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Pura Lempuyang, ‘the gateway of heaven:’ Spiritual must or tourist trap?

Pura Lempuyang, the gateway of heaven, has become one of the most popular and instagrammeable spots in the world. Is it a tourist trap or a spiritual must?

There are many destinations in the world that, beyond their historical, social, and spiritual importance, have become attractions for visitors, whose sole interest is to take some great photos to post on their social media. In the past years, one of these social media magnets is Pura Lempuyang Luhur, best known as the ‘gateway to heaven’ in Bali.

The unique architecture of the temples compound adorned with the bright blue skies and what seems to be a water reflection that looks from out of the world, provides a great setting for our IG timelines; but is a photo worth visiting, and more importantly, is it taking out the importance and value of these place?

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What is Pura Lempyang Luhur?

As mentioned, Pura Lempuyang Luhur is a set of seven temples that lead the way to the top of Mount Lempuyan, dedicated to the Ida Betara Hyant Iswara, the guardian of the East. In ancient Hinduism, the Iswara was considered the supreme Self. For that reason, the temple complex is considered one of the Sad Kahyagan Jagad (six sanctuaries of the world) and one of the holiest places of worship in Bali.

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For centuries, the remote location of the temples kept Pura Lempuyang Luhur far from foreign visitors until recently, when Bali became a popular destination through social media and the wondrous pictures of the temples became viral. Despite the popularity of the mount, it’s still quite a complex place to visit, with a steep staircase of over 1,700 steps that only the adventurous can handle.

Mount Lempuyan is adorned with these seven temples that welcome weary travelers with their unique architecture and the beauty of the cool mountain forest, the home of gorgeous grey long-tailed monkeys.

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Naturally, the most popular temple of them all is the Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyant, which is the one that’s been dubbed the gateway to Heaven. The construction gives the illusion of a split gate that shows a splendorous scenery throughout the gate. The temple is guarded by three dragon stairs and three kori agung gates that offer a unique view of Mount Agung, the highest volcano on the island.

How to visit Pura Lempuyang?

As mentioned, visiting the Pura Lempuyang temples isn’t easy to travel. The hike of almost two thousand stairs isn’t for the faint of heart, not only because of the steepness and height of the mountain but also because among the rules of the temples is stated that those who complain about the wariness of the experience are forbidden from reaching the top.

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Being as remote and scary as the temples are, traveling facilities aren’t exactly a thing. For instance, parking is quite limited, so the best thing is to hire a driver or a tour of the temples. Pura Lempuyang doesn’t have a specific fee, but travelers must consider tipping the locals that keep the place wonderful for visitors.

Tourist trap?

We’ve all talked about the wonders of Pura Lempuyang but we suggested in the title that this might be a really big tourist trap and it is, in a way. Due to the popularity that Pura Lempuyang has acquired in the past years, the place is now quite a crowded one making it not that a pleasant and relaxing experience, regardless of how wonderful the place is in itself. So, if you’re looking for a spiritual experience, you probably won’t have it.

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Now, if what you want is to have that popular Instagram pic in the middle of the gates with the wonderful reflection of the temple on the water, you have to bear in mind that it will cost you sweat, tiredness, big long queues that will make you stand under the sun for hours, and some disappointment, since there’s no water right there, and the photos are the result of a clever trick made by the locals.

Pura Lempuyang opens its doors at seven in the morning, but if you want a good chance of having your photo taken and avoid making an even longer line, you’ll have to be there as early as 5 am or even earlier. Also, many have found the experience a bit disappointing, especially if they were dragged by all those social media photos. The ‘gates’ aren’t that tall, they look like that because most of these photos are taken from a very long angle so that the reflection trick can be achieved.

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So, if you only want a pic, try somewhere else. There are a lot of people who are willing to experience Pura Lempuyang for its historical and spiritual value, and all those who are only looking for a nice Instagram photo are definitely ruining the experience for them.

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