Tanah Lot Temple is one of Bali’s most important landmarks, famed for its unique offshore setting and sunset backdrops. An ancient Hindu shrine perched on top of an outcrop amidst constantly crashing waves, Tanah Lot Temple is simply among Bali’s not-to-be-missed icons.
The onshore site of the Tanah Lot temple complex is dotted with smaller shrines together with visitors’ leisure facilities that comprise restaurants, shops, and a cultural park where regular dance performances are shown regularly.
The temple is located in the Beraban village of the Tabanan regency, approximately 20km northwest of Kuta. It is often included on sightseeing and cultural tours to Bali’s western and central regions.
Tanah Lot Temple in Bali – one of the highlights of Best Places to Visit in Bali.
History of Tanah Lot
Dang Hyang Nirartha, a high priest from the Majapahit Kingdom in East Java, traveled to Bali in 1489 to spread Hinduism. He arrived at the beautiful area and established a site honoring the sea god, Baruna.
Here, he shared his teachings to Beraban villagers, only to face opposition from the village chief, who soon gathered his loyal followers to dispel Nirartha.
The priest resisted, shifting a large rock he meditated upon out to sea while transforming his sashes into sea snakes to guard at its base. The rock’s original name, Tengah Lod, means ‘in the sea.’
Acknowledging Nirartha’s powers, the humbled chief vowed allegiance. Before setting off, Nirartha gifted him a holy kris dagger, which is now among the sanctified heirlooms of the Kediri royal palace.
Pilgrims bring these relics each Kuningan day by foot on an 11km pilgrimage to the Luhur Pakendungan temple, the priest’s former meditational site.
The highlight of Tanah Lot Bali
After centuries of large waves persistently crashing at its rock base, Tanah Lot faced the constant threat of erosion, reaching a significant decline in 1980. Local authorities carried out preservation efforts to Tanah Lot and other historical sites island-wide with aid from the Japanese government.
Fully restored, a third of the present rock is artificial. At high tide, waves flood the causeways making it impossible to cross. You may travel to view the base at low tide, where the legendary ‘guardian’ sea snakes dwell in crevices around the Tirta Pabersihan fountain.
This natural spout is the source of holy water for all temples in the area. Priests at the fountain bless visitors by sprinkling them with water. You can cup your palms and take a sip to prove it is amazingly fresh water.
Onshore temples include the Penyawang, a spiritual proxy to Tanah Lot that hosts pilgrims when the main offshore temple is inaccessible during high tide. Other smaller temples around the site host prayer sessions for various aspects of the villagers’ agrarian life, from good rice harvests to rites of passage.
North of Tanah Lot is Batu Bolong, similarly built on a rock formation with a ‘hollow’ overpass linking to the mainland. Convenient pathways and well-kept tropical gardens line the grounds from Tanah Lot to Batu Bolong, with resting spots offering shades and good viewpoints to both outcrops.
Art shops selling souvenirs of all sorts line the pathway from the parking area to the temple, also with peddlers selling traditional snacks such as Jaja keep on – must-try palm sugar-filled gelatinous balls rolled in grated coconut.
Good things about Tanah Lot
Although the main temple grounds of Tanah Lot are only for praying pilgrims and are closed off to visitors, the panoramic views and cultural offerings around are highlights to enjoy.
On the holy day of Kuningan, five days before the temple’s anniversary, the pilgrimages are festive parades worth witnessing. Tanah Lot’s piodalan anniversary falls on a Wednesday following each Kuningan on Bali’s 210-day Pawukon calendar.
You must dress and act respectfully as on any temple visit in Bali. Large waves near the rocks are hazardous. Always take extreme care and obey warning signs. For further safety measures, members of the Balawista lifeguards take shifts to lend a watchful eye at several critical points along the coast.
On combined day tours, try reaching Tanah Lot in the early afternoon to explore the site, then head on to the Surya Mandala Cultural Park’s grand open stage near Batu Bolong to see the sunset Kecak ‘fire dance’ performances (held daily from 6.30 pm), then stay on for dinner at one of the restaurants on Sunset Terrace.
There are Western and Asian selections, but Bali’s favorite spicy sauced grills and seafood are must-tries – paired with ice-cold beers and views of the temple.