Central Bali - The Mountains
Central Bali’s northern area consists of cool, tropical forests, waterfalls, and contoured rice paddies which seem to hang from the mountainside. The paddies are watered by the Subak canal system, which is over a thousand years old and now a UNESCO protected site. You will marvel at how these terraced rice fields stay suspended on the hillsides, and how the locals work to produce rice on their various levels. All around this area one will find farms producing vegetables, strawberries and tropical fruit, which can be bought at village markets and along the roadside.
Stop alongside one of the lakes, Danau Bratan, Danau Buyan or Danau Tamblingan - or hike up the sides of volcanoes to look down on neat strawberry and vegetable farms in the valleys beside the lakes. Many villages have "home stays", which are usually neat rooms with a local family; there are always enough hotels and private villas for your peaceful stop-over in this quiet part of the island. You may purchase fresh fruits and vegetables in the markets of Candikuning and Bedugul, but do not accept the first price quoted: you're expected to bargain. Nobody will take offence when you do - in fact, bargaining is almost a national sport on Bali, and all players should enjoy it.
The Handara Kosaido Country Club near Bedugul affords golfers a cool game in the highlands. There is a small hotel within the country club. On the way to the club, golfers will pass Danau (Lake) Bratan, with its much-photographed temple buildings and neat, custom-built market stalls amongst impeccable gardens. On the other side of the golf course is Gunung Catur (2096m). The club is situated inside the crater of an extinct volcano. The 11km x 6 km Lake Bratan caldera is actually a complex of peaks, and contains three caldera lakes. Several post-caldera strato-volcanoes straddle its southern rim.
Also at Bedugul are the Eka Karya Botanical Gardens. An enormous place, spanning more than 150 hectares and of interest to botanists and plant admirers, it is divided into specialist sections and houses the world's largest collection of indigenous Indonesian orchids. Well worth a full morning's walk-about. For adrenalin junkies, the greater park also offers Treetops Adventures, where people of all ages can swing through the forest like Tarzan. All this just 50 km from Denpasar.
In the surrounding countryside, buggy rides and quad tours are on offer, as well as tropical safaris in 4x4 Jeeps. Those seeking quieter sightseeing can hire bicycles and tour through the mountains and villages in small groups, or take a walking tour through the jungle, guides supplied. You may want to try crossing the lake in a canoe, and enjoy a three-hour hike through the beautiful rain forest around Bedugul.
After the country club one passes through Pancasari on the road to Singaraja on the north coast, but a left turn soon after Pancasari takes one past Lake Buyan, then Lake Tamblingan, and then past Aasan to Munduk. Here there is plenty of accommodation of various grades, much of it the remains of a Dutch colonial mountain retreat. There are many waterfalls to explore in the area. One is found just before Munduk - or go straight on north to Singaraja, where you will come across the most famous, the Gitgit Falls - no joke for the unfit to reach. You will be approached by guides; be sure to negotiate the price.
South of theses lakes are Gunung Lesong (1860m), G.Pohon (2063m) and G. Batukau (2276m), Bali’s second-highest mountain. South of G.Batukau is the Jatiluwih area, listed as a UNESCO site (you will see why). An 18-km road twists through rice terraces of incomparable beauty. The name Jatiluwih means "truly marvellous or beautiful". Here you will see more shades of green than you could find in Ireland - but you will ask yourself how these terraces have remained intact and produced food for more than ten centuries. The area is known as the rice factory of Bali.
The central area covers the Regency of Tabanan, part of Badung and part of Bungli.