Tourists have expressed disappointment and outrage after discovering that a Balinese temple made world famous on Instagram does not stand beside water, as the shared images suggest, but rather alongside gravel and grass.

Lempuyang Temple, nicknamed the Gates of Heaven, has attracted pilgrims for centuries – and hordes of tourists since it began appearing on the photo-sharing social media site. 

Many Instagram images show travellers standing between the gates, their reflections in an apparently vast pool of water creating a mirror image. 

But the water is actually just a trick of the camera – or, to be more precise, a mirror placed just below the photographer’s lens.  

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Kiwi travel journalist Brook Sabin described the photos of Lempuyang beside water as “a fraud”, adding “sadly that’s increasingly what Instagram is”. 

“The faked photos of this stunning place look nothing like what’s really there… The temple is hauntingly beautiful – you don’t need to fake it to take a great picture. 

Lempuyang Temple attracts both worshippers and tourists.


Lempuyang Temple attracts both worshippers and tourists.

“Instagrammers should be honest and say “look at this amazing perspective, it’s not real, but I love it”.”

Sabin feels Instagram has ruined what, even three years ago, was a quiet place of worship. 

“[N]ow there are queues of people lining up for fake photos. Instagram is so saturated by travel posers, it’s hard to get attention. That’s led to some faking their pictures to get the likes they once did. Even apps are popping up now that will put an amazing Milky Way in your photo at the click of a button.”  

Polina Marinova, a US-based editor at Fortune Magazine, described the altered photos of Lempuyang in a widely shared post on social media as “proof that Instagram influencers have ruined everything”. 

Tourists can queue for up to two hours to get a shot at the temple.


Tourists can queue for up to two hours to get a shot at the temple.

“My hopes & dreams were shattered when I found out the “water” at the Gates of Heaven is actually just a piece of glass under an iPhone.”

Her post provoked a barrage of comments from travellers who said they had similar experiences, as well as others outraged at the illusion.  

“I was like, wait, where is the water? Felt so catfished,” one user wrote. 

“Let’s not forget about the 2-3 hour queue you have to stand in to even get a picture,” another said. 

“For someone who have never been there, safe to say I kinda feel betrayed with the truth that there isn’t a single drop of water as I imagining it was,” another commented. 

Another user commented that “This happens when ‘A picture is worth a thousand followers’.” 

Another said: “Dreams are shattered when you use Instagram as travel inspo. How about travelling for culture and what places actually are, not insta worthy pics,” another said. 

Lempuyang is not the only place in Bali attracting long queues for photos. 

Tourists are queuing for up to an hour to take a photo at Kelinging Beach on the island of Nusa Penida, which has gained prominence since featuring in several “best beachs” lists. 

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