Desa Penglipuran: The World’s Most Neat Traditional Village
Authenticity is an ancient value kept alive by the people of Bali. The populace has a reputation in the world for paying special attention to preserving traditional philosophies and ways of life in the face of modernization and global tourism.
Desa adat (cultural villages) are distinct villages, characterized by houses that strictly adhere to traditional architecture, and the inhabitants usually perform more rituals and other social activities related to their religion, compared to the average modern individual. These kinds of villages often attract visitors who are curious about the lifestyle of older generations, although the local inhabitants have little interest in capitalizing on the potential for tourism.
Desa Penglipuran is one of those cultural villages. Located in Gianyar, in the gentle slopes of Mt. Batur, the village receives a daily dose of cool mountain breeze at 600 meters above sea level. If you ask the locals what the name Penglipuran means, you might receive more than one answer. Some might say it is derived from the phrase Pengeling Pura, which means to commemorate the elders. Others might say it is derived from the phrase Pelipur Lara, which means serenity, or peace obtained in solace. Both of these answers are correct as they are most probably a clever wordplay to describe the essence of the village.
As you enter the village, after buying an incredibly cheap ticket, initially you might be surprised by the rows of similar houses on each side of one straight, stone-paved street. On the sides of the only street leading to a local temple, the grass is green and manicured. The gardens bloom with beautiful flora and the locals’ smile hint at their top-notch hospitality.
Your idea of a village might be that of a settlement with irregularly shaped houses, variable land sizes, winding paths that spread into tens of street corners, and you might even expect “organic litter” — dead leaves, and chicken dung. Penglipuran will absolutely blow your expectations.
It isn’t because Penglipuran is a highly successful attraction that it needs to look clean to attract tourists — no, very far from it. It just naturally looks like that, believe it or not. The people of Penglipuran believe that order and cleanliness are highly respectable virtues. Every house, garden, gate, road, and temple is consistently designed under the traditional Balinese philosophy of architecture.
Don’t be afraid to ask the locals permission to visit their residency. Most of the time, you won’t need to ask — the locals will proudly show you around their establishment. The land and house design might look similar to the neighbor’s, but each owner hints their own flair in the color and decorations of their property. Electricity is used sparingly. The kitchen still uses the classic firewood hearth, and the construction material is sourced only from local resources, such as bamboo, coconut logs, thatch, bricks, and stone. Some inhabitants open souvenirs and food shops to complement their welcoming gestures.
There are many more attractions and activities surrounding the area that you must discover for yourself. To find Desa Penglipuran, you need to drive from Bangli and find Jl. Nusantara. You’ll find signboards leading up to the village. When in doubt, ask the locals. Gianyar is quite a distance from Ngurah Rai International Airport. So why not book your accommodation in a strategic location? The Mara River Safari Lodge, located in the heart of Gianyar, is less than an hour’s drive from every conceivable destination in eastern Bali.