Tanah Lot temple is the most photographed temple in Asia. Not surprisingly also and the biggest tourist attraction in Bali. It’s uniquely located on a rock that is only accessible during low tide.
Sunsets at Tanah Lot are amazing. This is also the busiest time as travelers head to the temple to be part of it. The Hindu temple is just 13 km south-west from Tabanan city, the capital of the Tabanan Regency. It’s a short drive from Kuta beach when you don’t get stuck in traffic.
One of the 7 Sea Temples
Tanah lot means ‘Land in the water’ and is one of the important directional temples in Bali. This Balinese temple is also part of the string of 7 sea temples along the west coast.
This string of temples is built to worship the protectors of the sea. When standing inside one of the sea temples, it is possible to see the next one in the far distance. However, as a visitor you will not be able to see Pura Uluwatu from Tanah Lot. Like many other temples, this is only reserved for Hindu Balinese.
Even though the temple is visited frequently by tourists many Balinese come here often to attend ceremonies. It is not unusual to see a group of colorful dressed women with baskets or offerings on their heads and men in white strolling to the temple.
It is said that the temple was built in the 16th century after Dang Hyang Nirartha, Bali’s famous priest, rested on the island for a night. He told local fishermen to build a shrine here in honor of the sea gods.
The guardians of Tanah Lot
The guardians of the Tanah Lot temple are poisonous snakes that are considered sacred. The Balinese believe that they are the descendants of the Snake God, Basuki. Basuki is the Protector of the sea temple and the meru with 5 roofs are built to honor this god.
Don’t worry about the snakes because they are asleep most of the day in the ridges of the cliff. There is also always a local Balinese man to watch over them. Only at low tide do the snakes move towards the temple to eat from the offerings placed by the Balinese people.
Don’t confuse these sacred snakes with the big Boa Constrictors which you can see there too. These boas are found just a couple of meters from the temple and for a couple of Rupiah you can have them on your neck for a picture.
It is also possible to stroll around the well-maintained garden. Unlike the area at the entrance, there are no souvenir shops on the temple complex. So you can fully admire the sight of the temple and take pictures from every corner without being persuaded to buy more souvenirs.
The stairs up the cliff from across the Tanah Lot temple lead to an area with plenty of sunset restaurants. This is the place to be at the end of the afternoon. You must be early for a front-row seat because it can get really busy.
Signs of Encroachment
Another unlikely place for viewing this sea temple is from the Le Meridien Nirwana Golf & Spa Resort Hotel. This hotel was built illegally under the Suharto regime and is still owned by the Suharto family.
This place is the perfect example of what’s wrong with Bali today; as long as you have influential friends who don’t care about sacred sites, religious zoning rules or the future of the island, you can do anything you want.