Is Besakih Temple Worth It? 10 Must-Know Tips

With a nickname like “Mother Temple” and being the largest temple complex in Bali, Besakih Temple grabs many tourists’ attention. It can also grab their rupiahs.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

There’s no denying that Besakih Temple has an imposing presence. It contains 23 temples that dot the first approximately 1,000 meters of Mount Agung. That’s the largest volcano in Bali if you’re new to your trip research.

Mount Agung also happens to be an active volcano. Its last major eruption was in 1963, though it had a small eruption as recently as 2019.

The 1963 eruption killed about 1,700 people. But it bypassed Besakih by only a few meters. Partly for this reason, the Balinese regard Besakih as the holiest temple on the island. It’s also the only place in Bali where Hindus of all classes can worship together.

Now that you have a grasp of the importance of this temple, let’s talk about what to expect from your visit to Besakih.

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A Disclaimer

I debated whether to write this article.

Travel blogging comes with its perks, but it also carries immense responsibility.

Nintey-five percent of the time, I’m genuinely enthusiastic about the places I write about. That makes it easy for me to positively showcase the destination while broaching whatever caveat(s) there might be, protecting the destination and reader.

But with Besakih Temple, I left feeling torn, used, and torn some more.

A view of a temple at the Besakih complex.

Many of the Besakih Temple tips I’ll share with you revolve around the locals trying to make money. And that’s where my torn feeling comes into play—eastern Bali is poorer than the destinations where most tourists stay (Ubud, Canggu, Seminyak, and Kuta).

The locals can genuinely use the extra financial support.

But the “used” part of my feelings stems from the fact that many locals lie to get you to shell out more cash. They ask for astounding amounts of money, and you’ll get a cold shoulder if you don’t pay up.

Their demands and ingratitude if you give them less than they ask for can damper your visit, as it did mine.

Yet that’s where my second bout of feeling torn comes into play.

I was walking on their holy ground. I make more money than they do; I paid over $1,000 for my round-trip flight to Indonesia alone, a typical price when traveling from western countries.

Who am I to be so frugle with my rupiahs?

My Decision

After mulling over these feelings, I decided to write this post. I found my visit to Besakih Temple to be extraordinarily uncomfortable, and one look at TripAdvisor confirms I’m not alone.

Not everything is positive in travel.

And while I wholeheartedly believe that locals living in a tourist destination deserve to receive its financial benefits, the approach matters. If a community chooses to set itself up for tourism, it needs to make those tourists feel comfortable and welcomed.

In my opinion, Besakih Temple needs to overhaul its tourism strategy.

And in the meantime, travelers deserve to know what to expect.

So, that’s why I decided to write this article. Besakih Temple is genuinely stunning—there’s nothing about the complex that screams “don’t go.”

Instead, its downsides are human-driven. And, thus, they have the potential to change.

This article isn’t about telling you to go or not go to Besakih Temple. My goal is to inform you of what to expect so you can decide what’s best for you.

10 Tips for Visiting Besakih Temple

Because of my monologue, many of these tips will no longer surprise you. But I’ll offer examples to give you a more concrete idea of what to expect from a visit to Besakih.

Tip #1 Bring Lots of Small Change

As of November 2022, the Besakih entrance ticket for foreigners costs 60,000 IDR (about $4) per person. Children under six years old enter for free.

Technically, that’s all the money you need. A sign by the ticket booth clearly states that your entrance ticket includes the following:

  • Local guide
  • Sarong

Beneath these clearly laid-out rules, there’s large print stating to call 082-339-198-076 if you have any complaints. In hindsight, I don’t know if this is commendable or troubling.

A sign listing the Besakih entrance fees.

The chances of you having issues getting change back at the entrance ticket station are lower than with the vendors at Besakih. Nevertheless, your safest bet is to arrive with the exact amount of cash.

It’s also wise to bring small rupiah bills and keep them in different pockets. That way, should you wish to buy something or tip someone, you’ll be able to pull out the money without them seeing you have a wad of cash.

Tip #2: Clouds Are Common

The Besakih complex is the main draw to visiting the temple. However, if you visit on a clear(ish) day, you’ll have the opportunity to see Mount Agung behind the temples.

I didn’t get so lucky on the cloudy, rainy day of my visit.

