Bali Subak system

The Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy comprises five sets of rice terraces and associated water temples.

The Subak System refers to the thousand year old self-governing associations of farmers who share the use of irrigation water for their rice fields. Water from volcanic lakes is diverted through rivers and channels to end up in the rice terraces.

The included areas are:

- Supreme Water Temple of Pura Ulun Danu Batur

- Lake Batur

- Subak Landscape of the Pakerisan Watershed

- Subak Landscape of Catur Angga Batukaru

- The Royal Water temple of Pura Taman Ayun


Visit October 2009

As I already mentioned in my Yogya Palace review: I think Indonesia deserves a couple more WHS. Bali certainly can be one of them, and it might be in reach after a 2008 deferral. ICOMOS advised the Indonesians to "reconsider the choice of sites". They suggested including at least one site representing the subak system of water management. And a water temple like Tanah Lot would be nice too.

I spent 4 days on Bali, basing myself in central Ubud, and liked it a lot. One day I went on a wonderful bike tour near the Batur volcano. They took us through a lot of little villages and past rice paddies. Each village is littered with temples, every family having its own, plus at least three for the general community. Hinduism is so alive here. It brought back my best memories from Nepal and India (Bali looks a lot more prosperous compared to those countries, by the way).

I also visited the water temple Tanah Lot on my way back to the airport. This one is so close to Kuta that it is overrun with tourists. It has a pretty location on a rock just off the shore. The tide was low during my visit, so I could just walk across. The temple itself is closed to visitors however, you can only see a cave.

Community Reviews

John Booth - June 2013

I recently spent two days touring the Subak areas.

On the first day I visited the Pura Taman Ayun, a very neat compound which can only be seen from across a hedge. It features 11 roofed pagodas and a canal full of lotus blossoms.

From there I continued to Mount Butukaru and the Jatiluwah rice terraces, a large area of man-made terracing.

Another day I took the steep road that climbes up to the rim of the caldera overlooking the volcanic cone of Mount Batur and its namesake lake. Here I changed into Balinese costume to allow me to visit the Pura Ulun Danu Batur. This large complex is clearly a site of religious significance to the Balinese.

During the descent I stopped at Tegalalang for lunch and to see more rice terraces.

Visiting these sacred sites in Bali is in marked contrast to the usual Balinese tourist haunts of Nusa Dua, Kuta and Ubud.

Elisabeth Fransisca Situmorang - September 2012

Subak (irrigation) system in Bali is not a mere irrigation system. The water that irrigates the paddy fields comes from the water temple surrounded by the paddy fields.

While water holds a spiritual meaning for Balinesse, to purify, cleansing, to become a better being.... hence the whole Subak system has the same spiritual meaning as a whole.

The long awaited inscription for Bali into the WHS has finaly come. This place is arguably one of the most wonderful places ever existed. Where you could feel different while in different part of the island... and one couldnt get enough of Bali for sure..

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Site Info

Full name: The Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy

Site History

  • 2012 - Inscribed

    Reasons for inscription
  • 2011 - Incomplete - not examined

  • 2010 - Incomplete - not examined

    As "Cultural Landscape of Bali Province"
  • 2008 - Deferred

    Reconsider the choice of sites (Cultural Landscape of Bali Province)


The site has 5 locations.

  • Lake Batur
  • Royal Water Temple Pura Taman Ayun
  • Subak Landscape of Catur Angga Batukaru
  • Subak Landscape of Pekerisan Watershed
  • Supreme Water Temple Pura Ulun Danu Batur


The site has 15 connections.



  • Canals for water management
  • Octagons Pura Pegulingan - octagonal stupa (AB ev)


Religion and Belief

  • Hindu pilgrimage sites "This temple is a pilgrimage site and redistributive center for more than 250 Balinese subaks, which bring offerings each year during the festival of the Goddess of the Lake," (Ulun Danu Batur Temple - Nom File)
  • Hindu Sites in non Hindu countries water temples



WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process

  • Associative Cultural Landscape Cultural Landscape & criterion vi: The ceremonies associated with the temples and their role in the practical management of water together crystallise the ideas of the Tri Hita Karana philosophy that promotes the harmonious relationship between the realms of the spirit, the human world and nature. (AB ev)