Perched high up on the slopes of Bali's sacred Mount Agung, where the Balinese believe the spirits of their ancestors live, is the temple complex of Besakih. The complex consists of 22 temples located on about 3 square kilometers of land. The oldest temples are said to date back to the eighth century, although most of the shrines were destroyed in a 1917 earthquake and have been renovated several times during the 20th century.
The largest and most important temple withing the Besakih complex is Penataran Agung. The temple is reached by a grand entrance stairway which rises up through terraces lined with statues of gods and demons. Note that only worshippers are allowed to use the central stairway. Tourists must use a parallel set of stairs that lies outside the temple's walls.
Photos of the Besakih Temple Comple in east Bali. Click on any of the thumbnails to see the full size image.
Inside the temple's main courtyard is a large open space to hold many worshippers. At the back of the courtyard are the three tall merus dedicated to the three main incarnations of the Hindu god, Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. Behind the main courtyard are the largely deserted inner courtyards, housing many more merus.
Visitors are usually escorted up the left side of Penataran Agung. On the right is the well maintained clan temple of Ratu Pande. Behind this is the temple of Batu Madeg. Crossing behind Penataran Agung, you can look over the low wall to see the inner courtyard. Eventually, you'll reach a high terrace affording a view back over the temple complex.
The Besakih Complex is open daily from 7am to 6pm. Visitors are not allowed to enter the temples, but must view them from the outside. You may need to rent a sarong if you are wearing short pants.