But the silver lining is that it made me surmise that you’ll likely be able to see the temples regardless of how cloudy it is, given that you’ll be in such close proximity to them.

That said, even if you travel during the dry season (April to October), clouds are still common in the Balinese mountains. Therefore, it’s best to arrive at Besakih without expecting to see the volcano so that you’re pleasantly surprised if it makes an appearance.

Tip #3: Bring or Borrow a Sarong

Pop quiz: What did tip #1 say about sarongs?

That’s right—a sarong rental is included in your ticket.

But you’d never know that based on the locals that swarm you to rent them when you step out of your vehicle.

One of the issues with the Besakih Temple’s arrangement is that the sign about a sarong and local guide being included doesn’t appear until after you walk (ahem, push your way past) the vendors.

It’s a short journey by distance from the parking lot to the ticket booth. But it’s an uncomfortable one filled with you having to say “no” a lot as people try to wrap sarongs around you and shove offerings into your hands, insisting you must purchase them to be allowed into the temple.

A narrow path leading through the Besakih Temple complex.

These are flat-out lies.

It’s disheartening. But everyone needs money to survive. And yet they’re using religion as manipulation.

Used. Torn. Used. My mind became trapped in this cycle during and after my Besakih visit.

I was already wearing a sarong on the day of my Besakih visit. And I recommend you do the same.

Even though a sarong rental is included with your Besakih entrance ticket, no one will bug you to rent one in the parking lot if you already have yours on (they’ll bug you to buy other things, though).

And if you rent one, be prepared for a ridiculously high fee for Bali standards—30k rupiah seems to be the going price. And you don’t even get to keep it.

Tip #4: Morning Is Best

People waiting to take photos on the steps of the Besakih Temple.

There’s nothing like dealing with hawkers and crowds of tourists during your Besakih visit.

And despite Besakih’s not-so-secret rep about its money-hungry ways, it’s still a popular stop in a Bali itinerary.

The Besakih Temple is technically open 24/7, given that Hindus can arrive at any hour to pray. But the entrance for tourists is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.

I traveled during the low season and didn’t find the crowds outrageous upon arriving there at 11:30 am. But I’ve heard from others that it’s best to arrive at the 8:00 am mark.

By doing so, you’ll miss the brunt of the vendors on your way to the ticket booth, as many won’t be out yet.

While you can technically enter the Besakih Temple complex before 8:00 am, I discourage you from doing so if you’re not Hindu. You’re on community property; the locals deserve to have the income from your 60k IDR entrance fee.

Tip #5: You Can Get a Mirror Photo

A man taking a photo using a mirror.

You don’t need to visit Lempuyang Temple to get an Instagram-worthy photo. Instead, many locals stand at the base of the Besakih Temple, offering to take photos of you on the steps using a mirror.

The mirror creates that water-like reflective appearance you see in photos of people standing at Lempuyang.

Spoiler alert: They use mirrors at Lempuyang to create that reflective look too.

The Balinese are excellent photographers, from my experience, and this held true at Besakih. They even try to keep people off the steps so you can get a photo without anyone in it.

Tip #6: Tip Your Photographers

Unless your local guide takes your photo, tip anyone who takes a photo of you with your camera.

This is a situation when you should hand over your rupiahs—they’re offering you a service you wanted.

The hard (frustrating?) part is that many photographers will say that you didn’t tip them enough regardless of how much you hand them.

It’s a common phrase I heard during my time at the Besakih Temple.

This is a situation when putting up a sign with a standardized price would decrease the stress and guilt many tourists feel when leaving Besakih.

Tip #7: A Local Guide Is Included

It wasn’t clear to me whether non-Hindu tourists can meander around the Besakih Temple on their own. I’ve heard of people doing so, especially those that arrive at 8:00 am before many guides and vendors arrive.

Personally, I think the vendors within the Besakih complex (which were fewer than in the parking lot but still present) would have been even more insistent had we not been with a guide.

I had a two-guide kind of situation: My full-day guide who drove me to Besakih and the local guide who took over from there.

The tops of temple roofs in Besakih.

Based on the information I gathered from my full-day guide, only local guides are allowed to take tourists into the Besakih Temple, so he had to stay back.

But first, he warned my group not to give our local guide money.

