As spectacular as Tanah Lot at sunset may be, it doesn’t come without its fair share of Bali’s tourist crowds. In average lighting, Tanah Lot looks like something out of a film set. The Hindu temple is based on the top of a large boulder that gets completely submerged at high tide.
Circled by stairs carved out of the rock and surrounded by wild waves on all sides, there’s also a dimpled beach and green cliffs stretching to the south of the temple.
Add to that a swirling orange sky, the subtle glow that the horizon takes on during golden hour, and the novelty of the quickly-approaching darkness, and you’ve got yourself an even more extraordinary vision.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that experiencing Tanah Lot at sunset is on many tourists’ bucket lists. A Tanah Lot sunset isn’t like the other offbeat travel experiences that I cover on my blog, which include secret white-sand beaches in Bali such as Bias Tugel Beach or the best beaches in Gower, Wales’ wildest coastline.
However, there are still ways to avoid the crowds during a Tanah Lot Temple sunset, just as long as you know where to find its peaceful vantage points. It’s also possible to get completely crowd-free photos when you visit Tanah Lot at sunset, and it’s not as difficult as you might think.
Tanah Lot Temple is a Hindu temple on the west coast of Bali. It is one of seven sea temples in Bali, but it’s particularly popular for its scenery. ‘Tanah Lot’ roughly translates to ‘Land in the Sea’ in Balinese, which figures, because the temple is famous for the fact that the boulder is completely cut off at high tide.
Tanah Lot is actually the name of the rock that the temple was built upon. The temple itself is called Pura Tanah Lot, and it’s a sacred Balinese pilgrimage spot.
At high tide, the rock is completely enclosed by the ocean. At low tide, however, a dimpled rock bed appears alongside the boulder. At low tide, Tabanan Beach is also uncovered by the receding water; it’s a rocky, seaweed-covered stretch, backed by cliffs which are draped with tumbling green plants.
While the history of Tanah Lot Temple isn’t completely clear, it’s believed that the religious missionary Dang Hyang Nirartha happened upon the offshore boulder when he was travelling along Bali’s southwest coast. Ensnared by the surrounding scenery, he spent the night on the rock, surviving off gifts from local fishermen.
In the morning, he instructed the fisherman to erect a shrine in honour of the Balinese sea gods, including Dewa Baruna. Therefore, pilgrims come to the temple to worship the sea gods, as well as Nirartha himself.
Tanah Lot Temple has some interesting myths associated with it too. It’s believed that the temple is protected from spirits and pillagers by a giant sea snake.
Tanah Lot at Sunset: Where is Tanah Lot Temple?
Tanah Lot Temple is located on the southwest coast of Bali in a regency called Tabanan. The beach behind the temple is the southern end of Tabanan beach.
Another sea temple, Batu Bolong Temple, is only five to 10 minutes’ walk north of Tanah Lot Temple. As Batu Bolong Temple is covered by the entrance fee for Tanah Lot, it’s easy to combine Tanah Lot at sunset with a visit to Batu Bolong Temple.
While smaller, the temple is just as impressive, as it’s set on the other side of an arched rock, which juts out into the ocean.
Popular places to stay near to Tanah Lot Temple include Canggu (20 minutes’ drive), Seminyak (40 minutes) and Kuta (50 minutes), and Ubud (an hour).
Booking the right accommodation can make or break your trip. Booking.com is my go-to booking website, as I find it almost always has the greatest range of accommodation types and affordable prices.
Hostelworld is a useful tool for those planning to stay in hostels, but Homestay provides the opportunity to stay in a local’s home and really get to know what it’s like to live in a destination.
Tanah Lot at Sunset: Can you enter Tanah Lot Temple?
Tourists aren’t permitted to enter the main grounds of Tanah Lot Temple, as like many temples in Bali, it’s reserved for worshippers only.
It’s possible to walk part way up the stairs towards the entrance during low tide. However, it will be 20 seconds or so before you must begin your descent down again, as the path is gated.
To do this, you must pay to have a blessing with holy water in the cave on the underbelly of the temple, which is only accessible at low tide too. The holy water is believed to have the ability to heal the sick and infertile.
How to get to Tanah Lot Temple
Getting to Tanah Lot Temple isn’t tricky. The roads in Tabanan regency typically do not experience the same standstill traffic as those in Canggu and Seminyak.
Public transport is non-existent in Bali, so unless you are staying within walking distance of the temple in the southern part of Tabanan, you will need to travel to Tanah Lot Temple by scooter or car. This can be your own vehicle or a taxi. However, there will be a fee for parking at the temple if you drive yourself.
If you hail a taxi from the street or hire a private driver, expect it to be more expensive than a GoJek or a Grab. GoJek and Grab are Bali’s version of Uber. Both services offer rides on the back of a scooter or cars with a driver, and for a fraction of the price of a normal taxi.
You order the ride from their mobile app, which requires a WiFi or 4G connection. Then, just like with Uber, you can track your journey to Tanah Lot at sunset. A GoJek or Grab scooter ride will be the most budget-friendly way to get to the temple.
