Two islands off the southeast coast of Bali in the Lombok Strait are Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan. Not much more than limestone outcroppings, dry and barren, the local people eke out an existence farming seaweed and fishing. However, surfers, snorkelers, swimmers and divers revel in their shores, surrounded by a protective coral reef with massive crashing waves on Lembongan and the calm, clear waters of Penida.
Sanur was developed as Bali’s first beach resort in the 1960′s. It was here that the regulation that no building in Bali should be higher than a coconut palm out of respect to the gods evolved. As the waves break over a coral reef far from the shore, only small and gentle ones reach the beach in a protected lagoon-like atmosphere. Much quieter and more sheltered than bustling Kuta, Sanur is a place for luxury hotels, serene bungalows and upscale cafes. Sanur is also the largest coastal village on Bali, its residents of the prestigious Brahman caste.
Singaraja was of great importance in the late 19th century, when Bali was under Dutch colonial rule. Until 1945 it was the capital of Bali, until that honor was deferred upon Denpasar, which, with a natural harbor, was deemed more appropriate. Continuing on the road from Singaraja to Pupuan is some of Bali’s most spectacular scenery. Steeply terraced rice fields plunge down the hillside, while towering above is Mount Batukau, usually covered by clouds after mid-morning.
Sacred Tirta Empul spring at Tampak Siring was created by god Indra when he pierced the earth to create a spring of Amerta, the elixir of immortality. The bathing place was built in the 10th century. The waters are imbued with magical curative powers. People journey from all over Bali to purify themselves in the clear pools, especially pregnant women and those who have survived a long illness. After leaving a small offering of thanks to the spring’s deity, men and women go to opposite sides to bathe.
Tanah Lot is an icon of Bali, more photographed than any other monuments on the island. Joined to the shore by a narrow strip of land and is one of the six most holy temples in Bali. During high tide, devotees breast the waves with offerings for the Gods. Tanah Lot was built by Nirartha Danghyang, one of the last priests arriving in Bali from Java in the 16th century. When he reached the spot where Tanah Lot now stands, he created a temple to acknowledge the gifts the gods bestowed upon the island. The best time to see Tanah Lot is in the late afternoon when the temple is silhouetted against the sky.