The king’s valley of Tirta Gangga has so much to offer that you should spend at least two nights there to experience the majestic bliss of the area. ‘Tirta’ in Balinese means ‘holy water’ and ‘Gangga’ is the name of the famous river Ganges in India, after which it was named.
You will consider yourself truly blessed after swimming in the royal water palace
You will consider yourself truly blessed after visiting the secret beach, walking through the rice fields, swimming in the waters of the royal water palace, eating wonderful local dishes and climbing up to Lempuyang, the highest temple in Bali. To stimulate your energy levels, the best places to eat and sleep are included in this blog, including both affordable and exclusive spots to suit any budget.
Tirta Gangga is a 2-hour drive from Denpasar, on a good road along the coastline passing Sanur, Manggis, Candidasa and Amlapura. You can choose to follow this route or compile your own program if you are heading down south coming from Lovina in the North or if you are staying in Tulamben or Amed to enjoy East Bali for a few weeks. Read on for ten things to do in Tirta Gangga that you need to know about.
Let the adventure begin!
Your adventure begins when you spot a small wooden sign with ‘White Sandy Beach’ written on it. This is on the right side of the main road if you are coming from Candidasa. Some people also call it Virgin Beach; maybe because the surrounding beaches all have black volcanic sand and the fact that it’s not easy to find. In Bahasa Indonesia it’s called Pantai Pasir Putih if you need to ask around. Once you’ve found this road you will arrive at a point with a beautiful panorama looking over one of the green valleys here. After paying a small tourist fee to enter this area, prepare yourself to ride down a very small and bumpy road which leads to a parking place near the beach. At least this was the case up until 2014; the road was later closed and you may have to now walk down to the beach.
#1 White Sandy (Virgin) Beach
White Sandy Beach is a special spot as the northeast coast of Bali is known for its black sandy beaches. The secret beach’s bay is surrounded by huge rocks on both sides. You can relax by yourself at the far end or rest in the central part of the beach. Here free sunbeds are available in front of the restaurants where you might like to eat and drink. Sunrise restaurant serves very nice grilled meals.
The blue waves are very strong, especially when the tide comes in, so take care as the sea can easily throw you off your feet. Opposite the beach are some overgrown green hilly rocks in the water where slow and fast boats pass by daily. Two decades ago when it was still a hidden beach, there was no sign of vendors and masseuses. Now a small group is there to offer goods and services and an old man plays his gamelan beside your sunbed for a small amount of money.
#2 Taman Ujung, the coastal water palace
This modest water palace on the corner of the coast is less known, but if you visit Taman Ujung at the end of the day, around 5 o’clock, you can enjoy some exclusive panoramic views. In 1909 Taman (meaning garden) Ujung was built by one of the kings of Karangasem. The water palace was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Agung in 1963 and rebuilt again after an earthquake in 1979. Although not all the buildings were restored, the remaining ruins give it a certain archeological charm.
A wonderful spot to take pictures is when you enter and cross the water bridges in the water garden filled with lotus flowers. The best vantage point is up the stairs near the ruins, overlooking the water palace — here you can see how it is set up just in front of the sea. On festive holy days the beach opposite the palace is also an important place for the local village people to hold their colourful parades and ceremonies. Just before you leave Ujung you can catch the beginning of the sunset next to Gunung Agung.
#3 Where to sleep and have your Tirta Gangga dreams
Before you enter the next phase of the Tirta Gangga adventure, you will need to decide under which sky of stars you want to sleep and enjoy your dreams.
If you’re up for an exclusive deluxe experience overlooking the Bali Sea, you might enjoy the luxury of Amankila (‘peaceful hill’) Resort which is located on the way back to Manggis passing Candidasa. Below the resort is a private beach in a special coconut grove for hotel guests.
If you prefer to stay near Ujung water palace for a much smaller budget then you will certainly appreciate Kebun Impian.
Dusun Merajan, Seraya Barat, Karangasem
Telephone: +62 877 6276 2665
Tirta Ayu Hotel
But if you really want to wake up in the heart of Tirta Gangga then head over to the Tirta Ayu Hotel set within the Tirta Gangga water palace or the rustic Puri Sawah bungalows in the rice fields. See #4 for more details.
Inside Tirtagangga, The Water Palace,Amlapura, Karangasem
Telephone: +62 363 225 03
#4 Tirta Gangga’s green rice fields & villages
Eat, sleep or walk around Puri Sawah, even if you are staying at another hotel or villa. Puri Sawah opened in the middle of Tirta Gangga more than 20 years ago and it’s just opposite the Tirta Gangga water palace.
Take an unforgettable walk up the hill and through the forest, villages and rice fields
For your early morning walk it’s better to rise and shine as early as possible when the temperature is still cool. Owners Elizabeth and Made know the area like the back of their hand and can advise you on all aspects of travel in the area. For example, they can connect you with one of the local guides for an unforgettable walk up the hill and through the forest, villages and rice fields where you can photograph the daily process of seeding, growing and harvesting rice.