There are also tour groups that can also organise transport to and from the temple along with a tour guide.
If you’re yet to book your flights to Bali, consider using Skyscanner to research the cheapest flight deals. Skyscanner also has the option to search for flights with the lowest carbon emissions. I always use their tool to research and book my flights.
Entrance fees for Tanah Lot at sunset
The entrance fee for Tanah Lot Temple is 60,000 IDR for a foreign adult. This is equivalent to around £3.50 or $4.
A foreign child’s ticket costs 30,000 IDR, which is half of the adult ticket price.
Indonesian residents can visit the temple for 20,000 IDR.
Parking fees at Tanah Lot Temple are 3,000 IDR for scooters.
It costs 5,000 to park a car at Tanah Lot.
Parking for buses costs 10,000 IDR.
Day visit or Tanah Lot at sunset: which is better?
Visiting Tanah Lot Temple during the day is great if you only want to get a feel for the temple’s scenery and take a walk over the cliffs to Batu Bolong Temple.
However, experiencing Tanah Lot at sunset has plenty of additional perks:
Golden-hour lighting in the hour or so prior to sunset is ideal for photography.
A kecak fire dance takes place daily at 6pm alongside Batu Bolong Temple, meaning that you can experience a traditional Balinese Hindu dance drama during your visit for an additional price.
You can use the day to explore other parts of Bali, such as Canggu, Uluwatu, or West Bali.
Tanah Lot at sunset adds romance and adventure, ideal for couples or dates.
The temple and the ocean take on a golden tinge at sunset; colours are more exaggerated.
There are clifftop restaurants and warungs around Tanah Lot Temple where you can get an atmospheric dinner.
Are tours of Tanah Lot at sunset worth it?
Tanah Lot Temple and Batu Bolong Temple are easy to navigate. There are no trails where you can get lost, and there are plenty of staff around to ask for directions if you do. Therefore, choosing to join a Tanah Lot Temple tour group isn’t a matter of needing navigation.
Instead, you might want to choose a temple sunset tour if you want a knowledgable guide who can divulge the local history and legends of the temple. They also provide the convenience of pick-up and drop-off from local accommodation. Many Tanah Lot sunset tours combine the experience with visits to other temples in south Bali. The main downside is that you may have time limit on how long you experience each spot at the temple.
The following Tanah Lot Temple tours are excellent options:
The best photography spots at Tanah Lot at sunset + how to avoid the crowds
At Tanah Lot Temple, a crowd naturally forms around the crown of the boulder at low tide. People typically descend down the steps and congregate right in front of the temple. They are also drawn to the rocks on the right-hand side of the temple, where the waves crash against the rock bed in a dramatic fashion.
At high tide, the crowd forms on the steps above the temple, or as far down on the rocks as possible with the water level.
Scramble over the rocks on the right-side of the temple
In my opinion, the best crowd-free photography spot at Tanah Lot at sunset is from the rocks on the right-hand side of the temple. They are only accessible at low to mid tide, so you need to time your visit accordingly.
While a fair few crowds gather on the rocks on the right-hand side of Tanah Lot, few people are willing to scramble to the rocks closest to the temple because when a high wave hits, it washes over the rock bed, wetting everyone’s feet and knees.
Once you make it to one of the higher rocks, however, you’re out of the splash zone. From there, there’s an excellent view of the temple without any crowds.
The water rushes over the rocks, meaning that you can get an action shot with the water running off the rock bed. If you position your camera right, you can also capture a picture with the reflection of the temple in puddles of water on the rocks.
Take pictures from the beach on the left-hand side of the temple
On the left-hand side of Tanah Lot Temple, the southern part of Tabanan beach is mostly crowd-free. Why? Again, no one wants to get their feet wet.
The beach is rocky and potholed, and the seaweed also carpets a large part of the beach. If you tread carefully, however, you can get a shot of Tanah Lot Temple with the sunset in the background, which isn’t possible from the other side.
The temple is further away in this shot, so don’t expect to get the finer details. However, this is the only crowd-free shot you can get with the sun in the frame.
Take photos of Tanah Lot at sunset from the clifftops
Boardwalks stretch over the clifftop between Tanah Lot Temple and Batu Bolong Temple. From the entrance gate at Tanah Lot, when you are facing the temple, turn right and climb uphill.
There are several points along the path where you can stop to take photographs, but the best spot is at the top of the hill, where there’s a platform jutting out over the ocean.
From this lookout, there’s a panoramic shot of the temple and the beach. A small waterfall is also visible. There will be crowds in your photo. However, at this distance, it’s impossible to get a shot of Tanah Lot at sunset without getting the throng in the frame. At least it’s far away.
Travel insurance is essential for any trip to Bali – you just don’t know what you could happen, even on a simple beach or temple visit. If you’re in an accident or experience an emergency, you need adequate cover. I recommend Staysure for single or multiple trips per year, and Safety Wing for digital nomads like myself.
