Amlapura is the largest city on East Bali and the capital of the Karangasem region. The original name of the city was also Karangasem, but the name was supposedly changed in order to confuse the evil spirits and prevent them from burying the city under volcanic ash. During the eruption of Gunung Agung in 1963 the city became isolated from the rest of Bali for three years.
This did considerable damage for a city that had once been a center of trade. The lava did in fact not reach the city, but several buildings were destroyed by earth quakes. Even if Amlapura today still has the status as the main center of trade and commerce on East Bali, it has not regained it’s former glory.
Once Amlapura was the seat of one of the wealthiest kingdoms on Bali, which was at it’s peak in the end of the 17th century. The King kept his position and title into the 19th century through a strong cooperation with the Dutch.
Inside the city borders are three palaces which are a memory of greater glory, Puri Agung Karangasem is open for visitors on a daily basis, the other two is also open for visits, but has not been restored. Puri Agung was built by the last King of Karangasem, Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut, around 1900. He also built the so called water palaces in the nearby Ujung and Tirta Gangga villages, both worth a visit. The palace site in Ujung was destroyed during volcanic eruptions, and has not yet been restored.
The King had nine wives, and as many as 150 people are still said to live inside the walls of Puri Agung Karangasem. Below the palace is a Muslim village, supposedly home to descendants of Sasak slaves that once were imported by the King from Lombok.
Most visitors arrive the city on the main road between Semarapura and Amlapura, but it is also possible to go by the less known road from Rendang and eastwards. This is a very scenic route along the southern slopes of Gunung Agung and passes through beautiful rice fields and forest. The last bit goes steeply down to Amlapura, with a great view of high mountains and fertile valleys.
You can find simple accommodation and restaurants here, most visitors however prefer to stay in Tirta Gangga or Candidasa.