Rice fields surround a village in Jatiluwih village in Penebel, north of Tabanan, Bali. -JP/P.J. Leo
Morning moisture that looks like pearls is still on paddy leaves and stems as the sun starts shining on the scenic terraced and winding paddy fields typical of Bali in Jatiluwih village in Penebel, north of Tabanan.
The vast expanse of paddy fields following the contours of terraced land against the background of spellbinding Mt. Batukaru and Mt. Agung use traditional irrigation known as subak, Bali’s community-based water control management system.
Farmers are engaged in their daily work such as plowing their fields, spraying pesticides on young crops, weeding the soil around paddy stems, reaping ripening grains and collecting grass to feed their cows.
Locals who breed cows choose to build sheds in the fields instead of their backyards, as they are convinced there is no theft of domestic animals in the village.
Jatiluwih is a rural settlement with a beautiful landscape of terraced and meandering paddy fields at the foot of Mt. Batukaru or Batu Kau, which further enhances the magnificence of the scenery.
About 50 kilometers from Denpasar, Jatiluwih lies at an altitude of 700 meters, which unsurprisingly makes the area pleasantly cool. It is one of Bali’s eco-tourism destinations, comparable to the splendor of Kintamani with Lake Batur and other spots on the island.
As the name indicates, Jati means truly and luwih superior or splendid, this location is thus a must-see for tourists visiting Bali. Staying away from the urban concrete jungle and getting back to nature with the wonderful sights of agriculture-based Jatiluwih is the right alternative for spiritual and mental refreshment.
“The majority of non-Bali local tourists and foreign visitors seldom and are less inclined to come to Jatiluwih as a tourist destination for nature while they’re in Bali,” said Wayan Suksma, who was born in Jatiluwih 30 years ago and now works at a coffee stall in the village. “They prefer Kuta Beach, Ubud and Tanah Lot,” said Wayan, who gathered information about Bali’s tourist spots from her customers.
“My customers from outside Bali have told me their families and friends like Kuta Beach, Tanah Lot and Ubud better. Foreign tourists aren’t much interested in the scenery of Jatiluwih either. They prefer the same terraced fields in Tegallalang, which is very close to Ubud,” Wayan said.
“Tourists from Bali, mostly teenagers and youths going by motorcycle, have helped boost Jatiluwih’s environmental tourism by enlivening the atmosphere of the village on weekends or holidays,” Wayan said.
In fact, Jatiluwih is famous for the ingenuity of its farmers, who were capable of turning the hilly zone into vast stretches of fertile land, making the village one of Bali’s paddy granaries.
The extensive and unique terraced fields of Jatiluwih were once proposed as a Cultural World Heritage nominee to UNESCO, but so far there has been no response. Should the area be declared a cultural heritage site, it would certainly further promote tourism in Bali and Indonesia in general.
Jatiluwih is not frequented by local and foreign tourists like Tegallalang, as acknowledged by Ketut Ariastini, who works at a homestay in Jatiluwih.
“While it’s near Ubud, Tegallang’s terraced fields have also brought cafés and souvenir shops, which makes it more crowded though visitors can only view the fields from a narrow perspective,” said Ketut.
“Jatiluwih is of course more deserted because it belongs to a green belt zone where permanent buildings that can cover the local scenery are prohibited, leaving only several stalls without souvenir shops. We can count the number of local and foreign tourists coming here from day to day,” added Ketut.
So, the tourism offered by Jatiluwih is great for those wishing to enjoy the rural atmosphere of the Isle of the Gods. Its tranquil, harmonious and natural environment is quite different from the hustle and bustle of city life, making it the right destination to overcome fatigue and the routines of daily life.
Travelers can take either of the following routes from Denpasar to Jatiluwih by land: Denpasar — Kediri — Tabanan — Penebel — Jatiluwih or Denpasar — Mengwi — Baturiti — Jatiluwih.