Information before you go
Our next favorite route is the volcanic Bali sightseeing route which takes you along the scenic temples of Goa Gajah, Gunung Kawi and Tirta Empul nearby Ubud all the way to the crater rim at Kintamani.
From there it is onwards to the valleys of Rendang, Selat, Sideman and to the royal cities of Klungkung, Gianyar and back to Ubud.
Ubud is the starting point of this volcanic route but Sanur, Nusa Dua or Kuta are good starting points as well except you probably need to get up a bit earlier.
As always we recommend to leave early when there isn't much traffic on the road and most importantly when most tourist buses haven't arrived at the following three important sites yet: Goa Gajah, Gunung Kawi and Tirta Empul.
Rice fields just outside Ubud
If you do this route we recommend you make the choice of two out of the three sites so so you can fully appreciate them. Our personal favorite among these three is Gunung Kawi as it has one of the most beautiful setting, but then again taste differs...;-)
To enter the temples you need to dress accordingly. Sarongs can be hired at the entrance.
Goa Gaja is located just outside of Ubud on the way to Bedulu. Goa Gajah means "Elephant Cave" and Dutch archeologists discovered the place in 1923 after hearing locals describing a cave with a huge monstrous elephant head. Until today the origins of the cave are still a mystery.
The first time we were there we were lucky to see Balinese men and woman preparing several offerings for a huge ceremony in the following days. The area is unspoiled and besides visiting the elephant cave there are ancient bathing places with nymph statues spewing water.
The ancient bathing area
After visiting Goa Gajah continue the day trip by traveling along traditional Balinese villages such as Pejeng, Tarukan, Sanding, Bukit until arriving at Tampaksiring for the two following sites.
Gunung Kawi-Mountain of Poetry
Once you arrive at the parking lot of Gunung Kawi the first thing you bump into is the line of tourist shops. Yes, it is a big tourist attraction. And yes, it is definitely worth the visit. Once you passed dozens of stalls and walked down the stairs pass another dozen or more stalls you will be grateful you stopped to pay a visit.
The tombs of the royal family
Gunung Kawi means "Mountain of Poetry". The huge carved tombs of the royal family from the 11th century are beautifully set against swaying palm trees, stunning rice fields and the river Pakrisan. The entire area is sacred to the Balinese and that's the reason why they've put so much effort in making it like a movie set.
After this sight it's time to continue to the next sight which is only a 5-minute drive, Tirta Empul.
On the left side of the main road you'll find Tirta Empul, one of Bali's six important temples. The Balinese believe that the water spring has been created by God Indra himself and that it holds magical healing powers and even the secret to eternal youth.
The sight is definitely worth a visit, so walk around and see Balinese pilgrims taking a bath among pink flowers. Don't forget to wear a sarong and selendang/temple scarf around your waist here too.
Bathing at the holy spring temple Tirta Empul
When you leave this historical sight try to leave the same way as you came, otherwise you will soon be lost in de maze of souvenir stalls.
After the visits to two or all three of the sacred sights continue your trip along traditional Balinese villages such as Seribatu where the road gets steeper towards our next stop Kintamani.
Here the rice fields, coconut palms and rattan plants make way for coffee, nutmeg and lemon plantations.
When the road winds even higher around the slopes of Gunung Batur you'll find old oak trees, huge fern and plenty of moss all the way to the crater rim of the neighboring villages Penelokan and Kintamani.
View on the deep crater lake of Mount Batur
This is a nice spot to stop for a while and enjoy the spectacular view on one of the worlds' biggest craters (10 km by 14 km), the result of a collapsed volcano during the pre historical era. Its deepest point is now Lake Batur which is 8 kilometers long by 3 kilometers wide.
On the left side of Lake Batur you will be able to see the top of volcano Gunung Batur (1707 meters) on a clear day. During 1917 and 1923 this volcano erupted leaving several villages destroyed and many Balinese dead.
