Perched nearly 1000m up the side of Gunung Agung, this is Bali's most important Hindu temple. The site encompasses 23 separate but related temples, with the largest and most important being Pura Penataran Agung, built on six levels terraced up the slope. It has an imposing candi bentar (split gateway); note that tourists are not allowed inside. The Pura Besakih complex hosts frequent ceremonies, but the recent eruptions of the volcano have kept both worshipper and visitor numbers down.
The precise origins of the temple complex are not totally clear, but it almost certainly dates from prehistoric times. The stone bases of Pura Penataran Agung and several other temples resemble megalithic stepped pyramids and date back at least 2000 years. It was certainly used as a Hindu place of worship from 1284, when the first Javanese conquerors settled in Bali. By the 15th century Besakih had become a state temple of the Gelgel dynasty.
When you reach the site there are two parking areas: Parkir Bawa and Parking Atas. The former is the main parking area and the first you'll encounter coming from the south; all tourists must park here. There is a ticket office close by. Sarongs and sashes are available next to the office, and must be worn; rental is included in your ticket. Many visitors bring their own.