A quieter, more traditional side of Bali awaits over the mountains, with black-sand beaches and exuberantly carved temples to explore.
Although the northern shores of the island are becoming increasingly developed, they are still relatively quiet, and staying here can be a more peaceful way to enjoy much of the same amenities found in the south. Dramatic mountain scenery marks this area, with the trio of waterfalls around Gitgit an obligatory stop for visitors making the drive from the south. Recent years have seen previously inaccessible river courses opened up to canyoning by Ubud-based Adventure & Spirit, which runs a number of day trips from beginner (and kid-friendly) excursions to a tough descent geared to dedicated
athletes. Down on the coast, beaches predominantly consist of grayish-black volcanic sand, with that of Lovina proving just as beautiful as its southern white-sand counterparts. The abundance of coral reefs offshore makes for calm waters, which are also popular due to their large dolphin population. East of Lovina is Bali’s second city, Singaraja, which served as capital for the Lesser Sunda Islands during the Dutch period. It is one of the few places on the island where you can still see colonial-era architecture, especially around the harbor and waterfront. Swing by the former royal palace to tour Gedong Kirtya, a library and museum known for its vast collection of manuscripts written on lontar palm leaf. Beyond Singaraja, three lesser-known temples sport unusual carvings that bear witness to local interactions with the Dutch. Sangsit village is home to Pura Beji, an exquisite pink sandstone pile that features a lion flanked by two musicians: a celloist and mustachioed guitarist in shorts and a safari hat. Meanwhile, Pura Meduwe Karang in Kubutambahan village is known for its elaborate and whimsical depiction of artist W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, who caught the attention of local villagers when he explored northern Bali by bicycle in 1904. It’s worth taking a detour inland to Jagaraga village, whose Pura Dalem (temple of the dead) contains reliefs alluding to war and modern technology: look for a Model-T Ford flying the Dutch flag— complete with a menacing, bulbous-nosed figure in the driver’s seat—a soldier on a bike, and two biplanes swooping down from the sky.
Local deities are worshipped at one of the larger waterfalls around Gitgit village.
Dutch artist W.O. J. Nieuwenkamp depicted at the temple of Pura Meduwe Karang.