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At the bottom of a lush river valley running through the village of Tampaksiring, just outside Ubud, lies one of Bali‘s largest ancient temples, Pura Gunung Kawi.
I visited for the first time early in the morning one day in the middle of January. The sky was blue and the morning fog was still laying low over the surrounding rice terraces. You could only see the contour of Balinese workers in the distance as the sunlight illuminated the palm trees making them shine in all colors of the rainbow.
An old man was sweeping away leaves from the pathways, he smiled as we walked past, uncovering the few crooked teeth he had left. Fragrant smoke from the incense used in the beautiful flower offerings filled the air. All with rippling sounds from the Pakerisan River in the background, which made for such a calm and spiritual atmosphere. Wow, what a magical place!
Let’s take a look at why you have to visit Gunung Kawi Temple while in Ubud Bali, how to get there and what to expect.
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- How to get to Gunung Kawi from Ubud
- Gunung Kawi visitors information
- What to expect at Gunung Kawi Temple
- Attractions close to Gunug Kawi Temple
- FAQs: Gunung Kawi
- Check out my other Bali guides
- Remember to pin for later 😉
How to get to Gunung Kawi from Ubud
Tampaksiring is a small village 15km northeast of Ubud, easily reached on your own by motorbike. The drive from Ubud is pretty straightforward and takes about 30 minutes. Follow the main road up to the north side of the village, there you’ll see a sign that reads something like “Objek Wisata Gunung Kawi”.
You know you are in the right spot when you see several local stalls selling typical Balinese souvenirs like wood carvings and sarongs.
🚘 When I don’t feel like driving by myself, I often book this driver in advance. It is a super affordable full-day customizable tour, which means you have the driver for 10 hours and you can go wherever you want. It’s the perfect option if it’s your first time in Bali and there are a lot of places on your Bali bucket list.
Rent a scooter in advance
If you do prefer to drive by yourself, you can get a scooter delivered to your hotel or homestay. That way you don’t run the risk of being told that there are no more scooters available. It doesn’t get more convenient. All of this is included in the rental:
- Helmet for maximum 2 persons
- full tank of gas (petrol) upon delivery
- 24/7 road-side assistance
- Mobile phone holder
- First-aid kit and rain poncho (for maximum 2 people)
🛵 Check price and availability here >> Scooter rental with delivery
Popular Gunung Kawi Temple tours
Here are the tours I recommend that include Pura Gunung Kawi as well as some other Ubud and Bali highlights:
- Bali – Archeological Museum & UNESCO Temples Private Tour: For my fellow history buffs, this is the tour for you. Explore the ruins of the former capital of Bali and learn about the UNESCO-listed site of Tukad Pekerisan. Then continue to Gunung Kawi and Pura Samuan Tiga before ending the day with a guided tour of the Bali Archeological Museum.
- Bali All Inclusive tour – Ubud Rice Terraces, Temples & Volcano: Discover the sacred temples of central Bali (including Gunung Kawi) and learn about their symbolism and architectural features. Visit an arts and crafts village and try your hand at some traditional wood carving. Enjoy an Indonesian lunch while overlooking Mt. Batur in Kintamani + much more.
- Ubud: Half-Day Semi-Customized Private Tour: Experience the beautiful scenery of Ubud and its surrounding areas. Customize your half-day tour from a list of popular attractions such as Gunung Kawi, Ubud Art Market, Tirta Empul, Goa Gajah + many more.
Gunung Kawi visitors information
There is a small parking area available for the modest sum of 2000 IDR per scooter and 5000 IDR per car.
And the Gunung Kawi entrance fee, including sarong hire, is 50.000 IDR.
Gunung Kawi Temple is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Allow one or ideally two hours to explore the beautiful grounds.
Best Time to Visit
Most people will tell you that the best time to visit Gunung Kawi is during the dry season, which runs from April to October. That’s when the weather is at its best with lower humidity. The downside is of course that this is the high season when Bali gets crazy busy.
I like to visit Gunung Kawi and Bali in general from February to April (avoiding Easter), when everything is lush and green after the rainy season and the weather is mostly sunny. It is generally also fewer visitor during this period.
You should try to get there as early in the morning as possible to avoid the midday heat and the crowds.
What to wear at Gunung Kawi
As with all the other temples in Bali, you have to wear proper attire consisting of a sarong covering your knees with a sash around the waist. Sashes and sarongs are available for rent at the ticket booth before the stairs down to the valley.
I just wore my own sarong and borrowed a sash from the lovely lady I stayed with in Ubud.
