Perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea, the temple of Uluwatu is one of the most spiritual Balinese sea temples on the island. Not surprisingly this also leads it to being one of the most popular tourist sites as well. Placed within easy driving distance from Ubud, Seminyak and Jimbaran, it is the perfect place to watch the sunset – just be prepared to fight the crowds in order to experience this beautiful place.
As a large religious complex in comparison to others I visited, with winding pathways and multiple look outs, I would advise you to allow a good few hours in order to truly appreciate and explore the temple. We only gave ourselves an hour before heading to the Kecak dance performance (which happens every day at 6pm) and it just wasn’t enough.
The Kecak Performance
The Kecak is a traditional Balinese trance ritual that was practised by men, using just their mouths and hands to create rhythm and sound; the main audible noise of which is ‘cak’, hence the name.
In the 1930’s this ritual was adapted into a performance that can now be seen across Bali, which depicts the popular Hindu story of Ramayana (if you have ever watched ‘A Little Princess’ this story will be familiar to you). Because the tale itself is so long, Kecak performance groups often pick certain scenes and link them together.
The Kecak dance at Uluwatu is hugely popular and you need to get there early in order to buy a ticket and get a seat. We arrived at around 4.45pm, sat in the arena at 5.30pm and were one of the last to get a seat on the benches; do not leave it too late!
The arena overlooks the sea and the sunset glows around you as you begin to watch the show. It is a mesmerising and unique experience with lots of audience interaction. I absolutely loved it, although there were some around us who were rather disrespectful. Please remember that this is not your standard musical performance – and you should not expect it to be, however when embraced the Kecak dance is truly beautiful.
When at Uluwatu, I would encourage people to join an organised tour or hire a local driver when visiting the temple. Local people have such knowledge of the history and religious significance of the site and by hiring them you are giving back to a community that on the whole are less fortunate than our own home countries. While tourism does inject much needed money into local communities, the shear number of visitors really does put a strain on the Balinese people. Make sure you respect the cultural expectations of Bali and do not turn up to temples in a bikini top ready for your Instagram photo (seriously people actually did this).
Uluwatu is so beautiful, it is truly a place not to be missed off of the list when visiting Bali. Give yourself plenty of time, take a knowledgeable guide and immerse yourself in the magic of this hugely spiritual place.