Exploring Bali is not a feat that you can do on period of days, weeks or even month. The majestic island is sprawling with hidden spots that took an extensive planning to visit and enjoy to its fullest. Here we listed 8 of Bali’s most magnificent off-the-beaten-path sites; from ancient temples, mystical forest, to rejuvenating natural hot spring. So get out of your comfort zone (read: convenient hotel bed) and brace yourself for an unforgettable adventure!
1. Jagatnatha Temple
Built at 1953, Jagatnatha is a state temple (Pura) built with the sole purpose of worshipping Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (Supreme god), although Balinese Hindu worship many gods, they believe that all the gods are manifestations of one supreme deity.
Jagatnatha is included in the list of ‘Pura Kahyangan’, meaning, it is one of the most significant place of worship in the island of Bali. There are several main elements and structures in Jagatnatha main area, such as a padmasana / shrine, Several Bale (Balinese traditional pavilion), fish pond, and a well where people come to take the tirtha (holy water for ritual procession). The padmasana is made from white coral, consists of an empty throne on top of a cosmic turtle and two dragons, which symbolize the foundation of the world.
Located in In Badung regency, just North of Denpasar Town, Sangeh is a lush forest area that has long been known as a habitat for hordes of Balinese monkeys. Spread across 6 hectares of land, Sangeh forest is mainly made from large nutmeg trees that can grow up to 40 meter above the ground. It is a sanctuary for long-tailed macaques, a species of monkey that commonly found in the island of Bali. Approximately there are 500 of them populating the entire forest vicinity. The monkeys are already used to meet with human from the constant interaction since the forest is opened as a tourism destination couple of decades ago. But still, be very cautious as the primates are extremely attracted to shiny and small objects.
3. Tomb of Jayaprana
Beyond the Northern side of Bali, in Singaraja regency, lays the tomb of Jayaprana. His life is a tragic and engaging tale of love and loyalty. Legend said Jayaprana dies proving his loyalty to the Kingdom of Buleleng, accepting a sinister order by a minister who wishes to marry his wife, Ni Komang Layonsari. But his said wife didn’t want to marry the minister and soon follow his late husband to death by stabbing herself with a dagger.
The tomb is located on a hill and has to be reached by foot, walking through a three-hundred steps staircase. Once arrived, you will be greeted by the fresh air and stunning sceneries from which you can see the majestic ocean and mountains afar. It resembles a beautiful small temple rather than ordinary tomb.
4. Margarana Memorial Park
On 20th November 1946, a force of 96 independence fighter was surrounded by much larger and armed-to-teeth Dutch colony force on Taman Marga, an area just northwest of Marga village, Tabanan. Lead by a man named I Gusti Ngurah Rai, the pack of cornered wolves turns into jackals and fought back viciously. None of them survive, but they manage to take down around 400 Dutch troops, sealing the casualty count four time larger than their own size, this act of ultimate bravery later known by local and Indonesian as ‘Puputan’ War.
To commemorate the majestic moment, a memorial monument was built on the ground of Margarana Park, where tourist are allowed to visit and gaze upon the gallant structure. A ceremony is also held annually on 20 November in this area, and a museum was built nearby, containing photos, homemade weapons and other artefacts from the conflict. One of them is a letter written by I Gusti Ngurah Rai containing the famous phrase : Merdeka atau Mati! (Freedom or Death)
5. Tanah Lot
The beautiful Tanah Lot is an offshore natural rock formation where Pura (temple) of Tanah lot resides. This temple has long become one of the most anticipated place-to-visit by tourist because of the iconic temple and rock formation silhouette shape during sunset. Many classic postcard has featured the majestic silhouette of Tanah Lot temple with a golden sunset in the background (which help coined the ‘picture perfect’ term).
History said that the rock formation first found by a priest named Nirartha in 15th century. Later the priest told the fishermen that resides the area to build a shrine to worship Balinese sea Gods and he named the temple ‘Tanah Lot’ which literally translated to ‘Land in the Sea’.
6. Tirta Gangga
An exquisite landmark on East Bali area, Tirta Gangga is a grandious water palace filled with lush gardens, pond containing huge koi fish and spring fed pool. The palace was built around 1940-1950 by the heir of former Karangasem King, Gusti Gede Djelantik, for a recreational purpose.
As a site, Tirta Gangga holds a magnificent ancient look with lovely maze of pool and fountains surrounded by beautiful garden, carved walls and statues. A true Balinese culture manifestation, this is the place to unwind and even find your inner adventure sense as you can stroll around the remains of the majestic building. You can bathe in the pools around the area by paying a small token to local caretaker. Experience is the keyword here, so don’t hesitate to try everything! This is one of the greatest areas in Bali to walk around with many small roads and paths to explore. No protocol road, so use your instinct and stroll to the beaten track surrounded by postcard-perfect rice paddy fields.
7. Goa Gajah
Lies on the West side of the island, Goa Gajah are a remnant of sanctuary once used as a contemplative hermitage. The name of the site is originally called ‘Lwa Gajah’, or Elephant River. The name is derived from the intersection of two rivers that creates massive spiritual energy (thus the name ‘Elephant’). The cave used to be utilized as monastery by Buddhist Monk and Shivite Priest. This conservatism also shows how well the unification of Buddhism and Shiva believers went during that era. The cave interior is filled with niches of the hermitage and contains a sanctum area and couple of Buddha statues. The stone around the cave’s entrance is carved resembling a human face with the entrance being its mouth.
8. Banjar Hot Spring
If you happen to visit the Singaraja on vacation, you can list Banjar Hot Spring as one of the must-visit place in your itinerary. Located just 5km Southwest of the alluring Lovina Beach, Banjar Hot Spring can be reached by riding a motorcycle through a well-maintained road.
The Banjar Hot Spring is a well preserved public bath. It was built by the Japanese during their occupation in the island. The water is actually comes from a natural source filled with sulphuric substance that are widely acknowledged to heal skin disease. Perched high above the lush rainforest area, it serves as a perfect recreational space for people who want to spend some tranquility time, swimming in a pool of hot water, gain its therapeutic benefit while enjoying the magnificent surrounding scenery.