Tirta Gangga is a village in East Bali.
Tirta Gangga literally means water from the Ganges and it is a site of some reverence for the Hindu Balinese. Strictly, the name refers to the water palace built here in 1946 by the King of Karangasem. It is though widely used to refer to the general area which includes the water palace and some particularly stunning rural areas around.
If you are driving yourself, Tirta Gangga is on the main east coast road just north of the town of Karangasem (Amlapura) and is fairly well signposted.
This is a great area of Bali in which to walk with many small roads and paths to explore.
The primary draw in this area for visitors is the Tirta Gangga water palace, a lovely maze of pools and fountains surround by a lush garden and stone carvings and statues. The one hectare complex was built in 1946 by the late King of Karangsem but was destroyed almost entirely by the eruption of nearby Mount Agung in 1963. It has been lovingly re-built and restored and has an air of authentic royal magnificence. The centrepiece of the palace is an eleven tiered fountain, and there are many beautiful carvings and statues adorning the gardens. This is a great spot to unwind and it has a real atmosphere of old Bali. You can bathe in the pools for a small charge which is additional to the Rp 20,000 (foreigners) or Rp 10,000 (Indonesians) entrance fee.
The area around Tirta Gangga holds some stunning rice paddy terraces. Those postcard pictures of Bali rice terraces which you have all seen are usually from photographs taken here.
Lempuyang Temple (Pura Lempuyang Luhur) is about 10 km east of Tirtagangga on the slopes of Mount Lempuyang. This is one of the key nine directional temples on the island. Park in the car park and walk up the steps to the temple. The lower temple is always open but the upper temple (at the top of the dragon staircases) is often locked, so it is best to go with a Balinese driver who will usually be able to arrange for the temple priest to open it up for you. It's situated high up a mountain and there are magnificent sunset views at dusk.
Taman Ujung or Taman Sukasada (Sukasada Park) is 5 kilometers to the southeast of Karangasem (Amlapura), another water palace built by the predecessor of the King who constructed Tirta Gangga. It must be said that it is rather inferior, but still a charming attraction, worth a visit, and more quiet than Tirta Gangga. Taman Ujung was built in 1909 as a relaxation and recreation palace by the then King of Karangasem, I Gusti Bagus Jelantik. It was largely destroyed by the eruption of Mount Agung in 1963, damaged again by an earthquake in 1979, and has not been restored on the same scale as Tirta Gangga. You do get a sense of how lovely it must have been though. From Tirta Gangga, head back south to Karangasem and then take the minor road south east to the village of Ujung. Taman Ujung is another 2 km past the village, very close to the coast. If you are staying in Tirta Gangga or Candidasa, you will certainly be offered tours which include Taman Ujung. As of 2015, domestic tourist tickets cost Rp 10,000 and for foreigners, the fees are Rp 35,000 for adults and Rp 15,000 for children. The location has been popular for more than two decades with photographers, and has frequently been used as a backdrop for portraits, because of the contrast between the ancient, coarse Sukasada Park and the refined look of modern models. Nowadays, the site is also used as a pre-wedding photo site. Officially, the fee is Rp 200,000 for photo modelling and Rp 750,000 for pre-wedding photos, but nowadays there is also a fee of Rp 50,000 for tourists with DSLRs.
- This is a great trekking area with some of the best walks in Bali to suit all levels of fitness. Guides can be arranged easily at the water palace or from your hotel. The areas around Selat and Sideman (off the main Karangasem to Rendang road) are especially good. A good stating point for trekking information and for finding a knowledgeable guide is the Genta Bali restaurant at the water palace. As a rule of thumb, look to pay about Rp 70,000-100,000 per hour for a reputable guide.
- Bathe in the pools at Tirta Gangga.
- Take photos. Almost every twist and turn you make in this area presents yet another photo opportunity. The terraced rice paddies and other landscapes are especially attractive but do not neglect the water palace itself.
There are many souvenir shops and stalls at the entrance of the water palace.
Good Karma is a great value, long-established restaurant above the main car park of the water palace.
Tirta Ayu inside the water palace is a good quality restaurant with a superb aspect looking out over the pools and gardens.
There are several budget accommodation options alongside the main road both south and north of Tirta Gangga. Look for the signs.
- Cabe Bali, Temega village (about 1.5 km south of the water palace), ☎ . Delightful bungalows in a very rural Balinese setting. Great gardens and a public swimming pool. German owned and managed. From Rp 700,000.
- Dhangin Taman Inn (right by the entrance to the water palace), ☎ . Basic rooms aimed at the budget traveller. From Rp 90,000.
- Kusama Jaya Inn, ☎ . Budget accommodation just to the north of the water palace. From Rp 90,000.
- Padobamimpi, Ababi, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This house has a spacious living room with a double bed (a spare bed can be made available on request). The bathroom and kitchen both have hot running water and there is a terrace with panoramic views. It is on a hill at the edge of the jungle and overlooks rice terraces leading to Mount Lempuyang (1,056m). €25.
- The Villas at Tirtagangga, Tirtagangga, ☎ . Three different private villas adjoining the Water Palace. The largest of them, Villa Tirta Ayu, incorporates the former King of Karangasem's personal chambers. From US$ 120 to US$ 400.
- Tirta Ayu Hotel & Restaurant, Tirtagangga, ☎ . The only hotel located inside the famous Water Palace at Tirtagangga. The hotels award winning restaurant is elevated to take in the vista of the beautiful gardens with the crystal clear ocean in the distance. Prices from RP 800,000.