The traditional Balinese temple-like architecture and carvings at Banjar’s sacred hot springs help create the most attractive of Bali’s geothermal baths. Amid lush topical grounds three pools are fed by naturally hot spring water spewing from the mouths of carved stone nagas.
In Hindu philosophy nagas (mythical snake/dragons) are the protectors of springs, wells and rivers. They are believed to bring fertility and prosperity and carry the elixir of life and immortality. We don’t know if that can all be guaranteed by bathing here, but it’s worth a try.
The top narrow pool is the shallowest and warmest with a consistent depth of one metre, and here water gushes in from eight of the carved creatures. The lower pool is fed from the overflow via five more naga heads. This much larger pool ranges from a depth of one metre to two at its deepest point, making it popular for local kids to practice dive bombing at the deep end. In the third pool, water streams from three spouts a few metres high offering an exhilarating, bruising massage. The water itself is not clear, but murky-green and slightly sulphurous, with a mild rotten-egg smell (but not offputting). Be careful climbing into the pools as the combination of heat and minerals have made it ideal for slippery algae to grow on the surfaces, and the stairs into the baths are difficult to see, often causing people to slash in unintentionally. The minerals and sulphur will discolour light-coloured clothing yellow and blacken silver jewellery. The colour usually washes out after a few washes, but don’t wear your favourite pristine whites.
This isn’t the place for wearing Western-style swimmers — it’s a holy spring and treated locally somewhat like a temple, so shorts and a T-shirt are more appropriate, although men can usually get away with just shorts. We have seen plenty of Western women in bikinis (and local guys photographing them from behind the bushes), however when we have asked the local women they have suggested more modest attire.
The pools are newly filled each morning, and at this time the water is warmer, and it gradually cools thought the day, particularly if it rains. Around 17:30 the water begins to drain into the river below. A path behind the pools leads uphill to a small temple (wear a sarong and sash if you wish to enter), where you can see the source of the water pouring into a small sulphur-stained pool. Within the complex a restaurant (with free WiFi) overlooks the pools, and a spa offers massage treatments. A couple of small shops sell ice-cream and drinks. Smelly change rooms are available free of charge. You can rinse off the sulphur at cold outdoor showers constantly flowing from two pipes — often with a queue.
The ticket booth is in the carpark, then it’s a 250-metre walk past a bombardment of souvenirs stalls. If you’ve forgotten something to dry you off, "Gucci” and “Chanel” towels are for sale at several stalls. The springs are hugely popular with the Balinese, especially on weekends and holidays. The area is particularly lovely during temple anniversary dates when the nagas are “dressed” in colourful cloth and covered in flowers.
How to get there
Banjar Hot Springs is 10 kilometres from Lovina. Getting here by public transport requires a bemo travelling along the main Singaraja-Seririt road and then an ojek (or a 2.5 km uphill walk) from the turnoff to the hot springs. An ojek return from Lovina is 50,000 rupiah. Combine with a visit to Brahmavihara Arama Buddhist Monastery and Sing Sing Waterfall for a half-day excursion from Lovina.
By Sally Arnold
Last updated on 21st September, 2016.