Located approximately one hour south of Kuta, Uluwatu Temple is famous for its spectacular position atop a steep cliff 70m above sea level. ‘Ulu’ literally translates to ‘top’ while ‘watu’ is Balinese for ‘stone’ or ‘rock’. One of six main temples believed to be the spiritual pillars of Bali, Uluwatu Temple enjoys direct views of the Indian Ocean and features traditional gateways and ancient sculptures and is an excellent example of Balinese architecture. Its clifftop setting is perhaps what makes the temple so special, along with several megalithic archaeological remains which are thought to date back as far as the 10th century.
Uluwatu Temple has two entrances, one in the north and one in the south. At the front of the temple, a small forest is home to hundreds of monkeys which are said to guard against bad influences. A pathway snakes its way to the temple and is protected by concrete walls along the cliff side. It takes approximately one hour to get from one end of the path to the other, with a number of points along the way where visitors can stop. However it’s the views from the bottom that are the most rewarding, with water crashing up from the ocean horizon against the rocks.
It’s here at Uluwatu Temple that Balinese Hindus believe the divine powers Brahma, Vishnu and Siva unite, making the temple a place of worship for the Bali Hindu deity Siva Rudra, god of all aspects of life and all elements in the universe. The temple is also dedicated to protecting Bali from the evil spirits of the sea.
Legends say that a Majapahit monk named Mpu Kunturan established Uluwatu Temple 1,000 years ago. Dhang Hyang Dwijendra, a holy priest from eastern Java then chose the temple as the final worshipping place for his spiritual journey, where he achieved the highest point of spiritual oneness with the gods. In one of the courtyards behind the main shrine of Uluwatu Temple is a Brahmin state which faces the Indian Ocean and is said to represent Dhang Hyang Dwijendra.
As a place of worship, the temple is open 24 hours a day however it is only open to visitors from 9am to 6pm. The best time to visit Uluwatu Temple is just before sunset, when a traditional Kecak dance is performed on the clifftop adjacent to the temple.