Kintamani is a small village that hugs the rim of the famous Batur caldera in Bali’s hinterland. This gigantic caldera is reminiscent of a huge soup bowl with a serrated lip, a floor half covered in water – the crescent-shaped Lake Batur – and a set of volcanic cones, the volatile mass of Mt Batur, budding in the centre. At 1717 metres high, Mt Batur is by no means Bali’s highest volcano, but it is Bali’s second most sacred mountain after Mt Agung, and has erupted more than twenty times during the last two centuries. Many panoramic restaurants (1.6 – 5km from Tira Vilagna) rest upon the ancient crater rim, offering spectacular views of the mountain and the lake. Visitors flock to this area to enjoy an Indonesian buffet lunch, fresh tilapia fish from the lake, or a ‘from-farm-to-cup’ specialty coffee sourced from locally-grown arabica beans, which are roasted on-site.
A trek to the summit of Mt Batur volcano to watch the sun rise from behind the mighty Mt Agung in anticipation of that magical moment when the mist disperses and the vast caldera comes into view, is a truly unforgettable experience. Spending time in this highland region will leave you with an emerging sense of Bali’s spirit and energy, which is sometimes lost in the crowded, low-lying kingdoms of the south.
Also positioned on the rim of the ancient caldera, and clearly visible from Tira Vilagna (1km), is the temple known as ‘Pura Ulun Danu Batur’. The name literally translates as “head of the lake” and is dedicated to Dewi Batari Ulun Danu, the life-sustaining and highly venerated goddess of the lake. Lake Batur is the source of dozens of underground springs, which help regulate the flow of water for the farmlands and sacred bathing pools throughout the whole of the southwest region. Farmers from all over the island come to Lake Batur to pay homage to the goddess, whose towering statue stands at Songan Village on the northeastern corner of the lake.
The temple and the village of Batur were originally located at the foot of Mt Batur, but in 1926 the volcano erupted violently and both the village and the temple were buried under the lava except for the most important shrine, dedicated to the lake goddess. The residents rebuilt their village and temple high up on the lip of the caldera. Pura Ulun Danu Batur is one of the most important temples in Bali, acting as the maintainer of harmony and stability for the entire island. The temple complex, with its impressive tall gateway, contains a maze of 285 shrines and pavilions dedicated to the gods and goddesses of water, agriculture, holy springs, arts and crafts. In the northwest corner, a Chinese style shrine flanked by colourful statues is dedicated to Ida Ratu Ayu Subandar, the patron saint of commerce and the ‘administrator’ of the gods.
The area is home to the indigenous Bali Aga people, who inhabited the island long before the Majapahit invasion in the 14th century. The Bali Aga resisted the rule of the post-Majapahit kings, and eventual found refuge in the solitude of Bali’s remote mountains where they continue to safeguard and maintain their ancient culture. These people share a sacred bond with their land and its spiritual inhabitants. There are approximately 19 Bali Aga villages scattered at the foot of the volcano, along Lake Batur, to the north of the Mt Batur and in the mainland or valleys of the Kintamani district. These are places where time stands still; the residents holding fast to their unique traditions and rituals. These villages include the mysterious Trunyan on the west side of Lake Batur, which is known for its unique funeral traditions, and the fascinating Bayung Gede (6km from Tira Vilagna), which remains a calm oasis in a rapidly changing world.
Kintamani is also home to the thick coated, plume-tailed Kintamani dogs, an internationally recognised breed and the free-roaming custodians of the mountain. In the village of Sukawana, (9km from Tira Vilagna) is a large plinth on which sits a stone statue of a Kintamani dog.