Secret Waterfalls, Sacred Lakes
Bali is one of the world's most iconic destinations. Especially the areas close to the island's southern airport are popular places to stay for the visitor, and in many villages tourism has replaced agriculture and fishing as the main source of income for the families. Still, romantic visitors might dream of experiencing Bali as it was before the tourists arrived. Luckily all it takes is a few steps off the beaten path. Welcome to North Bali.
The area called Bedugul, Bali's central highlands, is a region of stunning beauty. Even if you are just passing through, it is a truly memorable experience. The winding road takes you through a verdant landscape of jungle-covered volcanoes and serene mountain lakes. One moment you are driving in glorious sunlight. As you turn the corner you are literally driving through clouds. This region is Bali's orchard – a rural Shangri-La with spices, vegetables, fruits and flowers growing in abundance in the rich volcanic soil. The local markets are exotic explosions of color and fragrance. The climate is cool and breezy and the valleys are often cloaked in an otherworldly mist.
The Lake Goddess' Temple
The Ulun Danu water temple on the shores of Lake Bratan is one of the most magnificent examples of Balinese temple architecture. Built in 1633, the temple is devoted to Dewi Danu, the Goddess of the Lake. As one of the most important temples in Bali, it is often used for ceremonies and rituals to ensure good water supply to Beduguls many farms. The elaborately decorated eleven tier main temple tower, the meru, seems to float on the waters of the lake and symbolizes the World Mountain, Gunung Maha Meru. It is one of the most photographed icons in Bali.
The Lakes – Batur, Bratan, Tamblingan and Buyan
Bali has four sacred lakes, all located in the highlands. Two are volcanic crater lakes – Bratan, the lake mentioned above, and the majestic Lake Batur, which is located in the crater of the Batur volcano. Batur is the largest of the four. The sheer size of the crater conjures up images of the massive eruption of the original Mount Batur that occurred thousands of years ago. The volcano is still moderately active today, and the Balinese still remember the great eruption of 1917, which claimed thousands of lives and destroyed many temples. On the far side of the lake, only reachable by boat, is the village of Truyan, a Bali Aga village. The Bali Aga people, Bali's aboriginals, consider Mount Batur, not Agung, to be the holiest site on the island.
The two remaining lakes, Buyan and Tamblingan, used to be just one body of water, but a landslide at the turn of the 19th century divided it in two. The beautiful lakes rarely see any tourists. They are home to a small population of fishermen, and a popular spot for picnics for Damai guests.
Bali's second largest city has a proud heritage. Meaning literally "The Lion King", Singaraja was Bali's capital from the first days of the Majapahit Empire up till Indonesia's independence in 1949. The kings that ruled Singaraja where the foremost kings of Bali, and even during the Dutch rule, when most of today's Singaraja was built, the city retained its position as Bali's cultural and administrative centre.
Today Singaraja is a charming tropical city of 400.000 people with wide tree-lined avenues bustling with trade and activity. It's many shops and craftsmen serves mainly local customers with hardly a tourist in sight. Besides offering a unique opportunity to experience authentic Balinese city life, the main attraction for tourists is the unassuming old royal palace with its impressive library of lontar – palm leaf - manuscripts as well as the area around the old harbour with its many historic storehouses.
Singaraja is just 20 minutes drive from Damai.
Secret Waterfalls and other gems
Many of North Bali's finest attractions has yet to be described by the guide books. Git-Git near Singaraja is the most famous waterfall in Bali, a beautiful sight that draws dozens of visitors daily. But just nearby, in the village of Ambengan is a waterfall, which arguably is just as nice. The Ambengan waterfall is 100 meters tall, ends in two crystal clear, swimmable mountain pools, and sometimes monkeys play there in the mornings. In the many years we have been visting it with guests, we have never seen other tourists.
This is the true beauty of North Bali. Come, and find your own hidden gems.