To Lovina! Wait… what is a “Lovina”!?!
Bali is one of the world’s favourite places for Digital Nomads, probably surpassing Chiang Mai – the original Digital Nomad centre. Our days on this most magical island were typically split into two: during the day, we were visitors of the island, exploring places, learning the real culture of the Balinese
One morning we were resting at one of our favourite restaurants in Ubud, the Yellow Flower Cafe. On the musty, homely pillows on the raised dais in the corner (exclusive, hehe). So we made friends with a lovely woman! As with all great travel stories, you make many new friendships on the way, who provide the DNA of your entire trip. Our new friend told us of a faraway land called Lovina where there be dolphins! We’ve written about that experience. But what was equally as interesting and challenging was the journey to Lovina, from our home-away-from-home in Ubud.
My boyfriend not having driven a scooter in 20 years and me not having access to 4G. This was one of our first demanding and treasured adventures during our 2-month stay. We were not expecting it would be such an adventure for us Europeans, used to our flat plain road. And we had a whole day to drive 2h30! We thought it would be easy and fun.
But it was definitely for Balinese, and adventurers. The road was rougher than expected. Below, we break down our trip into tips for those who’d like to follow a similar path into the North, from Ubud.
First of all, if you are not familiar yet with scooters in Bali, or fancy some tips on how to drive in Bali, read our article HERE!
1. The Road from Ubud to Lovina
From the opinion of my beloved Google map, it is a 2h-2h30 drive, by scooter. Looking at the overview map, it was kind of going straight, but actually, it was crossing a mountain or two. If you like driving and taking in breathtaking scenery, it will be fun!
Our journey began in Penestan, just outside of the centre of Ubud, heading Northeast. The roads here are just like everywhere else in Bali, uneven, sometimes half decent but always a surprise. Once out of the “urban area”, you’ll drive along stunning lanes, with rice paddies either side and small farms dotted amongst them. We had to fight the urge to take pictures every mile or so, if we were to get to Lovina before dark.
The journey is mainly a high road, with very little sideroads so you will not mistake your path. There are only 3 forks in the 2h 30 journey, where you will need to choose between right or left. And even if you mistake it, they are often parallel to each other, but taking different mountains. You will drive on a stunning lane, with farms all along this road. It will feel like an open road, where you will mainly see some farms every 50-200 metres.
On passing Lake Beratan (Bedoegoel Province), the site of the famous water temple, the Ulun Danu Bratan Temple, the road will start ascending into the mountains, like a sinuous sharp snake. At points, it is not a simple ascent but a switchback pockmarked with sharp corners, some plateaus and yet more ascents.
At last, you will reach the top of the mountain ridge. And, if you’re lucky (like us), you’ll be driving through the cloud cover that has settled atop the mountain. You will drive on this track between many sceneries, from the top of the mountain, as if you were following the vertebrae of the mountain, to the sinuous pass, surrounded by tall trees. Some parts of the road will twist like a chocolate twist, some other parts will unroll in front of you, full of bumps and holes. So keep your eyes on the road, and don’t lose your breath by observing the unfamiliar view (or the many chickens that appear out of nowhere)!
Honestly, this mountain path is stunning. The combination of cloud cover, relative cold (more on that below), and a ridge to the left leading to a view of the twin lakes (Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan). Some small warungs dotted along viewing platforms have to be experienced to be believed. Very often, there was a moment where there were no other cars, just the sound of our small decrepit scooter. The wind flowing past our helmets with the cloud cover enshrouding us like a comfort blanket, whilst the two magnificent lakes peeked out from the treeline whilst we zipped past.
And as you will drive carefully, honking every time you can not see upfront, you will see the locals overtaking you, three times faster than you. Be mindful of how you drive, you are not a local. (and if you read my post about driving a scooter in Bali, you must have seen my tip than the police also know the difference between locals and tourists: The second one have money and pay cash!)
The conditions of the road were more or less good, depending on the long route you will bravely drive. You’ll be surrounded by many small farms, producing by themselves what they need. So there are not many people on the road. Still, beware, drive at a reasonable speed, and honk when you arrive at a corner where you cannot see, to warn you are here. Because 4/5 of the road in those mountains is only big enough for a car and a half. And all those chickens, from the farms on the side road, crossing without warning. I don’t know if they are testing our reflexes or nerves, but you get used after seeing 14 of them per hour.
We really had fun, and even if it was a bit hard. We absolutely loved the way to go there. If you are an adventure lover or want to see how the rural Balinese lives, I highly recommend you to try and immerse yourself to the country! A very high satisfaction of achievement will dawn on you, when you will see the sea. Adventures like these are confidence-building. They put you into a zone outside of your sphere of comfort and allow you to believe that you can achieve anything.
