Photos of the Tirta Gangga Water Palace in east Bali. Click on any of the thumbnails to see the full size image.
Northeast Bali can get quite hot and dry compared to the much wetter south, so in 1948 the King of Karangesem, based in nearby Amlapura, started construction of a "water palace" to escape the summer heat. The complex was almost completely destroyed during the eruptions of Mount Agung in 1963. Reconstruction began in 1979 but work was quite slow since by this time the kings had lost most of their land rights and so had little income to fund extravagant construction projects. In 1999, the grandson of the original builder formed a foundation to raise donations and manage the rebuilding of the gardens.
The water palace is built on the site of a sacred spring (although it seems like just about every spring in Bali is considered sacred). The spring supplies a constant high volume of water to fill the many pools that make up most of the large complex. Tirta Gangga sits at the base of a hill, and the ponds fill large terraces cut into the hillside. At the highest point are the royal residences, parts of which have been turned into the Tirta Ayu Hotel. The restaurant of the hotel looks out over the complex and makes a great place for lunch if you visit around mid-day.
Next to the palace buildings is the temple that houses the sacred spring, and which climbs up the mountainside. Within the temple is one of the largest banyan trees you will ever see. There are several small pools on the top-most terrace in front of the palace buildings that were for the use of the king and his queens. The next pool down, on the same terrace as the multi-tiered fountain that is the centerpiece of the gardens, is the large pool used by the 'gentlemen' (as my guide put it) of the court. The lowest and largest pool was open to the public. This pool is now filled with fish, but the other two pools are now open for use by the public. You can bring a bathing suit and take a swim in the unheated spring waters.
Tirta Gangga Admission
Admission to Tirta Gangga is 10,000 Rupiah (0.60 USD). There are local guides who will take you around the complex. There's no fixed fee for these guides, you just pay them what you want, although they 'advise' that the tip should be around 100,000 Rupiah (6.00 USD).