Eastern Eden

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.

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