From the beauty of the views we had, to find great spots for pictures, away from the maddening crowds, there is nothing better than exploring yourself!
2. Why by Scooter?
Bali is a lot bigger than we thought. And as there are 8-10 scooters per car there, it is easy to take the decision to be independent and avoid the taxi every time you go out (except if you drink – that’s another story). Even without knowing how to drive one, it is very easy to learn to drive, and you will even see 10 yo kids driving it to see the family, go to school, or help their parents to work. It is one of the best modes of transport to have in Bali. We’ve read accounts of Western tourists who are scared of hiring a scooter and each to their own. We went for adventure and this would only have been possible on two wheels. Our “own” two wheels.
If you are still scared, you can use some Balinese apps which are the equivalent of Uber: Grab for example. A 5 min drive will cost you £2, 3$ or 2.5€. Pick your currency.
I am absolutely thankful to Google, for improving their maps the whole time. They are absolutely brilliant, AND OFFLINE!! Ok, it still needs a connection to download the map. But once your route is calculated, you don’t need the internet to see the route on your mobile. Even my boyfriend who’s a technophile didn’t know this! Absolutely a life saver! But do not forget: don’t get distracted on your scooter. Have a co-pilot behind you, to tell you where to go. Or use one earphone to hear when you have to turn.
As I was the co-pilot, I even could use my phone camera as the map minimised itself. It doesn’t use much battery; 15-20 % of my battery per hour (and my phone is 2 years old, so getting on a bit…). I highly recommend google maps. If you are reading this from your smartphone, you must have it already. If you want, you even can have a good look at what is around the route you are going through, and add some stops to your itinerary. I will give you some places to visit.
Another tip: DO NOT FORGET, after loading the map, you can start the route, and turn off your internet, or lose your internet connection. But keep your geolocation activated, or it won’t work. And the route will not calculate a new route if you make a mistake. It will still show you the routes around, and maybe your false route will merge back to the one Google chose for you.
3. Take a Jacket or a Hoodie
Also, as you will go a bit high in altitude, it can be humid (if you are unlucky with the weather), and it can be a bit cold with the wind you will have from the scooter. I recommend taking a long sleeve with you, a small jacket or a little pullover. Something easy to keep inside your bike.
4. Amazing Pitstops!
You HAVE to stop to see the twin lakes from the viewpoint. You have to. If you don’t, then I am sure you will stop on the way anyway, as the scenery is breathtaking. You will see a lot of swings around for the tourists, and even some little restaurant along the same road, traditional warung, that will offer you a cheap and delicious meal (for Europeans or Americans) while you observe the view. Between the green surrounding the lakes, and the view of the mountains, if you observe well you even could see some temples on the riverside.
Rice terraces along a mountain pass
Some of those large sneaky roads have a break area, where you can observe a panoramic view of some Balinese lakes, rice fields, and/or simply the beauty of the surrounding mountains. So if you are lucky, you even can see the farmers working on those rice fields. Due to their surrounding nature, they
They will try to sell you some fruit and bread to give to the monkeys, and that is a lot of fun! But beware, keep in mind the rules of dealing with monkeys, and keep an eye on your belongings. The monkeys are cheeky, and not in a funny way. As a
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple, built in 1633. Is also known as “Bali temple on the lake” as he seems to be floating when the when the water rise. You will find it on the side of Lake Bratan. It is used for Balinese ceremonies to the Balinese water, the lake, and the river goddess Dewi Danu. (The lake is used a lot for irrigation.) We stopped by chance over there, and beware; it is a bit busy with tourists! For more about it.
Wanagiri Hidden Hills & The Bali swing. Starting from an AirB&B who created a swing in his garden, for the perfect Instagram picture, Bali swings started growing everywhere in Bali! From Tegalalang Rice terrace to Waterfalls all around Bali. And you will find some on the way to Lovina (or Ubud). Here is the google map to find it.
Gitgit Waterfall, Nungnung waterfall, and Aling-Aling Waterfall. Aling-Aling waterfall was OUR FAVOURITE, with a waterfall to see of 35 metres, and if you want you can jump from 3 waterfalls with different heights (5m, 11m and 16m) and a natural slide in one of the waterfall. The colour of the water was a stunning blue-green. Between taking pictures of a waterfall, and jumping from it, Aling-Aling asked a lot of courage! We recommend taking a guided tour to the three waterfalls as the guide will allow you to access the “slide’ down each – a naturally occurring water slide!
Find all of Bali’s waterfalls to visit on this site here.