Tanah Lot is not only one of Bali’s holiest shrines it is the most visited and most photographed temple on Bali thanks to its dramatic location. Built during the 15th century, Tanah Lot is 20 meters off Bali’s west coast atop a small rise of rock making it accessible only during low tide. When the tide is in, Tanah Lot seems to be floating on the ocean.
Tanah Lot literally means ‘land in the middle of the sea’ in the Balinese language. Tanah Lot is said to be the work of the 15th century priest Dang Hyang Nirartha and is a Pura Kahyangan Jagat temple. Legend has it that when Dang Hyang Nirartha was traveling throughout Bali he came upon Tanah Lot and, being a stunningly beautiful location, was resting here when local fishermen, seeing him atop the ‘island’ brought him food and gifts. As a result he stayed the night and the next day told the fishermen to build a temple for he felt it to be a holy place. Poisonous snakes are said to reside in the caves under the temple to guard it (we’ve never looked – we’ll just take the pendeta’s word for it).
Being on the western coast, sunset is considered the best time to visit Tanah Lot. If you are lucky (depending on the weather) you may get to witness one of Bali’s famous magenta sunsets. If you do, you will never forget it. But you will not be alone, with over 3 million visitors in 2013 alone, come early if you want a front row seat. That being said, if you would like to see Tanah Lot itself and explore the area a bit more coming early in the morning would be much better.
Whilst the Pura Tanah Lot itself is the main focus, there seven other smaller but still important temples and one monument (see below) surrounding Tanah Lot that make up the entire complex that covers a bit more than 20 hectares of land.
Batu Bolong Temple: Batu Bolong Temple was built 100 meters to the west side of Enjung Galuh Temple (see below), on the hollow (bolong) of a rock that juts out into the sea. Batu Bolong Temple is used to pray for holiness during two ceremonies, Melasti and Pakelem, that are held to purify the world.
Batu Mejan Temple: Batu Mejan Temple, also known as Beji Temple, is located about 100 meters to the west of Batu Bolong Temple. ‘Beji’ is a place for the Balinese to get holy water for Hindu ceremonial requirements. Balinese Hindus believe that this Beji holy spring water can be used to purify evil.
Enjung Galuh Temple: ‘Njung’ means ‘rock in the sea’ is so named because of its location in the sea near Jero Kandang Temple. It is here that Hindu villagers pray to the goddess of prosperity ‘Dewi Sri’ for the fertility of their rice plants as well as to ‘Dewa Wisnu’, god the protector, for prosperity in their lives.
Jero Kandang Temple: Positioned about 100 meters to the west side of Penyawang Temple, Jero Kandang Temple was built for villagers of Beraban village to pray for the good health of their livestock and to keep their plants free from disease.
Pakendungan Temple: While on his journey to find divine inspiration Dang Hyang Nirartha was meditating in a wooded area on the west side of Tanah Lot in an area known as Kendung Forest. As such Pakendungan Temple also dates back to the 15th century (1408 A.D.) on the spot Dang Hyang Nirartha meditated. Pakendungan Temple is one in unity with Pura Tanah Lot Temple. You can find it set on the western side of the Tanah Lot complex some 300 metres from Pura Tanah Lot.
Penataran Temple: Situated to the north of Pura Tanah Lot, Penataran Temple is a where Balinese Hindus come to pray for health and happiness.
Penyawang Temple: Located on the western side of the Tanah Lot complex is Penyawang Temple. When the tide is in and it’s not possible to reach Pura Tanah Lot the Balinese pray at this temple.
Tri Antaka Monument: Dedicated to I Gusti Ketut Kereg, I Wayan Kamias and I Nyoman Regug three Balinese heroes of Indonesia’s struggle for independence who were killed in a battle with Dutch forces near Tanah Lot in 1946. Inasmuch as I Nyoman Regug was from nearby Beraban village the government erected this monument in memory of the three men and as well to pay homage to all other Indonesians who died in Indonesia’s fight for independence.