Temples, tourists and Tanah Lot Bali

The perfect Tanah Lot Sunset capture. Image courtesy Dennis Stauffer of Flickr CC
The perfect Tanah Lot Sunset capture. Image courtesy Dennis Stauffer of Flickr CC

Purah Tanah Lot is one of the most photographed temples in Bali, throngs of tourists come to take snaps of this beauty, a 16th century Hindu temple that was built to pay homage to the guardians of the sea. Tanah Lot Bali resembles a life-size floating Bonsai garden, the iconic sea temple sits atop a rocky islet with it’s tiered pagoda’s nestled in amongst lush green trees. At low tide you can sure foot it along the rocks to a cave at the base of the temple where Balinese guardians exchange blessings for a small donation.

Mystic Bali image courtesy of Dennis Stauffer Flickr CC

Is Tanah Lot Bali worth a visit?

Tanah Lot screams tourist trap with it’s vast array of of souvenir vendors selling cheap trinkets and over priced bottles of water to busloads of tourists. In the temple surrounds, hawkers have every convenience for sale from kids kites to instant printed photos. Revered as the most important sea temple in Bali, the sacredness of Pura Tanah Lot Bali is diluted by the hoards of visitors all wanting that impossible shot without a person in sight.

Kids can see all sorts of cultural treats - here's a chicken amongst Hello Kitty towels for sale
Kids can see all sorts of cultural treats – here’s a chicken amongst Hello Kitty sarongs for sale

Tanah Lot Bali is worth a quick stop with the kids

There’s no denying Tanah Lot is lacking the authentic temple experience, here’s a place that will not rejuvenate your senses nor inspire the wanderlust within. However for families with young kids Pura Tanah Lot is an adventure and the essence of day tripping Bali with kids.

You need not feel like a tourist trapped, aside from the popular floating temple island, the surrounding complex is large and you are able to find a quiet and picturesque spot.

Away from the crowds there is an off-chance to discover that deep connection felt by the Javanese high priest Dang Hyang Nirartha whom declared Tanah Lot holy all those centuries ago.

Peering into rock pools at low tide - Tanah Lot Bali
Peering into rock pools at low tide – Tanah Lot Bali

Temple hopping can be bore for little kids, let the whirl of activity that comes with such tourist attractions engage their attention. At every turn there seems to be someone to dodge, questions of what certain objects are, new sights and sounds to delight in.

Being by the sea magnifies the beauty of Tanah Lot and creates another dimension for kids to play and explore, from skipping stones to peering into rock pools. Tanah Lot offers a feast for kids senses, a cultural introduction to Bali and one worthy of a brief visit.

Getting to Tanah Lot Bali

Many tours stop by Tanah lot, most half day tours combine a trip to other temples or Ubud before arriving for sunset. Half day tours average $40 USD per person.

The best way to visit Tanah Lot Bali is by private driver, combining Tanah Lot with some other of Bali’s attractions. The benefits of hiring a driver is that you can go at your own pace and set your own itinerary. A mini van or car complete with chauffeur costs between $40-60 AUD a day.

You can also take a taxi to Tanah Lot for aproximately 20,000 – 30,000 Rp ($20-30 AUD). If bartering doesn’t work, ask for the meter but be sure it is a Blue Bird Taxi.

Our ride in Bali
Hire a driver to day trip Bali – this was our ride

Tanah Lot is located along the North West coast of Bali, the same coastline of Seminya, Legian and Kuta. Therefore it’s quite easy to make Tanah Lot your first or last stop on the way West to Ubud. From Seminyak, Tanah Lot is 17km away in distance but allow 30-45 minutes on windy roads depending on traffic.

Ubud is 60 kilometers West of Tanah Lot. Allow 1-1.5 hours depending on traffic.

Tanah Lot Bali entrance fee

The cost to enter Tanah Lot is 30,000 Rp (aprox $3 AUD)  for an adult and 15,000 Rp per child ($1.50 AUD). See the latest prices here.

Quiet around the Art Market near the car park and entrance
Quiet around the Art Market near the car park and entrance

Parking and entrance

Cars and busses set passengers down at the car park and entrance to Tanah Lot. Whilst our driver didn’t request the 5,000 Rp (50 cents AUD) to park there maybe a small additional fee. Motorcycle parking is 2,000 Rp (20 cents AUD) and Busses are 10,000 Rp ($1 AUD).

