Goa Gajah elephant cave, Ubud – Bali

By the time we had arrived back at our hostel from our adventures at the rice terraces, the rain had completely stopped.

It was only early in the afternoon and so we had a quick change of clothes and decided to head back out to the elephant cave.

Goa Gajah is located in Bedulu village and not a far drive from central Ubud.

Built in the 9th century on a hillside where two streams meet, it earned it’s nickname “The Elephant Cave” as the primary figure was thought to be an elephant.

The mouth of the cave is an elaborate facade of carvings made into the stone and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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The cave was used as a sacred meditation site and before the cave is a pool known as the bathing temple, where Hindu angel statues form a line at the water’s edge.

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The site lies close to the Petanu river, one of the most sacred rivers in Bali.

Inside the T-shaped cave there is little light and not much to see except shrines in each corner, the tourism it draws is more for it’s aesthetic.

We went for a wander around and decided to climb down some steps by a stream.

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Behind some moss covered boulders and a few temple ruins was a little waterfall.

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Further exploring we found ourselves with an old man who told us to drink water from a little silver teapot, then marking our foreheads with the water and handing us flowers.

Without words, he gestured for us to hold the flowers in our palms whilst in a prayer position and lift to our foreheads, silently bowing to the stone gods that stood before us.

It was rather beautiful.

Until he demanded a tip.

We wandered some more to see some further shrines and small pools but unfortunately, there was also a lot of rubbish.

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We followed a path into the woods to discover a few more ruins and some ancient trees with protruding roots before we left.

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I enjoyed exploring the little nooks and crannies where we found the waterfall with no one else around, as opposed the crowded and stuffy cave, waiting endlessly for people to move out of shot so I could get a photo of the exterior. Though the aesthetic of the cave is certainly interesting and unique.

As with many things these days, the historical and spiritual context fascinates me, but when I arrive it’s jam packed with space-hogging tourists, souvenir totes, rip off merchants and discarded rubbish.

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Freelance writer who loves reading, cooking & travelling. Rarely spotted without red lipstick. Penchant for whiskey on the rocks.

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