There are plenty of amazing temples in Bali, including the famous clifftop Uluwatu Temple, but one stands out from the pack as one of the most striking temples in Indonesia – Tanah Lot.
Tanah Lot is an Ancient Hindu Shrine that sits on a rocky island just off the coast, and it’s one of the most visited places in Bali for good reason.
Our ultimate guide will walk you through the history of Tanah Lot, what to expect when you’re there, where it is and how to get there, how much it will cost, and when it’s open, as well as provide you with other interesting things to do near to Tanah Lot.
About Tanah Lot Temple – The Facts & History
Tanah Lot does not refer to the temple, oddly, it’s the name of the rock formation that the temple sits on.
Pura Tanah Lot is the Balinese name for the temple, and it means “Tanah Lot Temple”.
Tanah Lot, on the other hand, translates into English as “Land [in the] Sea.”
It’s a very popular tourist attraction, and it has become one of the “must photograph” sights on the island of Bali.
The rock that it sits on has been moulded by the tides over hundreds of years, and it’s a compellingly beautiful sight in its own right.
The Founding Of Tanah Lot: Danghyang Niratha
The temple at Tanah Lot is one of the seven sea temples of Bali, and it came into being, they say, in the 16th century thanks to Danghyang Niratha (or Pedanda Shakti Wawu Rauh).
Danghyang was a Hindu holy man who founded the Shaivite Priesthood in Bali.
He wasn’t a native Balinese, however, in fact, he came from Java, and he only came to Bali because he was fleeing the unwanted attentions of the wife of one of his Javanese patrons!
The legend says that he arrived in Bali having travelled on the top of a pumpkin! They say that this is why some Balinese folks refuse to eat pumpkins to this very day.
Meeting The King
When he arrived, he presented himself in the court of King Dalem. The King wasn’t a very happy man as his kingdom had been suffering from a number of plagues for many years.
On hearing about this, the priest gave the king a lock of his hair and promised it would bring an end to the suffering of his people. The hair still exists in another temple in Bali today.
Arriving In Tanah Lot
Having made peace with the king, Danghyang travelled to the island of Bali, and he came upon the rock on the South Coast and decided to spend a night there because of its beauty.
While he was there, the local fishermen saw him on the land in the sea and decided to bring him gifts for his well-being as they heard the waves crashing around him.
This was well-received, and the priest told the fishermen that the sea god, Dewa Baruna (or Bhatara Segara) of Balinese mythology, was nearby and they needed to build a temple to ensure his happiness.
In order to spread Hinduism further, the locals decided it would be a good idea to worship Danghyang Niratha here too.
Thus, in the 16th century, Tanah Lot saw its first-ever building being constructed Pura Tanah Lot or Tanah Lot Temple.
Tanah Lot’s Place In Bali’s Defense Against The Sea
It has been there ever since, and in the remaining years, there have been seven sea temples constructed around the edge of Bali, and you can see at least one other sea temple and usually two from each of these temples!
Thus, Tanah Lot forms part of a warding circle to prevent the sea gods from lashing out at the land!
The Restoration Of Tanah Lot
In 1980, Pura Tanah Lot was in a very bad state indeed. The rock face of the temple was disintegrating, and the heart of the temple was too dangerous for people to enter.
The Indonesian Government wanted to repair the Pura Tanah Lot, but in the 1980s, Indonesia was not a wealthy country, and such a huge undertaking could not be easily financed by the Indonesian treasury.
So, they turned to the Japanese Government, which generously agreed to provide a loan of 800,000,000 IDR, which was about $480 million USD at that time.
It wasn’t all spent on repairing Tanah Lot Temple, much of the budget was spent on restoring other vulnerable temple locations in Bali, but it was more than enough to stabilize Pura Tanah Lot.
This means that today, about one-third of the rock of Tanah Lot isn’t actual rock – it’s an artificial construct introduced by the Japanese-funded restoration program, which left Tanah Lot Temple in an excellent state of repair for future generations.
2000 World Monuments Watch Report
Tanah Lot Temple was added to the World Monuments Watch (WMF) list in 2000.
They secured some funding thanks to this inclusion from American Express that allowed the local people to do a full conservation study of Tanah Lot and Tanah Lot Temple.
The aim was to create a sustainable future for this tourist attraction that allowed the continued use of the site by worshippers and meant that tourists could visit, too.
They used some additional funding from American Express to build a fence around the temple and a second fence around the entirety of Tanah Lot.
They also redefined all the spatial boundaries on the site to better reflect traditional Balinese standards.
Today, Tanah Lot Temple remains one of the best-maintained and cared-for temple sites in Bali.
What To Do In Tanah Lot Temple In Bali
There are several things you can do at this stunning location of natural beauty that will enhance your visit to Tanah Lot Temple.
Tanah Lot Temple Cliff Terrace
If you want the best view of Tanah Lot Temple and the surrounding area, then we recommend visiting the nearby clifftop terrace opposite the temple.
You can hear the waves crashing against the rocks at high tide, and the setting is sublimely mystical to look at any time of day.