Also keep in mind that you might be asked if you’re on your period, as women during their periods are not permitted to enter the Gunung Kawi Temple complex or other Bali temples like Pura Lempuyang.
What to expect at Gunung Kawi Temple
Just past the ticket booth, there is a steep, stone stairway that leads all the way down to the river. At one point it cuts through solid rock, there you have to sprinkle some holy water on your head before you can enter the actual temple grounds. Take your time on your way down as the stunning view of the rice terraces is really an attraction in itself.
The temple grounds
Gunung Kawi consists of 10 seven-meter high shrines, called candis, cut out of the rock face to imitate actual statues. The candis are divided into three separate areas. Four of them can be found on one side of the river and then the largest cluster of five on the other side.
But what is often overlooked by visitors is the tenth candi, set about one kilometer back from the other two clusters. So be sure to explore every inch of this incredible place as you’ll probably find a lot of interesting things to look at that you wouldn’t notice at first glance.
The candis are believed to have been constructed early in the 11th century by King Anak Wungsu in honor of his father, King Udayana. But the candis are not tombs, like many believe, as they have never contained human remains or ashes.
Today they are considered to be symbolic accommodations to house the members of the royal family whenever they visit during temple festivals. However, there is still some mystery surrounding their actual intentional purpose.
Gunung Kawi is considered one of Bali’s most important archaeological sites and attracts visitors from around the world who come to marvel at its ancient architecture and rich history.
As you wander through the stunning temple grounds, between shrines, ponds, palm trees and offerings, you can’t help but get a regal, almost magical feeling. I think I have to go as far as saying that Gunung Kawi isn’t only my favorite Bali temple, but my favorite of all the attractions I have explored so far.
And it really is magical here, however, I should also add that it was hot and humid like I’ve never experienced before. We were sweating like
pigs the whole time we were there, hence all the photos from behind. And the climb back up the almost 300 steps was no walk in the park, to say the least. So, unfortunately, this is not a place easily accessible for anyone with reduced mobility.
Scams at Gunung Kawi
The most common scam that you will encounter at Gunung Kawi is the “attraction is closed” scam. One man approached us as right before the entrance and tried to convince us that Gunung Kawi is closed on Tuesdays so that we would go with him to places he is most likely getting paid to bring people to.
Luckily we were well aware of the scam and continued to the entrance that was very much open. Our driver also noticed what happened and got out of the car to tell the man off.
Be sure to check out my article about the most common scams in Bali.
Attractions close to Gunug Kawi Temple
The pre-Hindu temple of Gunung Kawi isn’t the only significant historic structure in Tampaksiring, the little village is also home to the holy springs temple, Tirta Empul.
The area still has a majestic atmosphere and the locals will happily tell you about ancient legends and tales of royalty from a period in Balinese history most of us know little of today.
FAQs: Gunung Kawi
What is the history of Gunung Kawi Temple?
Gunung Kawi Temple was built in the 11th century during the reign of King Anak Wungsu. It was built as a memorial to the king and his family.
The historical significance of Gunung Kawi is evident in the intricate carvings and sculptures found throughout the complex. The carvings depict scenes from Balinese mythology and history, including battles, religious ceremonies, and daily life.
What is the significance of Gunung Kawi Temple?
Gunung Kawi Temple is significant as it is one of the oldest and largest ancient monuments in Bali. It is a testament to the skill and creativity of the ancient Balinese people, who were able to create such an impressive complex without the use of modern tools and technology. It is also a popular pilgrimage site for the Balinese people.
What are the notable features of Gunung Kawi Temple Complex?
The most notable features of Gunung Kawi Temple Complex are the ten rock-cut shrines, called candis, that are carved into the cliff face.
What is the best way to get to Gunung Kawi?
What is the recommended time of day to visit Gunung Kawi?
The recommended time of day to visit Gunung Kawi is early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds and the heat. I like to get there right when they open at 08:00 am.
How long to spend at Pura Gunung Kawi?
I would set aside 2 hours to explore the temple complex and the surrounding area, especially if you want to shoot photos. This place is a photographer’s dream.
Check out my other Bali guides
- The ultimate 2 week Bali itinerary (including Nusa Lembongan & Penida)
- 29 things you should know before going to Bali!
- 14 waterfalls you can’t miss in Ubud
- Where to stay in Bali: A complete island area guide
- The ultimate Bali bucket list: 101+ awesome things to do
- Bukit Cinta in East Bali: The best sunrise viewpoint
- Sunrise over Pinggan Village in Bali: An experience you can’t miss!