Featured on Indonesia’s 50,000 rupiah note, and among the most photographed temples in Bali, Pura Ulun Danau Bratan is a postcard-perfect classical Hindu-Buddhist temple complex. Set partly on a small island in the crater lake, Danau Bratan, according to archaeologists the site has possibly had spiritual significance since megalithic times.
The present temple was founded in the 17th century by the Raja of Mengwi, along with UNESCO-listed Pura Taman Ayun and is dedicated to the goddess of the lake and fertility, Dewi Danau. Important to the Balinese to ensure ample supply of water and rich harvests, Pura Ulun Danau Bratan is also one of the nine directional temples (kahyangan jagat) protecting Bali from evil spirits from the northwest.
Pilgrims flock here from all over Bali as the temple is particularly important for post-cremation ceremonies (melasti). As such, there’s a good chance of seeing a bunch of locals in fancy threads here, adding to the visual splendour of the architecture and surrounding landscape.
Entering the manicured gardens of the complex, to your right you'll see a magnificent banyan tree, and to your left, seemingly out-of-place in this predominantly Hindu complex, a Buddhist stupa. Robed Buddha statues encircle the shrine, and these are often used as a backdrop for wedding photos. Look behind, and up on the hill a large mosque looms, reminding us of this multicultural nation’s ability to (mostly) live peacefully with religious diversity.
The inner sanctums of the four Hindu temples that form the major part of the complex are not accessible to non-worshippers, however the merus (tiered shrines) and ceremonies can be viewed from the temple gates. A sign requests visitors to “dress neatly and properly” — in Bali this means that a sarong and sash are required. This is ignored by the majority of visitors, but please don't let that include you.
The most photographed part of the temple, the 11-tiered and three-tiered meru atop a small island reflected in the lake, can be seen as you pass the candi bentar (split gate) to the lake’s edge. Note that during the drier months, the lake often recedes and the island is no longer surrounded by water. Here you’ll have to fight the busloads of domestic tourists waving their 50,000 bills to get the classic clichéd “money-shot”.
Amid the beautiful flowers and tropical foliage, the surrounding gardens are punctuated with kitsch animal and plant cement statues including lions, owls, corncobs and fish, and a rather too-small fenced compound contains a couple of barking deer. Along with garish paddle ducks and speedboats whizzing past, the otherwise beautiful and peaceful spot has a bit of a local funfair atmosphere, seemingly at odds with its spiritual significance. Nevertheless, it’s still one of Bali’s most picturesque spots to spend an hour — the location is stunning and when the mist rolls in, the mood becomes just a little more special.
As you leave, a children’s playground provides a few rusty metal rides, and a couple of restaurants serve buffet lunchtime specials. You’ll then have to fight through a plethora of tacky souvenir shops back to the car park. Clean toilets are available here, and also near the ticket office, for 2,000 rupiah.
Entry fee to the temple is 30,000 rupiah for adults and 15,000 rupiah for children (10,000 for domestic tourists). Parking is 5,000 rupiah for a car, and 2,000 rupiah for a motorbike. No on-site guides are available, so if you’d like more information, best to book a with knowledgeable guide to take you there.
The temple is easily accessible and lies on the main road passing through Bedugul. A rather delightful way to visit is to take a prahu (canoe) ride from near the Ashram Hotel, on the southern shores of the lake (40,000 rupiah per person, minimum four). The trip takes about 20 minutes, and includes a boatman to paddle, so you can sit back and admire the view. For an extra 10,000 rupiah per person, you can combine this with a trip to Gua Japang, a World War II cave built by the Japanese on the shores of the lake. Local guide/boatman Udin can help you out (T: (0852) 7290 5602). Note: lifejackets are not available.
By Sally Arnold
Last updated on 10th July, 2016.