Perched upon a cliff rising like a force of nature, a perfect blend of sun, sea, and sky – the Tanah Lot Temple is visually staggering.
It is one of the spiritual centers of Bali, located on the Southern coast of the island in the region of Beraban – about 30 minutes from the capital city of Denpasar. It’s a wild and verdant outcrop where waves crash spectacularly against ancient rock. It’s true meaning is one of cultural and religious significance. The Tanah Lot temple functions as a “Dang Kahyangan” a sacre place of the Balinese Hindu community. It is a holy place of honor used to express gratitude for all the blessings that have been received from God.
The Tanah Lot temple has a background steeped in mythology, spirituality and culture. It is believed that a venomous snake at the base of the temple protects from evil. Greenery and ornate statues abound, and if you do attend at 6pm (probably less crowded in off-season) you will be able to experience the traditional Hindu mantras as well as nightly dancing. Waves crash with full fury around the temple in blustering weather – you wonder how it has been able to withstand the elements over eons – 500 or so years at least. The site is UNESCO heritage listed, the cliffs and gardens are a breathtaking sight. It’s natural beauty at is finest.
It has, however, become a ridiculously popular tourist destination. Therefore, it has become commercialised to the ninth degree. Hordes of visitors flock to watch the sunset from this truly beautiful place. Many commentators lament the overcrowding of what was once a much more accessible area. The destination has become inundated with the usual hagglers and vendors and traffic has stalled to a crawl. There is only one entry and exit to the area and this is a nightmare – especially in the evening. There’s an entry fee (albeit very cheap) and Bintags, Bikinis, and selfie-obsessed tourists have become a real fly in the ointment, marring the serenity that is so integral to a spiritual haven. However, the experience of the actual temple grounds is still 100 percent worth the chaos and detractions.
If you are lucky and it is low tide you will be able to cross the water and received a blessing. The local priests are happy to oblige and donations (while appreciated) are not obligatory. It seems that the temple itself does not benefit from the markets that surround the area. They are an opportunistic offshoot – it’s what happens when a scenic sport becomes too popular. There are restaurants and shops galore if that’s what you are into. If you do go for the sunset do be prepared to battle tourists and be accosted by local traders. If you are looking for the most immersive experience then aim for early morning. Even though the sunsets are beautiful, you’re going to be vying for a vantage point. If you can visit when it is quietest you will get the best out of your experience.
Make sure you take a supply of water with you and non-slip footwear. The walk to the temple through markets is long. This is, of course, Bali. The sun is a veritable demon. You may also need to wade through some water and get wet feet if there is a high tide. There is reasonably priced food and drink available but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. You will need to pay to use the toilet. Understand that getting into the Temple involves navigating the usual tackiness that you get in Bali. But, once you are at the actual location you will understand why it is sacred.