While tourists from different parts of the world are flooding the south part of the island, East Bali offers much more tranquility and a very idyllic scenery. It’s a perfect place to go for a day trip on the scooter and drive across the many mountains in the area or visit some of its temples. This is exactly what I did a couple of days ago and I posted the best pictures that I made there, below.
Karangasem District is located in East Bali and is about a 2 hour drive from Denpasar. There is a road that forms a kind of loop as it crosses a large part of Karangasem. At some parts, it’s passing right along the shoreline. Across this ‘loop’ there are 2 water temples and also an area with 7 temples grouped together.
The loop has a total length of about 60 kilometers and takes around 2.5 hours to complete on the scooter. The map below shows the Karangasem district in East Bali and the route of the loop. The yellow stars represent the temples.
The road to Karangasem keeps getting more beautiful as you drive into more and more mountainous terrain. On the right side of the road you can see the sea and islands in the distance, while on the left side there is a view of rice fields with mountains in the background. There is not too much traffic here and it’s a one way road for a big part, so you can go full throttle.
The views on the way to East Bali
Tirta Gangga is a small area in Karangasem which is famous for its water palace. The water palace consist of a park with several fountains, stone statues and fish ponds. It was built in 1946 by Karangasem’s king but had to be rebuilt in 1963 after it was destroyed by the eruption of the nearby volcano.
The water palace is not very big but still makes for a nice walk around and some beautiful pictures. The mountainous area in the background makes it look even more spectacular. There is also a swimming pool in the area that can be used for just 10.000 Rupiah (0,70 EUR). The water palace itself costs 20.000 Rupiah for foreigners and 10.000 Rupiah for local Indonesians. Foreigners always pay a bit more for everything in Bali.
One of the ponds has a path of stepping stones passing through it, which is very popular with the kids. The whole park is good for about 30 minutes of walking around and there are restaurants to enjoy a meal and overlook the garden.
This place is not as crowded as other temples in Bali, because it’s far away from the popular tourist hotspots. There are 7 temples in this area at Mount Lempuyang. As there is only a stone stairway going up, the temples can’t be reached by motorbike or car. The highest located temple takes about 2 hours to reach from the starting point and you’ll have to conquer a 1700 steps stairway.
The temples at Mount Lempuyang are built in different time periods and they are made for Hindu ceremonies. The oldest temple here is about 2000 years old. At just one minute walking from the entrance is the most beautiful temple and it’s called Pura Agung Lempuyang Tara Pena.
The temple at the bottom of the mountain is the most spectacular one
When arriving at the Pura Lempuyang entrance, you will be greeted by the staff who offer you a guide. Because there are many monkeys across the pathway going up, it’s wise to accept a guide. They will scare the monkeys away with a stick and have some interesting information about the temples. The price for a guide can be negotiated down to about 100.000 Rupiah (7 EUR).
Mount Lempuyang is covered in clouds most of the day. If you want to have a good view from the mountaintop, it would be wise to go there in the early morning. If you’re just looking to see a beautiful temple, the best option would be to go to the first temple, and save yourself some guide money and a lot of energy.
At the very east side of Karangasem, right next to the sea, is where the town of Amed is situated. It used to be a fisher town but the place is getting more popular with tourists now and there are hotels and restaurants all over the place. There is a long beach strip in Amed but it’s mostly private area.
After driving through Amed, a winding road goes up the mountain, providing magnificent views over the sea. One of the best views can be found not far from Amed, overlooking the beach and Mount Batur in the background. It was a bit cloudy when I was there so Mount Batur is not very clearly visible on my picture.
It still takes about 2 hours from this point to complete the loop. The road goes up and down at very steep angles and at some hills you’ll have to go down braking close to full power.
The people living here are very friendly and the kids greet you and sometimes run along with your bike for a little distance. It seems like everybody around here sells some stuff from their home to make a little, hard needed, extra money. This is still a very authentic place and must be similar to what Bali was like before the mass tourism started.
After completing the loop I ended up at another water palace, called Taman Ujung. This one is bigger than Tirta Gangga and was completed in 1921. A mix of architecture styles from around the world are prominent because a Dutch architect and a Chinese architect were responsible for the building’s design and they cooperated with a Balinese architect.
The water palace was made for the king of Karangasem as a residence and to receive guests. Just like the other water palace in East Bali, it was destroyed in 1963’s volcano eruption but rebuilt shortly after.
Unfortunately for me, it rained the whole time during my visit here. This happens a lot in this mountainous area, especially because it’s the rain season right now.
The good thing is that there’s a building in the middle of the park to hide from the rain. This building is called Balai Gili, which means small isle pavillion, and used to contain the king’s bedroom and meeting room. There are some photos on display there of what it looked like at the time, when the king was still living in it.
Taking the loop route around the Karangasem district and visiting the 3 temples, is enough to keep you busy for a whole day. The route itself through East Bali takes about 2.5 hours already and the sightseeing took me even more than that, not to mention all the wrong turns I made along the way. In the end it’s very rewarding and definitely something worth doing again.