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If you want to escape the craziness of Bali, head to Amed on the Northeast coast. It is a magical place of a bad single lane road that runs along a beautiful coastline with small guesthouses that sit on the beach. Amed is made up of many small fishing villages that dot the beaches with their handmade boats. The mountains behind are beautiful, and if you are adventurous, hike for a day towards the villages that sit above and you will find the real old Bali. There is no electricity and no cars in the mountain villages which makes it unlike anywhere else in Bali. There are some shipwrecks off the coast that make for a good dive, and the beaches are perfect for being lazy.
Bali Botanic Garden
Bali Botanic Garden is a pleasant 157 ha lush garden with more than 2000 local and international plant species located just outside the centre of Candikuning. It's big enough to keep visitors busy for a few hours, especially if the orchids are in flower (March to June). It is a popular place with locals on the weekends, and in addition to the usual outdoor plant and tree displays, it boasts a rose garden, an orchid park, a fern garden and a cactus house. The garden is also an important centre for botanical research, conservation and education. To make a day of it, try the Treetop Adventure Park or bring along food for a picnic. Otherwise it makes for a pleasant stop on the road from Denpasar to Singaradja on the north coast.
Bali road trip
South - north - east
South Bali/Ubud - Jatiluwih - Bedugul - Munduk - Lovina - Kubutambahan - Mt. Batur - Bangli - Pura Besakih - Rengan - Amlapura.
With this semi-loop, you will see a lot of great temples, get incredible views of rice terraces, pass rumbling volcanoes and just drive some darn nice winding roads from the hot lowland in the south to the wet and misty mountainous inland back down to humid north coast just to return to the chilled mountains. The first leg to Jatiluwih can even be done on potholed back roads if you really want to experience the calm and tranquil life of the ordinary Balinese people in the countryside. Rent a scooter and off you go, but keep in mind that accommodation outside the tourist areas can be scarce.
Besakih Hindu temple
Pura Besakih is the most important and mind-blowing Hindu temple of all temples on Bali. It is actually a temple complex consisting of 22 different temples and is the one that is pictured in travel brochures and postcards, so it doesn't become more Balinese-iconic than this. The main temple, Pura Penataran Agung, has the usual row of shrines, but many with multi-roofs making the main square look really imposing. Pura Besakih sits on the slope of the highest mountain on Bali, Mt. Agung (3140 m) which is an active volcano, and was close to be destroyed during the 1963 eruption when lava flows missed the temples by literally a few meters.
As with any other temples in Bali, try to visit if there is a ceremony going on when it all comes alive – and it doesn't get more grand than at Besakih. At quiet times, it can turn into a bit of a tourist trap with persistent local guides and imaginary fees. To escape the hassle, try to park as high up as possible next to the temples.
Bukit Indrakila Hindu temple
This temple is actually nothing special, but its location at 1400 meters on a ridge above the mountain town of Dausa is stunning. It can be quite magical when the clouds roll in - which they often do - and embrace the temple so only the outline is visible. So if you are passing by, please make a stop and climb the insane steep driveway up to the temple, either for the view over Dausa town, or lack thereof.
Candikuning market has most things visitors might be after, from board shorts, sarongs and spices to jewellery, trinkets and fruit. At tourist prices though, so bargain hard - and it is doubtful whether you will find any quality pieces here. Still, it is a lot more quiet than the big markets around Ubud, Kuta and Denpasar, and a good place to stock up on souvenirs and gifts. And the fruit, once you get the price down sufficiently, is divine.
Bali isn’t all about temples and beaches, it could stun your taste buds too. Luwak coffee is a rich, smooth coffee with an earthy, unique undertone and what an undertone it is... the secret? The Asian Palm civet. It spends its nights consuming the finest and ripest coffee berries while local farmers spend their mornings eagerly collecting the beans from their droppings and top grade coffee results. Yes, you'll be drinking from coffee beans defecated by another mammal. But produced in the villages of Bali, Luwak coffee is the most expensive and rare coffee in the world and also quite literally, consuming it may be a one of a kind way to take this compelling island home with you. Almost all farms produce other types of coffee and tea including the distinctive Bali and Ginseng coffee in addition to Ginger and Lemongrass teas. This may be reason enough to visit a coffee plantation, but the little huts with scenic views and the free coffee tastings that almost all farms boast adds to the experience.
If you are coming this way, it is worth doing the little side tour (you can drive all the way) up to this giant tree. It is probably a banyan tree (but we are not botanists) and is massive, which is only emphasized by the web of interweaving roots covering the base. There is of course a small shrine in its shade.
Hill town of Munduk
If you want to escape the heat and fuss of the touristy lowland, head to the cool mountain town of Munduk at 790 m. It was originally built as a mountain retreat for the Dutch colonial power back in end of 19th-century and there are still some architectural leftovers from the past. The surrounding slopes are covered by jungle, rice fields, and fruit trees, and there are good walks to waterfalls and through lush plantations of clove, cocoa, and coffee. The decent selection of accommodation and warungs (simple restaurants) makes it a nice place to stop over on a Bali road trip or even spend a couple of days.
Kehen Hindu temple
Bangli town, Bali
This is the second most important temple on Bali (after Pura Besakih), at least according to the old temple keeper. It is very impressive if you haven't yet seen Pura Besakih. The temple is located on a slope with the lush forest as backdrop. An imposing flight of stairs lead up to the beautiful ornamented main gate. When you enter the first level, an old banyan tree will greet you. Another flight of stairs will take you to the picturesque multi-roofs shrine with 11 levels (same number as in Pura Besakih). The outside of the courtyard wall is strangely decorated with Chinese porcelain, just another little twist to this nice temple.