If you’re up for a bit of a climb, the trek (well, there is a road for much of the way, but we’re calling it a trek!) to Pura Luhur Lempuyang offers fabulous views (weather allowing) and you get to tick off another of Bali’s directional temples. Pura Luhur Lempuyang is one of Bali’s nine directional temples and is of great significance to the Balinese culture and religion. Set atop Lempuyang mountain, it’s roughly halfway between Amlapura and Amed as the crow flies. The directional temples radiate around Bali with Pura Luhur Besakih (Mother Temple) at the centre — other directional temples include Uluwatu, Goa Lawah and Pasar Agung. This importance means you’ll often see Balinese families from around the island visiting in full ceremonial attire balancing large baskets of food atop their heads, with the purpose of getting it blessed by the priest at the temple at the top of the mountain. Six temples in total run up to the peak and while the views from the summit can be spectacular, remember if it is cloudy (as it was on our last visit) you’ll see precious little. If you are in luck you can enjoy tremendous views across to Gunung Agung and greater Bali. We were told you can also see Rinjani on Lombok but were unable to see it for ourselves due to crummy weather. If you decide to go for dawn at the summit, keep in mind that it can be very cold, so if you have a jacket, bring one. If you’re not fussed about dawn, early morning is still a better bet to dodge the worst of the heat, and the monkeys (see below) are less active then. Regardless of when you go, you’ll need to allow one to two hours to climb the 1,700 steps to the top temple. From the car park area a guide will appear to ask if you require their services, including the rental of a sarong and sash, which is mandatory if you wish to avoid a cultural faux pas. The price of a guide is highly negotiable, but the opening offer is 100,000 rupiah. We think 50,000 rupiah including hire of a sarong and a donation for one person is a reasonable price. From here there is a road you can walk along for 20 minutes (or take an ojek in five) to the first temple, from where the stairs begin. Given that the walk is paved the entire way and it is easy to find your way to the top, a guide is not absolutely necessary, but one is highly recommended due to the various temples that you will want to enter — the guide will ensure that you don’t do anything you’re not supposed to. From the carpark, it is a strenuous 90-minute walk to the top. The climb is not a mere stroll and as it is steps just about the entire way, it can be hard on the knees. A spare dry shirt for when the walk is complete is a good idea. Drinks and food are available for purchase at regular intervals all the way to the top of the mountain during daylight — if you’re climbing for dawn you may need to carry your own as little will be open.
Towards the top of Gunung Lempuyang, near the main temple, lives a troupe ofextremely aggressive macaque monkeys. While they look cute, they will attempt to steal anything shiny, including water bottles. Shed your hat, sunglasses and put away your water as you near the top lest you be attacked. Also don’t forget that if you want to walk and eat a packet of chips, the monkeys will want to fight you for them. The winner is dependent on who gets scared first and these monkeys know no fear. Carrying a big stick helps. The macaques have gotten so aggressive that armed guards (yes, with guns) now patrol the jungle stretch between the two final temples. When we last visited in June 2014 we were told by our guide 35 people had been bitten in the preceding three months. These are very naughty monkeys and are not to be trifled with. The views from the top of Gunung Lempuyang are sensational looking toward Amed and Gunung Agung. For the views alone, it is worth climbing to the very top. The temple itself is unremarkable, but serves an important religious purpose and you will commonly find people praying here — be respectful, of course.
As the day wears on, the heat and crowds increase and climbing becomes less pleasant, so we reckon it’s best to arrive before 10:00.