With a history dating back more than 1,000 years, the Mother Temple of Besakih (Pura Besakih), set astride the slopes of Mount Agung, is Bali’s single most important temple. Twenty-three shrines make up the complex: 17th-century Pura Penataran Agung, dedicated to Shiva, is the most significant.
Despite what Besakih’s famously persistent touts tell you, you don’t need a guide or a Besakih tour to explore the Mother Temple, and entrance fees are very affordable. However, this is a complicated Hindu temple complex with a long history and almost zero signage, so culture vultures will get more out of the experience with a guide.
Most full-day tours to Besakih temple bundle the complex with Lake Batur and/or Mount Batur plus Kintamani or with east Bali attractions, such as Tirta Gangga Water Palace or Sidemen.
Note: When Mount Agung volcano is very active, access may be restricted.
Things to Know Before You Go
Spare yourself the hassle of haggling to rent a sarong by wearing long pants or skirts that cover your legs.
The slope from the parking lot is extremely steep, and the temple involves a lot of stairs.
Be aware that many shrines and temple areas are reserved for Balinese worshippers.
How to Get There
Set on the slopes of Mount Agung in east Bali, the road to Besakih temple is both slow and winding, and can be grueling when self-driving: The journey takes about 90 minutes from Ubud and considerably longer from Kuta. Between the transport issues and the famously aggressive touts, many may find organized Bali tours—or a private tour—the easiest option.
When to Get There
Besakih temple is one of Indonesia's more popular tourist destinations. Both tour buses and touts start flooding in from 9am so, if possible, enjoy your Besakih temple tour early in the morning. There are colorful ceremonies almost year-round as each shrine has its own “odalan” (birthday): full moon and new moon make an optimal time to see Hindu worshippers in action, though you may need to wear ceremonial gear.
Scams to Avoid at Besakih Temple
Besakih touts sometimes lie about admission fees. As at many religious sites in Indonesia, the ticket should not cost significantly more than 15,000 IDR, although there are separate small charges for parking. Ask for a printed ticket so that you can confirm the price. The complex is full of freelance guides and “temple guardians”: should you decide to hire one, be sure to agree a fee upfront. Their English and their knowledge is often limited.