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Lake Bratan's water temple, the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, is one of the most-photographed cultural features on the Island of Bali. The Hindu temple, built in 1663, appears to float on the lovely lake. In actuality, the temple is sited on dry land with parts of the structure on small islands. That is only fitting as the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and the Balinese water gods. The second-largest lake in Bali, Lake Bratan provides much of the irrigation waters for the large numbers of vegetable farms and rice paddies in the Bedugul region of Bali's central highlands. A cool and refreshing change from the lower and more humid coastal beaches, the Lake Bratan area is a must for any Bali visitor desirous of green forests, waterfalls, mountains and natural scenic views.
Lake Bratan is embraced by the ancient crater rims of the extinct Mount Catur volcano. The caldera lake is nearly a thousand acres in size and surprisingly shallow for a crater lake; the maximum depth is only 72 feet. At 4,039 feet in elevation, Lake Bratan occupies a cool niche excellent for regional farming. The area grows a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, coffee and strawberries. The remaining peak of Mount Catur rises to the east of the lake and is a popular spot for tours and hiking. The village of Bedugal on the southwest side of the lake acts as a local tourism center. Along the south shore of the lake, a number of boating and water sports facilities offer boat rides, boat rentals, and rental equipment for water skiing, parasailing, jet skiing and paddle sports. The lake is used for swimming, but there is little information on local public beaches. Locals fish in the lake but it is not recorded as to what species they ordinarily catch.
The Village of Bedugal holds a few modern hotels and numerous small homestays and guest houses. Many restaurants and cafes offer a variety of traditional cuisine. Just west of the villages of Bedugal and Candikuning, the Bali Botanical Gardens stretch across 389 acres of plantings including over 2000 species. Besides being dedicated to conservation, research and education, the Bali Botanic Gardens also offer the Bali Treetop Adventure Park with six circuits of ziplines, bridges, nets and 'Tarzan' jumps, some suited to children as young as four. The park is often chilly and weather conditions can change rapidly, so warm clothing is advised.
No one leaves Lake Bratan without a stop at the Bukit Mungsu Market located in Candikuning. Here, visitors can buy fresh spices, fruits, vegetables and locally-handcrafted art. The area also has 'pick-your-own' strawberry fields, along with a variety of terraced fields growing cool-weather fruits and vegetables. Most visitors tour some of the most scenic sights in Bali's highlands by renting motorbikes to tour the many narrow mountain roads. A car and driver can also be engaged. Public transportation is somewhat unreliable and often overcrowded with people carrying food products and small livestock to and from markets in the area.
Nature tourism is on the rise in this area of Bali; many visitors arrive to hike in the lush green mountains. Mount Catur is a well-known and reasonably easy hiking destination; easier access is available to those who cover part of the distance by car. Mount Lesong and Mount Pohon are also popular for trekking. Opposite Bedugal on the other side of the lake are three large caves dug by forced labor at the direction of the Japanese during WWII. Local drivers acting as tour guides can usually be found to take tourists to the infamous spot. The Bali Botanic Gardens are a popular birding spot, with numerous species enjoying the wide variety of plantings and carefully cultivated ecological spheres. A growing number of homestays and guest resorts cater to eco-tourists, offering a wide variety of activities and treks geared to any interest area.
Most visitors will want motorized transportation available so they can visit the other two large lakes in the Bedugul region. Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan are also caldera lakes located not far away. At one time, the two lakes were one water body, but a landslide separated them around 1800. South of Lake Tamblingan, most visitors make a trip to the mountain village of Monduk. From the Monduk Market, one of the most breathtaking accessible waterfalls is less than a mile's walk away. The 650-foot falls are most impressive during the wet season, with the sulfur-laden waters favored as a natural treatment for skin diseases. The views over the mountain landscape are everything one could imagine mountain Bali to be.
South of Lake Bratan about 14 miles, the Angseri Hot Springs offer warm bathing both in the public pool and in private bath cabins. Several picturesque temples can be seen in the area in addition to the one at Lake Bratan. Another temple dedicated to the water gods is located near Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan, although not quite as eye-catching as the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. And, although this is primarily a Muslim country, there is a small bar near the botanical gardens. No proper resort area would be complete without a good golf course, and Bedugul is no exception. The Bali Handara Country Club northwest of Lake Bratan offers a world-class golf course and luxury lodgings to visitors.
Lodgings are plentiful near Lake Bratan-and in a wide range of accommodations. Lower-cost lodgings are often in the form of homestays and small guest cottages. Visitors should be forewarned that many such lodgings do not include heat, so bringing a sleeping bag is always a good idea. For more reliable amenities, it may be best to work with a reputable tourism agency to make reservations. Camping is allowed in several areas, but local expertise should be relied upon to find the best-and safest-areas. The Lake Bratan area is a place where your visit may be most enjoyable if you can stay a few days to see all of the sights, rather than the usual whirlwind, one-day tour from the south coast. Many a foreign visitor has fallen in love with the area and found a local villa to rent or buy in the area. There are even lakeview condos that may offer lodgings for a week or more. Now is the time to cross that Bali visit off your bucket-list.
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