Taman Tirta Gangga, a royal water palace, forms the heart of a small village surrounded by rice terraces seven kilometres north of Amlapura. The palace was built to preserve the sanctity of a natural spring considered holy by the Balinese and to provide a place of contemplation, relaxation and fun for visitors. The calming gardens are a great opportunity to take a breather from busy sightseeing — you might even go for a dip.
Tirta Gangga was built in 1948 by the last Raja of Karangasem (H.H. Sri Paduka Ratu Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem 1887-1966). He had previously built the water palace at Ujung, south of Amlapura.
The palace is a complex of pools, fountains, water plants and sculptures and covers an area of about 1.2 hectares over three levels. Upon entering the narrow gateway, the extensive tropical gardens, with several koi-filled ponds, unfolding before you.
An eleven-tiered fountain rising from the centre sits behind a maze of statues of characters from the Hindu epic tale the Mahabharata. To your left, two large pools are divided by an island of small fountains and statues of demons. Sculptures of Barong and Rangda — who in Balinese mythology represent tension between good (Barong) and evil (Rangda) — guard the end of the central path. Towards the back of the garden, two large spring-water-fed swimming pools sit at different levels. In front of the higher level pool, under a huge banyan tree, is the holy spring. Additionally, several areas around the garden are designed for meditation and quiet contemplation.
The design is based on te principles of Balinese cosmology. The lower level, to your left, is the world of demons (Bhur); to your right, the middle section, is the human world (Bwah); and the upper level with the holy spring is the level of gods (Swah). In Balinese, ‘Tirta’ means holy water, and the word ‘Gangga’ comes from Ganges — the holy river in India.
The swimming pools are open to the public. Entrance to them is priced separately: The higher heavenly pool is 10,000 rupiah and the lower earthly pool is just 5,000 rupiah. Most of the local kids are happy at earth level. There are change rooms behind the higher swimming pool.
Taman Tirta Gangga doesn’t have a dress code (except for the temple), so you can wear a bikini or a burkini or anything in-between. Beware, the water in the pools is freezing, though it warms up a bit by the afternoon. If you’d like to bathe like a king or queen and cool down from the heat of the day, this makes a relaxing stop. Don’t forget swimmers, towel and sunscreen.
If you’re after tourist-free photos, it’s best to avoid the middle of the day, as it can get crowded and may not have the serenity intended by its creator. Most visitors stop by Tirta Gangga on a day trip, but if you’d like to take some time out and explore the area, there’s a good range of accommodation nearby.
By Sally Arnold
Last updated on 1st March, 2016.