Just one of seven ocean temples on the coast of Bali that create a sort of spiritual bulwark against bad vibes rolling on the ocean currents, the ancient shrine atop Tanah Lot is said to be protected from demons by snakes both small and monster-sized.
The true origins of Pura Tanah Lot (the temple that sits atop Tanah Lot) are lost to the sea spray of time, but according to legend it was created in the 16th century at the behest of a now-mythologized holy man. Along with the other six sea temples along the Bali shore, each within eyeshot of the next, it is meant to pay respect to the guardian spirits of the sea. The constant pounding of the currents against the base of Tanah Lot have created a number of sea caves at the foot of the rock formation, many of which are home to sea snakes. These snakes are rumored to protect the temple from evil spirits along with a giant nightmare snake that lurks in the waters around the temple.
At low tide, Tanah Lot can be approached on foot. The outer sanctum of the temple is open to visitors (holy men receive and bless you), but the inner sanctum of the temple itself is forbidden to any non-Balinese visitors. The small caves exposed by the receding water can be explored, for those who are not concerned by snakes (real or otherwise). There is a cave within a cave on the beach where visitors may approach and receive a blessing from the sacred snake.
Despite not being able to explore much of the rock’s surface, it cuts a stunning figure against the backdrop of the ocean horizon and the site has accordingly sprouted an unctuous tourist market full of stalls selling cheap merchandise to gullible sightseers. Maybe one day the temple’s guardian snake will rise up and protect the temple’s sanctity from those that would capitalize on its beauty.