What to see & to do in east Bali


How to tour this off-the-path part of the island

Bali’s east is less developed in terms of tourist facilities than its south, at least if you look for beautiful white beaches to swim and surf, plenty of hotels or opportunities to "party". Nonetheless it is a worthwhile part of the island to visit because of its natural beauty, sacred temples and water palaces. In addition, it allows you to escape the crowds of more popular places in central and southern Bali. While staying at the Amankila of the famed Aman hotel brand near Manggis – see my last post with a review of it –, my husband and I toured the area after having visited it already on an earlier vacation. In case you are generally interested which parts of the island including hotels to choose for upscale travel, check out my next to last post.

3 tours in eastern Bali

I am going suggest to you three tours to undertake in east Bali, one of them is a walk, the others are road trips. When it comes to driving, I would not opt for doing it yourself as driving here is by no means an easy thing to do. From the point of view of a foreigner, it seems to be an organized chaos without any real rules except do not hit anyone! Hire a private car with chauffeur (check possibilities on TripAdvisor) or ask your hotel to organize a car with driver for you. When staying at the Amankila Hotel as my husband and I did, there is a fleet of cars onsite that you can use with drivers that are not only extremely nice but also very knowledgeable.

1. Trekking from Kastala to Tenganan

The trip we did was organized by our hotel (Amankila), which included the transfer to the start, a guided hike to Tenganan and the drive back to the hotel. But there are also tours offered from diverse private transport companies on the internet. While it might be possible to do the trekking by yourself, taking a guide with you on the trek is advisable as the path is not that clearly marked. In addition, your experience will be enhanced by getting information on the Balinese way of life, culture, farming practices and plants to be found on the way.

The starting point is marked on Google Maps (Trekking Kastala – Tenganan), it is near the village of Bebandem, half an hour by car from Amankila Hotel near Manggis. Here a fee has to be paid for the use of the path (the guide will do that). After crossing a bamboo bridge,
you walk up to a narrow water canal
that is used by farmers to irrigate their fields and follow it for about an hour, always along a rain forest. While doing so, you have beautiful views of rice terraces and other fields with mount Agung as a backdrop.
You can watch farmers working and pass a variety of tropical plantations with bananas, coconuts and much more.

Just before leaving the water canal there is a warung (restaurant) with coconuts and other drinks and food on offer. Then the descent through dense forest toward Tenganan begins lasting also about an hour. Along the way you pass several temples
before reaching the traditional village of the Bali Aga, the pre-Hindu original people of Bali.
Walking around in the ancient Tenganan is nice enough although its rather touristy with many crafts shops. At the end of the village there is once again a fee to be paid and hopefully also the car to bring you back to the hotel.

When staying at the Amankila Hotel, the trip takes about three hours in total (one hour driving and two hours walking). It is a great way to experience typical landscapes of Bali and getting to know an isolated, “time forgotten” village.

The next two tours are drives, one to the west of the hotel we stayed (Amankila), the other to the east. Both require about three to four hours of travel time (driving and exploring), in case you do not have so much, I will advise on an abbreviated tour at the end of my post.

2. East of Manggis

First of all, I have to admit that I prefer this tour over the west of Manggis because the attractions here are more remarkable yet less visited.

Not long after leaving the hotel – when you stay at the Amankila or the Alila, which is nearby – you come to Candidasa where you should make a quick stop at the Lotus Lagoon.
While it is certainly not worth a special trip, it makes a good photo opp when the flowers are open, and you might also circle the lagoon to view it from different angles.

Next on the list is one of my favorite places in east Bali, Taman Ujung water palace, built by a king of Karangasem.
The palace was destroyed more than once and restored each time to its former glory. Together with several large pools and set against a backdrop of Mount Agung as well as the shoreline, it makes a feast for the eyes.
Not far away, the royal palace of the Karangasem dynasty, Puri Agung, can be visited. It is not a single building, but several palaces scattered in the vicinity of Amlapura.

A 15-minute drive away, the sister property of the Taman Ujung, a second water palace, the one of Taman Tirta Gangga, awaits you.
This is another preferred place of mine! Again, it was built by a king of Karangasem and was later almost entirely destroyed by a Mount Agung eruption. Luckily, it was rebuilt so that the maze of pools and fountains, surrounded by a lush garden, stone carvings and statues can be enjoyed to the present day.

3. West of Manggis

First stop here is Silayukit Temple sitting on a headland just north of Padangbai – known as home of a ferry port to Lombok. I would not call it a must-see, but the site perched on a cliff above the sea is nice.
Further on, just off the main road east of Klungkung, is Pura Goa Lawah, the “Bat Cave Temple”, one of the six holiest places of worship in Bali.
This temple is set in front of a small cave inhabited by thousands of bats, which are believed to be the temple’s guardians.
The temple itself is – in my humble opinion – not overly worth seeing – and the smell coming from the bat cave is rather unpleasant, but it is fun to watch the hanging bats.

If you are into rice fields, there is a recommended stop in Sidemen, driving on inland towards Bali’s “mother temple” of Pura Besakih. I do not consider the rice paddies as impressive as the ones in Tegallalang north of Ubud
but it is nice to have a look at them when one is already here. Sidemen is also known as home to some of the best traditional textiles in Bali, it is worth going to a weaving room and witness this intricate craft.
Then it is time to go to the before mentioned Besakih Temple, the holiest of all in Bali and at the same time the largest one with various “sub temples”.
While the complex is impressive, the place is full of dubious people who want your money, therefore beware the scams. The entrance fee (ask your driver beforehand how much it is and count your change) includes a ride up to the temple and a local guide but these services are often only granted when you ask for them. It can be well the case that this visit might be devoid of any spiritual energy … I suggest that you should have a quick look around the site and not get involved in conversations with (potential) scammers.

4. Highlights of east Bali

If you are short in time and only want to see the absolute highlights of the area, I would strongly opt for the two water palaces, Taman Ujung and
Taman Tirta Gangga.
These two parklike sites full of ponds and beautifully landscaped, are places of contemplation and serenity, at least when you visit them in the first half of the morning or towards the evening. And they are great spots for strolling around and taking in the beautiful things around you. If you want to take a swim, this is possible in Tirta Gangga where several pools are available for this purpose.

As mentioned in my second last post – and first one about Bali, at least as to our stay in 2019 –, I also went to Singapore,
and this the third time in a row. Come back later and learn about where to stay in style here when you already were at the famous Raffles Hotel (see my review) and at a Marina Bay accommodation. And of course, I will inform about recommended fine dining establishments in this metropolis, too!

Date of visit: July 2019

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