Arguably the most spectacular Hindu temple on the island of Bali, Pura Luhur Uluwatu is perched majestically about 80 meters above sea level on the edge of a steep cliff at the southern part of Bali.
Pura Luhur Uluwatu, a classic expression of ancient Bali, is regarded as one of the six main temples in Bali. It is one of the Sad Kahyangan Temple in Bali (six big groups of Bali temples) and is situated in Pecatu Village, the sub-district of South Kuta, Badung Regency, about 25 km south of Denpasar.
Pura means temple while luhur is “something of divine origin”. Uluwatu is actually two words combined into one; ulu is “land’s end” and watu means “rock” in the island’s old language. The area is open to public, so it is not uncommon for its parking lot to be inundated by giant buses transporting tourists from all over the world. But they come not only for the temple but also for the stunning panorama and the to-die-for sunsets.
Dedicated to the spirits of the sea, the famous temple is an architectural marvel built with black coral rocks.
Built in the eleventh century during the era of Empu Kuturan, Pura Luhur Uluwatu is one of the oldest temples in Bali. (Empu is a title denoting the person’s excellence in literature, philosophy and craftsmanship.)
five centuries later a priest, Dang Hyang Niraratha, rebuilt it to what you see today.
The temple is so sacred that up to the turn of the 20th century it is said that only the princes of Denpasar were allowed to worship there. A word of caution: Monkeys, always on the lookout for a free bite, abound here, and warning signs remind visitors about their aggressiveness, which can manifest in their going after your sunglass or camera.
There are two ways to reach the temple; the first is taking the steep path along the cliff, while the second is to enter from the candi bentar (gate), festooned with carvings that have become the landmark of the island.
After going through an open central courtyard, you reach the main gate which has two ganeshas (elephant-headed guardian statues) one on each side. On the left and right of the main gate are shrines, astasari (for festival offerings), a shrine dedicated to Dang Hyang Nirartha, and several other shrines, called bale tajuk, for spiritual guardians of Nirartha–all of them impressive in their own right.
Another but smaller courtyard is in store before you reach the three-tiered pagoda Meru, which is dedicated to Nirartha who, as legend has it, achieved self-enlightenment here.
Best time to visit the temple is during weekdays and before sunset time. This is when the place is tranquil, allowing you more time to explore what is considered to be one of Bali’s most important temples, and to contemplate.
It is also the time when you can watch dolphins and turtles in the sea.
The downside, of course, is that you will miss the sunset, which is actually just as beautiful elsewhere in Bali.
While you’re there, make time to visit the beach, considered to be one of Bali’s best surfing spots.