North Bali - in the Regency of Buleleng
In addition to the coastal route from East Bali, two roads lead to North Bali and the stunning coastal scenery overlooking the Bali Sea. The road through Bedugul will take you right into the old, tree-lined city of Singaraja, the Dutch administrative capital of Nusa Tenggara until 1953. One can also take the road from Gianyar through Bangli and Kintamani, passing the great volcanoes Gunung Agung (3142m), G.Batur (1717m) and G.Penulisan (1745m). When you reach the coast you will be looking at the Bali Sea. Turn left for Singaraja.
Be sure to visit the old harbour and waterfront, Bali’s original port. This is one of the few places on Bali where buildings from the Dutch occupation have been maintained. Although Bali is a mainly Hindu island, you will find traces of Muslim and Chinese influence here. Look for the largest Balinese Hindu temple here, as well as universities and museums along the tree-lined streets, and a Buddhist monastery nearby.
If you are in the Singaraja-Air Sanih-Tejakula area, make a detour and visit Yeh Mampeh Waterfall. While not unusually large, it is beautiful and not yet spoiled by over-exploitation.
Gitgit, just 20km south of Singaraja, is home to three different waterfalls. The best-known is Air Terjun Gitgit. Not too far inland from Singaraja you will be close to Gunung Catur (2096m).
West of Singaraja is Lovina, with several good hotels and cheaper B&B, where dolphin watchers spend the night and get up early for the 6 a.m. boat rides out to see the playful acrobats. Diving is excellent all along this north coast, the best being around Menjangan Island, where you can see 110 different species of coral. Menjangan is home to the wild deer from which it takes its name. These animals can often be seen taking a dip in the ocean – no joke. There is a 5-star resort on Menjangan, with scenic drives and the resort’s own sailing yacht, which takes guests out to sea.
Stop at the Permuteran turtle project before reaching Labuhang Lalan, where you can catch water taxis to Menjangan Island. Pemuteran is also the home of a very successful coral regeneration project; a diving industry has grown up around this project and Pulau Menjangan.
The Bali Barat National Park, although in West Bali, is just south of Menjangan. Here the visitor can see a wide variety of wild animals and bird species, including the rare Bali Starling. Entry is by permit only, and a guide is recommended. At Cekik and Labuhan Lalang there are information and ticket offices run by the park's governing body, the Ministry of Forestry. Between Singarara and Lovina is the newish cargo port of Celukan Bawang, built in a sheltered bay to replace the crumbling port of Singaraja. It offers safe anchorage for yachts, and some cruise liners have even called in. One will often see colourful sailing boats from as far away as Sulawesi anchored in the bay.The government has plans to dredge the harbour to make way for larger cruise liners.
The sacred hot springs, 'Air Panas' of Banjar, are set in the jungle and in a beautifully landscaped tropical garden. Close to Lovina, the springs include three public and one private pool. The sulphurous water is of volcanic origin, and has an agreeably warm temperature of 37º Celcius - ideal for people suffering from rheumatic diseases.
There are several places to stay, from the very affordable to the quite high-end. Taman Sari is one of the best, with a variety of accommodations at varying prices. It is well-maintained and right on the beach.
North Bali is quite wild and underdeveloped. Expect a quiet and peaceful stay, and do not be impatient at the restaurants. You have plenty of time and will be well rewarded with most excellent seafood dishes.