Bali Calling: All About The Mystical Rock Carvings Of Gunung Kawi

From history to architecture and cultural significance, explore all you need to know about Bali’s Gunung Kawi
Gunung Kawi
Gunung KawiShutterstock

Located amidst the lush landscapes of Bali, Gunung Kawi is a testimony to the island's rich cultural and spiritual heritage. This ancient temple complex is shrouded in mystery and surrounded by breathtaking scenery, drawing visitors into a world where history, mythology, and spirituality converge. In our comprehensive guide to Gunung Kawi, explore all you need to know about the site, ranging from its historical origins to its significance in Balinese culture and more.


The Valley of The Balinese Kings
The Valley of The Balinese KingsShutterstock

Gunung Kawi, also known as the Mountain of Poetry, is an archaeological complex believed to date back to the 11th century. The site comprises ten rock-cut shrines that are carved into the rugged cliffs of the Pakerisan River gorge. On the east side of the north shrine, there is a legible inscription that reads "Haji Lumahing Jalu," meaning "the king made a temple here." These shrines are dedicated to the Balinese King Anak Wungsu and his queens. The impressive scale of these structures hints at the grandeur of the ancient Balinese kingdoms.


Temple in Gunung Kawi
Temple in Gunung Kawi Shutterstock

Gunung Kawi showcases impressive shrines carved into the rock face. Each of these shrines stands at a height of about 7 meters and exhibits intricate details and elaborate motifs. The carvings are a testament to the advanced architectural abilities of the ancient Balinese civilisation. The architecture is similar to the ancient temples of East Java.

Pond in the complex
Pond in the complexShutterstock

The main courtyard of the temple features old Hindu shrines in a modern style. The temple has ten shrines and tombs carved out of rock cliffs. The intricate carvings on the shrines depict scenes from Hindu mythology, showcasing the fusion of spirituality and art.

This site is an archaeological marvel with immense spiritual significance for the Balinese. It is believed to be a memorial dedicated to King Anak Wungsu, and the shrines are thought to represent the deified royalty. The locals visit the site to pay homage to their ancestors and participate in rituals and ceremonies that have been passed down through generations.


Gunung Kawi has undergone preservation initiatives to protect and maintain its impressive architectural wonders. These efforts aim to ensure that future generations can continue to marvel at the site's beauty and appreciate its role in Bali's rich cultural tapestry.

The Journey

Rice paddies of the Gunung Kawi Temple
Rice paddies of the Gunung Kawi Temple Shutterstock

Travellers who make a trip to Gunung Kawi can enjoy a beautiful journey through lush rice terraces and delightful villages. The trail that leads to the temple complex offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes, providing a peaceful and immersive experience. Visitors should be ready to descend down stone steps to reach the river valley, where the stunning shrines become visible.

Getting There

The temple complex is located just a few hundred meters east of Jalan Raya Tampaksiring's main route and can be easily accessed on foot via a paved walkway that is lined with art shops and small local warungs. As you proceed along the walkway towards the river, you will come across lush paddy terraces and gorgeously green valleys that will transport you back in time away from modernity. Once you reach the end of the stairs, you will see a stone archway with small pillars that hold earthen vases filled with holy water. You should sprinkle some of this water on yourself before entering the complex.

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