Tabanan encompasses a broad range of landscapes – from the lofty peaks in the north, including Mt Batukau and part of Mt Bratan with its dramatic volcanic lake, to the verdant rice plains in the south. Beautiful black sand beaches between Pasut and Klatingdukuh are now being developed for tourism, but apart from the famous seaside temple of Tanah Lot, this is not yet a tourist area.
Many rivers run north to south from the mountains to the sea. Most roads follow their courses, with only a few running east to west. The main highway from Java passes through the gently sloping southern part of Tabanan along the coast. This has turned Tabanan Town into a thriving commercial center.
A steep, winding road leading across to Singaraja on the north coast passes from Beringkit (in Badung) via Perean, Bedugul, Candi Kuning and Baturiti. The mountainous area around Bedugul is cool, misty and rainy. Vegetables, such as carrots, cauliflower, cabbage and maize, as well as many fruits (including apples and even strawberries) grow well here and are sold at the market in Bedugul. It is traditional for travelers to stop here and enjoy the cool mountain air before continuing on their journey.
The fast-flowing rivers have cut steep ravines into soft volcanic rocks overgrown with giant ferns (pakis). There are huge boulders in the riverbeds and spectacular waterfalls. The mountain area around Apuan offers fine views. Here one looks down upon innumerable terraces with small rice plots, surrounded by jagged dikes and tiny canals with gurgling water.
There are some archaeological remains in the north. A temple in Perean and a makara spout in Candi Kuning date from the first half of the 14th century (1334 and 1339 respectively). Copperplate inscriptions were found in the south in Kediri and Pandak Bandung (1071).
The Balinese believe that the descendants of Arya Kenceng and Arya Belog, who accompanied Patih Gajah Mada during his tour of Bali in the 14th century, settled in Badung and Tabanan. The Tabanan branch of Arya Kenceng’s line begins with Arya Tabanan, who lived with 4.000 men in the village of Buahan, on the road to Apuan. Arya Belog lived in Kaba-Kaba with 5.000 men.
After some time a new and powerful group of descendants of Arya Tabanan settled in the village of Tabanan, which was then called Singasana. They expanded their territory to the northeast (Perean, Pacung) and northwest (Pupuan). In the course of the 18th or at the beginning of the 19th century, a branch of the Tabanan family settled in Krambitan. From the foundation of the realm of Mengwi around 1700 onwards, there were conflicts and battles with Tabanan. Kaba-Kaba became an ally of Mengwi, but never warred with Tabanan.
Soon after the defeat of Mengwi in 1891 by the combined forces of Klungkung, Badung, Tabanan and Bangli, the Dutch began to expand their influence in south and east Bali by intervening in conflicts between the various rulers. This resulted in military annexations. A conflict between Badung and the Dutch over salvage rights for shipwrecks ended in a military expedition, and in September, 1906 Badung fell. The ruler of Tabanan wanted to negotiate with the Dutch. However, he and his son were captured and put in jail, where they committed suicide.
The Dutch soon reorganized Bali into seven sub-departments, with Tabanan as one. In 1929, Bali was redivided into eight realms, ruled by regents chosen from the old royal families. These received the status of “kings” in 1938, but this was only to last a few years. Indonesian independence from Dutch rule brought an end to the active role of royalty.