While only 94 km from the capital Denpasar to the north coast, this North Bali travel itinerary journeys past lakes and through mountains, over narrow and often traffic clogged roads, can take a full day to complete. There is a lot to see along the way so, like life, this is as much about the journey as the destination.
First stop is in the ancient kingdom of Mengwi, to visit Pura Taman Ayun, also known as the Royal Temple. As you continue north, the road becomes steeper and the air cooler. Stop for an early lunch or refreshing drink at the Bali Strawberry Farm where you can pick your own strawberries.
Continue to climb through the town of Bedugul and you will come across the first of three mountain lakes, Lake Beratan. The other two lakes are Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan, both of which are popular holiday destinations for affluent Indonesians. On the shores of Lake Beratan is Pura Ulun Danau Beratan, another of Bali’s significant temples and the one that is most often seen as representative of the quintessential Bali.
After exploring the temple, continue heading north, stopping at Gigit Waterfall reached after a descent of several hundred metres past ubiquitous market stalls offering cooling drinks, spices and souvenirs. Carry on via the former Balinese capital of Singaraja, to the laid-back beach precinct of Lovina Beach for an overnight stay. Before turning in, it is worth a walk into Kalibukbuk (one of the tiny villages that make up the Lovina precinct), for an inexpensive meal and to enjoy some live music in one of the local restaurants. For a slightly more upmarket vibe, try Spice Beach Club.
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Begin the day with a sunrise Dolphin Watching experience aboard one of the many motorised outriggers lying in wait for potential customers. After breakfast, begin the journey back to the south but first enjoy the sights and sounds of Seririt Market, where fresh produce and spices are sold alongside some interesting homewares.
It’s only a short trip from here to the Buddhist Monastery of Brahma Vihara Arama, for some spiritual reflection and introspection in the company of ornately adorned statues of Buddha and a miniature version of the awe-inspiring Borobudur Temple in Central Java. Back in the mountain region, you’ll come across the steep hillside village of Munduk, once a popular mountain retreat area for the ruling Dutch, and still offering spectacular views and a cooler climate.
Puri Lumbung is a great place to stop for lunch before a short walk through the rainforest to Air Terjun Munduk or Munduk Waterfall. From Munduk, the road winds its way past a very scenic Lake Tamblingan and Lake Buyan before heading past Lake Beratan, back through Bedugul to the southern regions.
If you are not pushed for time, spend several days enjoying the laid-back atmosphere of Lovina, then move on to Pemuteran to snorkel around the artificial reef or experience the magic of diving at Menjangan Island in West Bali National Park .