Puri Sawah bungalows are recommended by Lonely Planet.
Telephone: +62 363 218 47
#5 Bathe at Tirta Gangga water palace
The Tirta Gangga water palace is a beautiful water garden, where you can cross the water basins via stepping stones and watch the giant Koi fish. After you have finished your early morning walk, a cool dive in the special royal swimming pool is the best reward. Here you can bathe in the holy water coming from Mount Agung. To extend your royal visit you can lunch at the restaurant or sleep over in Tirta Ayu Hotel. The Tirta Gangga water palace was built in 1946 by the last king of Karangasem, Anak Agung Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem. Like Ujung water palace it was restored after the eruption of Mount Agung in 1963.
#6 Where to eat in Tirta Gangga or Amlapura
All the hotspots have a restaurant or warung nearby. When travelling from Tirta Gangga to South Bali you will pass through the city of Amlapura. Here you can shop or eat at the local Hardys at Jalan Diponegoro, which has a restaurant, 27 Enterprise, on the second floor and a bakery nearby.
Other places to eat are at the Javanese Warung Ratna at Jalan Ahmad Rani where you can have a delightful Nasi Campur for 1 euro. Along the same street is a nice place called Juice Corner where you can enjoy several kinds of fresh fruit juices as well as a very tasty noodle soup. For fresh fried guramifish or fried chicken go to Pondok Mina at Jalan Untung Surapati — it’s open till 9:30 in the evening.
For the best restaurant view of Mount Agung and the Tirta Gangga valley, consider trying the exclusive Balinese dishes at Bali Asli. This restaurant includes one of the best bathroom views on the whole island. If you would like to learn how to cook Balinese food and you’d love to explore the local market or go fishing on a Jukung, a Balinese fishing boat, book yourself an all-inclusive cooking date with Penelope Williams of Bali Asli. See #8 for more details.
#7 Rise to the heavenly gate via the stairs of Lempuyang Temple
The Lempuyang Temple is the highest temple in Bali, which you can reach via 1800 steps, slightly more than the often-mentioned popular figure of 1000 steps. As this is one of the most visited temples on the most important religious days, it’s best to check if it will be crowded or if you will have it all to yourself when you go up there early morning.
Pura Luhur Lempuyang is one of Bali’s sad kahyangan (six temples of the heavens). This temple actually consists of several temples all located on the mountain Lempuyang. The bottom one can be reached by car and the rest by climbing the over 1800 steps to reach the top at 768 metres. After the Besakih, this temple is the most important in Bali.
If you don’t want to climb all the way up, you can choose to stay at the lowest point (where these pictures were taken). If you are lucky and it’s not cloudy, you can see Mount Agung through the impressive gateway at the temple.
#8 Bali Asli, the complete authentic Bali Deluxe Food experience
A cooking class at Bali Asli will not be one of the cheapest experiences on your list of heavenly Bali activities, but it will certainly be one of the most enlightening introductions to Balinese culture, markets and cuisine in Karangasem, East Bali.
Guided by Penelope Williams, you will discover local vegetables, fruits and spices at the market in Amlapura and learn to cook some of the specialties from the area. Why not sample one of their homemade fruit beers or cocktails while you bow or nod to the mighty Mount Agung? Bali Asli has one of the best views in the heart of East Bali.
A lonely hill in the green valley overlooked by Mount Agung called out to Penelope Williams to settle down and use her skills as a chef and entrepreneur. On this magic spot she now gives her guests a tasteful and extensive deluxe Bali adventure. Read all about Penny and her Bali Asli cooking class in one of the next issues of www.inbali.org in 2015.
The history of Puri Agung starts in 1890 and brings Balinese, Chinese and European styles together. One of the pavilions is called ‘Maskerdam’ which refers to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. ‘The very European main residence building was built by the Dutch in the late nineteenth century as a gift to the king to help strengthen ties with the local royalty. The original furnishings were donated by Queen Wilhelmina of Holland.’
The descendants of the family have published their history and connection with this site online and in print: The last rajah of Karangasem.
#10 Where to have your Tirta Gangga massage
After all the walking and climbing you might need a good massage. If you don’t have the opportunity to enjoy a Balinese massage at your hotel you can visit Kaki Kaki (feet feet) in Amlapura. It is located on the second floor of the local Hardys. It’s best to make an appointment ahead if you don’t want to wait.
Kaki Kaki 27 Enterprise
Telephone: +62 8193 633 2388
For the best hair cream bath and haircut in Amlapura go to Salon Okta where Ibu Wayan works as a hairdresser. Her small and modest salon is to the right of Hardys.
You can also visit Ayuri Villa & Spa.
Jalan Untung Surapati in Amlapura
Telephone: +62 812 3617 5185
On the winding road through the hills of Tirta Gangga you can enjoy the unique green oasis of this special part of East Bali. Some people also love to explore the area on bicycle. If you have an international driving license consider travelling by motorbike for the ultimate Tirta Gangga thrill. Take a look at the video below for a bird’s-eye view of Tirta Gangga by Borneo Productions International.