He said that the guides will say they don’t get paid but they do. Apparently, the Besakih association has received many complaints from unhappy tourists and tour guides about such inconsistencies.

And we weren’t with our local guide for more than 30 seconds before he informed us (out of ear shot of our full-day guide) that he doesn’t get paid for his services and lives off tips.

It was wildly uncomfortable being told by our full-day guide not to tip because it feeds into the issue with tourism in Besakih and yet to come from the U.S. where shelling out a 20% tip is the norm.

The bottom line is that a local guide is included in your entrance ticket to Besakih. So don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Whether you want to tip at the end of your tour is entirely up to you. Tip what you’re comfortable with, and stand your ground if they insist you didn’t give them enough (as my guide did with me).

I’ve heard of people being asked for $20 per person as a tip for their guide when the entrance ticket with the guide included is only $4.

Tip #8: You Don’t Have to Purchase Offerings

When you’re pushing your way through the parking lot to get to the ticket booth, vendors will try shoving offerings into your hands.

“It’s for god,” they’ll say, and “It’s required to enter the temple.”

I won’t argue the first one. But I can assure you that you don’t need to purchase an offering to enter the Besakih complex.

Another offering tactic they may try is for you to give a monetary offering once you’re inside the Besakih complex. They’ll state religious reasons, making it yet again wildly uncomfortable for the average tourist who wants to be sensitive to local customs but senses that something feels off about the request.

If you refuse these offerings, a cold shoulder often follows.

But you’re by no means required to buy offerings to enter the Besakih Temple complex. You’ve already paid your entrance fee. That’s enough if you want it to be.

Tip #9: Respect the Signs

A do not enter sign stating, "For prayer only."

As you walk around the Besakih complex, you’ll encounter signs telling you that certain areas are for prayer only. So, you won’t be able to walk inside the actual temples.

But you can peek inside, as our local guide let my group do.

Such signs aren’t a tourist trap. You’ll find them at most temples throughout Bali where visitors frequent.

Furthermore, the Besakih Temple and the surrounding temples have around 70 festivals each year. So, your visit could fall during a festival, restricting the areas where you can explore.

Luckily, given Besakih’s large size, you should still have plenty of room to wander.

Tip #10: Don’t Go at It Alone

Even though I’m a fan of getting around on my own when I travel, I was thankful to have our Ubud-based guide on the day of my Besakih visit.

He warned my group about what to expect and how to react to the vendors (a firm “no,” setting expectations about money, etc.). I also believe his presence helped a bit in the parking lot compared to other tourists that arrived without a guide.

As a solo traveler, I was shocked by how hard it was to find group tours in Ubud. So, I was thankful when I found a group Besakih tour with GetYourGuide.

The tour stopped at several other temples, and our guide’s English was amazing. You can check out the Alternative Temples tour I took for more details.

FAQs About the Besakih Temple

I imagine you have more questions about Besakih, so I put together this FAQ.

How much time do you need at the Besakih Temple?

The standard tour with a local guide at Besakih Temple is about one hour. But the complex is so big that it would take 2 – 3 hours to see all (or most) of the temples.

Do you have to cover up at the Besakih Temple?

You must cover up at the Besakih Temple. Sarongs are required, and your shoulders have to be covered.

What time does the Besakih Temple open and close?

The Besakih Temple is open daily from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm.

When is the best time to visit the Besakih Temple?

The best time to visit the Besakih Temple is early in the morning during the months of June, July, and August. You’ll encounter fewer crowds/vendors that time of year, and the dry season will give you a higher chance of having views of Mount Agung.

Is the Besakih Temple Worth Visiting?

A path with temples on either side.

Whether the Besakih Temple is worth visiting depends on the person. Had I not visited, I know Besakih would have been a lingering thought on my mind.

All in all, I’m glad I went.

But I wouldn’t go back again unless they standardize their tourism process. Like me, I know many tourists value supporting the local economy. But Besakih taught me that feeling like you’re being forced into financial support is an ineffective approach.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on Besakih. What was your experience like? Is there anything you’d add or refute to what I shared?

P.S.—If you’re looking for an experience in Bali where vendors let you come to them, consider a trip to the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. The Tegallalang Rice Terraces is another option, but insistent vendors abound there (although they’re not as demanding as those at Besakih).

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