Located in a seriously lush valley on the outskirts of Tampaksiring, just north of Ubud, is one of Bali’s largest ancient monuments. Gunung Kawi features nine epic shrines that are carved, with what was sure to be a lot of blood, sweat and tears, into the cliff faces on either side of the valley. After a report hinted at their existence in the 1960’s, an excavation took place and they re-discovered the shrines which are believed to be dedications to the royal family from the 11th Century. Each cliff face features a row of carved candi, or shrines, that were dedicated to the family members, believed to be King Udayana, Queen Gunapriya Dharmapatni and their three sons (with equally long names!).
Nestled between the opposing cliff faces runs a magnificent river, to the south of which is a Campuhan (meeting of two rivers). It is believed the water that runs through this river is holy and it is a place for self-purification. Steps are available at the river’s edge in order to dip your toes in the crisp water, or perch yourself peacefully upon a rock and enjoy the serene vibes of this natural treasure.
In order to get the best photos, visit Gunung Kawi on an overcast day. The clouds in the sky act as a filter to prevent harsh shadows over the archaeological sites.
You can reach Gunung Kawi by car or motorbike, it is approximately 30 minutes from town. There are just under 300 steps to navigate on the way down to the monument, surrounded by an array of souvenir stores separated here and there by rice field and jungle. Small huts offer coconuts that you can sit and enjoy in the rice fields.
Children: Rp. 7,500
Parking: Rp. 2,000
Please respect the Balinese culture by dressing appropriately; knees and shoulders should be covered by both men and women. Sarongs are available to borrow at the entrance gate. Women are not permitted to enter the temples during menstruation according to Balinese Hinduism.
Temples, check. Epic monuments, check. Peaceful jungle & river, check. Ricefield views, check.
Gunung Kawi has it all!