Spread the love
Most Australians visiting Bali stay in the crowded and more popular areas on the south coast at Kuta Beach, Legian and Seminyak, or the surfing spots of Uluwatu and Canggu. Otherwise they may head inland to the central foothills of Ubud for a health retreat and to see wonderful arts and crafts that the area is renowned for. As you are probably aware this is where I spent five days on a women’s wellness retreat in 2019 and enjoyed it immensely. This year I thought I would try something completely different with the same group of women, exploring East Bali and the province known as Karangasem.
Karangasem covers the east part of Bali and takes in Mount Agung, the highest peak and still active volcano; dense green jungles, rice terraces and farms; black sand beaches at Amed and Candidasa; traditional Balinese villages at Tenganan and Seraya; King’s water palaces and gardens; diving at Tulamben; water rafting at Telaga Waja River; and ancient Hindu temples.
During my six night stay in Karangasem we explored this province with my group of four women, with our own local private driver each day. I have to say that I was blown away by the beauty of the countryside here and felt a world away from the busy Kuta Beach!
Located 64 kilometres away from Ngurah Rai International airport, it takes around two hours drive to Candidasa, a sleepy seaside town on the Lombok Strait of the east coast. The trip out along this coastline is very pretty, revealing small fishing villages, black sand beaches and lush hills tumbling down to the sea.
The town of Candidasa features plenty of luxury villas and hotels, markets stalls, nice restaurants and a few laid-back bars. The beaches here aren’t anything spectacular and tend to be quite rocky with just a few small strips of black sand here and there. But there are a few gorgeous white sandy bays just a short drive away including Pasar Putih (Virgin Beach) to the north and Secret Beach in Padang Bai to the south.
For the purpose of our women’s tour Candidasa was the perfect base to explore the surrounding areas and interesting attractions within the region. But a must see in the village of Candidasa is the glorious ‘Lotus Lagoon’ that provides a spectacular sight with its large body of water filled with pink and fuchsia lotuses. There’s also a small garden island with statues at its centre.
My group stayed at the Alila Mangiss, a five star boutique hotel located amid a coconut grove and along the beach just outside of the town of Candidasa. The hotel comprises of four blocks of two-storey buildings made of white stone and decorated in traditional Balinese style. All rooms have either a sea view or pool view. My room was on the ground floor and opened out onto a terrace overlooking the beautiful swimming pool.
My room was clean and well equipped, had a comfortable bed, a day lounge both inside and outside on the terrace, a well laid out bathroom with separate toilet, large shower and vanity basin with gorgeous natural locally made Sensatai toiletries. The pool area was superb, surrounded by gorgeous tall palms reflecting on the water in the pool. The pool attendant was on call, frequently filling our glasses with fruit infused ice-cold water.
We breakfasted every morning in Seasalt Restaurant with a full a la carte menu that had absolutely everything, even Jamu (a traditional Balinese herbal medicine). We spent our first evening here at the Ocean Bar basking in sunset cocktails and seaside views. Afterwards we were indulged in Balinese Megibung in the restaurant, comprising of a share platter with a variety of dishes served on a timber stand that gave us a great sample of the local cuisine.
I was also fortunate to enjoy a couple of Yoga classes during my stay here under a pavilion that faces out to the sea with cooling breezes. It was an invigorating way to start the day. Alila’s Day Spa was also a big highlight, where I took great pleasure in a decadent therapeutic massage in a seaside bale with views of the beach.
One of Bali’s most luxurious hotels, Amankila is also located in Candidasa, set up high overlooking the Lombok Strait. It comprises of stilted suites resting high on the hillside with spectacular sea views, a three-tier infinity pool and down on the shore, the Beach Club that leads to a private black-sand beach. We partook in cocktails here one evening, absorbing the panoramic views from the hotel’s bar.
Our BaliTravel4Women itinerary had been pre-arranged by our wonderful and knowledgable host, Cherie. Each day we set off to a different destination with our driver Nom, to see some of the sights in the Karangasem region. Here’s where we visited:
Samsara Living Museum
We began our tour with a visit to Telaga Tista to the Samsara Living Museum where we were welcomed by staff and traditional Balinese music. After a stroll around the village surrounded by jungle, we were then taken to a dressing room where we were dressed in Balinese-style with sarongs, and had our hair styled with beautiful Marigold flowers adorning our hair. As a group we were all dressed identically in order to receive a blessing and offering from a Balinese Holy Man. This was a beautiful ceremony and one that will be etched in my memory. Afterwards we were served a delicious lunch.
