Head north away from the touristy crowds and the congestions of South Bali; further up away from Ubud and witness the amazing transformation of the landscape that passes you by. Concrete jungles and cafes slowly fade away into lush green vegetation, paddy fields, rolling hills, quiet, clean and magnificent beaches and thundering waterfalls. Here you’ll find the beautiful and majestic district of Buleleng, with Singaraja as its main town and nearby, the tourist resort of Lovina. Discover the quieter, more charming and even more rewarding areas of Bali that has changed little with the passing of time.
Singaraja and Lovina
Singaraja is the second largest town in Bali and was once the colonial capital of the island. As the centre of Dutch administration, this old harbor town contains some truly interesting buildings and historical sites that reflect its rich history. A walk through the town is like walking down memory lane; visitors can view old warehouses, colonial buildings, Dutch-style houses, Royal Palaces, an ikat factory also known as the Royal Weavery, museums and the Balinese Lontar library. Today, it is an important educational and cultural centre; there are two universities in Singaraja.
Nearby is the tourists region of Lovina. Consisting of three traditional villages along a spectacular stretch of black sand beach, Lovina is popular among divers, adventurers and those seeking a relaxing beach holiday away from the hustle and bustle of South Bali. There are a few nice beach-side restaurants along the main road through Lovina, but there are also still many traditional warungs serving a variety of Indonesian food. If you enjoy the outdoors you will have your pick of many wonderful activities, such as dolphin watching, walking, trekking, etc.
North Bali can be reached easily from anywhere in South Bali by car. The journey itself is part of the adventure; be prepared to enjoy a scenic three to four hour drive across Bali’s more vibrant side before arriving at your destination. You could choose to drive along the East or West coastline or across the mountains where there are breathtaking crater lakes and mist-hidden hills. For those who are a bit more adventurous, definitely check out all that Northern Bali has to offer. Visitors are advised to spend at least one week touring these areas.
The Royal line of Buleleng, Singaraja dates back to more than 500 years ago when the son of the King of Gelgel, Pandji Sakti, left Klungkung in order to establish a new kingdom in Den Bukit, Buleleng, North Bali. Upon reaching the mountain peak, he felt very thirsty, so he plunged his magic kris into the ground and water flowed from that spot. To this day, water flows from this spring, making life possible for the animals and people who live at the top of this mountain range. After uniting Den Bukit (now Buleleng, North Bali) he became the king and built two palaces named ‘Sukasada’ just South of Singaraja and a third palace in Singaraja in 1604. This was the beginning of the Kingdom of Buleleng and Singaraja, the capital town of Buleleng regency.
In the mid 19th century, the Dutch invaded Singaraja, destroying the palace and deposed or killed most of the Royal family. By 1858, the Dutch appointed a new Raja of Buleleng. The young, intelligent king supported the rebellion against the Dutch in Banjar in 1872. In 1929, his son, I Gusti Putu Djantik, was appointed by the Dutch to be the regent of Buleleng. He rebuilt the Puri Agung and then along with the Dutch, founded the library of Lontar named Gedong Kirtya in front of the Puri grounds. He died in 1944 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Anak Agung Pandji Tisna, who was the last person to hold the title of Raja Buleleng.
Due to its extremely accessible location, Singaraja became the ideal harbor town for the Dutch’s ships and their administration. The town was once the main transit point into the island and was also a favourite among sailors and merchants from China, India and the Middle East. Until today, plenty of Chinese shopkeepers and traders can be found in Singaraja. There is also a Chinese temple close to the sea, with golden Buddha statues and lotus ponds and an Arab Village.
Temples In The North
The Beji Temple, which represents North Bali’s colorful architectural style, is definitely worth a visit. There are a variety of interesting sculptures on display. Maduwe Karang Temple is known for its humorous unique wall carving called “Gentlemen Riding a Bicycle.” Jagatnatha Temple is the largest temple in North Bali and is located in the center of Singaraja. The Sanggar Dwi Mekaris one of the best Balinese dance and Gamelan Schools headed by Pak Durpa. This is the cultural training ground for 250 students from North Bali. They have performed many international shows in Japan, Belgium and Germany. Gedong Kirtyais an outstanding library in Singaraja housing thousands of ancient Balinese documents. The library’s contents, ‘Lontar,’ consist of Balinese literature, medical texts and even comic strips called ‘Prasi.’
Places To See In The North
On your way to Singaraja or Lovina, there are some lovely places to visit. If you choose to take the route that goes through the center of Bali, you’ll find yourself in Bali’s Central Lake District; Bedugul is renowned for its beautiful ‘Ulun Danu’ temple in Lake Bratan. The lake is situated in a volcanic crater with breathtaking views. The lush tropical grounds are a lovely place for a picnic or stroll and some great restaurants you could dine in when hungry. Be sure to bring an umbrella to prepare against sudden downpours that are a norm in the region, as well as thick clothing to keep you warm from the cold, especially in the evenings. Do visit the local farmers’ markets for some fresh produce and rent a Jukung or local boat for a short trip around the lakes.
