Top 10 Things To Do In Karangasem, Bali: A Must Visit to Experience the Old Bali

Top 10 Things To Do In Karangasem, Bali: A Must Visit to Experience the Old Bali

Karangasem is a regency in East Bali. It is known for its rich heritage, culture, beaches, and nature-packed experiences. It is a must-visit place if you are looking to immerse yourself in the Balinese lifestyle and breathtaking nature. 
Fun fact: Karangasem is the source of all the famous Bali photos, including those of the fishes, Heaven's Gate, and others.
With the vastness of Karangasem, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Our guide is here to ensure you make the most of your Bali holiday. We'll take you to the most captivating spots, guaranteeing an unforgettable trip. 

The Karangasem Regency encompasses the area of the original Karangasem Kingdom, which was the residence of the Royal Family of Karangasem. The name "Karangasem" is derived from the words Karang and Semadi, which translates to "Coral Meditation" in English. Mount Lempuyang, where the renowned Lempuyang Luhur Temple is located, was originally known as Karang Adri or "Coral Mountain." It is believed that the regency is named after the God Hyang Agnijaya, who created the temple as a place for meditation.

Amlapura The Capital Of Karangasem Regency

In 1963, a devastating event unfolded in the Karangasem Regency as Mount Agung, Bali’s largest volcano, erupted and laid waste to numerous towns and villages in the area. The cataclysm claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 people and obliterated the once-beautiful original city of Amlapura, which boasted a wealth of Dutch colonial buildings. While the city has been reconstructed in the years following the eruption, it currently offers little in terms of attractions. Despite its proximity to the East Coast and the stunning view of Mount Agung from the city, most travelers simply pass through on the main road, continuing their journey until they reach their destination.

Where is Karangasem Regency?

The Karangasem Regency is the province that covers most of the East part of the island and it has an area that is around 840 square kilometres.

It covers 8 districts and 78 villages and is one of the larger regencies in Bali.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Karangasem Regency?

 

Absolutely, keep in mind the following information: There is no bad time to visit Bali. Even in the rainy season, there is an average of more than 8 hours of sunshine a day, making it a great time to visit East Bali as well. In the wet season, it may be hotter and more humid, but this is balanced by lower flight, accommodation, and day tour costs. Conversely, the dry season is more expensive, but there is less rain, lower humidity, and a slightly cooler temperature due to the onshore breeze on most of the island.

How to plan your day to visit Karangasem?

When planning your trip, we recommend two nights to explore Karangasem fully. However, a one-day visit can also cover a lot.
We recommend you start day one at Lempuyang Temple early in the morning, then go to Tirtagangga, Ujung Water Palace, and end at Sorga Chocolate. These four locations are in a perfect round and don't take you out of your path. If you decide to go for the second day, we recommend heading to Amed to stay overnight and indulge in ocean activities like diving, snorkeling, and fishing the following day. If you have the energy to move to Sideman Valley, an overnight stay over there is recommended; if not, staying one more night at Amed and heading to Sideman early in the morning is an excellent option.

 10 Things To Do In Karangasem

There are plenty of things to do in Karangasem, and most end with a breathtaking picture of Mount Agung in the background, making it great spot for that chic Instagram Post from Bali. The regency is mainly known for its temples and royal palaces. 

Tirta Gangga

Tirta Gangga, once a royal palace, is a stunning water garden named after the sacred river Ganges. This beautiful site features a series of tiered fountains, lush tropical gardens, and intricate stone sculptures depicting various creatures from Hindu mythology, making it a must-visit for anyone in Karangasem.

The central attraction is its expansive network of bathing pools, fed by crystal-clear spring water. Visitors can wade in these cool, refreshing pools, surrounded by the serene ambiance of the palace grounds. The pools are particularly popular among locals and tourists alike, providing a perfect spot to relax and unwind.

Tirta Gangga's serene atmosphere is enhanced by the gentle sound of flowing water from its many fountains and ponds, creating a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of modern life. The gardens also host a variety of exotic plants and flowers, adding vibrant colors and fragrant scents to the experience. 

A lot of people don't know this but you can stay overnight inside the palace at Tirta Gangga Water Palace Villas, its a unique expereince. 

Lempuyang Luhur Temple

 

Lempuyang Temple, renowned as one of Bali's most iconic sights, owes much of its fame to the trick photograph taken at the "Gates of Heaven" within the temple complex. This popular photo spot offers a breathtaking view of Mount Agung framed perfectly between the ornate gates, creating an illusion of floating above the clouds.

However, do want to warn you that if you want the photo, you might be waiting in line up to 2 hours. Rather than spending hours in line for the perfect Instagram shot, consider venturing further into the temple complex. The true magic of Lempuyang lies beyond the gates, where a journey up the mountain awaits, leading you to some of the most spiritual and serene areas on the island.