Known as the Mother Temple, Besakih Temple is located at the bottom of Mount Agung and is the biggest temple in Bali. We arrived here early afternoon with looming skies above us and by the time we were met by our tour guide and handed an umbrella each, the skies opened and torrential rain came pouring down. As we made our way up the stairs to the upper levels of the temple there were rivulets of water and our attempts to keep dry under an umbrella were thwarted. We all got drenched! So we took refuge in a cafe, gallery and gift shop about three quarters of the way up the hillside. Afterwards we walking back down the stairs with our guide who talked about the history of the temple.
Wapa di Ume, Sidemen
After getting a total drenching we were all happy to get back into our car and drive out through the countryside of Sidemen. The area is so picturesque with lush green rainforests, rice terraces, farms and small villages along the way. Our intended stop was at a luxury hotel called Wapa di Ume to enjoy a bite to eat and a cocktail. This beautiful hotel overlooks the countryside from every angle and has an infinity pool that encompasses these magical vistas. The restaurant overlooks the pool and rolling verdant countryside, so is the perfect place to enjoy a beverage or meal.
This region in Karangasem in East Bali actually consists of seven separate seaside fishing villages and is best know for diving and snorkelling. I was keen to have a snorkel so after driving through some of the villages we arrived at one of the beaches in Amed and grabbed some snorkel gear. Unfortunately due to all the rain we’d experienced the previous day, the water visibility was poor. We did manage to see some coral and tropical fish, but overall it was very disappointing. However Amed Beach is definitely worth a visit as it reminded me of the ‘Bali of old’.
Bali Asli Restaurant
We had worked up an appetite so were happy to stop for lunch at this spectacular restaurant called Bali Asli, located in the middle of nowhere amidst rice fields and views of Mount Agung. The restaurant is owned by Australian Chef Penelope Williams, who also conducts a cooking school from the premises. We once again partook in a sumptuous tasting menu (Megibung) and soaked in the incredible scenery from the elevated position of the restaurant.
Tirta Gangga Water Palace
After our delicious lunch we set off to Abang to Taman Tirta Gangga. The name Tirta Gangga literally means ‘water from the Ganges’ and consists of a Water Palace with a maze of pools, fountains and beautifully manicured gardens. They were designed and created by the King of Karangasem, Anak Agung Anlurah Ketut Karangasem in 1948. The first pool you come to once you enter the grounds is full of huge overfed Koi (Goldfish) and has stepping stones that you can venture out onto to capture the perfect photo. However on the particular day we visited it was difficult to get a photo without anybody else in it!
Ujung Water Palace & Gardens
Located in Tumbu Village in Karangasem, Taman Ujung was constructed by the King to welcome dignitaries and kings from neighbouring countries. The architecture of the palace is a blend of several cultures: western, middle eastern and Balinese. These extensive pools and gardens can be observed from high above up a set of stairs from two different viewing pagodas. You can also stroll across the ornate bridge through the palace that has photos of the royal family lining the walls.
Pasir Putih (Virgin Beach)
One of the most beautiful white sand beaches in Bali is located not far from Candidasa near the village of Bug Bug. It’s not one of the most accessible beaches but definitely worth spending some time here. The water is pristine and you can also snorkel around the rocky headland.
The only shopping that we did during our tour of East Bali was at the Sensatia Botanicals factory shop in the small fishing village of Jasri. These beautiful skincare products contain 100% pure and natural ingredients made animal cruelty free out of high quality raw materials. The great thing about purchasing these products is that 20% of revenue goes directly to employees and they contribute back to the local village.
Paksebali Village, Klungkung
Around 30 minutes drive from Candidasa we drove to the Paksebali where we embarked on a traditional Bali village tour. We got to see inside a typical Balinese home, watched them engage in cottage industries like umbrella making, weaving fabric for sarongs, hand painting fabrics, played a Gamelan and got to hand paint our own piece of fabric in a handwoven cloth factory.
Kali Unda Waterfall
Kali Unda Waterfall in Klungkung is actually a river formed as a small dam or waterfall, that looks like a water curtain creating a good place for photo opportunities or selfies. After our village tour we took a few photos then had lunch in the restaurant that sits above the waterfall.
East Bali was a revelation! The culture, the countryside, the food, the Balinese people and the unspoiltness of East Bali was unforgettable. Our itinerary really only touched the surface of all the remarkable places to visit and attractions to see in the region. We moved on to Ubud to spend our last two nights, but my heart was still back in Karangasem and the beautiful countryside and unspoilt little villages in the province.
To learn more about my women’s wellness retreat to Ubud in 2019 click HERE
If you want more information on Women’s Only Tours to Bali contact Cherie at BaliTravel4Women.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
Comments are closed.