Located on the north of the island of Nusa Penida in Indonesia, lies a famous religious site called the Goa Giri Putri Temple. While there are many temples on the island, this one is particularly unique because it lies within a hill in a cave. I found out about it when I was planning out all the places that I wanted to visit on Nusa Penida and to be honest, I did not expect much. Goa Giri Putri Temple exceeded my expectations and since we arrived on the day after the temple feast, we got a chance to witness some of the festivities that were still ongoing.
Join us as we talk about how to visit it and the protocol that you need to observe while you enter the temple.
GETTING TO GOA GIRI PUTRI TEMPLE
Goa Giri Putri Temple is the easiest site to get to on the island largely because the entrance lies at the side of the main road. So you don’t have to worry too much about the conditions of the road when driving. We did not notice any of the tour companies stopping here while we were there. A couple of local guides came in with one or two tourists who stayed on the island. Many stopped at the entrance and left back because of the lines due to the festivities but we will talk about that in a bit.
We rented a motorbike for the duration of our stay in Nusa Penida for 70,000 IDR per day. The temple was the first stop on our way to Atuh beach and Thousand islands view point. You will find that there is a convenient spot for parking near the entrance.
One of the first things that you will be told as you approach the temple is that your legs need to be covered. I had already wrapped a sarong around myself. It came as a reflex action after all the time I had spent in south east Asia. Shawn however was stopped at the entrance and asked to don a sarong too. Normally we carry two. This time we had just one. Luckily there is a shop at the parking lot that rents out the traditional sarong with a sash for 5,000 IDR/person. I mentioned that the sash made Shawn look cool. The lady smiled and gave me one to match my sarong too. The kindness of random people always tends to surprise me and that lady made my day.
ENTERING THE GOA GIRI PUTRI TEMPLE
The line to get into the temple.
While the entrance to the temple starts at the side of the road which is easy to get to, the main entrance to the cave temple requires a climb up the hill side. Luckily it isn’t a trek but a climb up stone steps. Pausing mid-way will give you a gorgeous view. Climbing up in the sarong was a bit of a task as I kept tripping and so did Shawn. I finally treated it as I would treat a saree and things got much easier. If you are climbing up in the afternoon heat, make sure you carry water. It can get a bit dehydrating.
One past the steps, you will find your way to a gate which is where the temple actually starts. Since we arrived on a day after the temple feast so there was still a lot of rush. Devotees all dressed in white waited in lines to enter the temple. At first the gate was closed and we thought we would not get in but someone opened the gate and let us in with a smile. We were offered a glass of water to cool off and get our bearings. The cool breeze also helped.
It was only then that I noticed that the entrance to the Goa Giri Putri temple was a tiny opening in the rock face. That meant that only a single person could enter at a time. That was why the line was waiting patiently with everyone helping each other through. We were asked if we would like to enter (of course we did) and we said yes.
While there is no entrance fee per say, you are expected to pay 20,000 IDR/person as a donation before you enter.
INSIDE THE GOA GIRI PUTRI TEMPLE
Watching people enter the Goa Giri Putri temple was rather unnerving. It felt as if the opening just swallowed them up as they disappeared into what appeared to be darkness. I confess, it was rather fun to follow suit and I really did not know what to expect. While the entrance was really tiny and I had to bend a lot to get through the first part of it, the cave widened up immediately. It was disconcerting and impressive.
The temples spans six interconnected caves. You can catch a glimpse of how the caves are connected when you glance at the diagram above the cave entrance. What makes it really interesting is that these caves are huge both in height and width and breadth!
At first I was worried that it would be dark inside the caves and I hadn’t carried a torch. Shawn reassured me by pointing out that no one else had carried one either. Once inside the cave I realized why. The Goa Giri Putri temple is lit up with strategically placed lights. It isn’t bright but your eyes adjust quickly and you can find your way around very easily.
Watch your step while walking because the floor gets wet especially after it has rained and it can be slippery. There are paved parts in most of the places which guides you through. Each cave has its own religious structure. We were told that one of them was dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. People sit and worship here and there are mats that are placed down for people to sit comfortably. Their religious leaders conduct the prayers and despite the number of people praying, the temple is remarkably quiet.
FINDING THE EXIT
People offering prayers in the last cave just before the exit.
One thing was clear, we could not get out the way we entered. That did not phase us. We wandered around the different caves in the temple and people even struck up conversations with us. The final cave i.e. Cave 6 is where the exit lies. We had to wait a bit until they finished their puja which was going on because the cave was packed but it gave us a chance to watch the festivities.
The exit is a large opening that you don’t have to manoeuvre to get out off like the entrance. Steps lead you down to a road which connects to the main road where the parking area is. Small little vendors sell food in case you want a snack or fancy catching a drink. If you do need to use the facilities, there is a toilet right opposite the parking lot.
WHERE TO STAY WHILE ON NUSA PENIDA?
If you want to spend some time on the island like us, you probably will be on the hunt for good accommodation. There are a lot of options that are available as you can see from the map above. It confused us no end since Nusa Penida isn’t a very small island. We finally decided to stay in a spot that was equidistant from most of the spots that we wanted to visit. We also wanted a pool. With that in mind it was easy to find a location.
I took this pic on the first day we were there while we chilled by the pool.
We finally decided on Govardhan Bungalows which were situated at the north of Nusa Penida. With the main road that circled as a ring and another bisected the circle which helped cut down the time we needed to travel to most of the different spots that we wanted to visit. So in a way, short of staying the hills, it was as equidistant as we could get.
Govardhan Bungalows came highly reviewed by a number of people so when we reached we were not disappointed either. The large spacious bungalow, a gorgeous bathroom and plenty of hot water was exactly what we wanted. Shawn particularly liked lounging on the pool after a long day of roaming around the island. My favourite spot however was perched at the breakfast area watching the sun rise and the birds swoop.