The hike to the upper temples is an adventure that promises not just physical exertion but also a deep sense of spiritual fulfillment. The path is lined with lush greenery and offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. As you ascend, you'll encounter several smaller temples, each with its own unique charm and historical significance.

The uppermost temple, Pura Luhur Lempuyang, is considered one of Bali's most sacred places. The serene ambiance here, coupled with the cool mountain air, makes it an ideal spot for meditation and reflection. The temple is often enveloped in mist, adding to its mystical allure.

Exploring Lempuyang Temple provides a unique opportunity to connect with Balinese culture and spirituality. The journey to the top is a pilgrimage of sorts, inviting you to leave behind the distractions of the modern world and immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of nature and ancient religious traditions.

So, rather than focusing solely on the photo opportunity at the "Gates of Heaven," embrace the full experience that Lempuyang Temple has to offer. It's an adventure that promises not just stunning views but also a deeper understanding of Bali's spiritual heritage.

Ujung Water Palace (Taman Soekasada Ujung)

Constructed in 1919, Ujung Water Palace, also known as Taman Soekasada Ujung, is a magnificent site set amidst beautifully sculpted pools and lush gardens. Many visitors find Ujung Water Palace even more enchanting than the more famous Tirta Gangga, thanks to its serene atmosphere and architectural grandeur.

One of the palace's most unique features is the "Bale Kapal" (Ship Pavilion) entrance. Designed to resemble the bow of a ship, this striking structure sets the tone for the rest of the palace complex, offering a distinctive welcome that hints at the treasures within. The Bale Kapal provides a picturesque spot for photos and a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.

The palace grounds are adorned with a series of elegant pavilions, bridges, and walkways, all set around expansive, tranquil pools. The reflection of the architectural elements in the clear water creates a mesmerizing effect, adding to the site's allure. These features make Ujung Water Palace an ideal location for a leisurely stroll or a moment of quiet contemplation.

The gardens themselves are meticulously maintained, with an array of tropical plants, flowers, and carefully sculpted hedges. As you wander through the grounds, you'll come across various statues and carvings that reflect Bali's rich cultural heritage and artistic traditions.

Ujung Water Palace also offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, including the nearby coastline and the distant mountains. The combination of natural beauty and human artistry makes this palace a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Whether you're interested in exploring Balinese history, enjoying a peaceful garden walk, or simply soaking in the beauty of your surroundings, Ujung Water Palace is a must-visit destination in Karangasem. Its unique charm and tranquil environment provide a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Virgin Beach

Virgin Beach As the name implies, Virgin Beach is a pristine stretch of white sand that remains one of Karangasem’s hidden gems. Nestled between rugged cliffs and the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, this beach offers a tranquil escape from the more crowded tourist spots on the island.

While the beach's natural beauty is undeniable, swimmers should be cautious of the strong currents that can make swimming challenging at times. However, the clear, inviting waters are perfect for a refreshing dip or for simply cooling off along the shoreline.

Virgin Beach is equipped with various facilities to enhance your visit. One of the highlights is the availability of on-beach massages, offering a unique way to relax while listening to the soothing sounds of the ocean. However, it’s important to manage your expectations regarding the quality of these massages. Most of the masseurs are not formally trained, and some might lose interest quickly after receiving payment.

Despite this, the overall ambiance of Virgin Beach makes it a wonderful spot to unwind. You can rent sun loungers and umbrellas for a nominal fee, ensuring a comfortable spot to enjoy the sun. There are also several small warungs (local cafes) where you can savor freshly prepared Balinese dishes and refreshing drinks.

The beach's relatively secluded location means it’s less crowded, allowing you to enjoy the serene surroundings in peace. Whether you prefer lounging under the sun, exploring the rocky outcrops, or simply enjoying the view, Virgin Beach offers a serene retreat where you can experience the natural beauty of Karangasem.

For those who enjoy a bit of adventure, the journey to Virgin Beach adds to the experience. The winding roads leading to this secluded spot offer stunning views of the coastline and lush landscapes, making the trip itself part of the adventure.

Virgin Beach, with its untouched beauty and laid-back vibe, is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience a quieter side of Bali. Just remember to stay safe in the water and enjoy the simplicity and charm that this hidden paradise has to offer.

Sorga Chocolate

For those with a sweet tooth, a visit to Sorga Chocolate in Karangasem is a must. This artisanal chocolate factory offers a delightful experience for visitors, showcasing the best of Bali's locally sourced ingredients and sustainable practices.

Sorga Chocolate is renowned for its commitment to quality and sustainability. The cacao beans are sourced from local Balinese farmers who practice organic farming methods, ensuring that each chocolate bar is not only delicious but also ethically produced. The factory itself is a model of eco-friendly operations, emphasizing minimal environmental impact throughout the production process.