If the tide is low, you may walk out onto the rocks to get a better look at the Tanah Lot Temple from the shore.
However, you may not enter the temple itself as a foreigner. The grounds are reserved for local Hindu pilgrims.
Holy Snake (The Banded Sea Krait)
They say that this temple is guarded by sea snakes. The sea snakes are meant to keep away those with evil in their hearts.
If you are willing to pay a fee (it’s nothing significant), you can see one of these sea snakes for yourself.
This will be a sea snake with black and white rings known as a Banded Sea Krait.
The good news is that while they are extremely venomous snakes, they have almost no track record of biting human beings.
Batu Bolong Temple
A short walk from Tanah Lot Temple, there’s another sea temple – the Batu Bolong Temple.
If you’ve paid the entrance fee at Tanah Lot, you won’t need to pay to get into Batu Bolong Temple as it’s included in the price. Just show your ticket to get in.
The name “Batu Bolong” translates as “hollow stone”. This refers to the hole in the rock under the temple.
If you wish to enter the grounds, you must be modestly dressed – that means shoulders and legs covered, no exceptions.
So, don’t wear shorts. It’s rude and will get you thrown out if you manage to sneak in.
There are two main temples on this site, as well as fourteen pagodas standing tall on the rocks above the beach below.
You can also visit Senggig Beach if you want to follow the sea-ledge path down to it from this temple. It’s a pleasant enough beach for a stroll, but it’s not really designed for sunbathing.
Legendary Sunset Terrace At Tanah Lot
If there’s one driving force that brings people to Tanah Lot Temple over and over again, it’s the beautiful sunset that turns an already striking vista into something absolutely stunning.
Now, you can, of course, just stand on the clifftop terrace and watch the sunset, but most people opt to hit the restaurants and warungs nearby and enjoy a cold beer (or fruit juice) as they watch the light show.
If you want the best pictures of the sunset, however, you’ll want to head down onto the black sand beach and shoot upwards a little. Just check the tides first, there’s not much beach available at high tide.
We’d also note that while Tanah Lot Temple deservedly gets all the Instagram attention – you can get an awesome sunset shot of the rock arch at Batu Bolong Temple, too, and there’s much less competition for that shot.
Eat Jaja Kelepon (Sugar Balls)
You’ll find that all around Beraban Village and especially near Tanah Lot, there are peddlers selling traditional snacks.
We’d recommend trying some Jaja Kelepon. That’s a local gelatinous rice ball that is stuffed with palm sugar and then rolled in grated coconut. They’re a super sweet treat. Yum.
One thing we’ve noticed is that these vendors are experts at finding the shadiest and coolest spots around Tanah Lot Temple, and thus if you buy something, you can stand there as you eat and enjoy some respite from the full force of the Balinese sun.
Where Is Tanah Lot?
Tanah Lot is in Beraban Village. Beraban Village itself is a small fishing community about 20 kilometres to the northwest of Kuta.
The full address of Tanah Lot Temple is: Beraban, Kediri, Tabanan Regency, Bali 82121, Indonesia.
How Do You Get To Tanah Lot?
You can take a taxi if you’re coming from Canggu as it’s only a 20-minute drive, but if you’re coming from a bit further away – we’d recommend that you book a private car and driver.
It will take an hour or so from Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, etc.
When Should I Visit Tanah Lot?
There is no bad time of year to visit Tanah Lot, though you are more likely to get a good view of Tanah Lot Temple in the dry season as rain can make it a bit harder to appreciate.
Sunsets are also better in the dry season than the wet season for similar reasons.
However, if you arrive on the holy day of Kuningan (you will need to Google for the exact date as this falls on a day in the 210-day local Balinese calendar, the “Pawukon”), then you can see some amazing parades of pilgrims on this day.
Kuningan is also 5 days prior to the anniversary or “piodalan” of the Tanah Lot Temple, and there’s quite a bit to see on the anniversary too.
What Time Is Tanah Lot Open?
Tanah Lot is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the year. It is a very popular place, and we’d recommend that if you want to avoid the crowds that, you visit early in the morning.
There’s something about Balinese life that ensures very few people are early risers.
However, the best time of day to be at Tanah Lot is in the evening, just before sunset, and the light is far more striking than at sunrise.
How Much Is The Entrance Fee To Tanah Lot?
The current Tanah Lot entrance fee is a very reasonable 75,000 IDR for Adults and 40,000 IDR for children.
We’d note that this fee also includes access to the Batu Bolong Temple, so it’s very good value for money.
What To Do Near Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot is on the coast of Bali, and as you might expect, that means there are some nice beaches nearby and also a temple of note.
This black sand beach is one of the most popular places for surfing in Bali.
You’ll need to take a taxi or scooter from Tanah Lot, but it’s only about a 10-minute drive away.
The reef breaks here are incredible, and it’s very beautiful at sunset.
Another great reason to visit Echo Beach is that they have some excellent seafood cafes that are set on the cliffs above the beach that give very dramatic sunset views.
