Situated on a beautiful offshore cliff in Tabanan Regency, Bali, Tanah Lot, or ‘Land on the Sea‘ is a Hindu temple that is believed to be around 500 years old. An amalgamation of Balinese and Hindu mythology, the base of the temple is carved out of sea snakes and provides a natural source of holy water, offering visitors an aesthetic and spiritual experience unlike any other.
Tanah Lot Temple can be found about 300 meters (over 980 ft) off the coast of the island. It is one of the seven temples on the Bali coast. In fact, from this beautiful rock temple, you can see the Pura Ulu Vaatu temple site on the rocks to the south and a long sweep of azure water to the west near Negara.
Getting to the top of the Tanah Lot is reserved for priests and Balinese locals, but tourists are allowed to walk around the base of the temple and seek blessings from the small shrine there. Due to its stunning architecture and intricate rock faces, set against breathtaking Indonesian waters with a clear sight of the sun, Tanah Lot is considered a photographer’s paradise.
History of Tanah Lot
Tanah Lot is believed to have been conceived by a 16th-century Hindu traveler and a religious figure named Dan Hyang Nirarth. Traveling from Bali, he sought shelter on a rock on the banks of Tabanan. This rock was locally known as ‘Gili Beyo’. While resting there, local fishermen visited him and gave him food and gifts. After spending a night on the rock, and being overwhelmed by the calm spirit of the area, he asked the locals to build a temple there to worship the sea gods of Bali. At first, Nirtha’s idea for the temple faced opposition from the local chieftain.
However, Nirartha is believed to have conquered Gili Beyo through the miraculous act of carrying Gili Beyo from his hands to its present position in the sea. It was on this rock that the temple was built for the Tanah Lot deity Deva Baruna, the sea god. Before leaving, Nirartha gifted the local chief a kris (also spelled Kerry), a venomous Indonesian dagger believed to have magical powers.
Restoration of Tanah Lot
In the 1980s, the stone temple had traces of erosion and it slowly began to crumble. Much of this is attributed to its location on the ocean, a reef that has been facing rough tides for decades. Through a loan from the Japanese government, the Balinese authorities began the restoration of the Tanah Lot. Most of the eroded reef was replaced with artificial reefs and other supervised renovations. As of 2014, the areas inside the temple were also off-limits due to restoration work.
In 1986, concrete supports were installed along the Tabanan Coast as protection with concrete tetrapods to redirect the waves down the coast. Unfortunately, this not only affected the aesthetics of the temple area but also caused the accumulation of sand on the shore which affected biological life. With the help of the World Monuments Fund, changes such as fencing around the temple and the creation of ‘areas’ have been implemented. The main area includes sacred buildings, the central area for religious activities, and the lower areas specially designated for tourists.
Best Time to Visit Tanah Lot
The temple is open for prayer throughout the day, but the tourist hours are from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm throughout the year. If you want to enjoy the surroundings of the temple with the scorching heat and crowd, then it is best to go before 9:00 am. If not, watching the sunset here is extremely popular. Every evening, the Kekkak dance (a form of Balinese Hindu dance) is held after sunset at 6:30 pm which lasts for about an hour. It is a fiery and passionate dance that is mainly performed by men to the beat of rhythmic sounds. You will need tickets to catch this performance.
At certain festivals during the year, Tanah Lot becomes a favorite destination. It sees large crowds at Kuningan at the end of the popular Gulangan festival when it is believed that ancestral spirits are leaving the earth and returning to heaven. On the day of Odalan, an occasion for the village community to gather and invite the deities to their homes, you will see queues of Balinese women make their way with offerings to Tanah Lot.
Things To Do at Tanah Lot
As you go down, you will get the first glimpse of the temple from the rock side. During sunset, this route is full of locals and tourists who are enjoying the sunset. Actually, the view of the sun setting on the horizon behind Tanah Lot is quite a spectacular sight. A similar view can be seen every morning as the sun rises without crowds.
At the rock base of the temple, there is a fountain called the Tirtha Pabarsihan, which is believed to drain the holy water. You are bound to find priests there, sprinkling this holy water on the visitors. At the base of the same rock are the guardian snakes of the temple, who live in the crevices.
There exists a road to reach the temple from the shore. During low tide, you can easily cross it and make your way up. Beware of large waves near rocks which can be dangerous. As a security measure, there are lifeguards who keep a watch on the traffic from the shore to the temple. During high tide, the crossing is practically impossible. The waves reach incredible heights with the power to sweep away anyone trying to reach Tanah Lot. Instead, during high tide, pilgrims travel to Penyaweng Temple or Batu Bolong, which is connected to Tanah Lot, through a passageway with well-kept gardens on each side.
Dress Code at Tanah Lot
There is a dress code that is informally enforced in Tanah Lot. Women are required to cover their legs, usually with a sarong or kebaya (native Indonesian dress) as well as covering their shoulders (such as the use of a scarf). Men should follow the same rule, as well as wear a riding (earring headdress made of folded fabric). Is this considered appropriate? Temple dress that will help you fit in without raising any eyebrows. There are some tourists who have visited the temple informally without following the dress norms, but this is considered disrespectful by the locals.
Tips on Visiting Tanah Lot
- In recent years, the area has become highly developed for visitors, including parking areas, toilets, restaurants, information centers, and other services. The parking fee is IDR 5,000 for four-wheelers and IDR 2,000 for two-wheelers.
- Due to the unpredictable nature of the water en route to the Marine Temple, insurance coverage is included in this entry fee. In addition, a small donation is usually expected to receive blessings from the priests.
- Taxis are also available here, but they are known to inflate prices. Thus, it can cost anywhere between IDR 100,000 to IDR 300,000 depending on your bargaining skills. There is also public transport in the form of app-based cabs such as Uber. They can easily be booked to drop you off at the location for a fee of around 200,000 IDR, but keep in mind that they cannot be booked to drop you off at the location. Instead, local cabs ply. They charge higher prices to Ubud than a set price list of around 275,000 IDR, but rates are slightly cheaper to reach Kuta and Denpasar. You can always take a bus from Kuta to Tanah Lot, but they do not operate after 5:00 PM.
Shopping Around Tanah Lot
To reach Tabanan Beach below, you have to cross the local Bali market leading to the sea. There are dozens of shops and stalls selling souvenirs, budget clothes, and delicious Indonesian snacks. Some of the traditional snacks to be tried here are Jaja clip-on (sugar-filled gelatinous rice balls wrapped in coconut) and s Kelapa Muda (chilled coconut). The market is always lively with loud pranks, bargains, and announcements over loudspeakers.
How To Reach Tanah Lot
Because it is an important tourist destination, Tanah Lot is easily accessible. If you’re using public transportation, it’s only a 45-minute drive from Kuta or Seminyak, and 30-40 minutes from Ubud. During the pre-sunset and post-sunset rush, this time can extend to about an hour as the traffic increases and it stretches for kilometers with bumper-to-bumper traffic. We suggest that you plan your trip in such a way that you can avoid these traffic hours.