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Bali Subak system

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

Map of Bali Subak system


  • Cultural

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).

October 2009

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

Frederik Dawson Netherlands - 09-Sep-17 -

Bali Subak system by Frederik Dawson

Despite having been to Indonesia for quite several times and already visited 3 World Heritage Sites of this country, Bali which is the most famous and popular tourist attraction and possibly the “first” and “must visit” place to visit for every itineraries was logically omitted from my travel plans for many occasions. The reason was I was afraid that one day I would have a chance to attend seminar on this island, so I decided to skip this island and use my times to explore somewhere else. Unfortunately Bali already lost its status of Southeast Asian premier seminar destination to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, as a result, my expectation to have seminar in Bali has become uncertain. During my recent business trip to Singapore, I added few extra days to visit Bali and its World Heritage Site.

During my three days in Bali, I hired a car with driver as recommended by my friend in Jakarta, a very convenient choice for such a short visit and a driver also acted as a guide who could shield me from those infamous scam and hassle in many temples. From all sites that I have been, 3 sites are recognized by UNESCO, Taman Ayun Temple, Subak Landscape of Pekerisan and Lake Batur. The royal temple of Taman Ayun is famous as the grandest survival of once powerful Mengwi Dynasty’s architectural style. The large complex was surrounded by moat with elaborate palatial main gate that illustrated the glory of the builders. The highlight of the temple was the main sanctum with many impressive and elegant multi-tiered pagodas. The craftsmanship of brick decorations on these pagodas’ platforms were stunning in every details, and the view of pagodas row of this temple was really one of the most iconic spot of Bali. To be honest I was not sure I truly understood the concept of Subak landscape. For me the concept of landscape of water distribution with religious sites and rice fields looks typical around South and Southeast Asia, the rice terraces of Bali were much inferior from the sites in Philippines, Vietnam or China, although the elements of Balinese’s unique culture made the landscape to be unique. For all sites in the Pekerisan, Pura Tirta Empul Temple, in my opinion, was possibly the most stunning. This temple was totally different from Taman Ayun Temple in terms of design and architecture. The whole complex was built around the sacred spring water well with many shines dedicated to local gods and hundreds of pilgrims who came for bathing in the sacred pool. Watching those pilgrims, and many tourists, did bathing rituals by dedicatedly praying to god and offered flowers to the springs were heartwarming experience and really put Bali to be a special place on earth. The craftsmanship of smaller shrines around the complex were equally stunning with many gold painted details with countless images of Hindu gods. The last element of Balinese World Heritage Site I saw was Lake Batur, a scenic sacred lake. I felt that visiting Lake Batur was a bit of tourist trap because of every tours had to go there for buffet lunch in one of many restaurants in the area. At least the view was quite pretty and its holy status did remind me the famous five lakes of Mount Fuji in Japan that I hardly accepted their sacredness, but for Lake Batur I felt I could appreciate its religious value more than Japanese site maybe because from Balinese culture on landscape experiences made me wanted to believe!

I really enjoyed my time in Bali, its World Heritage Sites were really good and in terms of architectural and landscape design were really outstanding and unique. Even though Balinese culture is really special like its own universe, I felt that there were more sites in Bali that deservedly to be listed by UNESCO, so the question why other stunning temples such as Besakih temple, Tanah Lot temple or Gua Gajah cave were not part of the nomination. Exclude those sites made the current list to be questionable on its real universal outstanding value but again I don’t think I can make any judgement or comparison, only local Balinese could tell which sites are more special than the others.

John booth New Zealand - 30-Jun-13

Bali Subak system by John Booth

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 Indonesia - 17-Sep-12

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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Community Rating

Community Rating 3.43. Based on 15 votes.

Site Info

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

Unesco ID: 1194

Inscribed: 2012

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 3   5  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2012 - Inscribed 
  • 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.

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


The site has 15 connections.



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


Religion and Belief

  • Hindu Sites in non Hindu countries: water temples
  • 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)



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156 community members have visited Bali Subak system.