From volcanoes to water palaces and a coralencrusted World War II shipwreck, eastern Bali is a playground for both the culture- and adventure-minded traveler.
Easygoing east Bali is a boon for thrill-seekers, with two of the bestknown volcano hikes on the island. Many visitors opt for a sunrise climb up Mt. Batur, whose summit at 1,717 meters provides a scenic viewpoint over the largest crater lake on the island. The two-hour hike up the mountain isn’t particularly challenging for avid trekkers, though comfortable, slip-resistant shoes are still recommended. Climbing Mt. Agung, Bali’s holiest peak and its highest summit at 3,031 meters, is a much more serious endeavor—and one recommended for those with good fitness, mental stamina, and a head for heights. Three main routes lead up the volcano, among them a demanding sixto seven-hour ascent from Pura Besakih, the most important of Bali’s nine directional temples. For those who want to enjoy eastern Bali at a more leisurely pace, cultural experiences abound. Pura Besakih is an attraction in its own right, and is especially festive during the celebrations of Galungan, when Balinese Hindus flock here from all across the island. Down in the lowlands, the oft-overlooked town of Klungkung was once the seat of a royal court that ruled over the whole of Bali, neighboring Lombok, and Sumbawa. Much of the palace was destroyed by the Dutch in 1908, though the surviving Kertha Gosa pavilion is worth a visit for its ceiling adorned with classical wayang paintings. West of the town center, the Gunarsa Museum of Classical and Modern Art showcases the work of Nyoman Gunarsa—one of the island’s foremost modern artists— alongside an impressive collection of traditional Balinese pieces. Less than an hour away by car, Tenganan village is home to the Bali Aga, the “original Balinese” who have retained their animistic customs and pre-Hindu culture. It’s also the place to pick up some high-quality crafts, particularly the double-weave
ikat known as geringsing and intricately woven basketwork. Nearby, the mellow seaside resort town of Candidasa is the ideal base for exploring two early-20th-century water palaces that fuse European and Balinese aesthetics. Taman Sukasada Ujung is especially picturesque because of its beautiful bale kambang, a “floating pavilion” perched in the center of a manmade pool. A 20-minute drive to the northwest, the former palace and Versailles-inspired gardens of Tirta Gangga were built around a spring venerated for its medicinal properties. The lush grounds here are dotted with tranquil ponds, gushing fountains, and statues of characters from the Mahabharata. Both water palaces were meticulously restored after being almost destroyed by the 1963 eruption of Mt. Agung, an event that helped to create one of Bali’s most well-known dive sites.
Warming up with hot tea while overlooking the Batur caldera.
A festive procession at Pura Besakih, the holiest temple on the island.