Pasut Beach is about a half-hour drive from Tanah Lot. It, too, is a black sand beach, and it tends to be less busy than Echo Beach.
Please don’t ride a scooter on this beach, you can ride a dirt bike, but you’re going to get hurt on a scooter, which will get bogged down in the sand.
The best place to visit here is the coconut palm tree forest not far from the beach entrance.
And as we’re still on the East Coast, sunset views are amazing here, too.
Taman Ayun Temple
This is one of the six royal temples of Bali, and this temple is located in Mengwi Village.
Its name means “Garden Temple in the Water”, and it’s one of the most attractive temple complexes in Bali.
As the name suggests there are many lotus and fish ponds at this site.
Is Tanah Lot A Real Place?
Yes! Tanah Lot Temple is a very real place. Many of us at FINNS have visited Tanah Lot, and if somebody spends a fair bit of time in Bali, there is a near 100% chance that they’ve been to Tanah Lot Temple, too.
You can visit Tanah Lot Temple in Bali easily, too. Contact our friends at the Bali Res Centre to organize a trip to this holy place.
What Is Tanah Lot Famous For?
Tanah Lot is famed for its beauty as well as its place in Balinese spiritual life. Its position on a large offshore rock formation means it appears to be on an island of its own.
When the tropical sun goes down at sunset, this sea temple becomes one of the most stunning sites on the whole of the island.
At high tide, it’s cut off from the mainland entirely, and Tanah Lot is a place of enduring mystery and exoticism for many visitors to Bali.
Is It Worth Going To Tanah Lot?
Yes! We wouldn’t have written a long guide to Tanah Lot Temple if we thought it was “meh”, would we? Tanah Lot is very much worth a visit.
In fact, we’d probably go to Tanah Lot in preference to Uluwatu Temple (though if you can, you should really visit both).
It’s easy to fall in love with this sea temple perched on a large rock in the Indian Ocean. It radiates spirituality and serenity.
Is There A Dress Code For Tanah Lot?
Yes, though it’s worth noting that the main temple area is completely out of bounds to foreigners at Tanah Lot.
And thus, there is no formal dress code for Tanah Lot Temple, and there is no history of foreigners being turned away from this holy place.
Nonetheless, it’s expected that you make an effort to show some respect for local customs.
Women should cover their legs and shoulders. A sarong and a shawl are enough to make this work.
Men should wear something similar (though you might opt for trousers rather than a sarong), and if entering the temple as a pilgrim, there’s a requirement to wear an Udeng (which is a form of local traditional headwear) and a sarong and a shawl.
Can You Wear Shorts To Tanah Lot Temple?
As we’ve just said, there’s no formal dress code for foreigners at Tanah Lot Temple because you’re not allowed inside.
However, it’s pretty disrespectful to wear shorts in the immediate vicinity, and you won’t be allowed into the grounds of nearby temples in Shorts.
So, ideally, wear trousers or jeans.
Are There Any Other Rules At Balinese Temples I Should Know?
Yes, they’re pretty common sensical though:
- Don’t swear – as with any religious site in the world, potty mouths aren’t exactly welcome
- Don’t make a nuisance of yourself for a photo – that means stay out of the way of people worshipping there and don’t move things in temples to help get a better shot. That’s rude
- Don’t drop litter – seriously, you wouldn’t anyway, would you?
Can You Go Into Tanah Lot Temple?
Foreigners are not allowed inside Tanah Lot Temple.
This is mainly because it’s not the biggest of sites, and it’s a truly holy site that is used by Hindu pilgrims all year round.
This helps to preserve the site for future generations, too. As we’ve already noted, there’s been a lot of restoration work on Tanah Lot Temple already.
Hindi women who visit Tanah Lot Temple are expected to remain outside of the temple if they are menstruating or pregnant.
Their faith says that a woman who has her period is “Cuntaka”, which is a phrase that indicates “uncleanliness” in English.
Can I Swim At Tanah Lot?
No. It’s extremely dangerous around the rocks, which see powerful waves crash against them all the time.
There are Balawista lifeguards posted around the area of Tanah Lot to ensure that nobody puts themselves in danger.
You must follow a lifeguard’s instructions if they ask you to leave the water or to move somewhere else.
How Do I Book A Tour To Tanah Lot?
We recommend that you talk to our friends at the Bali Res Centre. This is a wholly locally owned and managed travel agency.
That means they can ensure you get a registered guide and a driver with the proper insurance and experience.
They will also ensure you get what you need at a competitive price as they can use their local knowledge to get the best deals for you.
If we book anywhere in Bali, we always use the Bali Res Centre.
Final Thoughts For When You Visit Tanah Lot Temple
If you want to visit Tanah Lot Temple, you really should. It’s one of Bali’s most sacred sites and one of its most beautiful places too.
Visiting Tanah Lot Temple lets you get in touch with more than the Balinese Sea Gods, it also helps you better understand the Balinese culture and the people of this paradise island.
If you want to get the best pictures of Tanah Lot, make sure to get there for sunset, but it’s an awesome place to visit at any time of day, thanks to its unique offshore setting and natural beauty.