Photo: Temple ceremony at Pura Luhur Lempuyang.

Introduction

Framed by Gunung Agung to the northwest and Gunung Lempuyang to the northeast, Amlapura is just five kilometres from the east coast of Bali, sitting on the main road connecting Candi Dasa and Amed. The town itself doesn’t often feature on travellers’ itineraries, but the nearby rice terraces and water palace of Tirta Gangga plus the windswept beaches at Jasri do.


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Amlapura has a rich royal history. Previously named Karangasem, it was the court of the Karangasem kingdom, which stretched as far as Lombok. At one point the centre of the kingdom reversed when the Lombok king attacked his ancestral home. Through affiliations with the Dutch overlords, Karangasem was able to regain power, and remained one of the last surviving kingdoms in Bali. The legacy of the kingdom forms the bulk of the tourist attractions in this area of East Bali.

Exploring Tirtagangga water palace

Exploring Tirtagangga water palace

In Amlapura itself, the royal palace Puri Agung Karangasam remains home to many of the descendants of the former great kingdom. Open to visitors, it’s a fascinating window on the glory days of the past. The last king of Karangasam also built two water palaces and both can be visited: Taman Sukasada in Ujung and Taman Tirta Gangga. They are relaxing and serene places to spend some time, and it’s possible to swim at Taman Tirta Gangga. In 1963, much of Amlapura was destroyed by the eruption of Gunung Agung. To avoid further disaster and confuse the spirits, Karangasem became Amlapura.

Modern Amlapura is East Bali’s major transport hub and is well connected to all parts of Bali. Otherwise it’s a fairly sleepy place and there isn’t a whole lot to see or do, however if you find yourself in town, it’s quite pleasant to wander the streets for half an hour or so. The large maze-like daily market is a great place to pass some time, and it’s an engaging insight into the local area and its people. The market takes up almost an entire block bordered by Jalan Diponegoro, Jalan Kesatriaan and Jalan Gajah Mada. It’s located next to the bemo terminal. Market traders are a multicultural bunch and Amlapura has a sizeable Muslim population due to its historical association with Lombok. Amlapura isn’t choked by traffic like some other towns and is very clean and tidy; in the past the town has received awards for being Indonesia’s cleanest small city. When travelling around by car or motorbike, be aware Amlapura has a series of one-way streets which may see you going around in circles if you miss a turnoff.
At the market.

At the market.

Amlapura is great for a day-trip, but there isn’t really accommodation specifically for tourists in town. Some of the most spectacular rice field views in East Bali are to be found just 15 minutes up the road at Tirta Gangga, home of Taman Tirta Gangga water palace. It’s a laidback place to spend a couple of days and has several good accommodation options nearby. There’s excellent trekking and some interesting local villages. The village of Budakeling has a number of silversmiths and blacksmiths that can be visited. Trekking guides can be arranged through Good Karma Restaurant in the carpark of the water palace, or across the road at Genta Bali. Genta Bali have good hand-drawn maps of the local area for sale for 5,000 rupiah, if you prefer to explore without a guide. Bungbung Adventure Biking organise bike trips from Tirta Gangga — their office is next door to Rijasa Homestay. Also, you’re not far away if you wish to do the hike to Pura Luhur Lempuyang.

Between Amlapura and Tirta Gangga, Bali Asli offers excellent cooking classes — or you can just stop and eat in their delicious restaurant.
Temple scenes.

Temple scenes.

Five kilometres southwest of Amlapura, Jasri’s often wild stretch of black sand beach has some good surfing and the untamed ocean views will keep you mesmerised. Accommodation here ranges from affordable flashpacker through to amazing luxury.

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Orientation
You’ll find Amlapura’s police station at Jalan I Gusti Ngurah Rai; T: (0363) 21 167. The post office is 28 Jalan Gatot Subroto. Hardy’s Supermarket at 14x Jalan Diponegoro has plenty of ATMs.

If you need a doctor, you could try RSUD (Public Hospital); Jalan I Gusti Ngurah Rai; T: (0363) 21 470 or Rumah Sakit Bali Med Karangasem (Private Hospital); Jalan Nenas; T: (0363) 430 1618; www.balimedkarangasem.com.

At Tirta Gangga you’ll find a BRI ATM is in the carpark of the water palace; a Mandiri ATM is 100 metres back towards Amlapura.

For trekking, Good Karma and Genta Bali can arrange guides. Treks generally start in Tirta Gangga, but you may need return transport. Rates vary depending on length and difficulty of the trek, and group size. Expect 150,000 rupiah for a two-hour trek for 1-2 people.
Good Karma: Taman Tirta Gangga carpark; T: (0363) 22445; (0813) 3871 1399; goodkarma.tirtagangga@gmail.com

Guides: I Komang Gede Sutama T: (0813) 3877 0893; Made Wenten (0852) 3740 4984.

Genta Bali: Opposite Taman Tirta Gangga carpark

Guide: Nyoman Budiasa T: (0363) 22 436

For cycling, try Bungbung Adventure Biking: T: (0813) 3812 1056; bungbungbikeadventure@gmail.com.


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