From most of the Bali attractions in the eastern part of the island the highest mountain of Bali seems to reappear everywhere you go.
The Gunung Agung isn't only the highest but also the holiest mountain for the Balinese and is often referred to as the ‘mother mountain’ or the ‘navel of the world’.
The Balinese believe that the gods live on this mountain and its height enables them to look over the daily lives of the people on the island. The Pura Besakih, the mother temple for all the Balinese people is located on the slopes of this mystical mountain.
However, while the Balinese worship Gunung Agung the people have also experienced a lot of suffering. The volcanic eruption in 1963 killed thousands of people, ruined buildings, crops and displacing many from their homes.
Miraculously the mother temple was still intact and could easily be restored to its original state.
Today you can see the remains of the eruption when you drive around Tulamben. Signs of where the lava flowed are still visible on this barren side of the mountain. On the southern side of the mountain the landscape is completely different.
Here you'll see amazing rice fields terraces as far as the eye can see.
It is really an unbelievable sight to see how the Balinese people have been able to create these complicated irrigated rice terraces.
A great route to drive along these rice terraces is the road passing Sidemen and Rendang, making a detour to the Besakih temple.
The East Bali beaches are volcanic black and are often visited by travelers for the good snorkelling and diving sights at Padangbai, Amed and Tulamben. Tulamben is especially popular for its shipwreck and the abundance of coral fish living around it.
Besides the amazing landscapes there are many other Bali attractions located near the eastern cities that were once the capitals of mighty kingdoms.
Here are the East Bali attractions we enjoyed visiting:
Kehen in Bangli:
This temple is often described as the miniature version of the Pura Besakih.
Like the mother temple, this temple has 8 terraces and it is built on the southern slope of the hill.
Kehen means household or fireplace and symbolizes the fire god, Brahmen who protects the temple. This is definitely one of the Bali attractions not to be missed on your trip around the island...
East Bali attractions in Semarapura:
Between 1710 till 1908 this city, formerly known as Klungkung, was the centre of the mighty Gelgel-dynasty.
Even today the people of the Balinese noble society are mostly decendents of the royal Klungkung family. Until his death in 1965 the last raja of Klungkung was highly respected.
He survived the mass suicidal battle (called puputan) against the Dutch army in 1908 and returned to Bali after living in exile on the island of Lombok.
Till the end of his life he lived in the Taman Gili palace with his 40 wives and 100 children. That is what I call a man who has lived life to the fullest...
If you visit Klungkung you will easily find the palace on the main junction in the centre of the city, across the puputan square.
The centre of Klungkung
The palace Taman Gili was built in 1710 and was designed by the raja at that time. The raja ordered the best craftsmen in the kingdom to create a palace that had a mixture of Majapahit and former Balinese-Hindu influences.
Unfortunately the palace was severely damaged in 1908 by the Dutch and has never been restored to its former glory.
Within the palace walls you can visit the former royal hall of justice, where unsettled village disputes were trialled before the king and higher priests. You can also see the Bali Kambang, a floating pavilion where the king used to receives his guests.
A unique feature in these two pavilions is the paintings on the ceiling. In the hall of justice these are Kamasan-styled paintings, while the paintings in the floating pavilion show rows of stories on subjects such as the astrological calendar, folk tales and adventures of the hero Sutasona.
East Bali attractions in Kamasan:
This little village is where the Kamasan wayang painting style originated in the 14th century.
In the past this was the only style of painting found in Bali. Talented painters were ordered by the raja to decorate the palace and temples with Kamasan paintings.
The religious stories of the Mahabharatha and the Ramayana were painted on long narrow canvases which could reach up to several metres in length. Today a couple of artists in Kamasan have workshops where you can still see this old painting style.
East Bali Attractions Pura
This is the mother of all temples and is considered the most important by the Balinese people.
Surprisingly though, Besakih temple isn't the most beautiful one on the island and as a visitor you are not allowed to enter most of the temple complexes.
However during important festivals the colorful dressed people who gather around with their offerings is definitely a sight to remember...
East Bali Attractions Pura
The main attraction here is not the temple but the holy bat cave.
To reach it, you must pass the very old temple of the death, which is still used and considered very important to the Balinese.
The Balinese believe that the Naga Basuki, a huge snake, lives in the bat cave. Naga Besuki is the gatekeeper of the balance on earth and is worshiped in the temple.
It is said that in the cave there is an underground tunnel that leads all the way to the Besakih temple, located 25km from the cave entrance. However don’t plan to do some crawling from the cave to the Besakih temple because it is forbidden to enter the cave.
The original descendants of Bali prior to the Majahapit’s arrival live together in this little village, located near Candidasa.
The village looks very basic but the Bali Aga people are one of the richest people on the island. The villagers are really friendly and are happy to tell you everything about their history and daily life...
Eat Bali Attractions
Puri Agung Karangasem:
This palace is the remains of the last kingdom of this region which lasted till the early 20th century and is located in Amlapura.
Before the eruption of Gunung Agung in 1963, Amlapura was called Karangasem. The change of name was seen as a new beginning after the eruption had destroyed parts of the city.
In Amlapura you can find one of the few remaining royal palaces that had survived during the Dutch colonial period. Unlike its neighbouring kingdoms, the raja of the Karangasem kingdom cooperated with the Dutch rulers and so prevented any battles in the city.
In the palace premises there are signs of Dutch influences, such as the main building called Maskerdam. The pavilion ‘Bale Pemandesan’ located between the main building and pond was used for royal tooth filling and cremation ceremonies.
What I think is very unique about this palace is that members of the royal family still live here. The last raja had 35 wives and today around 100 descendants still live in the palace.
Just north of Amlapura you can find one of the most beautiful water palaces in Bali.
The water palace has several pools that are surrounded by a big garden and many statues.
It is possible to take a swim in this amazing setting. The water is freezing though but after swimming a couple of laps you’ll feel like royalty yourself. I think that's why this is probably one of our favorite Bali attractions...;-)
East Bali Attractions Taman
The raja of Karangasem built this water palace in 1921. At that time the water palace really looked like a royal palace and some describe it as a miniature of the Taj Mahal.
However due to lack of maintenance and the earthquake damages in 1979, the water palace has lost its grandeur. You can still wander around and admire the view though.
If you want to go for a swim, it's better to visit the other water palace Tirta Gangga 15 km north of Amlapura.