One of the vendors at Tanah Lot selling the popular Bakso dish - beef ball noodle soup
One of the vendors at Tanah Lot selling the popular Bakso dish – beef ball noodle soup

A small walk to the temple

From where you are set down it’s a short walk through market stalls and along a street with more handicrafts on either side before you reach the temple gates. It’s a easy 10 minute walk with little kids down a gentle slope towards the ocean.

Once passed the gates, there are a series of courtyards and steps that lead you to the course sandy beach of Tanah Lot. At load tide, people walk along the rocky escarpment to the base of the temple.

Entrance to Tanah Lot
Entrance to Tanah Lot – that’s my folks

The best time to visit Tanah Lot Bali

Tanah Lot sunset

Sunset at
Sunset at “Pura Tanah Lot, Bali” by Hanoian, on Flickr CC

There’s a reason why so many people visit Tanah Lot Bali, it is a most beautiful setting and at dusk more so.

The most popular time to visit Pura Tanah Lot is at sunset with the masses, braving the crowds means capturing Tanah Lot’s silhouette against a golden glow of the sun setting out at sea.

Some vantage points for sunset at Tanah Lot Bali:

Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali can be spotted from Tanah Lot Bali
Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali can be spotted from Tanah Lot Bali

Along the coastline are purpose built courts where you can get a clear vantage point of Tanah Lot temple

To get a clear and close view of the temple, arrive early to secure along the rocky escarpment.

Seven sea temples were constructed along the Tabanan regions coastline to worship the sea god Dewa Baruna (or Bhatara Sega), Tanah Lot being the largest and most sacred of them. These sea temples were built to form a chain of protection from the sea and it is said each temple can be seen by the next one along.

Enjung Galuh temple juts out along the coast is another smaller temple that is located 200 meters along west of Tanah Lot. Though not as dramatic as Tanah Lot, the temple sits atop a sheer cliff face and provides a vantage pint back twoards Tanah Lot.

Along the cliff face lies “Sunset Terrace” where there are a number of cafes and restaurants that have outdoor seating to view the sun set in style. Here you can grab a drink or a meal as the sun goes down at Tanah Lot. As if the natural beauty of the vista is not enough there are traditional Balinese performances or live music to accompany the sunset.

As well as a luxury 18 hole golf course designed by Greg Norman, the Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort looks out over Pura Tanah Lot and panoramic views off the Indian Ocean.

Non-resort guests can dine in the Merica restaurant at sunset.

The temple courts along the shorefront with views to Tanah Lot.
The temple courts along the shore front with views to Tanah Lot.

Tanah Lot sunset times

In March sunset is around 6.30pm as it gets later in the year the sun sets earlier, in September the sun begins to set at approximately 6:15pm.

Most sunset tours arrive at 5:30pm giving guests some time to take photos before enjoying the sunset event. If coming here privately go a little earlier to secure a spot before the busses arrive.

For the most accurate sunset times in Bali click here.

Tanah Lot lot tide and a holy snake cave

Tanah Lot Bali at low tide is worth a quick visit with kids
Tanah Lot Bali at low tide is worth a quick visit with kids

When the tide is out visitors can walk across the rocky ocean floor to small rocky island. At the bottom of Purah Tanah lot is a cave where priests provide a blessing and they can point you to the resident black and grey striped holy snakes. According to the locals, these snakes are blessed and is a snake form of the temples guardian spirit.

Photographers carrying instant printers linger around the snake cave
Photographers carrying instant printers linger around tourists near the snake cave

Caution at Tanah Lot

snakes and slippery rocks

These snakes although holy are also poisonous, whilst placid in nature and have yet to bite any visitor be mindful when encouraged to touch them.

Even little ones aged 2+ can carefully walk across the rocky floor to the snake cave. The rocks are uneven and a bit slippery so have the appropriate footwear or carry little ones in arms.

Holy Snake image courtesy www.tanahlot.net
Holy Snake image courtesy www.tanahlot.net

Tanah Lot tide times

Tide times varies and whilst we experienced low tide during the day, sometimes low tide can occur during sunset. Check out Bali Tide Charts here.

Tanah Lot during Odalan (festival)

Often labelled overrated and unauthentic, Tanah Lot is still a functioning temple and deeply religious local Balinese go for worship. During Odalan a time of religious celebration, a festival is held at every 210 days. It’s a good time to see the authenticity of Tanah Lot tieing in traditional rituals, celebratory decorations and offerings.

