The city of Singaraja, located in North Bali was the designated capital of the Lesser Sunda Islands by the Dutch colonial government since 1846. The Lesser Sunda Islands comprise today’s three provinces of Bali, West Nusatenggara and East Nusatenggara, that stretches from Bali all the way east to West Timor. Prior to this, in the 17th century, Singaraja was the seat of the kingdom of Buleleng, ruled by King I Gusti Ngurah Panji Sakti. Here the king deemed to be the most strategic location for his palace.
Here he discovered a large plot of land where the local population left their cattle to graze. There was also a village of neatly built houses. The king instructed his men to mow the grass and build his palace on it.
The name: Singaraja is said to refer to this powerful king himself, singameaning lion, being the strong character of the king, thus the Lion King. Others believe that the word refers to the royal throne. The palace was built on 30 March 1604, which date continues to be commemorated until today as the founding of the City of Singaraja.
With the capital city of the province of Bali having been moved to Denpasar in the south of the island, Singaraja is today the capital city of the Regency of Buleleng in North Bali.
The region has a number of both active and extinct volcanoes and has a hilly contour. Its north coast faces the Bali Strait, with picturesque lakes due south. Although not as popular as resorts and attractions in south Bali, this regency, in fact, offers its own natural beauty.
Before Indonesia’s Independence, – and before commercial aviation -, Singaraja was the entry gate to Bali, the prime port of call for passenger and cruise ships. The legendary Charlie Chaplin is said to have visited Bali on a cruise, arriving first at Singaraja. But even since the 10th century, ships from China and other parts of Asia used to call here, which is evident from artifacts, old buildings and the Chinese temple Ling Gwan Kiong that was built in 1837.
While Dutch heritage buildings that are now private homes, offices, schools and the church of Singaraja are located around Sukasada, lligundi, Jalan Ngurah Rai, Jalan Gajah Mada, the port of Buleleng, on jalan Surapati and more.
Singaraja today is a center for education, counting two universities. It is also a popular culinary destination offering an array of mouth-watering dishes in its many restaurants and food stalls. Its residents are also friendly and welcoming.
Unlike regions in the south of the island, Singaraja is far from the glamour of city life, therefore, the city offers a peaceful and quiet ambience. While tourists who visit here are mostly those who plan to dive or watch the playful dolphins.
Familiar Balinese cuisine like Lawar, ayam taliwang (taliwang chicken) or sate lilit are easily available anywhere. But while in Singaraja why not try syobak?
Chinese influence on Bali is not only seen in heritage buildings, but is also absorbed in local dishes. Syobak is a dish of steaming white rice with side dishes of pork meat, dried fried pork slices, offal and pork skin crackers. A restaurant serving this dish is Warung Syobak Khe Lok, located on Jalan Surapati in Singaraja.
For Muslim tourists, there is the jukut buangit – another specific Singaraja dish consisting of vegetables cooked in sour – tasting spices. This dish is served along Jalan Diponegoro. Besides this, there is also the very filling dish called tipat belayang, which consists of fried red beans, slices of chicken meat, chicken crackers, drenched in a special Singaraja sauce. This dish is found along Jalan Gajah Mada and around the crossing of Jalan Serma Kerma – Jalan Laksamana.
Local residents in the village of Penglatan cook the special snack called: dodol penglatan, which is a gooey, sweet, snack wrapped in dried maize leaves.
Another snack to take home to friends and family is the jaje gambir, a local box-shaped sweet wrapped in green bamboo leaves, and sold hung in clusters. The cake is black and is filled with sweet green soya beans.
Singaraja offers a number of accommodation options in typical Balinese atmosphere.
The playful dolphins seen swimming and cavorting along the Lovina Coast at the first rays of the sun is, indeed, Singaraja’s and Buleleng’s prime attraction. Its underwater life is also no less superb.
Take time for a leisurely stroll to see the town. Visit the Ling Gwan Kiong temple at Jalan Erlangga. It has a romantic approach where visitors must walk over a bridge that crosses over a small lake decorated with blooming lotus flowers. There are gilded Buddha statues placed in many corners, and Chinese cloths draped in the temple.
At the port of Buleleng watch boats and ships alongside the pier with the open sea beyond. Here are also old building used during Dutch times to store spices. Walk through fishing villages and mingle with the locals. Take a photo of the Yuda Mandala Tama monument, built in 1987 to commemorate the fight for Independence of the Balinese against Dutch colonialism.
The distance from Denpasar to Singaraja is roughly 79 km. So that it will take between 2.5 to 3 hours to reach the city. The route is very picturesque passing hills and green valleys, and the mystifying Lake Bedugul.
Along the route, you will notice fewer temples compared to the south, since through trade and integration, the northern coastal region has been more influenced by other cultures.
There are a number of tour operators that offer packages to north Bali, among which is the Penjor Travel. This agency offers the Banyuwangi (East Java) – Singaraja transporation, while Xtrans transport, taking the route Kuta-Singaraja, charges around Rp 80,000 per passenger. If you take a taxi from the Ngurah Rai International Airport to go to Singaraja this will cost you around Rp 700,000.
Another option is to take the ferry and bus from Gilimanuk, on the west coast of Bali, to the Banyuasri Terminal at Singaraja, which costs around Rp 30,000. You can also take the bus and ferry fromSurabayawhich costs Rp 180, 000, fromYogyakarta Rp 250,000 and from Jakarta Rp400,000.
There are public transportation options available at the Banyuasri Terminal, but tourists are recommended to best take a taxi so that you will be able to look around and visit tourist attractions in and around Singaraja. The fare would be between Rp 250,000 to Rp 450,000. Besides being more comfortable, there is as yet no transportation that leads directly to tourist areas.