In Bedugul, Bali’s central highlands, it’s all about nature, where lake-side temples, strawberry farms and the cool mountain air invite you to enjoy a different side of the island.
Often the tourist trail stops at Ubud. That’s as far ‘north’ as many main stream visitors will go, as part of the usual cycle of Seminyak, Nusa Dua and Uluwatu. Perhaps the lack of trendy eateries and the very limited accommodation has something to do with it, but denying a trip to Bedugul is to neglect a very different and interesting side of Bali.
Bedugul is about an hour north of Ubud, found on the northern tip of Tabanan Regency. The area is considered to be Bali’s ‘highlands’; a steep drive up takes you to 1,500m above sea-level, almost the island’s central peak before you begin sliding down to the north coast. At this altitude the air is refreshingly cool; when the day ends and begins, the clouds hang on the crest of the thickly forested hillsides, giving Bedugul its mysterious mountain atmosphere. This is what makes the area so distinct from your usual Bali experience.
The climate has made Bedugul an incredibly fertile area, making it the source of much of the fresh produce you’ll find in Bali’s restaurants, with fruits and vegetables overflowing the local market stalls. It also provides much of the fertility for the rest of Bali, with the vast stores of Lake Beratan a main source of irrigation. All-in-all, with lakes, forests and farms all around, Bedugul is an opportunity for you to get in touch with nature once again.
Whilst there are many temples on the island – one can have ‘temple fatigue’ if you visit too many – Pura Ulun Danu Beratan is a must for first-timers to Bedugul.
Built in 1633, it is one of Bali’s major temples and nestles on the shore of Lake Beratan. As mentioned, the lake has long been a source of irrigation, thus the temple is dedicated to Ida Batara Dewi Ulun Danu (or Dewi Danu), the lake goddess, prayed to for providing fertility to the land. Particularly important in an area peppered with farms.
When the weather is right, a visit to the expansive temple complex is impressive. In the early morning, the sun rises behind the distant lake ridge, providing a vibrant, almost purple backdrop to the temple with its towering 11-tiered meru shrine. When the lake is full in the rainy season, water completely surrounds the temple, making it appear to be floating. If you want a different view of the temple, you can rent a traditional row boat for IDR 75.000 and paddle out beside it, a great spot for a photo as well, with the temple, lake and surrounding mountains making for quite a scene.
This Bedugul temple complex opens at 6am, which is in fact when the view is at its best. At around 10am, groups of visitors begin to descend off of big buses and ruin the tranquil atmosphere, so come early and soak up the fresh morning air. Entrance prices are IDR 30.000 for Indonesian nationals and IDR 75.000 for foreigners.
With your dose of culture done for the day, it’s time to explore Bedugul’s farmlands. The area is famous for its strawberries, sold all around Bali but particularly aggressively in the markets and street stalls here. A claim to fame, if you will. So, as you’re at the source, rather than buying strawberries at the market, why not go and pick some for yourself!
Funnily enough – and the farmers will be the first to tell you – in fact, it’s Bedugul’s neighbouring area called Pancasari that are responsible for growing the fruit. A quick 10-minute drive from Pura Ulun Danu Beratan gets you there. There are many farms in the Pancasari area, but one spot is particularly charming. Called ‘Petik Strawberry Segening’, a small uphill road leading up to a verdant mountain showcases strawberry fields left and right. They are all part of a cooperative, in fact, they are all part of one family, and have made a pact to work together to promote their area and make it the strawberry spot.
Here, the farms receive visitors based on rotation to keep business fair. They’ll tell you, “Hi, today is number 8!” as they send you up the way to the day’s assigned farm. Each spot is individually run and each farm has done up their experience differently. All are very welcoming, of course, as you speak directly with the farmers who are delighted to have you visit.
For around Rp.10,000 per person, you’ll be given a little basket and brought to the rows and rows of strawberry fields. You’re invited to pick the best fruits and eat on the spot. When you’re done and your basket is full you’ll be charged roughly Rp.25,000 for a punnet of 250g, or Rp.50.000 for a whole kilo if in season. The best time to pick strawberries is between July and October, when the harvests are full and the berries are juicy, plump and sweet.
The farms there also offer fresh strawberry juice, a great way to cool off after a round of picking fruits under the sun. The farms at Segening are found sloping down the mountainside, a quaint and quiet spot with views out to Bedugul. A favourite farm among them was Hidden Strawberry Garden (available on Google Maps, or on Instagram at @strawberrycorps).
Another highlight of Bedugul is the Bali Botanical Gardens (Kebun Raya Eka Karya), an expansive area of 157-hectares, making it the largest botanical garden in Indonesia.
Established in 1959, the gardens used to be an impressive site. Home to unique plant collections, from orchid and begonia displays to a cactus greenhouse and rose gardens.
Since then, the displays have somewhat deteriorated in quality. Nonetheless, the surroundings are what you should really come for. Vast park-like open spaces, with a mixture of remnant tropical forest and pines filling the spaces, and winding paths that make their way between the trees. Together with the crisp Bedugul air, it makes for an invigorating and refreshing stroll through the countryside.
Many families come here for picnics, bring snacks and a packed lunch with them and find a spot on the many areas of open grass. A particular favourite spot is at the top of the gardens, a steep grassy mound that offers views over to the neighbouring Buyan Lake. With the towering, misty mountaintops surrounding the ancient trees, the scene here really presents the best that ‘this side of Bali’ has to offer.
Back to the main road from the Bali Botanical Gardens, the main Bedugul Traditional Markets (Pasar Bedugul) can be found. Here, fresh produce, potted plants and handmade souvenirs are on offer, the colours of freshly delivered tropical fruits and organic vegetables piling all over each other. Everything from dragonfruit to rambutan, snake skin fruit (salak) and of course strawberries, can be bought here. Local snacks can be purchased here too, but of course its up to your bargaining skills to get the best price!
The markets are actually a great spot for photographers looking to capture the colour of the area, as well as for those looking to get a taste of local life and engage with the local people. It works as a great final spot, so you can buy some light bites or souvenirs before the long drive back down south.
If you aren’t planning to head down the hill so quickly and want to soak up more of that fresh Bedugul air, we suggest that you spend at least a night in the area – though you may want to stay longer when you stay here:
A truly timeless spot is Strawberry Hill Hotel, nestled at the last corner before you reach the Bedugul ‘town’. On their ridge-top perch, Strawberry Hill enjoys views down the mountain and even over to the great Mt.Agung, visible in the early morning.
Here, rows of charming little mountain cottages are found sprawling between a colourful manicured garden. The accommodations here are incredibly homey, with cosy beds that open out to a private terrace.
The restaurant, also a cosy spot, is not unlike what you’d expect from a ski chalet – complete with a log fire because yes, Bedugul gets cold at night! Simple, homemade comfort foods are prepared here from breakfast to dinner. A bar is open and a pool table and darts make up for old-time family fun away from gadgets. An opportunity to disconnect.
The best part of a stay at Strawberry Hill are the mornings, where you can order breakfast to your room and enjoy it on your terrace looking out to the forested ridges in the distance as the morning dew rises, your freshly brewed coffee steaming in the cool mountain air.
The whole place is furnished with old period furniture and there are plenty of quiet spots to sit and read in peace. It’s a far cry from the south coast and one well worth a couple of days to truly disconnect and wind down properly.
Jalan Raya Denpasar, Singaraja
+62 368 21265