Pura Lempuyang sits atop Mount Lempuyang on the Indonesian island of Bali. Overlooking Mount Agung, this Balinese temple is known among tourists as the Gates of Heaven. Lempuyang Temple literally looks like it will lead you straight up to the heavens!
During our time in Bali, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit this Balinese Hindu temple. Among the Balinese, Pura Lempuyang is one of the most venerated and oldest temples, second to Besakih Temple (known as the mother of all temples). The Balinese come to Lempuyang Temple to worship, and it’s a great place to experience Balinese Hindu culture.
I had seen many pictures of Pura Lempuyang online. And I wanted to be able to see it in person. But what the pictures don’t show is that there’s more to this temple than just a pretty view. And what the pictures also don’t show is that there are certain do’s and don’ts you should follow to respectfully visit Pura Lempuyang.
This post was updated on February 25, 2020.
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Visiting the famous Gates of Heaven
Like most people, I first heard of the Gates of Heaven on Instagram. This temple is famous for the iconic shots of people standing between the Hindu gates, the mountain in the background, and a reflecting pool in front of them.
Of course, there isn’t actually a reflecting pool, but rather a person holding a mirror in front of the camera (spoiler alert!). But it doesn’t take away from the fact that Lempuyang Temple is a beautiful temple to visit.
The temple itself is divided into several sections. The main entrance is where the famous Gates of Heaven is. But if you climb further up the mountain, you’ll reach some of the prayer areas. The most sacred of the prayer areas are at the top of the mountain, and you’ll have to climb a total of 1,700 steps to reach there. (We didn’t go that far during our visit, but we did get to the first prayer area.)
These days, most tourists who come to Pura Lempuyang, located in the village of Karangasem, come just to take a photo of those gates. But even if you don’t end up getting that Instagram worthy photo, it’s still an amazing temple to visit.
Getting to and from Pura Lempuyang
From the village of Amed, Bali in east, Pura Lempuyang is about 13km away, or roughly a forty-five minute drive. From the city of Ubud, in central Bali, this temple is roughly 70km away. Driving there will take between two to three hours. And from Kuta or Denpasar, the drive will take two to three hours as well, even though it’s about 10-16km farther.
You can book public tours to visit Lempuyang Temple. Many of the tourist offices around Bali will have an option to book a public tour. But we ended up hiring a private driver, which was much easier to do with kids. The cost from Amed to Pura Lempuyang was Rp 500,000 (roughly $35), round trip. From Ubud, you can expect to spend around Rp 200,000-400,000 more.
Do’s and don’ts of visiting Lempuyang Temple
Visiting Pura Lempuyang was such a wonderful cultural experience for our family. We had a chance to experience a Balinese prayer, and we learned a lot about the Hindu traditions of Bali.
But visiting Lempuyang Temple isn’t as easy as just going to the temple and taking your picture. If you want to be a responsible traveler, and a respectful visitor to the temple, there are a few things you should know. Here are some of the do’s and don’ts of visiting Pura Lempuyang.
Do get there early
Because of the popularity of the Gates of Heaven photos on Instagram, Lempuyang Temple can get pretty full pretty fast. If you want to get your Gates of Heaven photo, you have to take a number and wait your turn.
To ensure that you don’t have to wait too long for your photo, it’s helpful to show up right when the sun rises. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of getting a high number (we arrived around 9am and were given #154 when we arrived, with over 100 numbers ahead of us). We had to wait for up to three hours just for a photo. In the end, we opted to skip out on having that Instagram photo op.
Don’t forget to wear a sarong
Like most Balinese temples, you’ll need to wear a sarong if you plan to visit Pura Lempuyang. We brought our own sarongs, but there are also sarongs that you can borrow during your visit. If you want to plan ahead before your trip to Bali, you can purchase a long batik sarong online before leaving home, which you can use for visiting temples and visiting the beach.
In Balinese Hindu culture, the dress code for visiting a temple is a plain top that covers at least your shoulders and back, as well as a sarong that will cover your legs. Even men will need to adhere to this dress code. In some cases, you may need to wear a scarf around the waist as well. But at the very least, you’ll need to have modest attire as well as a sarong.
Do follow the rules of Pura Lempuyang
Besides the dress code, there are other rules that visitors to Pura Lempuyang should adhere to. Drones are not allowed to be used for taking pictures of the temples. Additionally, climbing or sitting on the walls, raised platforms, or statues of the temple are prohibited.
Additionally, there are certain cultural practices that you’ll need to keep in mind when visiting Lempuyang Temple. If you’re a woman who is menstruating, you are not allowed to enter the prayer areas of the temple. And if you have a baby who is less than 105 days old, they are also not allowed inside the temple.
Don’t act disrespectful
As visitors to Pura Lempuyang, being respectful of the Balinese culture and of worshippers who actually come to the temple to pray is important. This is one complaint that Balinese have about Pura Lempuyang these days.
There are so many tourists that visit, it’s actually difficult for real worshipers to perform their prayers. If you’re visiting Lempuyang Temple, do show respect to the Balinese who come to the temple for worship.
One of the rules of the temple related to being respectful is to not do yoga poses where your feet are high off the ground. Kissing at the temple is also a sign of disrespect, and is not allowed while visiting Pura Lempuyang. And finally, having negative thoughts and language is prohibited when visiting the temple.
Do take time to experience a Balinese Hindu prayer
One of the amazing parts of visiting Lempuyang Temple is having a chance to participate in Hindu prayers. Even if you’re not Hindu, you can still enter the prayer area as long as you have the intention to pray.
Worshippers must bring offerings to the temple to pray. They are small baskets made of palm leaves, called canang, filled with flowers, leaves, and flowers, and can be purchased at the fruit stand just outside of Pura Lempuyang.
The ritual of a Balinese Hindu prayer involves purification with holy water and incense, then a series of 5 silent prayers, called sembah. The first prayer is made to God, with just your hands pressed together at your forehead. The second, third, and fourth prayers are made to the sun, to all the gods, and to our wishes, respectively. They are made with flowers in between your fingers, as your hands are pressed together up at your forehead. The final prayer is made with empty hands again, as you meditate on what you’re thankful for.
My kids and I took part in the Balinese Hindu prayer, and it really was an amazing cultural experience for us. One of the people at the temple was kind enough to walk us through the ritual. And he let us take a picture after our prayer.
Don’t feel like you need to take a picture
Even though getting the reflection photo at Lempuyang Temple is popular among tourists, don’t feel like you need to get your picture. The temple is beautiful in its own right. For being one of the oldest temples in Bali, it has certainly withstood the test of time.
Waiting in line for a photo opportunity was stressful. We were constantly listening for our number, and calculating how many more minutes we had to wait before we could get our picture taken.
When we gave ourselves permission to opt out of the photo op, we automatically felt ten times better. We could actually enjoy our time at the temple, rather than stress out about waiting in line just for a photo.
Making the most of your visit to Pura Lempuyang
Like any travel experience, a visit to Pura Lempuyang is what you make of it. For many tourists, Lempuyang Temple is just an opportunity to get that Instagram worthy photo between the Gates of Heaven.
But if you really make an effort, you can have a unique and spiritual cultural experience as well when you visit Pura Lempuyang. For our family, this temple gave us a glimpse into a culture that is still deeply rooted to its ancient beliefs and rituals. And to me, that is so much more valuable and meaningful than a photo.
Have you visited Pura Lempuyang in Bali? What was your experience like? Share it with me in the comments!
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