep cool on your resort, temples are sacred spaces that require more than shorts and flip flops. Temple dress code includes wearing a sarong with a sash around the waist and ensuring your shoulders and knees are covered, with some more strict temples also requiring your ankles to be hidden as well. Some temples offer a sarong and sash on loan as part of the entry fee, but you can always pick up your own at a local market and tote it around in your bag—a great idea if you are planning more than one temple visit or don’t want to deal with pre-worn sarongs.

Temple Etiquette

If you are by the temple’s altar be sure to sit with your legs crossed or on your knees. In Balinese culture feet are considered unclean, so you always want to avoid pointing your toes at the altar. Beyond that, don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in a place of worship at home. Be mindful of where you are sitting, standing, or wandering, try to use a more hushed tone of voice if speaking, and avoid any public displays of affection like hand-holding as PDA in a temple is highly frowned upon.

The Temple Festival

For an extra special experience, consider visiting a temple during its anniversary, known as The Temple Festival, or Odalan as the locals call it. This event actually occurs twice a year per temple since local dates are based on the Gregorian calendar, which consists of a 210-day year. During these anniversaries, temples are adorned with colorfully decorated bamboo poles known as Penjor, as well as brightly colored flags. But aside from its extra breathtaking aesthetic, a temple anniversary is also a time for celebration which includes loud music accompanied by rhythmic traditional dancing, the opportunity to spend time with locals, and ample photo opportunities. The great news is with over 20,000 temples, there is sure to be many celebrating during your visit.

Capturing the Experience

With picturesque nature surrounds and breathtaking architecture, you are bound to want to capture the beauty of Bali’s temples. Please note that while photos are okay in most temples, drones are not. Their mosquito-like buzzing can put a damper on not just the tourist experience, but even worse, it can be disruptive to religious ceremonies taking place. Stick to tried-and-true photos or simply put away the technology and enjoy being in the moment instead.

Menstruation & Pregnancy

Women have a little extra to consider when it comes to temple etiquette. If you are more than seven months pregnant, have given birth in the past six weeks, or are menstruating you will not be permitted to enter the temple. The menstruation ban stems from the ancient belief that menstruating women are “impure” and the fact that unsanctified blood on sacred grounds is prohibited. How will they know? While a local may ask you about your cycle, there is no official check or anything for these matters. However, out of respect for the culture try to plan your temple trip for a day where menses will not be an issue. 

Exploration Expectations

Chances are the entire temple will not be open to your exploration. While temples are a tourist hotspot, they are also a place of prayer. For this reason, you will often find that the inner sanctum is closed off to tourists. However, on the rare occasion, you may have a priest, know as a manku, invite you in to participate in prayer. If this happens, we highly encourage taking them up on the offer as it can be one of the most authentic and connecting experiences of Balinese culture.

A Bali vacation simply wouldn’t be complete without visiting a couple of their iconic temples. Whether you choose to explore Bali’s mother temple, Basikah, or Lempuyang Temple, one of Bali’s oldest, it will be a rich cultural experience that won’t forget—or regret!

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