True North

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.

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