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Kintamani and Mount Batur

Mount Batur from the top of the Caldera
Mount Batur from the lip of the Caldera

A delightful day tour, the Batur World Heritage Site in Kintamani is just an hour away from Ubud by car or motorbike. The drive up is also wonderful and, if you ride a scooter, it's a beautiful trip. I prefer heading north on Jalan Tampaksiring then back on Jl. Raya Pujung Kaja. Take a jacket if you are on a bike, and wear long pants, as the wind is very nippy. Even if you are going by car, take a cardigan if it's early in the morning. As usual, I recommend leaving early to beat the tourists coming up from the south. There is an IDR 50k entrance fee to the Unesco Heritage Park (about US$3.50 per vehicle). Depending on the road you take, you may miss out on this fee. If you have the time, you could stay overnight and I've included a list of hotels and guesthouses at the end.

On the way to Kintamani is the 10th century Pura Tirta Empul - the water temple. For about R100k including your entrance fee and a special sarong you can get a guide to walk you through the purification ceremony. There are always dozens of mostly white tourists doing this, but twice a year or so the Balinese in the region are meant to do this so the ceremony is a legitimate cultural experience. If you're as much of an atheist as me, it's a little amusing to watch the tourists praying the Hindu gods. But it's also charming and fun and actually amazing to bathe where the Balinese have done for a thousand years. Bring a towel and a change of clothes, especially if you're on a scooter.

First stop in Kintamani itself should be at the initial lookout spot. After the long rev all the way to the higher parts of Bali, you suddenly look over and there is Mount Batur, cradled in his massive double caldera; the large, glistening lake to the east and tiny villages clinging to the smaller hills surrounding him. It's quite breathtaking, but made mildly unpleasant by the touts who are unusually insistent for Bali. Just say 'tidak' or 'tidak mau' (no, don't want) and wave them away. You can raise your voice slightly if they don't take no for an answer...or go ahead buy a little leather bracelet for 5k, or spend 15k on a bag of sweet mandarins - everyone needs to make a living.

The author at a cafe on the lip of the Batur Caldera - after fighting off an instagrammer

Hop back in your vehicle and drive along the ridge to one of the newer coffee shops on the northern side of the road. Don't go to the large buffet places - they are set up for busloads of Chinese tourists, are over priced, and not that great. The smaller places are super hip, mostly Indonesian-owned and have amazing coffee and often fantastic food for much less than you'd pay in Ubud - see below for some suggestions. Sit, relax and take in the view.

If you feel in need of a walk, leave your vehicle and wander the 1 kilometre or so up to the temple if it's still early enough to be cool. Your driver can always come and pick you up. Pura Ulun Danu Batur, is one of the auspicious nine directional temples of Bali (although Pura Pasar Agung also claims the north directional temple spot) and is dedicated to the Balinese Hindu water goddess, Danu. The name Pura Ulun Danu literally means 'lake source temple' and is significant because lake Batur is the primary water source for most of Bali's agriculture.

Ulun Danu Batur
The author outside Ulun Danu Batur

The original compound was established in the 17th century on the side of Batur but it was destroyed by a great eruption from the old fella in 1917. It was relocated and rebuilt but another eruption in 1926 destroyed the original buildings nearly entirely. The 11-tired main shrine survived and it was transported again, along with other heirlooms, to its current spot, high on the caldera ridge.

You will need to 'rent' a sarong and sash from one of the ladies hanging around outside. Don't pay more than 15k (the first time I misunderstood their Balinese and accidentally bought sarongs for far more than I would have spent in Ubud), or bring your own from home. The ladies are cheerful enough to help you tie it the proper way. The compound is pleasant to wander around in but, like most Pura in Bali, it is a working temple and not set up for tourists. There are no information signs or exhibits, and you are really just admiring the architecture and enjoying stretching your legs in the cool mountain air.

Next up, drive back down to the Geo Park exhibit. I went here with my dad who is a geologist, so he was particularly delighted by this high quality and informative little museum paid for by Unesco. Unfortunately few tourists stop by, and there was literally no-one else at the Geo Park centre when we arrived. This is too bad - the air-conditioned exhibit hall is amazing and covers the geology of Bali along with a snapshot of its natural and cultural history. The audiovisual and interactive displays are obviously set up for school groups, but the amazing diorama of the volcano in the museum's centre is superb. The geological history of this volcanic island is fascinating - and the very reason that Bali is as beautiful as it is - but a Geo Park has to also have biological and cultural diversity. To cover these aspects there are some beautiful displays on Bali's prehistoric peoples and the many native animals and plants you are unlikely to see on a two-week holiday in Kuta.

Now you might like to drive down the gorgeous and winding Jalan Windu Sara to the lakes' edge. If you want to stay in Kintamani for the night, there are many guesthouses and little hotels on the lakeside, and even a couple of glamping sites. See list at the end. There are also canoe trips available as well as bicycle tours around the lake.

If you aren't templed-out, pop in to the cute Pura Segara that juts out onto the lake. After this, try out a hot bath the natural hot spring places. These are a delight if you've done the Mount Batur sunrise walk or any other more exuberant exercise. ..or any time of the day. They sit on the lakeside so the views are lovely. The entrance fees are usually R200k with a towel and a welcome drink. You could eat here but it won't be as good as the warungs on the lake...

I recommend heading to Resto Apung for a late lunch. This is a floating restaurant of faded and rusting glory but it's a spectacular spot and the food is cheap and amazing. It looks like a tourist trap (it is), but you'll ignore that with one taste of fresh lake fish (telapia), grilled in light spices and served with soft white rice and as much or as little sambal as you want to add.

Resto Apung Lake Batur
Resto Apung on Lake Batur

On your way back to Ubud, there are loads of fruit stalls if you want some snacks. You can also stop at the Tegallalang rice paddies for a photo and cup of tea. These rice fields are stunning but if you've already seen the Unesco Heritage rice terraces of Jatiluweh you won't be as impressed with this smaller, more touristy version. You can avoid the over priced tourist trash in Tegallang - on the road coming back into Ubud there are the artisan stores and factories that supply the stores and markets of Bali. Get your driver to stop at one of the wooden goods stores or basket places and you'll find troves of inexpensive souvenirs and gifts.

Tegalalang Rice Terraces
Tegalalang Rice Terraces

Cafes in Kintamani

(offering excellent espresso-style coffee along with great breakfast options)

Ritatakala Cafe


Batur 1926

Montana del Cafe (a particularly good western breakfast menu)


Eco Bike Coffee


Places to Stay (priced from high to low)

Bobo Cabin (cute cabins)


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