Visitors have discovered that a Bali tourist attraction popular with Instagram influencers is actually a fake photo op

The famous Pura Luhur Lempuyang temple in Bali, Indonesia.

The famous Pura Luhur Lempuyang temple in Bali, Indonesia.
Dasril Roszandi/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • The Pura Lempuyang Luhur temple, popularly known as the Gates of Heaven, is a major tourist attraction in Bali and a frequent hot spot for Instagram influencers and travel bloggers.
  • But recent visitors have revealed that the reflective lake seen in many of these influencers’ photos at the temple doesn’t actually exist.
  • The illusion is created by a man who sits under an umbrella and holds a mirror underneath an iPhone, making it appear as though there is a pristine lake underneath the two massive stone monoliths of the temple.
  • Tourists line up for hours to take the popular Instagram shot, and are seen practicing in line because they are only allowed five poses at the site.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Search #GatesofHeaven on Instagram and you will find more than 15,000 photos, many of them showing almost the exact same thing: a sole figure, standing between two massive stone monoliths, their reflection illuminated by a stunning crystal-clear lake underneath.

The pictures, taken at the Pura Lempuyang Luhur temple in Bali, Indonesia, have become increasingly popular among Instagram influencers, as ubiquitous in their photo grids as the famous Bali Swing.

But a number of tourists have recently revealed that not all is what it seems at the temple, which has been nicknamed the “Gates of Heaven.”

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Gateway to heaven #bali

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Turns out, there is no stunning lake underneath the stone monoliths. The illusion is actually created by a photographer who sits under an umbrella and holds a mirror underneath an iPhone to create the reflection.

It was a shocking revelation to Polina Marinova, an editor at Fortune Magazine who visited the temple during a recent trip to Bali.

Before her trip, Marinova had searched for pictures of Bali sites and temples and kept seeing photos of the Gates of Heaven “over and over again,” she told INSIDER.

“It looked absolutely breathtaking,” she added. “But of course, it being Instagram, no one had included in the caption that it wasn’t real, so I just assumed there was water there.”

Polina Marinova is pictured here at the Gates of Heaven with her boyfriend.

Polina Marinova is pictured here at the Gates of Heaven with her boyfriend.
Polina Marinova

Marinova said she couldn’t help but feel heartbroken when she got to the site and realized the lake had been an illusion, one that could be purchased for a $1 or $2 donation.

“There is a long winding line on the side, and hundreds of people are watching you pose at the Gates of Heaven,” she said. “Most, if not all, the people in the line were tourists, and there were definitely people who had prepared for this moment. Some did yoga poses, others jumped in the air, and on several occassions, people did a redo because they didn’t like how their pictures came out. I mean, it was over the top.”

A photographer using a mirror to create the illusion of a lake underneath the Gates of Heaven.

A photographer using a mirror to create the illusion of a lake underneath the Gates of Heaven.
Polina Marinova.

Marinova said that when she asked her guide about the history of the temple, he told her that almost no one who comes to visit wants to know about Pura Lempuyang Luhur – they just want a photo in front of it.

“That’s really disappointing because the Lempuyang Temple is one of Bali’s oldest and most highly regarded temples,” she said. “So to see so many people waiting hours to take their photo rather than walking around the grounds of the temple says a lot about what we value in 2019.”

The line to get a photo, as this visitor’s photo shows, can be long.

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СПА-СИ-БО ВСЕМ ГИГАНТСКОЕ!!! Всем кто поздравил,всем ,кто Не вспомнил и всем кто даже не знает???? С каждым Новым годом своей жизни прихожу к самому необходимому выводу : Счастлива! Есть над чем работать,есть Куда расти,есть что менять!в корне! Есть от чего стоит избавиться и что привнести в свою бурную и уже осознанную,сложную и прекрасную жизнь! Приятно взрослеть,мудреть и открывать в себе новые грани. Любить,петь,писать,плясать,плакать,летать,плыть,есть,спать ..ЖИТЬ! #спасибо родителям,бабушке с дедушкой,сёстрам и всем близким! Без вас бы было крайне сложно… Наумничилась ))) хватит с вас) Обнимаю ) #сднемрожденияменя #счастлива #благодарна

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Marinova later took to her Twitter to share her disappointing experience.

“My hopes and dreams were shattered when I found out the ‘water’ at the Gates of Heaven is actually just a piece of glass under an iPhone,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “Proof that Instagram influencers have ruined everything.”

Marinova’s tweet quickly went viral, eliciting responses from travelers who had similar reactions when they visited the popular tourist spot.

But Marinova, who lives in New York, said she also applauds the “ingenuity of the people who thought of doing it in the first place.”

“I joked with my boyfriend that we should do something similar in Central Park because it’s a brilliant business,” she said.

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