When you arrive in Bali’s capital, Denpasar, in search of secluded beaches and inner peace, you tend to think you’ve made a big mistake. It sometimes happens in Asian destinations, due to the dense cloud of cars and motorcycles that compete for the limited space available on the streets: nobody thinks of going through life as a pedestrian. Once the first impression is overcome, it is soon discovered that the traffic is chaotic but slow, less dangerous than it seemed, and that it is very easy to travel inland and north to reach the longed-for paradise.
It is an island that is never missing from romantic travel catalogues, but the cliché does not do it justice
Located almost in the center of the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is an island that is never missing from romantic travel catalogs for couples, but the cliché does not do it justice. The south coast is the one that concentrates most of the large chain hotels, especially on the Nusa Dua peninsula and between the beaches of Kuta and Sanur. In the same region stands the temple of Ulluwatu, a sanctuary of the s. X erected on a cliff and featured in many promotional photos.
But to come face to face with the traditional way of life, you definitely have to travel to Ubud and beyond. You would think that Ubud became fashionable thanks to the movie Eat Pray Lovestarring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem, although the reality is that it had already caught the attention of Western travelers in 1923, when the German primitivist painter Walter Spies settled there, attracted by the naïve style of local artists.
To really start enjoying the “other Bali”, it is best to get up early. Thus we will see how businessmen and individuals make their offerings to the innumerable pavilions that are in front of each house or business.
The scent of incense invades the fresh morning air and accompanies those who take the paths that rise above the town towards the Campuhan Ridge Walk, a path that partly follows the Sungai River and enters between rice fields by corridors narrower and narrower overpasses, through which hardly a person passes.
A piece of Tibet
In Bali, the majority of the population is Muslim, although this faith coexists with multiple traditions rooted in animism and worship of ancestors. Near Lovina, in addition, is the only Buddhist temple on the island, the Brahmavihara, which the Dalai Lama attended in 1982 to inaugurate its renovation. The complex is an exercise in architectural creativity, mixing elements of the Balinese tradition with others inspired by Chinese pagodas, but always with magnificent views over the sea.
Between May and September there is the dry season, but it often happens that the walker ends up soaked by a brief but intense shower, early in the morning or at sunset. Although it refreshes the atmosphere, it is worth bringing a raincoat to enjoy the brightness of the fields when the clouds clear. Another famous rice paddy in the region is that of Tegalalang; at certain times it can be quite crowded.
And if Campuhan liked it, how can Bedugul not convince! From Ubud, the road rises through jungle-covered volcanic terrain, where two lava cones have collapsed into the Danau Buyan and Danau Bratan lakes.
There is a viewpoint that allows you to see both at the same time, but everyone stops next to Dana Bratan, because that is where the most photographed temple on the island is located, erected in the s. XVII on an island near the shore. It is dedicated to the goddess of the waters, Dewi Danu, and around it there is a whole complex where families spend their holidays.
On the other side, the tranquil Panca Yadnya botanical garden or “of the five offerings” occupies an entire mountain. And if you want to see an active volcano, just put on your trekking boots to walk to Gunung Batur, whose cone is 2,276 meters high. It is advisable to dress warmly to enjoy the visit in conditions.
The route now follows a sinuous layout, which invites you to stop at each curve to admire the terraces where rice grows between palm trees. The air begins to smell of iodine, of the sea, but there is still another excuse to deviate before reaching the north coast: the Aling Aling Falls. This wonder is located near the town of Singaraja and is hidden deep in a forest.
At the Aling Aling Falls, deep in a forest near Singaraja, there is a waterfall with a drop of 40 meters
On the first jump, many bathers take the opportunity to jump into the deep pool that has formed at their feet, but it is enough to go a few meters further to enjoy the highest waterfall in complete solitude, isolated in a natural amphitheater with a drop of 40 meters .
After cooling off, Lovina finally appears by the sea. The first impression is somewhat perplexing, since the beaches are very narrow and have black sand, revealing its volcanic past. However, they are very pleasant for swimming, and they are even more attractive at sunset, when the tide recedes and reveals a large expanse of sand with some puddles where the setting sun is reflected. At that time, families walk along the shore with colored buckets and collect crustaceans, while some children take the opportunity to fly their kites: a moment of placid simplicity.
Of course, if what we are looking for are white sand beaches, there is no other option but to continue west, to Pemuteran. There is an abundance of porous rock where the coral banks are fixed, which, over time, end up turned into dust. The reefs along the shore recommend putting on rubber shoes to avoid injuries or, even better, renting a boat to get closer to the best places to practice scuba diving or snorkeling.
If we are looking for white sand beaches, we must continue west, to Pemuteran. There abounds the porous rock where the coral banks are fixed
The most recommended is the island of Menjangan, facing the coast and with a temple presided over by a gigantic figure of Ganesh who, from his height, contemplates the seabed effortlessly due to the transparency of the water.
Afterwards, taking advantage of the fact that the exercise will have whetted your appetite, you can choose to taste a simple grilled fish in the beach bars that are called ikar bakar here, or decide on a warung, one of the popular restaurants that you discover getting lost on a scooter for rent along the secondary roads that start from the coastal road and that not only serve delicious dishes for little, but, with luck, they do so in front of one of the many temples lost in the vegetation.