Besakih temple is the most important temple in Bali. Though not the the most beautiful, Besakih is certainly the largest extending over 3kms into the surrounding forest. Perched on the western side of Gunung Agung, Besakih holds a special place for Balinese Hindus and visiting the temple to recieve blessings with Balinese friends can be rewarding.
Besakih does have a reputation as a hang out for touts and guides, so your best bet is hiring a driver or going with locals. Most likely after an hour or two you will be ready to leave, the symbolic structure and layout of the temple and significance of the shrines being lost on most visitors who have not spent some time reading up on the temple. Very often with Balinese temples, the smaller, older, less extravagent shrines are the most important and can be tucked away in a far corner. It takes a while to realize this and start appreciating the temple as a whole.
Getting to Besakih from Kuta only takes about 2 hours, via Sanur, Klungkung, Menanga, but for those who dare to stay away from Jl. Legian for more than a few hours, the area ofers other points of interest that may make visiting Besakih more pleasant.
Here are a few very simple ideas as to how you can make visiting Besakih an overnight trip.
Trip 1: Drive direct to Besakih, explore temple then head north towards Lake Batur. Lovely scenery heading towards Suter, with fine views of the southern end of the lake as you enter the forested crater rim. Affordable guest house accommodation available inside the crater at lakeside in Kedisan and Toya Bungkah.
Trip 2: Drive direct to Besakih, explore temple then head south to Klungkung to see the famous wayang paintings at the former royal courts of justice at Kerta Gosa in Klungkung. Spend night in Padangbai.
Trip 3: Drive direct to Besakih, explore temple then head SE to the Bali Aga village of Tengenan. Check out the village with its famous batik and Geringsing cloth. Spend night in Candi Dasa, which has a good range of affordable to mid range accommodation.
Trip 5: Drive direct to Besakih, explore temple then head north to see the view in Penelokan (‘the place to look’). After lunch drive towards the village of Batur on the crater rim, taking the turnoff towards Payangan / Ubud. This drive will afford you great scenery on the way up. Great views of Lake Batur and Gunung Batur, followed by a fast, straight downhill shoot to Ubud via Payangan and Sanggingan. Spent the night in Ubud enjoying the great places to eat.
More adventurous folks might stay overnight in the quiet forested area around Sideman, or even head out to Amed, assuming they had the energy for that in 1 day. When I visited Besakih temple in 2003 with 6 Balinese people from Stadium Cafe, we made it an overnight trip by camping out on the temple. Don’t do this as it gets very cold.
Plenty of options available and all more interesting and enjoyable than the boring return trip to Kuta offered by so many tour buses.