Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) is a Hindu Shrine located close to Ubud in Bali. The shrine was built in a small cave and used by Hindus for a place for meditation. The shrine dates back to the 9th century so is one of the oldest Hindu shrines in Bali.
Despite the name, do not expect to see any Elephants at Goa Gajah. Infact the only elephant here is a large stone Elephant statue at the entrance of the shrine grounds.
Entrance fee to the shrine costs 15,000Rp for Adults and 7000Rp for children which includes the use of a sarong to cover your legs if you are wearing shorts.
There are lots of steps to walk down to the Elephant Cave and then further steps to walk down to the bottom of the grounds where there is a Buddhist Temple. This is just a small structure which used to contain a statue of the Buddha but some idiot stole the statue, probably sold on the black market.
Once you walk down the first set of steps you come to the main temple grounds. There is a large stone fountain area with 7 statues representing some of the Hindu gods. The fountain area has natural spring water flowing into it. This area is used for cleansing the body of worshippers before they enter the shrine.
The cave where the main shrine is located is only a small cave. Inside the cave are small ledges where worshippers sit and meditate. Once you enter the cave their are a few small shrines to the Hindu gods. If you turn to the right the most important shrine is right at the back of the cave, a shrine to the holy Hindu trinity of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu.
At the front entrance there is a sign in several languages which states 2 rules for entering the Hindu Shrine. First you must be dressed appropriately. Your legs and shoulders must be covered. If you are wearing shorts you need to wrap a sarong around to cover your legs. Same if you are wearing a singlet, you will need to cover your shoulders with a sarong. The entrance fee includes the use of a sarong which someone will tie around your waist. You will walk past plenty of small shops on the way down to the ticket office. If they see you wearing shorts they will yell out to you that you have to wear a sarong and then try to sell you one of their sarongs. No need!
The second rule is common for Hindu shrines. If a women is menstruating then she is forbidden to enter the shrine. How would anyone know? I asked a guide in the grounds about this rule. He said if someone does not understand the rules then there is no problem. But if she knows she is menstruating and enters the shrine knowing she is forbidden then the spirits may do something very bad to her. OK! You have read the warning! Enter at your own risk.
Once you walk down the steps to the level of the Elephant Cave you will be approached by men who will offer you a personal tour and explain all the features of the many shrines and temple grounds. During their explanation they will tell you they work in the fields to grow rice for the temple staff and after they act as guides for the shrine. They suggest you could pay them what you feel like, though make a recommendation of $20 or $30. They spend about 15 minutes with you so their recommendation is a bit extreme. I got a really good tour around the grounds so gave the guy 100,00oRp (around $10 – probably still too much but hope the money goes to good use).
Getting to Goa Gajah Bali
Goa Gajah is located around 10 minutes drive from the centre of Ubud, in the hills of Bali.
From Kuta it will take around 1 – 1.5 hours to drive to Goa Gajah depending on traffic.
From Sanur it takes around 50 minutes to drive to Goa Gajah.
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