Located just 10 minutes outside of Ubud in Bali, Goa Gajah is a significant Hindu archaeological site. We found ourselves here while out on a half day tour of the surrounding areas of Ubud. We had hired a driver for the afternoon, and chose to stop at Elephant Cave as part of our afternoon of explorations. Goa Gajah is locally known as the Elephant Cave because of its close proximity to the Elephant River. A mysterious cave, relics, and ancient bathing pools set amid green rice paddies and a garden lure tourists from nearby Ubud. The entrance to Goa Gajah (pictured above) looks like a demonic mouth, suggesting that people are entering an underworld as they venture inside through the darkness. Some claim that the entrance represents the Hindu earth god Bhoma while others say the mouth belongs to the child-eating witch Rangda from Balinese mythology. For such a busy tourist attraction, the Elephant Cave itself is actually quite small. As you enter through the dark, narrow passage, the cave abruptly ends in an intersection. The left passage contains a small niche with a statue of Ganesh, the Hindu deity reminiscent of an elephant. The right passage holds a small worship area with several stone lingam and yoni in honor of Shiva.
Just outside of Goa Gajah are loads of stalls selling souvenirs, and of course, many eager sellers reminding you that both men and women need to cover up their legs upon entering the temple grounds. As luck would have it, we had left our guesthouse in a rush and not grabbed sarongs to cover up with. Of course, we had been carrying them around for days and not yet needed them, so we were quite disappointed that we then had to fork out money for unnecessary clothes. To add insult to injury, the people at these stalls are all over you, so shopping in peace is a challenge. We eventually chose two pairs of pants and made our way over to the entrance gate with our tickets in hand. It had felt like a wasted 20 minutes trying to choose items of clothes that we didn’t really wasn’t anyway, but we tried not to let that bother us. Imagine our annoyance when we got to the gate and a man automatically wrapped a sheet around each of us. Urrg!!!!
Literal piles of relics with unknown origins have been laid out in a surrounding garden.
Below, Elijah was more than sleepy at this stage. He usually naps after lunch so we were thankful for the shaded hiking backpack! It was a hot and humid day, but at least Eli could nap while we did some sightseeing.
Almost every Hindu statue that we passed by during our stay in Indonesia, had fresh flowers on it. Once theses withered due to the heat or sunlight (such as above), or got blown away, they were soon after replaced with fresh ones.
From the main courtyard of the temple grounds, water poured out into two square bathing pools.
There are intricate gardens below the Elephant Cave, however with many staircases and densely packed trees, it felt like a outdoor sauna as we descended into this area. We took a quick look around and then ventured back up to where the air was – slightly, but pleasantly – cooler and less humid.
With little man, Eli James, snoozing soundly in the hiking backpack, we explored the gardens and temple area. It was really hot, especially in the forest area, so we didn’t stay for much more than a quick look around.
Visiting the Elephant Cave – Goa Gajah is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The entrance fee to the Elephant Cave is around 15,ooo IDR ($1). Proper dress is required; knees must be covered by both men and women. Sarongs are available on loan at the entrance of the site.
Getting to Goa Gajah – The Elephant Cave is located just 10 minutes southeast of Ubud in Central Bali, Indonesia. Tours that take in Goa Gajah as well as other surrounding temples and sites can be arranged in Ubud. Alternatively, motorbikes can be rented in Ubud for around $5 a day. Having the freedom of transportation to explore the smaller tourist sites surrounding Ubud is a big plus. Begin by driving south of Ubud past the monkey sanctuary toward Bedulu, then turn east (left) onto Jalan Raya Goa Gajah. Numerous signs indicate the way to Goa Gajah as well as other attractions. A trivial fee is charged for parking at the Elephant Cave.