Tanah Lot means 'Land in the Middle of the Sea' in Balinese language. Located about 20 km from Denpasar, the temple sits on a huge offshore rock which has been shaped continously over the years by the ocean tide.
Tanah Lot is said to be the work of the 16th century priest Niratha. The story goes that during his travels along the south coast he saw the rock-island's beautiful setting and rested there. Some fishermen saw him, and bought him gifts. Niratha then spent the night on the little island. Later he spoke to the fishermen and told them to build a shrine on the rock for he felt it to be a holy place to worship the Balinese sea gods.
The Tanah Lot temple was then built and has been an important part of Balinese mythological history for centuries. The temple is one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. It was said that each of the sea temples was to be within eyesight of the next so that they formed a chain along the south-western coast.
At the base of the rocky island, poisonous sea snakes are believed to guard the temple from evil spirits and intruders. There is said to be one giant snake which also protects the temple. It is believed that this snake was created from Niratha’s scarf when he established the island.