Standing in the Gates of Heaven at Pura Lempuyang

iylanaBali, Indonesia0 Comments

The first time I saw a photo of a Balinese candi bentar was on Pinterest, and my first thought was, “That can’t be real.” The photo I had seen was from Pura Lempuyang, which is known as the Gate of Heaven. It’s the only gate which looks out toward the next mountaintop with nothing but sky and clouds beyond it, evoking a surreal and truly heavenly scene.

The gate of heaven

Pura Lempuyang
Where: Eastern edge of the island, 2 hours northeast of Ubud
Hours: Open seven days a week
Entrance fee: Suggested donation Rp 15,000, Sarong rental Rp 10,000, Shuttle bus Rp 10,000 each way
Time: Expect to spend 1 hour to visit the first temple, or 6-7 hours to visit all 7 temples

Pura Lempuyang is one of the nine main “Directional Temples” on Bali, which protect the island from evil. They are all established in auspicious locations (mountains, caves, cliffs) meaning they’re in very beautiful settings and well worth a visit. When planning our trip, I knew we weren’t going to be staying anywhere near Lempuyang, so we scheduled a whole day for it, hiring a driver in Ubud to take us there. With a few stops along the way, the cost was Rp 600,000 and the whole trip took about 8 hours. Being the Galungan holiday, the traffic was very heavy on the two lane roads, so it probably took a lot longer than it should have. The drive should take about 2 hours from Ubud on a regular day.

Private cars aren’t allowed up the mountain, so from the parking lot at the base, you must take a minibus to the first temple. This is the temple with the famous candi bentar and is the most picturesque of the seven temples scaling Mount Lempuyang. If you wish to visit all of them, you’ll need to schedule a much longer visit and expect a full day’s hike! Hire a guide as there are no real directions, and beware of the very aggressive macaque monkeys who live nearer the top of the mountain.

On the minibus going up the mountain.

Highly decorated for Galungan

We were surprised to see the temple looking so decorated, because the photos we had seen of the temple didn’t show any of the streamers and flags, the dancers and the gamelan. Of course, it’s Galungan! We had nearly forgotten that the biggest holiday would be bringing the festivities of music and dance, pilgrims and offerings to one of the main temples of Bali. What we didn’t see were many other tourists—4 or 5 total!

The afternoon rain was quickly approaching, so we first got our photos of the famous gate before settling in to watch the young dancers. When the gamelan began, the sound echoing in the courtyard was festive but haunting. After reading Colin McPhee’s “A House in Bali” I was very appreciative of the gamelan and ecstatic that we got to hear one in the other-worldly setting of this spiritual location.

Young dancers preparing for their performance

Some of them very young!

The gamelan

The gamelan

The dancers performed in the central field

Each finger placement sharp and precise

Each group of performers ascended the steps to go on to the next temple to perform again until they had completed all seven. Once we watched a couple of performances, we also ascended the steps to find a large group of pilgrims bringing their offerings and sitting in silent prayer. Balinese temples have to be the most pleasurably scented places on earth with whole bundles of incense sticks burning at once, the aromas somehow lightening the weight of your mind and spirit.

Lots of steps to the top

The temple at the top of the dragon stairs

Standing in the rain on the opposite side of the candi bentar gate.

The rain cut our visit short, but we are glad we scheduled time to see one of Bali’s great directional temples at Mount Lempuyang. If taking a photo at the gate of heaven is on your bucket list, then this is the temple to go to! As always, remember to be respectful when you visit, be prepared to wear a sarong and don’t walk in front of someone who is praying. Your efforts to get there will definitely be rewarded!

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