Each Pura (temple) has it’s own Odalan festival based on a seemingly complicated pawukon calendar, the next Odalan for Tanah lot falls on 29th July 2014 and 24 February 2016.

Things to do at Tanah Lot with kids

Be blessed from a holy fresh water spring

Even non-Hindu’s can receive a blessing from a temple caretaker known as Pengemong. They take turns to hold vigil from the start of low tide until the tide returns.

In order to receive a blessing an offering in the form of a small donation (5,000Rp+) is given. This allows a visitor to take from the holy water source or Beji a means of receiving health, safety and protection. This natural fresh water spring sprouts from within the cave and is the holy water source used for prayers and rituals at feeds other temples in the area.

The holy water sprouts from a freshwater spring inside the cave
The holy water sprouts from a freshwater spring inside the cave

What happens at a Bali blessing in Tanah Lot

Pengemong dressed in a traditional white robe, beautiful sarong and adorned with white headdress waits for an offering. He then directs you to a small flowing fountain where you can wash clean your hands and face or take a drink from. They then chant a mantra, sprinkle a little holy water and stick a thumb of rice to your throat and the middle of your forehead. To finish a frangipani is placed on the left ear. This ceremony is to purify, welcome good spirits and prosperity.

Receiving a blessing by a guardian of the cave
Receiving a blessing by a guardian of the cave

It’s your choice to be blessed, by doing so allows a little more access closer to to the top of Tanah Lot.

As far as you can go for a non-hindu (not very far up)
As far as you can go for a non-hindu (not very far up)

Once blessed you are able to navigate some stairs slightly further up to see the waves below. It’s not the most spectacular view, however it does get you a little closer up to the top. From here, our kids threw their frangipani offerings to the waves and watched them intently for quite some time.

The kids throwing frangipanis from Tanah Lot
The kids throwing frangipanis from Tanah Lot

Explore the temple surrounds

For a better temple experience, around the Tanah Lot complex are other temples serving different purposes. Though they may not offer stunning vistas they are significant to the Balinese people and for an outsider provide a more authentic cultural snapshot. Some areas of note around Tanah Lot include:

Map of Tanah Lot image courtesy of Tanahlot.net
Map of Tanah Lot image courtesy of Tanahlot.net

Tanah Lot lawns and gardens

There are many lush green manicured lawns and gardens that overlook Purah Tanah Lot and the other sea temples and provides a great peaceful vista out to sea. Kids can run around, rest along the shade of a tree or pagoda whilst snacking on kripik (Balinese crunch crisps).

Beautiful lawns and gardens at Tanah Lot
Beautiful lawns and gardens at Tanah Lot

Enjung Gulah Temple

Enjung Gulah Temple is a smaller temple next along the chain of sea temples built in the Tabanan region and is used to worship the Goddess of prosperity. The temple is less known, less photographed and therefore less crowded. Enjung Gulah means a rock out at sea and juts out of a sharp rocky cliff face.

Enjung Gulah Temple
Enjung Gulah Temple “Tanah Lot.26” by Antoine SIPOS, on Flickr CC

Batu Balong Temple

Also within the Tanah Lot complex, Batu Balong Temple is 200 meters further north along the coastline from Enjung Gulah. Like it’s neighboring temple, it also juts out to sea, where a arched bridge leads to this smaller sea temple. Though not as dramatic as Pura Tanah Lot, it offers a dramatic vista with it’s signature arch which has formed from waves smashing the cliff face for centuries.

Batu Balong Temple is a little further down from Tanah Lot and
Batu Balong Temple is a little further down from Tanah Lot and quite beautiful

The best part of this little temple is that it is not frequented as much by the tourists and offers an alternative silhouette at sun down.

Pakendungan Temple

Although Pekendugan Temple is not located on the cliff top by the sea, it is of great importance to the Balinese. This is where the high priest Dang Hyang Nirartha mediated and a source of holy water for the local Beraban village. It dates back to the 15th century and the main Odalan festivities surround this temple.

Barter for handicraft

As touristy the stalls that line Tanah Lot before the entrance are, there are some unique and inexpensive handicrafts up for grabs. When we visited, the stall owners did not seem overly pushy. With a more take it or leave it type of attitude.

