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Thinking of Bali, the first thing that pops up in mind are the thousands of temples you can see anywhere you look at. We visited many of the Hindu must-see sacred places and without any doubt, I could point at one and call it my favourite – the Gunung Kawi Temple! We were lucky to visit it during the lunchtime in Bali (something between 13:00 and 15:00) which allowed us to have the whole Temple Complex just for ourselves! Idyllic!
The Temple Complex is also known as Pura Gunung Kawi among locals. Be aware there are three temples named Gunung Kawi in Bali: Gunung Kawi Temple in Keliki (this one), Gunung Kawi in Sebatu (water temple dedicated to Vishnu), and Gunung Kawi Temple in Babitra. The Gunung Kawi Temple located in Keliki is the oldest and one of the most unrivalled archaeological wonders of Bali.
Gunung Kawis’s origin dates back to the 11th century – the times before the kingdom of Majapahit. The Complex comprises an incredible collection of ancient candi (shrine) reliefs, carved into some eight-meter high sheer cliff faces.
Gunung Kawi: How to Get There
The Gunung Kawi complex is located near Tampak Siring village in Tampaksiring region, about 15 kilometres north of Ubud. The Temple is also about 40 km from Denpasar (ca 1h 15min by car), 50 km from Kuta (ca 1h 30 min by car), 60 km from Nusa Dua (ca 1h 40 min by car), and 40 km from Padang Bai (ca 1h 15 min by car).
When travelling by car or motorcycle, the Temple Complex is one of the junctions (“Objek Wisata Gunung Kawi”) of the busy Tampaksiring Street which connects almost all of the must-see temples near Ubud: Pura Pusering Jagat, Goa Gajah Temple, Gunung Kawi Temple, and Tirta Empul Temple.
The Gunung Kawi Temple Complex is reachable only by foot from the main parking area. You should follow the tiny stone paved path that leads down into the Valley of Pakerisan River. After more than 350 steps down and 3500 small local shops aside from the path, you will enter the sacred side of Pakerisan River and the beautiful sawa scenery (rice fields) of Gunung Kawi. From here you will see the bridge that connects the rice fields with the Temple Complex.
Before crossing the bridge, have a look at the bottom of the valley and the first stone monument. Across the river, you will spot another group of stone monuments located on your left side.
Gunung Kawi: Know Before You Go
Opening Hours: Gunung Kawi Temple Complex is open every day from Monday-Sunday – 7:00 am to 6 pm
Parking: 5.000 IDR for cars, and 2.000 IDR for motorbikes
Tickets: Adults 15.000 IDR (0,80 €), Children and Students 7.500 IDR (0,40 €)
Ticketing Service: From 8:30 am to 5:30 pm
Gunung Kawi’s History
The Temple Complex is famous with some of the most ancient relicts of Bali: a sacred tombstone of a King and his family, a Hindu Temple and an ancient miniature of old Balinese village made of stones.
Gunung Kawi Temple is considered to be different than all other Hindu Temples in Bali. Instead of worshipping Hindu Gods, Gunung Kawi Complex was built in order to apotheosize kings. On the temple located on the east side of the river, some researchers found the written evidence: “Haji Lumahing Jalu” -> haji = king, lumah = temple, jalu = sharp weapon.
The Complex has an interesting, but not completely approved history which dates back to the Era of Udayana (10th century AD). Its construction began around the year of 989 AD and sustained during the reign of Marakata (1023 AD) and Anak Wungsu (1049 – 1077 AD). Applied research approximates the date of construction to be in the 11th AD. But the writing style used in Gunung kawi called “Quadrangular Kadiri” arrived around 1227 AD during the reign of King Kertanegara. Nowadays, the history of Gunung Kawi is still not completely common. In 2012 Gunung Kawi was granted with UNESCO World Heritage status.
Gunung Kawi consists of 5 smaller temple complexes and when including the main temple, there are 6 complexes. Gunung Kawi Temple Complex has 10 rock-cut candis which are carved into 7 m high cliff face. Altogether, four candis (shrines) are located on the west side of the river, five on the east side and one candi is located in the south.
The Complex houses two rows of ancient candi Temple complex – the best-preserved examples in Bali. The word “candi” comes from “Chandika”, or the Goddess of Death and wife of God Shiva “The Destroyer”. These carved in the rock candis are unknown elsewhere in the world.
The Buddhist Temple Complex is located in the east of Pakerisan River is often used as a residence and as a place for meditation.
Enjoy the day!
Continue reading this series:
A Simple Guide to Visiting Tegalalang Rice Terrace, Bali