Padang Bai is a port town where you can find numerous ferries and speed boats heading out to the neighbouring island of Lombok and the Gili Islands. On either side if the harbour, there are white sand beaches that are great for suntanning, swimming and snorkelling, and along the main drag in town there are inviting restaurants that serve up fresh seafood and rustic reggae bars that feature live bands most nights of the week.
Head further north and you’ll pass Candidasa, a pleasant seaside resort town with bungalows and restaurants overlooking the sea, and Pasir Putih, a not-so-secret white sand beach with shacks on the sand that offer fresh grilled fish and cold Bintang beers. For a small fee, you can rent a sun lounger for the day or simply set up a sarong on the sand for free.
At this point, you have a choice to head to the interior of the island or follow further north along the coast. If you head inland, you’ll reach Tirta Gangga, a gorgeous palace built by the royal family of Karangasem. Stroll through the maze of decorative ponds, fountains and statues to see the opulence of Balinese royalty in days gone by. Follow the road further inland, and you will reach the biggest and most sacred of Bali’s temples, Besakih. Keep in mind that as Bali’s biggest temple, Besakih can get quite crowded and touristy.
Continue up the coast, travelling along winding mountain roads past terraced rice fields and lush mountain peaks to Amed. Amed is actually a string of small black sand bays, each with its own unique character. Book into a peaceful seaside villa or bungalow to laze the days away on the sand, dine on fresh prawns and mussels at bamboo restaurants, or head off on a diving or snorkeling trip to see amazing reefs, colorful marine life and the famous Japanese shipwreck off of Tulamben.