While Bali is best known for the beaches of Kuta and Legian, the social life of Seminyak and the legendary waves off the Bukit Peninsula, some of the island’s real beauty can be found elsewhere.
A few hours drive from Kuta will get you to the lush landscape of North Bali, a rural area unspoiled by mass tourism and the perfect spot for travellers who want an experience a bit off the beaten track.
A good place to start is Kintamani, a village 1500 metres above sea level and, not surprisingly, the best place to view the active volcano of Mount Batur. Also viewable from this point is the picturesque Lake Batur and the lava stone valley. It can get rather chilly this high up, so pack a jumper and enjoy a break from the island’s intense heat.
For adventure seekers, the 2.5 hour trek up Mount Batur in total darkness to see the sunrise comes highly recommended. There is also the option to trek through the lava valley. For those looking for a more relaxed visit, lunch at the water pavilion by Lake Batur, a visit to the temple of Pura Ulun Danu Batur or drinking tea in one of the original terrace villages should surely suffice.
A couple of hours drive west is the agricultural paradise of Bedugul. An area of great natural beauty, Bedugul refers to a large area of the central highlands of Bali around the villages of Bedugul itself, Candikuning, Pancasari, Pacung and Wanagiri. Covered in fog and surrounded by rice terraces, there is plenty to be seen in this stunning area. Munduk Waterfall and the crater lakes of Bratan, Buyan and Tamblingan are musts.
Lake Bratan is the most popular thanks to the floating temple of Pura Ulun Danu Bratan which sits on top of it. There is plenty of produce grown in the area and many of the farms are open to visitors. The village market sells a variety of the local produce including strawberries, passion fruits and snake fruits.
The addition of fluffy rabbits makes for a strange experience! The 160-hectare Botanical Gardens is another attraction in the area, although the flora looks more European than tropical Asian. The natural reserve is beautifully maintained and a popular spot for picnics complete with a lake view.
An hours drive north, via remote villages that smell strongly of drying clove, you will find yourself in Singaraja. The city, which was the island’s capital during Dutch colonisation, is not much of a tourist attraction, but just beyond its limits you will find wineries, a Buddhist monastery, hot springs, and, finally, the popular resort of Lovina Beach.
This part of Bali’s coast is best known for its tranquility, its total lack of waves and all those in pursuit of waves, its black sand beach with quiet fishermen households and colourful outrigger boats, and, perhaps most famously, its sunrise dolphin excursions. Accommodation ranges from basic to luxurious but the setting makes every stay a romantic one.