The villages of Kintamani and Batur used to be located down into the crater but after the eruptions they were relocated to the rim of the crater.
When it's not cloudy you have terrific views...
While Kintamani is famous for it's amazing views it is also known for the hordes of street hawkers selling all kinds of souvenirs. Many travelers experience them as aggressive and they do tend to be more persistent then in other parts of the area. In this case, just smile and politely ignore them.
At this point of the day trip you might want to consider having lunch. It is pretty difficult to find an attractive looking restaurant as the whole main road is dominated by big restaurants offering buffet lunches only. If you don't want to spend too much time finding the ideal place to eat, you can opt for a buffet. You'll be treated with an amazing view from your table.
If you don't mind something simple yet tasty, try to spot the smaller local restaurants that serve the famous nasi Goreng and noodle soup.
After lunch continue the tour to the neighboring village of Kedisan where the scenic road will lead you slowly down to the mountain villages of Rendang, Iseh and Sidemen.
the latest Kawasaki motorbike...
In Rendang there are no sights of importance except for the route along forgotten villages, waving farmers with motor bike helmets and woman packed in pick-up trucks ready to bring offerings at Besakih temple.
Iseh to Sidemen
There is not much to do in Iseh either and you will probably drive through it before you realize it. Nevertheless the attractive landscape is definitely their unique selling point.
From Iseh all the way down to Sidemen you will be treated with gorgeous views on the valley and the river below. This part of the island is absolutely stunning with Gunung Again occasionally reappearing in the background...
Fresh green landscapes around Sidemen
Just like us, the German painter Walter Spies loved this part of Bali. He stayed here in the 1930's to avoid the busy life of Ubud and to get inspiration for his exceptional painting 'Iseh im Morgenlicht 1938'.
You will also pass small traditional villages which have their own unique temple complexes and you'll surely see groups of women walking along the streets with colorful baskets on their heads. Always a welcome sight...
It looks so easy...
At the end of this road you will enter the historical provincial capital Klungkung which is a pretty busy city. Here you can stop to check out the Taman Gili palace which was built in 1710 by the king at that time.
From Klungkung the busy main road leads you to Gianyar and from here you'll find yourself on the last stretch of the route back to the final destination Ubud.
Mount Batur is one of the popular mountains for hiking. But if you are not into hiking you can also head to Kintamani to admire the wonderful view over the crater and lake.Read more
The beaches in the East are ideal for divers and snorkelers. The most famous diving site is found here. Beach lovers and swimmers will find stunning beaches here too.Read more
Driving in Bali can be quite tricky as traffic rules are non existent. However it is a great way to explore the island by yourself and stop whenever you feel like it.Read more
Now and then people send us inspiring emails and this generates even more enthusiasm to share all of the things we know about this lovely island in the hope that you can plan your tropical holiday properly and have as such a great time as we always have. Hope to see you there!
When I wrote the mail I never really expected a reply. I might have expected a computer generated but never a personally written one. The information you provided is invaluable, thank you so very much. I have been using your website as a bible through Bali. Through your recommendation, I will be heading to Ubud then follow the sightseeing route to the coast of Candidasa.
WOW...what an awesome website. I could only dream that there would be a website like this for all our travel destinations! You guys have done an fabulous job and now, I am sooo excited about our upcoming trip to Bali. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure Bali was the place for us considering some of the travel warnings (we are Americans). But I can tell from your experiences that the Bali people are so very kind and peaceful.
hi and congratulations on the blog it s brilliant and helpful....we are going to Bali in September with my family (including 2 little girls) so we need to have nice spaceous rooms garden and pool access rooms preferably in Semikyak but not too far from it all...I hope you can recommend a great place thats not full of Australian crowds as we like meeting people from other countries.
Hi, I have been travelling for years and I want to say that this website is the best I have EVER come across. It is easy to navigate, it is really descriptive, gives all the info that you could ever want and is accompanied by the best photos and advice. GREAT.