Besakih, on the slopes of Bali’s tallest volcano, is the most important temple on the island. I knew I had to visit. It was only a one hour drive from Sidemen, so it was easy to get to with my scooter.

It was incredibly beautiful. I don’t think it’s possible to say which of Bali’s temples is the most beautiful, but Besakih certainly could be the one.

But it’s more than just one temple; it is a complex of them. The main temple is covered in blooming flowers. Inside are towering pagodas. The volcano looms in the distance. It is incredible.

It is alive too. Like all of Bali’s temples, they are for locals, and the locals were visiting in force, making offerings and performing ceremonies.

Tourists are lazy, so by getting there before 10 am, it was just me and the locals. Besakih is another must-see in Bali.

A colorful temple.
A colorful temple.

The Ugly Truth About Besakih

I could stop there, on a positive note. But at TerryTreks I tell it like it is. Besakih is also probably the most annoying place in Bali.

You have to buy a ticket, which is totally reasonable of course. But then the ticket collectors require you to make a mandatory “donation.” They show you their record book where everybody has apparently donated Rp 300,000 ($25), in addition to the ticket. These guys just add zeros to what visitors write. Being extorted because I am a bule always puts me in a bad mood.

While parking my motorbike, I had to contend with the mob of ladies trying to sell me a sarong. They lie and say you need one, but you don’t as long as you are wearing slacks. The few temples that require sarongs provide them for free.

A guide was mandatory too. That would be fine if the guide provided information, but mine didn’t. But he justified the cost when he hesitated in front of a door, and I quickly snapped one of my best photos yet. Totally candid and not posed.

As soon as it was ten, buses started disgorging huge groups of obese bule. It was no longer possible to take good photos.

My guide did explain this shrine. He said it was Buddhist.
My guide did explain this shrine. He said it was Buddhist.

Groups of tourists never venture away from the main sites. There was a temple on the hill behind the main complex. I walked over there and had it to myself.

I had lunch at Besakih. There are no tourist restaurants, just local Balinese ones. But even those were overpriced.

When in Bali, absolutely visit Besakih. Just get there early, explore beyond the main complex, and don’t let the locals extort from you.

Sloping pagodas.
Sloping pagodas.
View from the gate.
View from the gate.
On their way to Besakih.
On their way to Besakih.
Besakih was a hub of activity.
Besakih was a hub of activity.
Terry
I'm Terry, former cubicle-dweller, and now traveler, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur. I quit my job in 2014 to travel to US national parks, then to South East Asia. I write about independent, flexible, long-term, budget travel. Sign up to my newsletter to get the latest news on what I'm up to. I hope you join me on my trek around the world.

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