The Botanical Garden, which is just minutes away, is a great outdoor playground on 200 hectares of land. One can drive through a portion of the gardens and see colorful birds, beautiful flowers & exotic trees. Meanwhile, the ‘Bali Treetop Adventure’ park located inside the Botanical Gardens in Bedugul, is a great place for families with children. There is a whole network of rope climbing activities that are exciting but very safe for everyone, as each rope course is rated by its level of difficulty and monitored by staff.
As you continue your trip up North, you’ll find a plethora of mesmerizing waterfalls which will entrance you with their height and sheer magnificence. These include Git-Git Waterfall, Aling-Aling Waterfall, Cemara Waterfall and the Sekumpul Waterfall. Read more about these waterfalls here.
Upon arriving in Singaraja, we suggest that you take stroll around this charming and historical town. Take in the wide roads, unique colonial settings, Dutch-style buildings as well as the ancient Balinese factors and statues that dot the city. While you’re there, do visit the The Royal Palace of Singaraja, Puri Agung, also known as Puri Gede to see for yourself how the Kings used to live and if you’re lucky, interact with the descendants of the old kings of Buleleng. Built in 1604, the palace marks the beginning of the rule of the Kingdom of Buleleng.
A must-visit is the Gedung Kirtya, which is located at the front of the Puri. Launched in 1928, this museum houses thousands of ancient artifacts including the Balinese Lontar (palm leaf manuscripts), transcriptions on metal plates and books on literally any topic that is relevant to human life including medicine, architecture, philosophy, religion and more, in the Balinese, old Javanese, Dutch English and German language. At the Sasana Budaya building, you can enjoy some local performances or visit the traditional Royal Weavery Factory and witness the production of the unique Buleleng sarong and cloth.
Those interested in the traditional Balinese Gamelan musical instruments can visit the Pura Dalem Jagaraga in Sawan Village where Gamelan Gongs are made. This town claims the origins of the first Gamelan, which later spread throughout all of Bali. In Air Sanih, there are cold water springs with natural basins while in Banjar, you could visit the popular Hot Springs and a Buddhist Vihara.
Located to the west of Singaraja, Lovina is ideal for those who love nature and peaceful surroundings. Taking up all of 12km, central Lovina is marked with a dolphin statue, and surrounding it, many cafes, bars, restaurant, hotels and inns. The black beaches of Lovina were caused by volcanic eruptions from the Bedugul area. Along the coastlines, you’ll find farm lands, rice fields and fruit plantations. From the coastline you can see the magnificent mountain that runs parallel to the beach. Ideal for swimming, families with small children can enjoy their time in the water with peace of mind as there are no dangerous currents here. Bring along a snorkeling mask and fins!
Lovina is also famous for its dolphins. If you want to view them, talk to the local fishermen – for a small fee, you could ride out with them at sunrise, and if you’re lucky you may be able to spot a friendly dolphin or two! When you head back to land, do opt for some trekking as there are some glorious waterfalls including the Five Waterfalls of Kutilang around this region which you can easily visit.
Places To Stay In The North
There are many choices of accommodations in the Lovina & Singaraja area. Our first recommendation would be The Damai, a luxury hotel and villa located in Lovina. Situated on a green hill overlooking the sea, The Damai is definitely our ultimate choice when it comes to unbeatable luxury in lush jungle settings, immortal indescribable views, world-class service, decadent pampering and tantalizing, healthy F&B offerings.
There is nothing quite like lounging against the pool at The Damai while taking in the distant volcanoes, or relaxing in one of its 15 private villas. Dine in its award winning restaurant that serves simple and innovative dishes based on organic herbs and vegetables from The Damai's own market garden and meats from its own boutique farm. Explore a new version of Balinese classics and rediscover favourites with a tropical twist.
While you’re there, do not miss the chance to enjoy head-to-toe pampering at The Damai Spa where you can experience total relaxation in the hands of its skilled therapists. The Spa at Damai combines centuries old Asian and Balinese traditions with modern and innovative treatments techniques to rejuvenate your body.
When hungry, head to its all-organic restaurant charmingly called “A Brasserie in Bali”. Recognized for decades as one of the best restaurants in the region, this award-winning restaurant offers new versions of classic Balinese dishes and western favorites. This is the place to be to indulge in a truly great dinner with organic ingredients from the resort’s very own farms, either by candlelight around the pool, or in the pleasant evening breeze in the restaurant pavilion as you watch the lights from the fishing boats on the Bali Sea. Menus would change daily depending on what the market has to offer. There is also an extensive vegetarian menu. Finish a perfect meal under the stars with a drink from the bar by the pool fire.
To know more about The Damai, please visit www.thedamai.com.
Getting There and Around
Drive for 3 to 4 hours from anywhere in South Bali and depending on traffic, you’ll be sure to reach your destination in a blink. Get your cameras ready as the roads leading North are fantastically scenic and breathtaking. If you don’t fancy driving, check with your hotel on available shuttles or try tourists’ busses. Another alternative is to hire a private driver with your car or for the more adventurous, just drive your motorbike up to North Bali!