The best Batu Bolong Temple sunset photography spots
Perched on the top of an arched rock at the end of a crescent bay, Batu Bolong Temple is just as impressive as its neighbour Tanah Lot. Bolong means ‘hollow’, which refers to the hollow arch in the rock.
The temple is dedicated to the God of holiness, so it hosts purification ceremonies like the Melasti Ceremony and the Pakelem Ceremony;
Batu Bolong Temple is only a five to 10-minute walk away from Tanah Lot Temple. The price to see the temple is included in your entrance ticket for Tanah Lot, although like Tanah Lot, you cannot enter the temple grounds.
Batu Bolong is particularly spectacular at sunset because the sun sets directly behind the temple, over the sea. At Tanah Lot, it’s tricky to get pictures of the temple and the sun in one frame. That’s not the case here. The boardwalk stretches across the full length of the crescent bay, so the only difficulty is getting a photo without the wooden railings getting in the shot.
The best photography spots for Batu Bolong are undoubtedly from the centre of the boardwalk, where it’s possible to get the full crescent bay in the frame. There are also some vantage points on the left-hand side of the boardwalk, which have a clear view of the temple and the rock arch, but not the whole bay.
The best restaurants for Tanah Lot at sunset
If you’re not willing to navigate the crowds at Tanah Lot, there are restaurants on the clifftops where you can watch the sunset without stepping foot on the beach.
Granted, the restaurants have a good view of the temple and their positioning also means that the sun sets behind the temple. However, there’s no way to eliminate the crowds from your shot. Because the cliffs face the temple, any photos will have to feature the large throng of people that gather at the front of the temple. That is, unless it’s high tide. At high tide, you will get an excellent shot of the temple surrounded by the sea.
If you want to try watching the Tanah Lot sunset from the clifftop restaurants and bars, you need to turn left before you enter the main gates to descend to the temple. Most of the restaurants serve Indonesian food. You should aim to arrive early to get a seat by the edge of the clifftop.
What to do after experiencing Tanah Lot at sunset
Once mother nature’s daily light show has finished, you don’t necessarily need to retire back to your hostel, Airbnb, or hotel room. There are several ways you can extend your experience of Tanah Lot at sunset, or get stuck into the local area.
Watch a kecak fire dance
Every evening at 6pm, weather permitting, a kecak fire dance takes place in an open-air arena opposite Batu Bolong Temple. Tickets for the kecak fire dance cost 100,000 IDR (around £5.75), and should be purchased with your entrance ticket at the office when you arrive at Tanah Lot.
Kecak is a Balinese Hindu dance drama in which a group of men wearing checked cloths chant ‘chak’. Simultaneously, costumed characters act out the Hindu story of Ramayana, in which Prince Rama battles against the evil King Ravana.
The art form, which originated in the 1930s, traditionally takes place in villages and temples. It stems from a trance ritual. However, it was adapted by a German musician named Walter Spies in the 1930s, who added story and dance to the ritual in the hope it would attract Western tourists.
Some sources also say that Balinese locals had already begun to add performance to the chant, but Spies was the one who catalysed this.
Kecak is performed at temples such as Tanah Lot Temple and Uluwatu Temple, as well as other tourist destinations. This rendition of kecak isn’t the most theatrical that I’ve witnessed in Bali so far, so I’d recommend it.
Eat at a clifftop restaurant or warung
Just opposite the kecak fire dance area, there’s a fairly fancy seafood restaurant called De Jukung Resto & Bar Tanah Lot. It’s located on the clifftop, so your dinner soundtrack is the lull of the waves crashing against the rocks below.
If the restaurant is within your budget, it’s likely to be worth it. Otherwise, head back to the warungs I listed in the previous section, where you’ll have a view of the temple. Admittedly, the temple will be dark by this time, but there are usually a few small lanterns keeping it alight.
Go clubbing in Canggu
Canggu is only a 20-minute drive from Tanah Lot Temple, and it has a mean reputation for good-quality clubs, restaurants and co-working spaces. So, one good option for a post-sunset activity is to make your way to Old Man’s, a go-to spot for expats, or the classier La Brisa, a beachfront beach club with swimming pools and drinks like passionfruit Sangria and gin with campari, lime juice, Bali honey, and pineapple slices.
Is Tanah Lot worth visiting?
While Tanah Lot Temple attracts large crowds, it is worth visiting at sunset. It’s one of only nine sea temples in Bali, and there are ways to avoid the crowds.
Which God is in Tanah Lot Temple?
The god worshipped at Tanah Lot Temple is the sea god, Dewa Baruna or Bhatara Segara. Nirartha, the missionary who demanded the temple be erected, is also worshipped at Tanah Lot Temple.
What is the best time to visit Tanah Lot Temple?
The best time to visit Tanah Lot Temple is at sunset because the colours are more vibrant and golden-hour lighting is optimal for photography. A kecak fire dance, a Hindu-Balinese dance drama, also takes place opposite Batu Bolong Temple at 6pm, weather permitting.