Holy Water Ritual at Tirta Empul Temple in Bali – A Wanderlust Experience

Tirta Empul is a place to purify your soul.

For more than 1,000 years, the Balinese have been coming to this sacred spot to do just that. Built on a bubbling spring that flows from the Pakerisan River, Tirta Emplul Temple is a popular spot for ritual purification. According to legend, Indra, a Hindu god, created the spring that feeds the temple’s 13 fountains, infusing it with magical powers as he did. Locals follow the Hindu religion bathe in the holy water to cleanse their souls and ward off evil. Tourists come to experience a truly special cultural tradition. Here’s what to expect from your experience if you plan to visit Tirta Empul Temple.

Tirta Empul

Getting There

Located in the Tampak Siring district, Tirta Empul is about an hour drive from Bali’s capital, Denpasar. I hired a private guide and was glad I did. It costs about $40 per half day, and it’s worth every penny, especially at a place like Tirta Empul Temple where it helps to have a local’s expertise to guide you. I wouldn’t have known what to do or where to go without my guide. And because you likely don’t want to take your camera in the water with you, your guide can take pictures of you while you bathe in the waters. Many tour operators offer similar experiences that you can book in advance of your visit to Bali if you prefer to plan ahead.

The Grounds

Tirta Empul opens at 7 a.m. daily and costs about $2 to enter the grounds. You’ll be given a sarong to wear over your own clothes. Be sure to return it when you leave. The earlier you arrive, the less likely you are to experience large crowds. Don’t be deceived by the featured image at the top of my post—this place is crawling with locals and tourists alike. How my guide managed to get a photo of me alone in the water is amazing to me.

Tirta Empul

A quick tour reveals the temple consists of three main courtyards, the Jaba Pura, or front yard, Jaba Tengah, or central yard, and Jeroan, or inner yard. Jaba Tengah features two rectangular pools with 13 “showers” each. This is where the purification ritual takes place, and there will likely be a lineup of people at each of the showers no matter what time you get to Tirta Empul. Don’t worry, they move quickly. You’ll likely also notice a sign posting the rules for entering the pools. Be sure to keep these in mind as you move through the temple.

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: Tirta Empul is an active religious site for the locals. They often come to collect the holy water in jugs to take home with them. At certain times of the year, they flock to the grounds to take part in religious events. It can be extremely crowded during these times, so be sure to check in advance if there are any special ceremonies and festivals taking place and plan accordingly.

Change Your Clothes

Before you can enter the water, you need to change out of your clothes and into a special sarong that’s different from the one you received upon entry to the grounds. You can rent the sarong and a locker for your personal items for a buck or two. You’ll find them, along with the fitting rooms, to your left if you’re facing away from the holy water showers. There will be a small table with one or two people to collect the cash and hand you your sarong and locker key. Then, head inside to find your designated locker and stash your stuff.

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: If you’re modest like me and don’t love changing in front of other people, there are large bathroom stalls at the back of the dark locker room that double as change rooms.

Guys can simply wrap the sarong around their waists, but the gals need to be sure all of their bits are properly covered. To tie the sarong, simply drape it behind your body and grab one end in each hand. Crisscross the two ends around your neck, and tie them together to form a halter. Your sarong will come tied with a red sash. Wrap the sash around your waist like a belt to keep the sarong closed.

Purification Ritual

Now that you’re in the proper attire, head back to the bathing pools. I plunged into the one on the right and got into the first line I saw. A kind man was nice enough to tell me I wasn’t doing the ritual quite right. You see, you need to start at the first shower on the left in the pool on the left and stand under each shower for the full effect. So, me and my soaked sarong climbed back out of the water and trudged to the first fountain.

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: The temple is made from stones that get quite slippery when wet—and they’re always wet. Be careful climbing in and out of the water. Also, beware there are fish in the pools, so don’t be surprised if one swims by or brushes up against you.

There were a handful of people in line in front of me, so I watched diligently as each one approached the shower so I would know what to do. Some people said a short prayer before bowing their heads and using their hands to sweep water over themselves a total of threes times. Others skipped the prayer part. Some people brought offerings of flowers and incense, while others gathered water to take back home to their families.

Tirta Empul

There are formal traditions that are part of the blessing at Tirta Empul, but it can be a bit of a challenge to find someone to explain them to you. Alternatively, you can do whatever you want, so long as it’s low key and respectful. No one will judge you or look at you funny if you don’t put your head right underwater, for example. It’s all about what’s right for you.

