About 20 kilometers northwest of Kuta, Pura Tanah Lot (“Pura” means temple in Balinese) is one of Bali’s most iconic temples thanks to its spectacular seaside setting on a rocky islet surrounded by crashing waves. For the Balinese people, it is one of the most sacred of all the island’s sea temples. (The largest and holiest Hindu temple in Bali is Pura Besakih, but recently local hagglers have been harassing visitors.) Every evening, throngs of tourists from Kuta, Legian, and Sanur find their way through a labyrinth of lanes lined by souvenir sellers to watch the sun setting behind the temple. Pura Tanah Lot was built at the beginning of the 16th century and is thought to be inspired by the priest Nirartha, who asked local fishermen to build a temple here after spending the night on the rock outcrop.
Although foreigners can’t enter any of the temples, you can walk across to the main temple at low tide, and it’s fun to wander along the paths taking photos and soaking up the magnificent setting. After viewing the various temples and shrines, you can relax at one of the clifftop restaurants and cafes here and even sample the famous Kopi luwak (civet coffee), while friendly animals snooze on the cafe’s tables.
From Tanah Lot, you can stroll along tropically landscaped pathways to beautifulBatu Bolong, another sea temple perched on a rock outcrop with an eroded causeway connecting it to the shore. When visiting any temples in Bali, be sure to dress respectfully, and wear a sarong and sash.