Instagram’s popular Bali tourist spot is a fake photoshoot

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  • Pura Lempuyang Luhur, a temple site popularly known as the Gates of Heaven, is a major tourist attraction on the Indonesian island of Bali and a frequent hotspot for Instagram influencers and travel bloggers.
  • But recent visitors have noticed that the reflective lake seen in many of these temple influencer photos does not exist.
  • The illusion is created by a man sitting under an umbrella and holding a mirror under an iPhone, giving the impression that there is a pristine lake at the base of the temple’s two massive stone monoliths.
  • Tourists line up for hours to snap the popular Instagram photo, and some can be seen training online as they’re only allowed five poses at the site.
  • Visit the INSIDER homepage for more stories.

Search Instagram for #GatesofHeaven and you’ll find over 15,000 photos, many of which show an almost identical scene: a single figure, standing between two massive stone monoliths, the reflection of the person illuminated by a beautiful crystal clear lake below.

The photos, taken at The Pura Lempuyang Luhur resort in Bali, Indonesia has become increasingly popular among Instagram influencers, as ubiquitous in their photo grids as the Balinese swing.

But many tourists have recently pointed out that all is not what it seems at the temple, which has been dubbed the “gates of paradise”.

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It turns out that there is no magnificent lake at the base of the stone monoliths. It is actually an illusion created by a photographer sitting under an umbrella and holding a mirror under an iPhone to create the reflection.

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It was a shocking revelation for Polina Marinova, editor-in-chief of Fortune magazine, who visited the temple on a recent trip to Bali.

Prior to her trip, Marinova had researched photos of Bali sites and temples and continued to see photos of the Gates of Heaven “over and over again,” she told INSIDER.

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

Polina marinova

Polina Marinova is pictured here at the site, popularly known as Gates of Heaven, with her boyfriend.

Polina marinova


Marinova said she couldn’t help but be heartbroken when she arrived at the site and realized the lake was an illusion, which could be purchased for a donation of $ 1 or 2 $.

“There’s a long, winding line to the side, and hundreds of people are watching you pose at the gates of Heaven,” she said. “Most, if not all, of the people in the line were tourists, and there were certainly people who had prepared for this moment. Some did yoga poses, others jumped in the air, and on several occasions people did a remake because they didn’t like the way their photos came out. I mean, that was overkill. ”

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A photographer uses a mirror to create the illusion of a lake under the gates of paradise.

Polina Marinova.


Marinova said that when she asked her guide about the history of the temple, he told her that hardly anyone who came to visit her wanted to know more about Pura Lempuyang Luhur. – they just want a picture in front.

“It’s really disappointing because Lempuyang Temple is one of the oldest and most beloved temples in Bali,” she said. “So seeing so many people waiting hours to have their picture taken rather than walking around the temple grounds says a lot about what we enjoy in 2019.”

The queue to get a photo, as shown in this visitor’s photo, can be long.

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Marinova then shared her disappointing experience on Twitter.

“My hopes and dreams were shattered when I discovered that the ‘water’ at the gates of Heaven was 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, prompting responses from travelers who had similar reactions when they visited the popular tourist spot.

But Marinova, who lives in New York City, said she also applauded “the ingenuity of 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 company,” she said.

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