As a travel destination, Bali is best known for beach vacations, jungle retreats, and partying in paradise. Top this off with a wealth of arts and culture to explore and there is truly something for everyone.
Yet, for many, Bali doesn’t immediately jump out as a destination for history buffs but all that looks like it’s changing.
Bali is an island steeped in history, from temples to palaces, ancient agricultural landscapes, and shipwrecks, there is so much for history lovers to dig their teeth into in Bali.
One of the most significant infant and in-demand historical sites for tourists in Bali right now is the phenomenal Gunung Kawi.
Gunung Kawi in Tampaksiring, which sits to the east of Ubud in central Bali, is also referred to as The Valley of the Balinese Kings.
The temple and funerary complex date back to the 11th century; the funeral monuments are believed to have been built to honor King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana Dynasty and his beloved wives.
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It is said that each of the shrines is dedicated to a different member of ing Anak Wungsu’s family.
As visits enter the temple there are four monuments to the left, followed by five more which sit on the eastern bank of the site, across the sacred Pakerisan River.
The tenth shrine is tucked away along the southern edge of the valley away from the first nine monuments.
Each of the shrines is carved into the sheer rock face and is one of the most impressive ancient monuments in all of Indonesia.
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Wayan Kana, an art shop owner who is based next to Gunung Kawi, told reporters that more and more tourists are coming to the ancient monument.
He noted that there is an increasing amount of tourists from Europe visiting the temple complex who are showing a genuine interest in the history of the site.
Kana explained, “Most people really like history. They brought lots of books as guidance.” Kana and other local shop owners have been pleased that more people are exploring the historical site.
Visits are good for business but Kana noted that residents are happy to see more people interested in Balinese history, especially at Gunung Kawi.
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A visit to Gunung Kawi only takes an hour or so and can be reached within a 30-minute drive of central Ubud.
Many tourists visit Gunung Kawi as part of a day trip around the Tampaksiring and Tegallalang area, stopping off to explore the world-famous Tegallalang Rice Terraces and even a waterfall or two all in the course of a day.
There are so many historical landmarks to explore that offer tourists a glimpse into the ancient world of Bali, whether it be Ubud Palace, Tanah Lot Temple, or Pura Tirta Empul.
For those interested in more recent history, there is plenty to explore. Over in the east of Bali, off the coast of Amed and Tulamben reside the USS Liberty Shipwreck and the Japanese Wreck.
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For military history enthusiasts, these two sites are of huge interest, and for divers too. The USS Liberty Shipwreck is one of the best-known dive spots in Bali.
The USS Liberty was hit by a Japanese torpedo in January 1942, during World War II, and was subsequently beached near Tulamben, close to Amed.
It remained a wreck on the beach until Mount Agung erupted in 1963. The volcanic eruption shifted the ship off the sand and back into the ocean, where it remains to this day.
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Top divers have said that diving around the USS Liberty Shipwreck is one of the best shipwreck dives in the world. At its shallowest point, the USS Liberty Wreck only sits 5m below the surface of the water, and at its deepest lies at 30m underwater.
This makes it a popular dive site for beginners and there are plenty of dive schools around Amed and Tulamben where tourists can learn more about the history of the year and of course, earn that all-important PADI dive qualification.
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