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The Quiet Corner of Bali

It’s quite a surprising thing, that all of Bali’s ancient and a good part of its recent history lies along its northern coastline, and yet except for a couple of places this is maybe the least known or explored of all the island’s regions.

It looks different too, with mountains closer to the sea and their foothills making an occasional corniche for the main road to snake along. The region is famously dryer than the rest of the island for the better part of the year. The sky is a touch more blue, the air is lighter and more clear, the gentle breezes of early morning and evening are a soft caress on skin and hair. This could be southern California or an isle of the Mediterranean. Grapes grow here and some enterprising individuals are tempted to make wine from them too!

Along the north coast you will see more mosques and musholla, for some of the people are originally Javan, Maduran and Bugis. There is a different style to the villages too, much more like those of eastern Java and the island of Lombok than the villages of central or southern Bali.

Most of the beaches along the northern coast are a dark volcanic grey or mixed coral-and-volcano milk chocolate brown. There is one glorious exception: the golden coralline sands of Pemuteran. What is lovely about all the beaches, especially in Lovina, is that the sea is shallow – you can walk many metres before the warm waters lap against your swimming costume. So it’s great for families and children, as all the locals know.

Tourism began in northern Bali in the 1920s, the time when Bali was first noticed by the world at large. It actually began in Singaraja, which at the time was Bali’s main port and the Dutch colonial capital, not only of Bali but all the islands east of here. From Singaraja these tourists, Charlie Chaplin and the like, were taken over the hills to Bedugul or Batur, then down to Ubud and Sanur. World War II stopped all this, of course, so tourism only began again in the 1950s, led by a couple of entrepreneurial local officials, one of whom the descendant of the one-time kings of Bali’s northern coast.

Tourism slipped away during the troubles of the mid 1960s. It was almost completely forgotten until the late 1980s when some expat individuals opened some holiday homes, only to be hammered again during the financial crisis of 1997 and again after the bombings in 2002 and 2005. Only now are people coming back in greater numbers to discover this side of Bali. Which makes it a great and very pleasant alternative to the southern crush.

Several places are well known and good for snorkelling and diving, particularly the Menjangan islands, Pemuteran and around the eastern cape towards Kubu. The shallow coast with its occasional coral reefs suddenly drops into the deep, a riot of colours and the many different animals that live there.

One of many locations described in “The Great Guide to Bali”, an eBook with more than 120 locations and 160 high quality photographs. Read more about this book here.