Sunset at Tanah Lot in Bali
Tanah Lot is the most visited temple in Bali and the sunset leaves no doubt as to why.
Hot Take: Even if you don’t love temples, staring into the sunset at Tanah Lot will stir your soul (or you are dead inside). (4.5 stars)
Pro Tip: Go at high tide to get the island effect or at low tide for a cool land bridge to the temple.
There are over 20,000 pura (or Hindu temples) in Bali, but Tanah Lot is the most visited (and photographed) pura in Bali. With easy access to the busiest tourist areas of Bali, Tanah Lot’s popularity is well deserved, especially for the amazing sunsets at the island temple (temple is on a rock just offshore).
For many party-focused visitors to Kuta or Changgu, Tanah Lot might be the only ‘cultural’ place they see, so fortunately for them it is one of the important directional temples in Bali. Built in the 15th-century, the site itself is much more than just the temple (which, like all Hindu temples in Bali, you cannot access as a Westerner anyways) and the views from the cliff-sides are spectacular.
Crowding is definitely a bit of an issue at sunset, so try to arrive at the site at least an hour before sundown to wander the site and get a good place on the railing to take pictures. Speaking of getting there, we recommend taking your own scooter (if you can deal with the frenetic experience of scooter-ing in Indonesia) as the taxi situation is expensive (no UBER or Grab allowed for pickup) and many tourists will be doing the same thing as you (so prices are high, befitting a tourist trap). However, there is plenty of parking available (for a small fee) and everything looked pretty safe (like most of Bali).
After paying the 60,000 IDR (~$5) entry fee each (the most expensive we encountered in Bali, but hardly a ton of money), we entered the chaos of the hawker/tourist stalls the block your way to the religious site. Unless you are just dying to over-pay for tourist crap, we recommend that you move quickly through the gates and towards the ocean. A 3 minute walk later and you will be at the cliffs. We recommend starting from the South walking ‘up’ the coast (taking pictures all the way) towards the main Tanah Lot temple. The bays and sea arch South of the main Tanah Lot temple are stunning and much less crowded than the cliffs at the main temple (but they are virtually as interesting).
We visited Tanah Lot during low tide and, instead of the island illusion, got to walk across the land bridge to get even closer to the temple. There were a ton of crabs along the exposed tidepools, so we were glad to get a few unique angles with the ocean spray in the background.
With sunset approaching, we made our way back up to the cliffs so that we could capture the magic. We setup along the railing with hundreds of other tourists, but it didn’t feel pushy (though if we were 5 minutes later we would have not found a rail-front spot). Sunset was certainly worth it.
After sunset, most of the tourists streamed out of the site…but a little patience will reward you with an exodus of thousands of bats out from their cave (the cave is located in the next bay just South of the main Tanah Lot temple, but you want to stay up on the main path that goes along the top of the cliffs). While the photos/video doesn’t do it justice, the bats streaming out into the colored sky left by the setting sun was the most surprising and wonderful part of our whole Tanah Lot experience.