Beyond the tourist spots

Central Bali


Bali is probably one of the most talked about destinations in southeast Asia for its parties and honeymoon packages. It’s on billboards all over the world – the beaches, the resorts, the surf – all this making seasoned travellers as well as travel dreamers long for a chance to get the this exotic faraway land.

When most people think about Bali, their mind goes straight to the crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches, after all, that is what you see in the media. What isn’t as publicised is that in the centre of Bali lies a land beyond dreams. This land is filled with mountains that are fortified with terraced rice paddy fields and three lakes that form a mystic aura, one of which fills up a volcanic crater. As a photographer this part of Bali is a gold mine.

The main locations to visit in this area are Jatiluwih and Lake Bratan, both of which are located within one hour of each other. These are ideal locations for anyone who is up for some exploring and relaxing, with some of the best yoga events, classes and retreats on the planet. Spent a moment or two meditating while overlooking the serene atmosphere of the terraced rice paddies, after which you can let your adventurous streak run wild, exploring the valleys and mountains that make the centre of Bali so scenic. A trip to the centre of Bali will leave you with a better understanding of your inner self as well as the way of life in the villages spread along this lush areas and needless to say, the views are breathtaking!

The best way to really explore this area, in my opinion is to rent a small jeep. A bike would be an alternative, though some areas in this region are a little bit difficult to navigate, so only consider this option if you are a seasoned bike rider. Car and bike rental offices can be found all over the south of Bali such as Kuta and Denpasar, all of which will allow you to travel around the whole of Bali but not to the other islands. Having your own wheels will allow you to explore the small villages of Jatiluwih and feel the authenticity of Indonesian life in the company of its inhabitants.


“When most people think about Bali, their mind goes straight to the crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches. What isn’t as publicised is that in the centre of Bali lies a land beyond dreams”


Almost 85% of the population are devout Hindu followers and there is evidence of this religion everywhere. There are temples in every village, with great temples at all the important locations on the island. Jatiluwih is home to three of these temples, two of which are amongst the most magnificent I have ever had the pleasure of walking through.

One of the smaller temples can be found on the slopes of Kebun Raya, where the views are simply stunning. Just being in this incredible place makes me wonder how worshippers could concentrate on the religious ceremonies whilst surrounded by such views. Worshippers would have to climb the mountain on foot to reach this temple to attend the many religious ceremonies that are held throughout the year. The other smaller temple is located down in the foothills of the mountain and are home to a maze of terraced praying courts, surrounded by the rice paddy fields and the mountainous terrain. The incredible scenery, the lush green surroundings and the climate in this region contribute to a feeling of being on an Indiana Jones film set.

The most majestic of the three temples of central Bali has to be Ulun Danu. Found on the edge of Lake Bratan, a volcanic crater lake, this temple is built in a perfect position to welcome and bid farewell to the sun on every day. The place is magical, made more so by the misty cloud that enshrouds the temple throughout most of the day and the perfect stillness of the sunrise, where the waters of the lake are flat as glass. The most important events on the religious calendar are held at Ulun Danu, attracting both locals and tourists alike. As a traveller, this is the site that made me want to explore more of the region and perhaps even find a hut on the lake.

The lake is surrounded by the craters rim and has some insane views if you are willing to challenge the dense jungle growth and hack your way to the crater’s surface. For those with less adventure in their blood, there are a few paths that take you to good viewpoints.

Accommodation here is best either on the lake’s edge or in the botanical gardens that overlook the crater. These gardens are well taken care of and boast a variety of flora and scenic paths.

As for Jatiluwih itself, I would highly recommend staying in the rooms of one of the few hostels that are found on the highest point of the rice paddy fields. There is no better feeling than watching the sun rise over the rice paddies and breathing in the fresh morning air. It doesn’t get any better anywhere on the island. Wherever you stay in Jatiluwih or Lake Bratan, you will be well taken care of, and most places will offer tips on scenic routes, offer yoga or massages.

Despite Bali’s fame for being a tourist destination, the central part of Bali is not really promoted outside of Asia, therefore it offers a much deeper understanding of island life in Indonesia and perfect for holiday makers wanting to develop a deeper understanding on the province of Bali and its culture.

Until next time , the world is your playground


Marc Casolani