Read on to find out why Pura Gunung Kawi Temple is my favourite sanctuary in Bali and everything you need to know about visiting. You will find information on where in Tampaksiring to find Pura Gunung Kawi, the entrance fee, Bali temples dress code, opening hours, and the highly intriguing legend to this site.
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During my adventures last summer, my count at the number of temples in Bali stopped at 1000.
Ok, so I didn’t actually count. But my estimate would be that there are over 10, 000 dispersed across this beautiful island.
I could of course use Google, but where’s the fun and mystery in that 😉
If you only have time for one temple in Bali, my vote would be for this one, fellow explorer:
Pura Gunung Kawi Temple Bali
Read on to find out…
Located deep in a ravine, Gunung Kawi Temple also known as Bali’s “Valley of the Kings” is one of the oldest and most remarkable archaeological temple complexes on the island.
This unique collection of ancient shrines carved into the cliffs and bleached by time, offer a glimpse into another era.
These beautiful temples are some of the most fascinating in Bali.
The main site overlooks the Pakerisan River, which itself has religious significance. It is believed these holy waters sanctify Gunung Kawi, and the allure of the place conjures up a peaceful atmosphere.
To get to the revered complex you need to follow the stone paved path and descend 300-odd steps, leading you past spectacular rice terrace views on either side down into the lush green valley.
The views as you walk through ageless tiered rice fields are as fine as any on Bali
Where the stairs end, proceed through a stone cloister with columns each holding a vase filled with water along with a sign asking you to sprinkle holy water onto yourself before entering any further.
Or if you’re anything like me, you find a hidden entrance on the side and only see the holy water for sprinkling on exiting. Oops! 😉
Pass through the stone gate to the hermitage, a temple carved into a rock wall believed to have been an area for royalty and priests to relax and meditate.
Once here, cross the bridge suspended over a small river gorge. The Pakerisan River divides the holy complex into two separate sections and once at the bottom, a lush valley and one of Bali’s oldest and largest ancient monuments surround you.
Inside, pass the twisting trees and vines, the view opens to the main site with ten rock-cut shrines hewn into the steep walls of the valley. These candi stand in awe-inspiring seven metre-high secluded alcoves cut into the sheer cliff face.
Five candi, which constitute the main group in this complex, are to be found on the eastern side of the river. Four candi are situated across the bridge on the western side. The final candi, often referred to as the ‘tenth tomb,’ is hidden across the valley to the south.
The legend to this amazing place is intriguing
While the exact origin of the candi is unknown, there is evidence to suggest that Gunung Kawi was constructed by king Anak Wungsu in honour of his father, Udayana the great Balinese ruler.
Inscriptions over each Candi approximate the date of construction to be in the 11th century.
Each candi is believed to be a memorial to a member of the 11th century Balinese royalty, but little is known for certain.
The temple is decorated during its Piodalan temple anniversary each year following the third full moon on the Balinese calendar.
I arrived in Bali during the island’s most important annual festival of Galungan and Kuningan, a celebration of the triumph of dharma over adharma. The date is determined using the 210-day Balinese calendar and the locals believe the ancestral spirits visit the Earth during this time.
This meant large celebrations throughout the island, festively decorated with penjor or bamboo poles on the side of the roads having offerings suspended to the end.
Gunung Kawi was no different and this allowed for an even more exotic setting.
What adds to the charm and authenticity of a visit to Pura Gunung Kawi is that this site is yet to be discovered by mass tourism remaining a hidden gem. This allows for exploration without the hoards of crowds experienced by many other sites in Bali. I don’t know how long this will last though as a swing has recently been added which may attract the crowds.
Mount Kawi Valley of the Kings — Good to Know
Strictly speaking, Gunung Kawi is not a temple, per se, nor is it an actual tomb.
The royals revered here were likely cremated as per Balinese custom, but it is nevertheless considered a holy place.
There is a charge for parking. If you go by motorbike and wish to avoid paying for parking, I recommend to park outside of the site entrance.
At the entrance lies Café Kawi, selling cold drinks for IDR 10 000 and up, which you might consider for a break between sightseeing.
Make sure to bring along some water with you as you are going to need it.
To get to the temple you need to follow the stone paved path and descend about 300 concrete-type steps. These stairs are sturdy and wide with an old handrail for most of the way down.
The descent usually takes around 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how much energy you have. Do make sure to wear comfortable footwear for all that walking.
Souvenir stands line the sides of the steps that lead down to the site, selling some wonderfully creative articles, souvenirs, crafts, and trinkets. Prices at these stalls are lower compared to Ubud and elsewhere on the island. I recommend waiting to buy anything until your way back up so you don’t have to carry whatever you purchase throughout the site.
Not many know this, but there is also a beautiful waterfall on the complex found by hiking for only a couple minutes.
Where to find Pura Gunung Kawi
The temple complex is located at Jl. Pejen in Bali’s Tampaksiring region, approximately 20km northeast of Ubud and 40 kilometers from Denpasar.
Check out the exact location through Google maps using this link: Google Maps (Coordinates: 8°25’22.41″S, 115°18’44.57″E)
This can be done as a day trip from Ubud or from anywhere on the island really. You can get there by taxi, local bemo (mini-bus), rental car or do as I did and hire a scooter for the day.
If you negotiate for a taxi from Ubud, it should cost no more than IDR150 000 return, with the driver waiting for you while you explore the area.
Note: Gunung Kawi is only a couple kilometers away from another interesting temple, Pura Tirta Empul, a holy water temple. If you are physically fit enough and are able to manage, you could decide to visit both sites during the same trip.
Not to be confused with Pura Gunung Kawi Sebatu
A lot of people confuse Pura Gunung Kawi with Gunung Kawi Sebatu. Even though there is a similarity in the name, please be aware that these are two different temple sites located at different places.
Gunung Kawi Temple opening hours for visitors
The temple is open daily from 07:00 am – 05:00 pm.
To explore the site in its entirety including the rice fields, carvings, and temple structures would take around 2 hours.
Pura Gunung Kawi entrance fee
IDR50 000 per person for international visitors
IDR30 000 per person for locals
To enter the Gunung Kawi holy site, you need to pay an entrance fee at the ticket booth alongside the cafe before the stairs leading down into the valley.
Bali Temples dress code
As with visiting any other temple in Bali, proper attire comprising a sarong cloth with a sash around the waist is required to enter Pura Gunug Kawi.
A cloth rental is included in the entrance fee, which you will be able to obtain at the ticket window. There are also several stalls selling all kinds of shawl pieces to view and purchase as you make your way down into the valley.
Even though the walk to reach Pura Gunung Kawi temple can be physically demanding, don’t let this intimidate you or put you off in any way.
What I suggest is to arrive here real early in the morning or an hour before sunset. In this way, you miss the crowds and the heat of the intense Indonesian sun. There is better lights too during these times.
Walking up and down those steps surrounded by the spectacular beauty of the rice terraces, alongside towering palm trees and in the shadow of centuries old, culturally significant temples; I was left completely in wonder.
And I have no doubt that you will be left feeling inspired too.
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Here’s to being real life explorers,
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