Despite living in Bali for two years and visiting it dozens of times on holiday, I had never been any further north than Ubud (which is not very far). So, after consulting Google Maps, my friend and I set off with our driver from Canggu (on the south west coast) and headed north into unknown territory.
Our first stop was the Taman Ayun temple in Mengwi. The complex was built around 1634AD during the reign of the first King of Mengwi. It's a place to worship the Royal ancestors and features several pagodas of varying heights. One interpretation is that the pagodas are a representation of the mountains of Bali, which are considered holy, and have either 3, 6, 9 or 11 levels depending on which mountain they represent. The tallest are a tribute to Bali's highest and most revered mountain, Mount Agung. Symbolically, the levels also represent the more important Hindu gods.
While you can't enter the inner part of the temple, you can wander around it and through the surrounding gardens, which are green and immaculately kept.
Next on our adventure we visited the Jati Luwih rice fields, which are considered among the most scenic in Bali. The rice fields have been protected by being added to the Unesco World Heritage List. While they were beautiful, I don't think I'd travel all that way just to see them, although the day we visited, the sky was very grey, so maybe we didn't get to experience them in their full glory.
As we continued north, we came across the Beratan lake with its small but photogenic temple on a little island just a few metres from the shore (it's featured on the 50,000 rupiah note). The temple complex is enormous and the grounds are beautiful. The lake is a popular holiday spot, and you can rent all sorts of watercraft to get around it. If you’ve ever wanted to peddle around in a swan shaped pedal boat, this is your chance!
Our first night in northern Bali was spent at the absolutely stunning Munduk Moding Plantation. This place was so amazing, it deserved its own blog post, which you can read here. But just to give you an idea of what it looked like, here's a couple of photos:
Other than Munduk Moding, one of the highlights of north Bali is the waterfalls, and you can trek to dozens of them. Gitgit is probably the biggest and most well known, and consists of a series of waterfalls that you can repel down. On this trip, I was determined to trek to Munduk waterfall, but these plans were spoiled when I realised I'd left my shoes back in Canggu (jungle trekking is not the kind of thing you want to do in thongs). So I had to give up on the idea of trekking and drive there instead, and it was definitely worth the effort.
After the waterfall, we stopped off to see the twin lakes, but the rain had set in by that stage, so we mostly just saw a bit of water swallowed up by rain and clouds. I can imagine when the weather is fine, it has spectacular views though.
Our last stop north was the beachside town of Lovina, where we checked in to The Lovina hotel. While it's what I would consider a 'touristy' hotel, I really enjoyed staying here, mostly because of its position right on the beach and its laid back vibe.
Our poolside room was really lovely, and featured a separate lounge, kitchen/dining area, large bathroom and bedroom decorated in pleasant colours. The main pool area was really nice, and I would've loved to spend a lot more time lying around it! It was a stunning dark blue and was surrounded by greenery, with the ocean sparkling through the trees in the background.
The restaurant at the Lovina was right next to the beach, and being the off season, we had the place to ourselves. We were even serenaded through the whole of dinner by a local band and Balinese dancer! The food was good, and the beach bar was a pleasant place to sit with a cocktail after dinner.
The beach in front of the Lovina was black sand, but mostly free of rubbish, although I did see several staff combing the beach picking it up. It was a really pleasant walk along the coast to look at the local fishing boats.
Breakfast at the Lovina was pretty standard, but the view from the breakfast room was sensational; a carpet of green rice fields with the mountains in the background.
The hotel also had bicycles for guests to use to ride around town, but to be honest, there's not a lot to Lovina, and its charm and main adventures centre around the beach and the ocean.
Our final stop before we headed south was the local hot springs, which are about a 20 minute drive from Lovina. There are three separate pools, as well as spouts to stand under and get a free massage.
After the hot springs, we jumped in the car and headed back down south to Canggu, which was about a 3 hour straight drive. Our northern adventure was definitely worth the trip and it was such a thrill to see this beautiful part of Bali.
Notes: we went to north Bali in March, which is considered off season. While in the mountains it was raining, the weather in Lovina was beautiful and it was a great time of year to go as there were no crowds.