A Surreal Drive Up to the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, Bali

A Misty Day at the Ulun Danu Temple, Bali

Located on the shores of the Lake Bratan in the Bedugul region of Bali, the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, or Pura Ulun Danu, is a popular Bali temple and one of my favorites. The road to the temple undulates up and down with majestic views of the Bedugul highlands throughout— the Ulun Danu temple is at a height of 1500 meters.

When I visited the Pura UlunDanu I didn’t know that the drive would be so surreal and that we were driving to the second largest lake in Bali which irrigates the entire Bedugul region’s rice fields.

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Scenes on the drive.

The name Beratan comes from the word brata, which is to conduct one’s self to fill the nine primary needs in life. Ulun Danu Beratan means the power or source temple of Lake Beratan. And some of the surreality that one feels on the way and atop at the Lake Beratan temple could be dedicated to the spirituality associated with the lake.

On my 31st birthday, I sped up the Activa to climb the steep hill to Pura Ulun Danu. I am not religious and was reluctant to visit the Beratan temple when my friend suggested it on my birthday morning. But this was a friend I trusted to know my choices in places so I concurred to the temple trip but not without a slow breakfast first.

We started our journey on a rented Activa. Then we devoured some sweet and sour fish curry and rice at a beautiful paddy-field-view restaurant in the afternoon on the way. I swung on the restaurant’s bamboo swings in the sunshine and laughed a lot. A little girl in the family-run place played hide and seek. Oh, how she reminded me of my childhood.

My friend pulled me out of the comfortable bean bag. We would arrive too late otherwise, he said.

I drove. The mountains were high. White clouds galloped above us. Coconut trees stood tall everywhere. Neon paddy fields fringed us on one side and the other side lush valleys billowed ahead.

When we stopped for petrol we both agreed that that was the most scenic petrol pump we had ever seen. Soon we were climbing up and down the sinewy curves again. We stopped at one vista and saw two volcanoes on the distant horizon. Do you know if these are the Mount Agung and Batur?

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The two volcanoes visible in the distance.
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The petrol pump.
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One more because I can’t get enough of this petrol pump.

After about an hour we were at Pura Ulun Danu Bratan(another spelling for Beratan). Its manicured gardens were the first to welcome us. Coconut and guava trees were plenty. Pink bougainvillea crept up on every wall. Then there were the frangipani trees blooming in every corner as they do in all Bali temples — or Puras, as Balinese say.

My eyes scanned the four big structures in the complex. Maybe there are many different temples here. I thought. Some were on the lake and some were on the mainland. A mountain range rolled behind the temple. Clouds were lip-locked with the summit.

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Tourists and locals wrapped in silk sarongs strolled and paraded. It was the Balinese people who were carrying the baskets of white, pink, and red flowers.

Ulun Danu temple is devoted to the Danu goddess, the queen of water, lakes, and rivers and often sees devotees who come with offerings and perform purification and other ceremonies. Like other temples, Beratan lake temple is also designed as a big open-air complex surrounded by a wall. The compound walls have about four ornate gates without doors — another typical of Bali temples.

Sometimes you would start climbing up tiny stairs to a beautiful enclosure within Balinese house only to be stopped by a family member asking you to leave their temple alone — the temple won’t have a gate so you would never notice.

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[To know more about Bali culture, read my carefully collected Bali travel tips from my one-month journey through Bali.]

The four shrines — known as merus — were square structures with stone and wood foundations and multiple pagoda-style thatched roofs. One of Ulundanu Beratan’s shrine is dedicated to Vishnu — 11 tiers, then one to Brahma — 7 tiers, and another one to Shiva and Parvati —3 tiers. Notice the odd number: the status of the deity amongst the people.

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The 11 and 3 tier shrines.

Danu, in the Balinese tongue, means lake, and Lake Beratan is known as the Lake of Holy Mountain because of the high fertility of the area. Pura Bratan’s history goes far behind the 17 century. A sarcophagus and a stone slate dated 500 BC still sit intact in the compound. Some say the area was a sacred site since the megalithic period. Adorning a fusion of Hindu and Buddhist architectural styles, the temple is now pictured on the 50,000 Indonesian rupiah bill and has become timeless.

The Vishnu shrine is visited by devotees for fertility, prosperity, and well-being. Locals say that the Lake Bratan temple maintains the fertility of the area and controls all other water temples there.

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Though travelers(non-worshippers) could not go inside any of the shrines and neither did we try, we could see ceremonies from within the compound. Balinese women shuffled in their silky sarongs and men walked in their white cotton and checked sarongs to the merus to pray. Later, most people would pose in front of the eleven-tiered and three-tiered meru on small islands at the lake’s edge.

When the water level in the lake is high enough, the Ulundanu Beratan temple appears to be floating in the smooth reflective surface of the lake. But it wasn’t so when I visited. Bali Floating temple is another name of Ulun Danu.

After watching the ceremonies and admiring the people, we strolled amongst the garden flowers and the foliage. The manicured gardens hold many surprises in its ferns. Cement statues of lions, owls, fish, and a tiny fenced enclosure holding a few barking deer suddenly appears from nowhere.

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Locals are driven to Bedugul over weekends because of the highland’s cool weather. Usually, the lake has many paddle ducks and speedboats for tourists but when I went there it was just the lake with its rippling water.

A cold wind blew. A thin mist from the lake had surrounded the Ulun Danu Bratan temples making everything look a bit out of this world. The golden temples shined against the blue sky. The pink and white evergreen and golden marigolds bloomed in full. I heard azaan. Just behind the temple, a blue mosque loomed.

