Nature lovers, serenity seekers, and explorers of ‘the real’ Bali will love Tabanan. In this Indonesian regency, founded in the 14th century and covering almost 850sqm of south-west Bali, stretching from the sparkling black sands and craggy cliffs of the coast to the soaring heights of Bali’s tropical hinterland, there is much to explore. From Bali’s most beautiful temples to a unique Balinese Hindu culture, where small villages are bound by customs and colourful religious rituals. Early mornings see fishermen heading out to sea in their colourful wooden jukung (fishing boats), while farmers in bamboo hats plough their rice fields.

Tabanan is known as Bali’s rice bowl, and you don’t need to look far to find picturesque rice fields, whether sloping gently down to the sea or clinging to steep terraces as the land rises sharply toward the majestic volcanoes of central Bali. The famed rice fields of Jatiluwih are a protected UNESCO world heritage site located in Bali’s lush foothills. Sign up for a tour and explore this scenic region by bicycle, foot or land cruiser.

Rice fields of Jatiluwih

Nearby, two other luxury Tabanan villas are close enough to visit Canggu and Seminyak for a meal or shopping spree, yet rural enough for that away-from-it-all experience. If you are seeking a soothing vista of emerald green, check into Kaba Kaba Estate which is gloriously located close to the coast, amidst a seemingly endless sea of rice fields. This palatial eight-bedroom villa is a treasure trove of antiques and makes a truly luxurious hideaway. Meanwhile, the five-bedroom The Arsana Estate has sleek modern buildings sprawled over two beautiful hectares of terraced hillside and boasts a home theatre and games room.

One of Bali’s best-known and most-photographed attractions is Tanah Lot, a mystical sea temple that clings to a craggy island just metres from the shore. Sunsets here are magnificent, but often rather crowded. Staying in a nearby villa means you can wander down for an equally stunning sunrise and avoid the crowds.

Tanah Lot Temple / Photo credit: Nick Fewings

Just north of Tanah Lot, secluded Kelating Beach has a wide stretch of black sand sweeping around to a picturesque headland. Conditions for beachcombing are perfect and you will probably have the bay all to yourselves. Tucked into a coconut grove, just metres from the sand sits the stylish, nine-bedroom Villa Kailasha which makes an idyllic beachside escape. Staying at this tranquil respite will make you feel like you’re staying in your very own private boutique hotel. Seclusion is guaranteed, with bedrooms spread across various pavilions. 

Following the road along the coast brings you to Luhur Srijong Temple. The big cave underneath the temple is home to thousands of bats who swarm out as if on cue at sunset each night in a dazzling spectacle. The quiet village of Balian is just a little further on. In this pretty spot, popular with surfers and expats who have escaped the hustle and bustle of the south, you will find a few warungs (local eating houses) and a smattering of cafés and restaurants.

Heading inland you’ll pass miles and miles of steeply terraced rice fields. On a small winding road just north of Tabanan City, the village of Penatahan has steaming hot springs nestled into the tropical rainforest. Keep following the road and you will come to the beautiful Batukaru Temple set on a plateau in the rainforest in the shade of the extinct volcano Mount Batukaru. Hikers can trek to its summit, but it’s advisable to hire a guide. Another evocative temple in these parts is Ulun Danu Bratan Temple, which seemingly floats above the waters of the lake.

Tabanan gives you the chance to escape the crowds and discover a different side of Bali, one filled with mighty flowing rivers, verdant rainforest, scenic rice fields and towering volcanoes.