Bali's largest and holiest temple, Pura Besakih, is alternatively known as the "Mother Temple" and translates literally as the Temple of Spiritual Happiness. It is named after the dragon god believed to inhabit the mountain and is said to be the only temple where a Hindu of any caste can worship. The temple consists of between 28 and 35 separate structures depending how you count them, and although the precise origins of Pura Besakih remain unclear, the stone bases of Pura Penetaran Agung date back at least 2,000 years. This site has been used as a Hindu place of worship since at least the late 13th century, when the first Javanese conquerors settled on Bali.

Pura Besakih is about 1,000m (3,280 ft.) above sea level. Steps ascend through split gates to the main courtyard where the Trinity shrines are wrapped in cloth and decorated with flower offerings. There are a number of temples but many of their inner courtyards are closed to visitors. Eighteen separate sanctuaries belonging to different regencies and caste groups surround the main temples dedicated to Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu. To the Balinese, visiting the temple sanctuaries is a special pilgrimage.

The mountaintop setting gives Pura Besakih an almost mystical quality, even more so if you get there for sunrise. Try to reach the temple before 9am, as after this time many tourist buses start to arrive and it can get very busy. Further, given its popularity, it also attracts the more voracious of the local touts who can make the experience a distinctly unspiritual one.

Touring Besakih -- Many visitors to Besakih are appalled by the treatment they receive from guides and touts outside the entrance. Our advice is to arrange a visit to the temple with an organized tour agent. Organized tours are the best way to visit the temple as on-site guides can be intrusive and off-putting. This way, you should avoid being harassed by touts offering their services. If you do go on your own, you will be approached by guides looking to offer their services. You do not need to use a guide to view the temple. If you wish to hire an on-site guide, make sure you agree to a price beforehand. Rp20,000 to Rp30,000 should be enough.