Couples Travel · Into Indonesia · Pretty Places · Travel Tales

Where Are The Elephants In Goa Gajah?

One of our first agenda for our last full day OUT in Bali–which happened to fall on the Balinese new year, was the Goa Gajah Temple, also known as the Elephant Cave. We visited quite a few temples during the week, but there was something quite interesting about this archeological site that I had to see it for myself. The day after this would be the Nyepi, or Silent Day, which will restrict us from going outside at all cost, so we had include this on today’s itinerary. We were in a bit of a rush because we had limited time to roam around. The roads were to be blocked and closed for the festivities so there was no time to waste.

Dating back to 11th century, Elephant Cave has such a significant history. Although others argue it goes as far back as the 9th century, one thing everyone agreed on is that it served as a sanctuary. Built as a spiritual place for meditation, there are relics found that implies Hindu influences, but there are also elements of Buddhism seen around the area.

The primary figure you see at the opening of the cave was once thought to be an elephant, hence the name. However, they later found out the carvings are actually creatures and demons. You should know that up to this day, this site hold so much mystery. The exact purpose and history of the place remains unknown to this day.

sarongs are required to be worn inside the temples in Bali

In the 1950’s, a pool was excavated on one side of the site. Known as the Holy Pool, worshippers gather holy tirtha water from here for Hindu ceremonies performed in the center of the courtyard. We saw some locals making some offerings to the statues of the pool.


Since the inside of the cave served as a place for meditation, there were incense that remained lit up. It made me wonder how difficult it would be for me to meditate inside because of the incense smoke in such an enclosed place. There were also some shrines inside where people made their offerings as well.

There’s a beautiful courtyard and the entire scenery here is so lush. Despite how ancient the trees are, they remain standing strong. We also found huge rocks resting at very random spots. Apparently, there were a couple of earthquakes that has shattered the area, although not completely, leaving behind ruins that are nothing short of mysterious and intriguing.


For such a mysterious place, I’m sure the story and the truth that lies behind Goa Gajah is a wondrous one. It’s mind blowing to me how we’ve managed to dig up proof and evidence of life and culture from centuries ago. I mean come on, the pool wasn’t even excavated until 1954. Who knows what else lies in the surrounding area. History and culture is such a beautiful thing. And although we may not completely know the entire story of Elephant Cave, it’s nice to wonder, isn’t it?

Have you been to anything similar? Tell me your tales down below! And follow me on Facebook for more travel tales from me! Click here.

47 thoughts on “Where Are The Elephants In Goa Gajah?

  1. Interesting place. A lot of history around it, but also a lot of beauty: green, lush vegetation. I’d like to visit the Elephant Cave someday. Like you, I also find the incense smoke bothering and I doubt I could meditate in such a place at all. I’d be taking pictures left and right. Very beautiful!


  2. Absolutely fascinating – so much history! I’m glad that the earthquakes didn’t completely destroy the area – I’m adding this to my list for when we hit up Bali – just arrived in Australia so we’re really close by and are keeping our eyes out for a cheap flight!


    1. I loved how they kept the huge rocks/relics in the same position they ended up after the earth quake. It leaves even more mystery to it. Definitely purchase the tickets as soon as they come on sale.


  3. I am completely ignorant about Bali. All I know is that I want to go. I can now at least write down a place I want to visit for then I eventually go there 🙂


  4. This place looks sacred and mysterious. I would love to visit a place that’s similar to this. It looks like a place of relaxation and serenity.


  5. Temples like these remind me of Tomb Raider and other films about treasure hunting and adventures. I would love to visit Goa Gajah one day, It looks like you had a grand time there!


  6. I honestly did not like Bali too much when it comes to beach or shopping. However, it is their rich Hindu cultural heritage that I liked about it. – Fred


  7. I always try to visit such old places, reminding us all about passed times, sometimes about older civilizations. It’s nice to hear about a place I’d love to visit – when I’ll travel to that part of the world 😉 Great photos as well!


  8. Awesome temple, love the fountain part! Been to Indonesia but skipped Bali and went straight to Yogyakarta. I’ll surely make time for Bali soon and of course this temple.


  9. Thanks for the detailed write up on the temple 🙂 I visited the temple once, on one of my early visits to Bali, and remembered specifically our guide telling us that the water from the spring (sprouting from the statues) is sacred. It was a lovely place to wander in, indeed!


  10. The name’s quite misleading, eh? I read that there are various theories that suggest the origin of the name, such as back in time the Petanu River was originally called ‘Lwa Gajah’, meaning the ‘River Gajah’, before it came to be called Petanu River. Other sources state that the ‘Gajah’ or elephant aspect came from the stone figure inside the cave depicting the Hindu lord Ganesh, who is characterised by an elephant’s head.


    1. Right, there were absolutely no elephants. The primary figure was thought to be an elephant at the opening of the cave. I also heard of the theory about the river because of its location, but not about the second one. Thanks for sharing!


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