Garuda Wisnu Kencana, or GWK for short, is the name of a cultural park on Bali’s hilly southern coast famous for the ongoing construction of a gigantic statue of Vishnu riding on the back of a ‘garuda’ (a supernatural eagle-like being). The completed part of the statue is of the upper part of Vishnu’s body, the head of the ‘garuda’ and Vishnu’s hands.
The cultural park has become one of the favourite places in Bali for art and cultural performances, exhibitions, and conferences. GWK, once completed at 145 metres, will be one of the world’s tallest statues and erected on the top of the hill, with a magnificent panorama of Bali.
Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park is set in 250 hectares of land in Ungasan, south of Bali, and is dedicated to embrace as well as preserve the art, cultural, culinary, and spiritual aspects of the island. The Garuda is a Hindu mythical bird, Wisnu is the Indonesian for Vishnu and kencana means a carriage. Bali’s future landmark of a 145-metre tall copper-steel-brass statue is planned to be placed here; it is of Vishnu riding on the back of his ‘garuda’ with 64-metre long wings.
Nyoman Nuarta, a Balinese sculptor, started the project in 1997 and it has instantly become one of Bali’s points of interests even though it is currently only around 25% complete with the existing upper part of Vishnu body, garuda’s head, and Vishnu’s hands. Eventually, the Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue will be able to be seen within a radius of 20km from Kuta, Sanur, and Nusa Dua.
GWK Cultural Park is about 260 metres above sea level, resulting in must-see spectacular views overlooking the island and the ocean. Facilities here include an amphitheatre, an exhibition gallery, open-air venues, two restaurants, a souvenir shop, an art market, a massage centre, ATV and Segway rentals, as well as adventurous activities.
Good to Know and What not to Miss
Plaza Wisnu, on the highest level of grounds in the park, is where the statue’s upper part of Vishnu body is placed. Traditional Balinese dance is performed here, with the majestic statue as a background. By the statue is Parahyangan Somaka Giri – a sacred fount that purportedly bears magical healing powers. The water is rich in important minerals that have healing abilities.
Street Theatre is the main commercial area where tours begin and end. You will find a GWK Souvenir Shop, ‘Bali Art Market’ store, and a reflexology outlet here. The story of Garuda Wisnu Kencana is related here in carvings on four limestone walls. A Barong dance is also performed at this spot every day.
The largest outdoor venue in the park is Lotus Pond, contained by massive quarried limestone blocks. The 4,400sqm area can hold up to 7,500 people for dramatic big-scale events, such as music concerts, mega runway fashion shows, and much more. The garuda-head part of the statue makes a phenomenal background for events.
The most beautiful vista of the island in the area is found in the Indraloka Garden. It holds medium-scale events such as wedding parties, company gatherings, and more. The GWK Amphitheatre accommodates up to 800 people and features high-quality acoustics. A number of plays have been performed here. This was also the venue of the international ‘Bali for the World’ event in 2003 that was intended to resurrect Bali’s tourism industry after the Bali Bombing in 2002. Don’t forget to watch Bali’s famous Kecak dance performed here every day at 18:30!
Balairung Dewi Sri is the name of the GWK exhibition hall, derived from the goddess of rice and fertility. Fun free services are provided here such as nail painting, hair braiding, and more. Visitors are also welcome to watch a feature video on the making of the GWK statue or Panca Yadnya (Balinese Hindu five holy offerings). Visitors can purchase the video at the GWK souvenir shop. Tirtha Agung is the area where you will find the hands part of Vishnu statue.
A Balinese parade around the park is scheduled at 17:00 daily. Jendela Bali, a panoramic restaurant, is situated in the Street Theatre area. It provides authentic Balinese food and daily entertainment. The Berandas is a new addition to Street Theatre, serving an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The Vishnu statue on its own is planned to be at least 75 metres tall and the garuda statue should be around 70 metres tall. The weight of the statue will be approximately 4,000 tons. Some parts of GWK statue will be covered in gold foil. The project will take longer time for completion than initially planned due to Indonesia’s monetary crisis.