This cliff-top temple is indeed impressive. The temple is built on the steep cliff and coming here can feel like sitting one the throne of Bali. During sunset hours the atmosphere gets really mystical.
Uluwatu Temple (Pura Uluwatu or also known as Pura Luhur) is one of Bali's nine key directional temples (Pura Kayangan Jagat). Though a small temple was claimed to have existed beforehand, based on inscriptions the structure was either instigated or significantly expanded by a Javanese sage, Empu Kuturan in the 11th Century. He was a Majapahit monk, who took also part in establishing several other temples on Bali.
Another sage from East Java, Danghyang Nirartha (Dwijendra) is credited for constructing the padmasana shrines and is claimed to have attained Moksha at Uluwatu. Legends suggest that he reached the highest spiritual point of oneness with the gods by a strike of lightning and completely disappeared.
You can enter the temple area through two entrances that are split gates. They are surrounded by a couple of Ganesha sculptures (shaped like a human body with an elephant head). Behind the main shrine lies a Brahmin statue facing the Indian Ocean. Until the early 80ies it was rather difficult to get here.
Location and Setting
Even more remarkable than the temple itself, which might not be as impressive as some other major temple sites on Bali, is its location: Perched on a steep cliff 70 metres above the roaring Indian ocean waves. There are more steep headlands on either side and sunsets over Uluwatu are a sight to behold. There is also a very scenic cave underneath with rock formations leading onto a beach close to the temple. This is a popular spot for surfers.
You can watch a Balinese Dance Performance in the evenings and although it can be a bit crowded at times or feel a bit touristy, it's still a nice and special experience to come here.
It takes about an hour to get from one end to other, which not many of the visitors do actually. But it's nice and you will be rewarded along the way with remarkable views.
Good to Know
Like in any other temple, you need to be properly dressed to enter. Sarongs and sashes are available for free at the entrance. Guides, once famously mercenary, hassle visitors less than they used to, although they will offer to "protect" you from the monkeys, for a tip of course. Note that while you are free to walk around the temple grounds, the central courtyards are usually closed and can only be entered during special rituals.
Take your time, roam around, sit down at times and enjoy the spectacular views. The name: Ulu means head and Watu means rock. Some temples like Uluwatu are also called additionally "Luhur" which means something like heavenly, original, transcendent, ancestrial.
The temple is inhabited by large number of monkeys, who are extremely adept at snatching visitors' belonging, including bags, cameras and eyeglasses. Keep a very close grip on all your belongings and stow away your eyeglasses if at all possible. If you do have something taken, the monkeys can usually be induced to exchange it for some fruit. Needless to say, rewarding the monkeys like this only encourages them to steal more. Locals and even the temple priests will be happy to do the job for you, naturally in exchange for a tip (Rp 10,000-50,000). The monkey are believed to guard the temple from bad influences.
Sign Board at Entrance
At every major temple entrance in Bali you will find one or more signboards (also in English) that inform you about rules, entrance fees and the most important things you need to know when entering the compound. It's always advisable to take these five minutes and read those signs, even if a helpful guide might tell you: "No Need, I can tell you everything."
Here in Uluwatu for example (like at the Monkey Forest in Ubud) they strongly advise you to take off glasses, earrings, hats etc, because of the monkeys.