But be mindful of the locals who are at Tirta Empul as part of their religious beliefs, and allow them the time and space they need to perform the ritual. For them, this isn’t just an opportunity to snap a cool selfie, it’s part of an age-old cultural tradition. I chose to say a few words of kindness to myself before washing water over my head three times. It takes about 15 minutes or so to perform the ritual at every one of the fountains. Some people drink the water, though due to deteriorating water quality, it’s no longer recommended.

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: It can be a bit of a challenge to keep your sarong from riding up in the water, and no one wants that to happen. Tucking it between your legs and shuffling your feet to walk is a great way to keep everything neatly in place.

Once you’re done purifying in the holy water, head back to the locker room to grab your clothes and change. then, drop off your wet sarong at the same table where you rented it earlier. Spend some time touring the grounds and taking in all of the amazing carvings before making your way home. You can even view the source of the spring water bubbling under the ground. It’s worth a look around.

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul was one of the highlights of my trip to Bali. Throughout my experience, I felt like I was taking part in something truly special and cherished every moment of my time there. If you only have time to do visit a handful of sites in Bali, Tirta Empul Temple should be at the top of your list.

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Tirta Empul

23 thoughts on “Holy Water Ritual at Tirta Empul Temple in Bali – A Wanderlust Experience

  1. I would love to visit this place and partake in the ritual. I didn’t realise that there are many people coming to this place! Kudos to your guide who managed to take a great shot of you – yeah, it looks as if you had the entire pool to yourself! Glad that you experienced this 🙂 #FarawayFiles

  2. What a beautiful and truly Balinese experience at Tirta Empul. I love Bali for this rich and unique culture that sadly goes a little unrecognised by most tourists there. Love all your tips and I am so glad you shared it on #FarawayFiles Heather

  3. This is honestly one of the most unique travel experiences I’ve ever heard of – and now I’m hooked. It looks and sounds amazing! I agree that the guide was money well spent – knowing me, if I tried to go on my own I’d end up in the guys’ changing room or would do all the rituals backwards.

  4. Looks like a great wanderlust experience. I really need to go back to Bali and explore more. The last time I was there, I was only able to visit Seminyak and Kuta due to lack of time. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  5. That looks like a fantastic experience. $40 sounds like a great deal. Great tip about avoiding festival season. Love all the extra tips you’ve included, especially about keeping your sarong in place.

    1. Thanks! I got lucky that I went the day I did–the next day turned out to be a festival, and it would have been packed!

  6. Tirta Empul sounds like an incredible experience – noted to get there earlier to avoid as many crowds as possible. We did a holy water bathing ritual in France at Lourdes, and it was a really spiritual experience. I think a lot of it was the atmosphere – you could feel it even though not religious. Clever on watching people ahead of you to know what to do!

    Hiring a private guide sounds like a great way to take advantage of local knowledge for the trip – and $40 is quite reasonable. Thanks for the tip. Seems like a really cool place to look around after the purification ritual too – will definitely include in our Bali itinerary later in the year 🙂

    1. Thanks! It was definitely something I would love to do again and will look into the Lourdes ritual you mentioned for my next visit to France!

  7. WOW… what a truly special experience, Ive spent time in spiritual places and participated in some of cleansing rituals, but never in water. It kinda makes sense tho, we shower to feel clean, add a prayer or gratitude and gifts into the mix and it would be beautiful. Surprising it only takes 15 minutes if you have to move through 13 fountains. I will absolutely be adding this onto my list for when next in Bali. Very cool.

    Love the tips on the sarong staying in place, I struggle with a sarong without adding water and weight into the mix.

    1. It was amazing! You only spend a few seconds at each found and then move on to the next, so even with the lineup, it goes quite quickly.

  8. What a beautiful experience, Heather! Sometimes getting a guide helps a lot, especially when you want to know the facts and stories about the place. Plus you have someone to take photos of you when you are traveling alone!

  9. What a wonderful adventure! I’ve always wanted to visit this part of the world, and will definitely visit this place when I do. We visited Japan a few years ago, and it really meant a lot to us learning about and practicing the various customs and rituals when visiting the temples. Thank you for sharing this on #farawayfiles
    Hilary recently posted…Faraway Files #58My Profile

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