Upon visiting Sorga Chocolate, you'll have the opportunity to tour the facility and learn about the intricate process of chocolate making. From the careful selection and fermentation of cacao beans to the roasting, grinding, and tempering stages, each step is carried out with meticulous attention to detail. Knowledgeable guides will explain the various techniques used to create the rich, smooth chocolate that Sorga is famous for.

The highlight of any visit to Sorga Chocolate is undoubtedly the tasting session. You'll be able to sample a variety of chocolate creations, each with its own unique flavor profile. From dark, intense bars with high cacao content to sweet truffles and innovative flavors infused with local ingredients such as coconut, sea salt, and tropical fruits, there’s something to satisfy every palate.

Sorga Chocolate also offers a range of products for purchase, making it easy to take a piece of Bali's chocolate heritage home with you. Their beautifully packaged chocolate bars and confections make perfect gifts or personal indulgences.

In addition to their regular offerings, Sorga often hosts special events and workshops. These interactive sessions provide a hands-on experience in chocolate making, allowing participants to create their own custom bars under the guidance of expert chocolatiers. It's a fun and educational activity that's perfect for families, couples, and anyone interested in the art of chocolate.

Chocolate Factory Tour: IDR 200,000/person
Chocolate Making Class: IDR 500,000/person but does require advance booking

Besakih Temple

Besakih Temple, known as Bali's "Mother Temple," is the island's largest and holiest temple complex. Located on the slopes of Mount Agung, it features 23 interconnected temples, with Pura Penataran Agung being the most significant. This spiritual center showcases traditional Balinese architecture, including intricate carvings, stone statues, and multi-tiered shrines.

Dating back over a thousand years, Besakih Temple holds immense historical and cultural significance. Its location offers stunning views of Mount Agung and the surrounding landscapes, enhancing the site's mystical ambiance.

Visitors can explore the terraced courtyards and various shrines, learning about Balinese Hinduism and its practices. The temple is inclusive, welcoming worshippers from all castes and communities, reflecting its status as the Mother Temple of Bali.

Modest dress is required, with sarongs and sashes provided at the entrance. The site also offers panoramic vistas of rice terraces and valleys, making it a perfect spot for photography. Throughout the year, vibrant ceremonies and festivals provide a unique insight into Balinese culture and religious traditions.

A visit to Besakih Temple is a profound experience, offering a glimpse into the spiritual heart of Bali.

Sidemen Valley

Sidemen Valley, centered around Sidemen Village, offers a glimpse into Bali's past, reminiscent of what Ubud was like before the advent of mass tourism. This picturesque area is perfect for those seeking tranquility and a closer connection to nature.

The valley is ideal for long, leisurely walks, with lush rice paddies, winding rivers, and stunning views of Mount Agung creating a serene backdrop. As you explore, you'll encounter friendly locals and traditional Balinese life, offering an authentic experience far removed from the busier tourist areas.

In addition to its natural beauty, Sidemen Valley is renowned for its excellent silversmithing workshops. These hands-on experiences allow visitors to learn the art of jewelry making from skilled artisans. Under their guidance, you can create your own unique piece of jewelry, providing a memorable and personal souvenir of your time in Bali.

Sidemen Valley is a haven for those looking to escape the crowds and immerse themselves in Bali's natural and cultural beauty. Whether you're exploring the verdant landscapes or crafting your own jewelry, this hidden gem offers a peaceful retreat and a deeper appreciation of traditional Balinese life.

Blue lagoon Beach

Blue Lagoon Beach is a stunning semi-circle of white sand that creates a picturesque "Blue Lagoon" in the center, flanked by lush green hills on either side. These natural features frame the beach beautifully, offering a serene and scenic environment perfect for relaxation.

This man-made beach was thoughtfully designed, incorporating a local black coral reef to protect the shoreline from strong waves. This makes Blue Lagoon Beach an excellent place for swimming, with its calm and clear waters providing a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors of all ages.

One of the highlights of Blue Lagoon Beach is its fantastic snorkeling opportunities. The calm, sheltered waters are home to a vibrant array of marine life, making it a rewarding spot for underwater exploration. Colorful fish and diverse coral formations can be seen just a short distance from the shore, providing an accessible and captivating snorkeling experience.

Whether you're lounging on the soft white sand, swimming in the tranquil lagoon, or snorkeling among the rich marine life, Blue Lagoon Beach offers a perfect escape for anyone looking to enjoy Bali's coastal beauty. Its combination of natural and man-made elements creates a unique and inviting beach environment that's ideal for a day of relaxation and adventure.

Amed Beach

Amed Beach, located on the northeast side of Bali, is a picturesque beach and fishing village renowned for its proximity to some of the island's most famous dive spots, including the nearby Tulamben. This area offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, vibrant marine life, and a relaxed atmosphere.

