Gunung Kawi temple is located on the outskirts of Tampaksiring. It’s a 20-min drive north of Ubud on the road to Bangli. The best time to visit this sight is early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
When we arrived early in the morning there were only a handful of people. This made the whole complex quiet and peaceful. The perfect way to take in the astonishing scenery.
The entrance fee for Gunung Kawi is around Rp6000 and the friendly lady at the entrance booth will lend you a sarong and a temple scarf if needed.
Then it’s time for some exercise…
Here you have to descend the stairs along with several souvenir shops before you reach the river Pakrisan, which divides the two rows of tombs carved out of a rock, a small temple, and the meditation caves.
This is, without doubt, the most beautiful temple setting of central Bali. Its rice field landscape and palm trees which seem to be dancing on the sounds of the river below are stunning.
The temple complex including the river and the rice fields are considered sacred to the Balinese. This explains why they have put in so much effort in making this area so amazing.
The Tombs of Gunung Kawi
The ten tombs carved were built in the 11th century and are surprisingly well maintained considering the weather circumstances.
The tombs were carved out of the walls and are dedicated to members of the royal family. Nobody knows exactly which members but there are two theories.
One says the five tombs across the river are dedicated to King Udayana, his queen Mahendradatta, their oldest son Airlangga (who ruled eastern Java), their youngest son Anak Wungsu (who ruled Bali from 1050-1077AC) and Marakata.
The other four tombs are dedicated to the chief concubines of king Anak Wungsu.
With the cremation of the king, the four concubines had to commit suicide according to the Hindu custom. They did this by jumping off a high podium into the flames so they could be with the king in the afterworld.
The other theory says that the 9 tombs are dedicated to King Anak Wungsu, his wives and his concubines.
Tomb number 10 is found south-east of the main temple after a 10-minute walk through the rice fields. This one is dedicated to a high priest or the first important minister of Anak Wungsu.
Behind the small temple, you can find a couple of meditation caves, which indicates that this is a pre-Hindu place where monks and pilgrims came together to meditate.
You have to take off your shoes in front of the entrance of the cave complex since this place is considered holy as well.
When we walked around the small temple we met a Balinese man who told us that former president Sukarno, Soeharto, and Megawati have all been to the meditation caves to ask for success in their presidential campaigns.
Whether they got their success depends on how you look at it right?
He also pointed out the small inscription in one of the tombs, which states clearly the old Javanese language at that time and therefore the relationship between Bali and its neighboring island Java in the 11th century.
If you have some extra time to spend in this mystical place then go for a stroll to the waterfall. It’s located only 5 minutes from the 5 tombs on the left side. But be careful, it can be very slippery in the fields.
Try to leave before the afternoon, when the sun is at its highest. The heat can make the climb up the stairs pretty tough.