With a history dating back more than 1,000 years, one of Bali’s holiest Hindu sites (and most popular attractions) is a grotto covered in carvings of mythological creatures. While Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) has uncertain origins, it's believed that Hindu priests dug it out by hand to use as a hermitage.
Visitors to Goa Gajah temple enter the cave through the gaping mouth of a demon-like creature and pass into a small T-shaped chamber with several ledges carved out from the walls. A statue of Ganesh was added after the cave was first excavated. The courtyard just outside the cave entrance features a series of decorated bathing pools with carved depictions of women pouring water from urns.
Today, the cave remains an active worship site for Hindu devotees and a popular stop on sightseeing tours of Bali. Visitors have several options for touring the cave, including small-group and private tours of Ubud’s highlights (usually Elephant Cave, Ubud Monkey Forest, and the villages of Gunung Kawi Sebatu and Penglipuran), or as part of a temple-themed tour of the island. You can also combine a visit to the cave with a trip to Mount Batur volcano near Kintamani or Tegenungan Waterfall.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Goa Gajah is a must-see for all spiritual travelers, history buffs, and first-time visitors.
- Either wear long pants or bring a sarong to cover your knees while visiting the temple.
- Be respectful of worshippers inside the narrow cave by standing back and refraining from photographing them.
- Give your eyes some time to adjust inside the cave; there’s no artificial light illuminating the interior.
How to Get There
Goa Gajah is about a 10-minute drive southeast of Ubud past the monkey sanctuary and toward Bedulu village. For those visiting the site independently, the easiest way to get there is by hiring a motorbike or taxi in Ubud.
When to Get There
The Elephant Cave is open daily from morning to late afternoon. Since the cave is typically visited in conjunction with other outdoor attractions, it’s a good idea to plan for Bali’s dry season, between April and October.
How Old Is Goa Gajah?
Historians believe this sacred cave dates back to the 11th century, though even older artifacts have been discovered in the area. The cave was first mentioned in an early 14th-century Javanese poem. While primarily a Hindu temple, the discovery of a nearby Buddhist temple and several Buddhist relics suggest the cave was significant to early Buddhist practitioners on the island as well.