The village of Amed is charming and tranquil, making it an ideal destination for those looking to escape the more tourist-heavy areas of Bali. The black volcanic sand beaches contrast beautifully with the clear blue waters, creating a unique and captivating landscape.

Amed is particularly popular with divers and snorkelers, thanks to its rich underwater world. The coral reefs are teeming with colorful fish, and the area is known for several impressive dive sites, including the famous USAT Liberty shipwreck in Tulamben. Whether you're an experienced diver or a beginner, Amed offers accessible and rewarding underwater adventures.

One of the significant advantages of visiting Amed is its affordability. Travelers on a budget will find that their money goes much further here compared to many other parts of Bali. Accommodations, dining, and activities are reasonably priced, allowing you to enjoy a more extended stay without breaking the bank.

The local community in Amed is friendly and welcoming, providing an authentic Balinese experience. You can spend your days exploring the scenic coastline, visiting traditional fishing villages, and enjoying fresh seafood at the beachfront warungs (local cafes).

Amed Beach offers a serene and budget-friendly escape with stunning diving opportunities and a laid-back village vibe. It's a perfect spot for those looking to experience Bali's natural beauty and underwater wonders without the crowds and higher costs found elsewhere on the island.

Check out our guide on Top 10 Must-Try Restaurants in Amed

Hiking Mount Agung

Mount Agung, Bali's largest active volcano, holds a sacred place in the hearts of the Balinese people. Revered for its spiritual significance, this majestic peak is both a natural wonder and a cultural landmark.

Climbing Mount Agung is a challenging yet rewarding experience. The trek can be undertaken throughout most of the year, although access may be restricted during certain periods to honor local religious rituals and ceremonies conducted on the slopes and at the temples. It's important to respect these closures, as they are crucial to preserving the island's cultural heritage.

The ascent to the summit is demanding, requiring physical endurance and determination. The trails are steep and rugged, and the climb typically starts in the early hours of the morning to reach the peak by sunrise. Despite the strenuous journey, those who persevere are treated to an unparalleled reward: a breathtaking panoramic view that dwarfs all other hills and mountains on the island. Watching the sun rise from the summit of Mount Agung, with the island of Bali spread out below and the ocean shimmering in the distance, is an unforgettable experience.

Hikers should be well-prepared for the climb, equipped with proper gear, sufficient water, and snacks. It's also advisable to hire a local guide who can navigate the trails and provide valuable insights into the mountain's spiritual and cultural significance.

While the climb is physically demanding, the journey offers more than just a physical challenge. It provides an opportunity to connect deeply with Bali's natural beauty and spiritual essence. The sense of accomplishment upon reaching the summit, combined with the stunning vistas, makes the hike up Mount Agung a truly transformative adventure.

For those willing to take on the challenge, hiking Mount Agung promises an extraordinary experience that goes beyond the ordinary, offering a unique blend of physical exertion, natural beauty, and cultural immersion.

 

FAQs

What Is The Kingdom Of Karangasem In Bali? The Kingdom of Karangasem refers to the historical kingdom that is now the modern-day Karangasem Regency. While Bali is part of Indonesia, a constitutional republic, there is no longer an active royal family. However, members of the former royal family are still considered important and respected by the local community.

Where To Explore In Bali? The entire island of Bali is worth exploring. This article focuses on East Bali and the Karangasem Regency, which offer numerous attractions and activities. However, each of Bali’s regencies has its own unique charm and is worth visiting for a comprehensive experience of the island.

Where Are The Most Beautiful Beaches In Bali? East Bali boasts some stunning beaches, such as Blue Lagoon Beach and Virgin Beach. Despite this, many visitors consider the beaches in the Nusa Dua area to be the best, which is why numerous luxury resorts are located there. Berawa Beach is also highly recommended.

Is It Safe To Climb Mount Agung? Climbing Mount Agung is generally safe when done with proper preparation and guidance. It’s essential to check for any travel advisories or closures due to volcanic activity or religious ceremonies. Hiring a local guide is strongly recommended for safety and to enhance your understanding of the mountain’s cultural significance.

What Activities Are Available In Sidemen Valley? Sidemen Valley is perfect for nature walks, exploring rice paddies, and enjoying the serene countryside. It’s also known for its excellent silversmithing workshops, where you can learn to make your own jewelry. The area provides a peaceful retreat with authentic Balinese experiences.

What Can I Expect When Visiting Tirta Gangga? Tirta Gangga is a former royal palace known for its beautiful water gardens, tiered fountains, and stone sculptures. Visitors can enjoy bathing in the clear pools and explore the lush gardens. The surrounding area offers some of the best views of rice paddies on the island, making it a picturesque and relaxing destination.

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