Mountains were forever silent. Clouds rolled above. Oh, then we witnessed a beautiful orangy sunset. The sunlight of the setting sun split the sky. Light beamed out of shapely clouds. At every turn, the temple took a different avatar.

Holding our hearts in our hands, we drove down. Or let us say we flew in the rolling clouds. We ate dinner at a small roadside homely place. 250 rupees, about 4 dollars, were enough for a heavy noodle-soup meal for two. The roads curved again and then the GPS that we said arrived home.

What did I wish for my birthday? That everyone smiles. Peace for myself, everything else later.

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Please note: Do not confuse temple Ulun Danu Beratan with the Pura Ulun Danu Batur (which has got some nasty reviews about the local’s behavior). I didn’t go there so I cannot comment but Beratan temple is different from the Batur one.

Where to stay in Bali?

I stayed at Nuriani, an old Balinese style guest house, in the center of Ubud. This simple hotel is super comfortable, comes with great paddy field views, has amazing service, and offers a generous breakfast buffet. We also got our scooter from there, and they also book reliable taxis for their guests. It is right on the main Ubud road. I would go there again anytime, at least for a day.

I also spent two weeks at the Wijaya homestay in a village that is a ten-minute drive away from Ubud. It is pretty affordable, the family is really friendly and helpful, breakfast is included, and the house is very peaceful. You can see the pictures of the place and book it from here: Wijaya Guest House.

You can also stay in South Bali near Kuta beach, but remember that it is a party area. Or head to Sanur Beach the area around which just felt like any other city. (While we are at beaches can I recommend the isolated Nyang Nyang beach of Bali. Do visit.)

If you don’t like anything from above, then here is a link to some other good Bali hotels.

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What are the timings of the Ulun Danu Beratan temple, Bali?

Bedugul’s Ulun Danu temple is open year-round from morning 7 am to 7 pm from Sunday to Friday and on Saturdays from 5 am to 7 pm. But the best time to visit the temple would be in the morning from 9 am to about 2 pm to avoid the fog. When I went there around 3-4 pm the temple was a bit misty and that added to the experience and the sunset was just the cherry on the top.

What is the best time to visit Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Bali?

The rainy months would be a good time to get a good floating view of the Ulun Danu tempel. You can also hire a speedboat or a traditional fishing boat to take you around the Lake Beratan. From a bit of distance, the temple views would be unhindered. I didn’t see but heard that fishing gear is available for rent near the Bratan temple complex.

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How much is the Ulun Danu Temple Entrance Fee?

Foreigners are charged 50,000 IDR per person for adults and 25,000 IDR per child. You can buy the Pura Ulundanu ticket at the counter in the parking. Do remember to bring cash as cards might not work there.

What is the dress code of Pura Ulundanu, Bali?

Like in all temples in Bali, in Pura Ulun Danu Beratan you have to keep your shoulders and legs covered. It is not necessary to wear a sarong but any simple long pants would do. Apart from this, just be respectful and use your common sense.

How to get to the Ulun Danu Bratan temple, Bali?

Bedugul is located in the center of Bali. Bali’s Ulun Danu temple is a long, about 1.5 hours or 45 km one-way, but stunning drive away from Ubud. From Denpasar, the temple is 54 km away, and from Kuta beach, it would take about two hours to reach.

The drive alone is worth it. Keep one day for Ulun Danu travel. Go slow.

You can either hire a private or shared taxi or get into a small shuttle bus that runs from the main hotels or drive a scooter yourself. A taxi can be hired from the hotel. For the shared shuttle bus also you will have to ask for more information at your guest house. There is no public transport to this floating temple of Bali.

If you want to drive a scooter, those are easily available at all hotels and separate scooter rental shops. Scooters could be rented at IDR 50,000/USD 3.5/INR 250. Your country’s driving license would work in Bali. I was in Bali for a month and wasn’t asked for my license even once. Drive safe and always wear a helmet.

Many tours go to the Ulun Danu Bali temple and I have listed some of the finest ones here.

Waterfall and Lake Beratan temple Bali Tour: Visit the Banyumala Waterfall, then go to the temple Ulun Danu Bratan, and then head to the scenic rice terraces of Jatiluwih. Comes with a private guide and taxi.

Sekumpul and Ulun Danu Temple Bali: Trek to the majestic Sekumpul Waterfalls, swim there, and then explore the Ulun Danu and Taman Ayun Water Temples. Buffet lunch at the famous Lake Bratan is included.

Unesco Sites Tour: Visit the 18th-Century Royal Water Temple of Pura Taman Ayan, head to Pura Ulun Danu Bedugul, have lunch, and visit the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. A fiery sunset at the Tanah Lot Temple would end your day.

Bali UNESCO Sites: Private Guided Full-Day Tour — Visit the Taman Ayun temple, continue to Pura Danau Beratan(another name for Ulun Danu), have lunch by the side of Mount Batukaru, and finish your tour at Handara Gate.

Bali Sunrise Tour with Dolphins, waterfalls, and Pura Ulun Danu Bali: Private half-day trip that starts at 03:00 am and first takes you to Lovina Beach to watch dolphins play around. The tour continues to the Gitgit Waterfall, then visits the UlunDanu Bratan Temple, and bring back to the accommodation by 13:40.

Please do open the individual Ulun Danu Temple tour links to see more details and choose the tour you like.

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Would you visit the Pura Ulun Danu Beratan now? Let me know in the comments.

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