The north of Bali has a reputation for being less developed than the south, the people generally a bit poorer and the choice of hostels and hotels more limited. On my road trip around Indonesia, I wanted to avoid the crowds and explore a part of the island that most tourists ignore. Unfortunately, having never been to the north of Bali, or met anyone who had been, I wasn’t sure where I should go. After a bit of research, I decided to head to the Lovina, the Seminyak of northern Bali.
You might be surprised to learn that the most popular seaside town in the north of Bali is just a three hour car drive from the international airport (Kuta on the other hand is just a short 15 minute drive away). However, those three hours make a huge difference.
Like Seminyak, Lovina is located right next to a long sandy beach. The sea is perfect for swimming in, the surrounding countryside has its charms and the hotels offer all of the convenience that you’d expect on your holiday. However, I’m afraid to say that Lovina has its fair share of problems.
The beach front of Lovina is the best place to show you what I mean. Along the main strip you find five star luxury hotel complexes sitting shoulder to shoulder with abandoned resorts that are now falling into disrepair. Next to these are the tin shacks and a rubbish littered beach front where the local fishermen live. It’s an uncomfortable combination that can’t help the town’s tourist trade and must create a fair few problems.
However, despite this fact, Lovina still retains a certain charm. Hidden away in the main part of town is a busy backpacker street full of restaurants, bars, cheap hostels and plenty of activity. It’s a little ocean of escapism in an empty town built for tourists.
In addition to the backpacking street, there are a number of interesting things that you can do around Lovina. One of the biggest attractions is the dolphin watching, which can be done early in the morning. I wish I could say that dolphin watching in Lovina is an incredible experience, but it seems to be another case of not quite getting it right for the tourists. Watching the dolphins is kind of like being entertained by a clown who is going through a mental breakdown; it’s just not funny and you leave feeling unsatisfied.
My advice, skip the dolphin watching and instead head to Banjar hot springs and the Brahma Vihara Arama Buddhist temple. They are both incredible sites and well worth visiting. You can visit both sites in a day. Go to Brahma Vihara Arama in the morning and then follow it up with an afternoon soaking in the hot springs (you can swim in them, so bring your swimming stuff).
The north of Bali has lots to offer tourists looking to get away from the crowds. Do explore the rolling hills with rice paddies, visit the cascading waterfalls, mystic temples and beautiful beaches, but don’t plan to stay overnight. For the moment the north of Bali is best experienced as a day trip.