There are some inexpensive handicrafts to keep kids entertained
Socks and thongs are a norm – handicrafts at the Tanah Lot stall vendors

There are your usual tacky bali souvenirs like wooden penis’s, cheap Bin Tang beer singlets and knock off Polo shirts. There were also some beautiful handicrafts on offer and the kids loved sifting through the crafts. For a few dollars you can land yourself a set of bongo drums ($5 AUD), pretty dream catchers ($5 AUD) and for the boys a handmade authentic archery kit that survived Australian customs ($7 AUD).  Remember to barter and be prepared to be ripped off, these crafty store holders have been doing the trade much longer than you.

If you are of the type to take memories and not objects home, there are still inexpensive beverages including fresh coconut and refreshingly cool icy poles on offer after a hot morning walking in the humidty.

Tanah Lot dress code

Leniency is given to tourists visiting Tanah Lot and the dress code is quite lax. As visitors cannot enter the temple at the top, it appears your usual day tripping attire is sufficient. However you will find the local Balinese are covered up wearing formal elbow length long sleeve shirts, beautiful sarongs, women with their hair tied up and a sash around their waist.

The entrance to the snake cave
The entrance to the snake cave and our lax dress code

Here are some rules for entering a Bali temple:

Cover up – sarong, sash and shoulders

Sarongs can be purchased cheaply at the markets and can be wrapped around the waist. Buy a sarong that can be worn 3/4 to full length.

An additional sash or scarf can be purchased to wrap around the waist. Some temples hire sarongs for a minimum fee.

The top half of your body should be covered up, 3/4 length sleeves to cover the shoulders and elbows (at a minimum shoulders).  Wearing a tank top or singlet is disrespectful.

This dress code is applicable to both men and women. For women, tie your hair up.

Tanah Lot temple dress image untiled by Loïc Ventre
Tanah Lot temple dress image untiled by Loïc Ventre Flckr CC

Do not enter the temple whilst bleeding or pregnant

Women on their period or anyone with a bleeding wound should not enter temple. Some say that this is because they are impure the main reason is that when women are menstruating and those that are pregnant are more susceptible to energies both positive and negative.

Show modesty and calm

Refrain from speaking and show modesty particularly public displays of affection. Do not touch the alter or deity’s.

Stay calm and be mindful of where you are pointing and taking photos. Don’t for example lean over the alter to take a close up of the deity or get in between someone in prayer and the alter.

Don’t point your toes

Do not point your toes towards the alter or deity. When sitting, men cross their legs and women kneel.

Shoes off

Thongs (flip flops) are perfectly acceptable attire however all shoes are to be taken off and put to the side prior to entering temple.

Head lower than the priest

As a mark of respect make sure your head is lower than that of the priest.

Make an offering

Though it’s not obligatory, respect the culture and make a small donation 5,000 Rp + when entering the temple.

Essential items at Tanah Lot

Here are some essential items to pack for Tanah Lot with kids:

  • Sunscreen and hat – there is little shade and skin can be exposed for a long time in the sun.
  • Water – keep hydrated as it can get very hot and humid.
  • Camera – don’t forget the camera for classic shots of Tanah Lot.
  • Baby carrier or child in arms – some walking is involved with uneven rocky grounds and a few steps. A baby carrier is best for infants and young toddlers or child in arms.
  • Small change – for entry, toilet fee (2,000 Rp), donations, refreshments and handicrafts.

How long do you need at Tanah Lot Bali?

Not long is needed at Tanah Lot Bali. Allow 1-2 hours with kids, which is ample time to get a good feel for it before the kids melt down. Although more time can be spent exploring if you wish.  We were able to drop into Tanah Lot in the morning then have lunch in Ubud before checking out the Monkey Forest nearby and the famous Bali rice terraces at Ubud.

People start arriving the sunset and staking a spot as early at 3pm with the sun setting at around 6-6:30pm (seasonal, check charts).

Have you been to Tanah Lot? Planning on going? Love to hear what you think about Tanah Lot, please leave your comments below:

3 Comments

  • I agree with the information here, this temple becomes a unique tourist attraction in Bali because unlike other tourist attractions, in the temple tanah lot you can pray and see sacred snakes, this place is much visited by foreign or local guests, if you wish. To the temple tanah lot must wear custom clothes and carry a tool of worship.

    • Thanks for reading, quite jealous you’re over there. Hopefully the Volcano is not getting in the way of your travels. xo

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