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Bali is famous for its stunning beaches and terraced rice paddies, but did you know that the island is also home to a few incredible water palaces? Skip the crowds in the southern beach towns in Ubud and escape to the island’s east coast to explore a few of these beautiful places. First up is the Tirta Gangga water palace.
In Balinese, Tirta Gangga means “holy water from the Ganges.” Just like the famed river in India, the water here is believed to have healing properties. It’s considered holy by locals, who use it in ceremonies. People also come here to bathe in the holy water and enjoy the beautiful surroundings, especially on a full moon when it’s said to provide lasting youth and heal illnesses.
Tirta Gangga was built back in 1946 by the last Raja (King) of Karangasem – Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem. It’s well known that he actually worked amongst the common men and laborers to construct the grand palace. He had it built in the eastern highlands, on the slope of Bali’s highest volcano, Mt. Agung.
Unfortunately, much of the palace was destroyed in the massive eruption of said volcano in 1963. It has since been restored and rebuilt. It is once again a grand and elaborate complex, and a must-see when traveling in this part of Bali.
The large grounds of Tirta Gangga includes a few ponds, pools, fountains, shrines, statues, and tropical gardens. Upon entering, the first pond you’ll see is full of statues and stepping stones, allowing visitors to actually walk around the pond and see the schools of carp that reside in its waters.
Just across from the pond is the centerpiece of the design – a lovely tiered fountain in the shape of a lotus flower at the top.
Walking around the grounds, you’ll also pass by a small shrine or two, as well as a little temple. You’re never too far from a temple when traveling in Bali! You’ll see crowds of locals hanging out, either just relaxing or participating in a ceremony. While you can bathe in the holy water, a sign on a tree nearby interestingly warns “no massage.”
In addition to the amazing landscape design, you’ll also see quite a few elaborate statues. Some are pleasing, while others are downright creepy…
You’ll notice this all across the island, as there’s always that balance between good and evil; dark and light. It’s not uncommon to see statues outside of temples or shrines that have fangs, long nails, and bulging eyes. One at Tirta Gangga is even stepping on a skull!
While it’s possible to visit Tirta Gangga on a very long day-trip from the beach towns in the south or Ubud, it’s better to stay in one of the towns on the island’s east coast instead. Use Amed or Candidasa as your base and you’ll only have a 30-45 minute drive to get here. Consider staying a few days, as there’s another water palace you’ll want to see.
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