For some quiet reflecting time in in Bali, look no further than the crystal pools of Tirtagangga Water Garden and Taman Ujung Water Palace. These beautiful complexes are born of Balinese royalty, back in their pre-WWII heyday of the early 20th century. Besides being a playground for photographers, the gardens are a relaxing getaway from the touristy parts of Bali. Both are within close driving distance of each other and can be enjoyed in a day or afternoon excursion.
Tirtagangga (map), located near the town of Amlapura, is the more well-known of the two. Built in 1948 by the last Raja of Karangasem, the garden’s name literally translates into “Blessed water from the Ganges,” the holy river in India. Tirtagangga itself has a natural spring that is considered holy water, which is used for religious ceremonies as well as for drinking water for the town of Amlapura and for irrigating the local rice paddies. Guests are free to roam and play — hopscotch across the playful Mahabharata Pond, or dip your fingers into the 11-tiered Nawa Sanga fountain. A swimming pool on the upper level of the garden is open to the public, and looks more and more enticing as the day’s sun beats down on your neck. Entrance fee to the garden is Rp 5.000 ($0.55 USD), with an additional fee for swimming.
Taman Ujung (map), located next to the black sand beach of the coastal city of Ujung, is the water palace of the late King of Karangasem, who ruled in the first half of the 20th century. The grounds destroyed in the explosion of nearby Mt. Agung in 1963 and further ruined by an earthquake in 1979. The government and royal family have since restored Taman Ujung. The expansive grounds dilute the few tourists who make it over here, making this water palace a quieter and more peaceful stroll than Tirtagangga. Wander into the rooms of the palace itself, or climb the terraces for a bird’s-eye view of the grounds. And while you may be the only tourists around, you’ll probably catch a glimpse of newlyweds posing for wedding pictures — this place has caught the eye of many a fanciful Asian bride. Entrance fee to the water palace is Rp 10.000 ($1.10 USD).