Pura Tanah Lot is a Hindu temple on the South West Coast of Bali. Literally translated, Tanah Lot means “land in the midst of the sea”. Since the temple name pura is added to every Balinese temple, the name is mostly abbreviated to “Tanah Lot”.
The temple is located on a big rock in the sea, close to the shore. Tanah Lot can only be reached by foot when it’s low-tide, if you don’t want to get wet. From the beach, you can reach the temple after a 50 meter long walk over round-washed åstones and fine dark sand, and a short ascent up to the gate of the temple. In a small hole at the foot of the temple rock, there is a fresh water well. It is considered sacred and is constantly guarded by priests. Opposite from the well, in the cliffs of the mainland, there is another cave called “Ular Suci”. This is where the holy snakes live, which are also cared for by priests. Even though the snakes are highly poisonous, they have supposedly never bitten. The temple is, next to Bali’s rice fields, the most popular and well-known image of Bali.
The temple is assigned to the Javanese Hindu priest Danghyang Nirartha (also Pedanda Sakti Bau Rau). He lived on Java and at the end of the 15th Century he (and many other Hindus and Buddhists) fled to Bali before the spreading of the Islam. In the beginning of the 16th Century, there was one day when he saw a sage rising from the west coast. When he approached the place where he saw the light, he noticed a small, rocky and magical looking island, a few meters from the coast. He rested and meditated there and as a result, pupils gathered around him. To avoid a confrontation with the local priest, Nirartha moved his place of meditation to the island in the middle of the sea, creating Tanah Lot.
In Bali, temples are ranked hierarchically. In this structure, sea temples are rather small sanctuaries. Tanah Lot belongs to a chain of sea temples on the south coast of Bali, among Pura Sakenan, Pura Uluwatu, Pura Rambut Siwi and Pura Petitenget. This chain of sea temples is linked to the larger mountain temples such as Besakih. While in the mountain temples the gods related to land and mountains are honored, in the sea temples this is the case for spirits and gods that are connected with the sea.
Pura Tanah Lot is located in the south-west of Bali, in the district of Tabanan, directly on the coast. The nearest bigger town is Kuta in the south-east and it is a pretty long drive to the next bigger city Rambut Siwi. The town Tabanan can be found if you head north from Tanah Lot.
From Kuta you can reach the temple along the coast by a long beach walk or by bicycle. If you go there through the road, go north-west from Kuta and from Denpasar west to Tabanan. On this road you turn left towards Kediri before Tabanan. In Kediri itself you will find a side road that leads down to the coast.
The classic image shows the temple during sunset, however, this is also the time with the most visitors. Note that the temple can only be entered by religious people. It is common to drink from the fresh water well at the foot of the rock or to wash your face with it. Visitors can also enter the cave Ular Suci (see above), which is located in the cliffs on the mainland. Against a small fee, you can see the sacred serpents.