“Go West young man, and into the country”, instructs American author Horace Greeley in his oft-quoted phrase, and on The Island of the Gods, as in The Land of the Brave, once you leave the crowded streets (in this case, those of Kuta and Seminyak) behind and head west, a whole different world is revealed. A more traditional Bali, a picturesque rural scene of gently terraced rice fields, quiet villages, dramatic sea temples clinging to rocky islands and deserted ocean beaches.
Pererenan, to the west of Canggu, is an increasingly popular area for holidaymakers as it’s close enough to Seminyak (10km) for an evening out at one of many gourmet restaurants or for an afternoon shopping trip, but still possesses a serene laid-back village vibe. The beach here, with its rugged rocky outcrops and tidal pools, is undeveloped, except for a couple of local warungs and basic kiosks selling Bintang beer, soft drinks and coconuts. It can be a little stony for swimming – best to stay between the flags at neighbouring surf break, Echo Beach, which is just a couple of hundred metres further along the sand and has a great selection of cosy eateries offering music, beer and sunset seafood barbecues. Villas in and around Pererenan include the gorgeous beachside four to seven-bedroom Sungai Tinggi Beach Villa, ocean-view six-bedroom Villa Luwih and grand eight-bedroom Villa Manis and the three-bedroom riverside hideaway, Villa Pangi Gita. For a real rural retreat (but still only 12km or so from Seminyak and 4-5km from the ocean) try the chic five-bedroom The Iman Villa or the charming Dutch-colonial-styled three-bedroom Villa Mako.
Heading further westwards brings you to the peaceful fishing village of Seseh, where narrow country lanes leading to the coast call for leisurely bike rides and afternoon strolls. Farmers work in the rice paddies, children fly kites in the fields and cows take shelter from the midday sun under the shade of mango trees. Those looking for a dreamy, romantic getaway will be enchanted by the two-bedroomed Villa Belong Dua set in a whimsical walled garden, just 300 metres from the beach.
The wide expanse of Seseh’s black sand beach is fringed by thick coconut groves, and is perfect for beachcombing – apart from the sunset hour, you will probably find you have the whole beach to yourselves. Reminiscent of Bali pre-tourism, all is quiet here, but for the hum of cicadas, the crow of roosters and the crash of waves on the shore. The luxury Seseh Beach Villas overlook the ocean and have a choice of five or six-bedroom residences, right on the beach and are well equipped for families. Gorgeous interiors and lush gardens make it a popular choice for weddings and events.
Once a small trading harbour, Seseh also has a large and ornate beachfront temple that sets the scene for long traditional processions, especially during Melasti (the cleansing rituals that take place prior to Nyepi – the day of silence which ushers in the Balinese New Year in March). It is also known for a good surf break that is never crowded.
Two kilometres north of Seseh, and set on a sloping hill with panoramic views of rice fields stretching to the azure sea, stunning seven-bedroomed Villa Mandalay with panoramic rice-terrace views, a 25-metre pool, sauna, and huge garden. Keep an eye out in this area for the unique sight of solitary farmers shepherding hundreds of ducks down the winding country lanes. They are put to work in the rice fields to eat small insects.
The charming traditional village and black volcanic sand beach of Cemagi come next, an area best known for its mesmerising sea temple, Pura Gede Luhur Batungaus, which perches on a rocky outcrop that juts out to sea. In many ways, it is a miniature version of its more famous, but far more crowded big sister, Tanah Lot temple, a few kilometres away. This is a beautifully scenic spot especially at sunset, and a perfect holiday destination for those that like to gaze at the ocean, walk barefoot on the sand and be lulled to sleep by the sound of the sea. The beach is not patrolled and can be a little rough for swimming, but a small cluster of exclusive luxury beachfront villas each has a gorgeous swimming pool, while five-bedroomed Villa Maridadi also has uninterrupted sea and temple views and evocative traditional design.
Those looking for an idyllic, nature-inspired eco-luxe retreat will love the seven-bedroomed Taman Ahimsa with its meandering paths, swaying palms, evocative antiques and thatched pavilions.
A couple of kilometres inland, Cemagi village gives a fascinating glimpse into traditional Bali village life and, just beyond that, en route to Tanah Lot sea temple (5km), and the world-renowned, Greg Norman-designed Pan Pacific Nirwana Golf Course (4km), are two charming riverside properties, four-bedroomed Villa Iskandar and five-bedroom Villa Atacaya.
If you seek a rural-but-not-too-remote retreat, somewhere you can experience the best of Bali’s beauty, beaches and culture but still enjoy an afternoon’s shopping spree or a night on the town, an Elite Havens private luxury villa in Bali’s wonderful wide west could be just what you are looking for. To learn more about all these villas visit www.elitehavens.com