Tirta Gangga is a village in East Bali. Tirta Gangga means water from the Ganges, and it is a site of some reverence for the Hindu Balinese. Strictly, the name refers to the water palace built here in 1946 by the King of Karangasem.
It is though widely used to refer to the general area, including the water palace and some particularly stunning rural areas around.
Tirta Gangga is a popular side trip from the nearby coastal resort towns of Amed and Candidasa. Organized tours are widely offered.
Public buses run from nearby Karangasem town, and Perama buses can be chartered from Candidasa.
If you are driving yourself, Tirta Gangga is on the central east coast road just north of Karangasem (Amlapura) and is pretty well signposted.
The primary draw in this area for visitors is the Tirta Gangga water palace, a lovely maze of pools and fountains surrounded by a lush garden and stone carvings and statues.
The one-hectare complex was built in 1946 by the late King of Karangasem but was destroyed almost entirely by the eruption of nearby Mount Agung in 1963.
It has been lovingly re-built and restored and has an air of authentic royal magnificence.
The centerpiece of the palace is an eleven-tiered fountain, and many beautiful carvings and statues are adorning the gardens.
This is a great spot to unwind, and it has an authentic atmosphere of old Bali.
You can bathe in the pools for a small charge which is additional to the Rp 20,000 (foreigners) or Rp 10,000 (Indonesians) entrance fee.
The area around Tirta Gangga holds some stunning rice paddy terraces.
Those postcard pictures of Bali rice terraces you have all seen are usually from photographs taken here.
Lempuyang Temple (Pura Lempuyang Luhur) is about 10 km east of Tirtagangga on the slopes of Mount Lempuyang.
This is one of the key nine directional temples on the island.
Park in the car park and walk up the steps to the temple.
The lower temple is always open, but the upper temple (at the top of the dragon staircases) is often locked, so it is best to go with a Balinese driver who will usually arrange for the temple priest to open it up for you.
It’s situated high up a mountain, and there are magnificent sunset views at dusk.
Taman Ujung or Taman Sukasada (Sukasada Park) is 5 kilometers to the southeast of Karangasem (Amlapura), another water palace built by the predecessor of the King who constructed Tirta Gangga.
It is rather inferior but still a charming attraction, worth a visit, and quieter than Tirta Gangga.
Taman Ujung was built in 1909 as a relaxation and recreation palace by the then King of Karangasem, I Gusti Bagus Jelantik.
It was largely destroyed by the eruption of Mount Agung in 1963, damaged again by an earthquake in 1979, and has not been restored on the same scale as Tirta Gangga.
You do get a sense of how lovely it must have been, though.
From Tirta Gangga, head back south to Karangasem and then take the minor road southeast to the village of Ujung. Taman Ujung is another 2 km past the village, very close to the coast.
If you are staying in Tirta Gangga or Candidasa, you will undoubtedly be offered tours which include Taman Ujung.
As of 2015, domestic tourist tickets cost Rp 10,000, and for foreigners, the fees are Rp 35,000 for adults and Rp 15,000 for children.
The location has been popular for more than two decades with photographers. It has frequently been used as a backdrop for portraits because of the contrast between the ancient, coarse Sukasada Park and the refined look of modern models.
Nowadays, the site is also used as a pre-wedding photo site.
Officially, the fee is Rp 200,000 for photo modeling and Rp 750,000 for pre-wedding photos, but nowadays, there is also Rp 50,000 for tourists with DSLRs.