The beautiful island destination of Bali is extremely popular with tourists from all over the world with its gorgeous mountains, pristine coastlines and luscious rice fields, not to mention the fabulous shopping, friendly locals and high quality resort accommodation. Bali includes a few small islands and the main island, which lies between Java and Lombok and there is plenty to see and do throughout the year.
Bali is an ideal holiday for singles, couples and families alike and there is no doubt you will find what you’re looking for in a holiday, whether that might be a world of adventure or a quiet haven.
Things to see and do
BALI 'S CITIES AND TOWNS
If you want to see what metropolitan life is like in Bali there are plenty of options available, with cities and towns offering a huge variety of travelling options, though most of these are located in the popular southern regions.
In the south, major destinations to visit include the centre of cultural tourism, Ubud. Ubud is an artist’s dream and is filled with galleries, craft stores, museums and restaurants. The popularity of Ubud is constantly growing and there are plenty of activities and accommodation types to suit all kinds of budgets.
Denpasar is the capital of Bali and is one of the island’s busiest cities with crowded streets and markets. There are more than 800,000 people living in Denpasar, with plenty of malls and dining precincts, parks and museum.
Though there are not too many houses in sight, Kuta is a beautiful strip that includes a white sandy beach, bars, restaurants, shops and more. It is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit, particularly young Australians, many of whom are drawn there for the fantastic surf breaks and party nightlife.
Seminyak is located just north of Kuta and is one of Bali’s more relaxed and upscale regions. You will find plenty of accommodation options including beachside resorts and villas, as well as fine dining and quality bars.
If you venture into the less travelled north, be sure to visit Tulamben and Amed in the north-east, Singaraja and Lovina (central north), while the north-west is home to Pemuteran and Medewi.
If you want to take some quiet time out in the mountains, Bali’s central mountains peak at more than 3,000 metres, with the highest being an active volcano – Mount Agung in the east. Agung actually has major spiritual significance to the island’s local people and it is home to the 'Mother Temple' of Besakih. It forms part of a chain of volcanos that make up the back bone of Bali.
Batur is the most active of these and sees a number of small eruptions every few years. The shape of the volcano against the stunning backdrop makes this a popular place for tourists to visit. Batur lies between two concentric calderas and is a stunning active volcano which has seen more than 20 eruptions over the last 200 years. The south east side contains a caldera lake, while the inner caldera has been dated at around 25,000 years old.
Bratan is a large caldera and includes three lakes. The area is popular for its scenery and hot springs. As a result of the volcanos, and high rainfall, the mountains in Bali are actually extremely fertile, great for producing rice, vegetables and coffee. The lush green rice paddies dominate the island and can be stunning backdrops for your photographs, particularly the terraced paddies found in the centre of the island and also in east Bali.
If you enjoy a beach holiday, Bali is surrounded by beautiful coral reefs, with beaches ranging from white sand in the south, to black sand in the north. The north coast beaches are the safest, and most clean, for swimmers, but just make sure you obey the local safety markers. Kuta Beach is the most popular and was originally a destination for surfers. It is always busy with tourists, particularly younger generations, and has plenty of hotels, bars and restaurants. Sanur and Jimbaran beaches are also popular with tourists. If you’re looking for something a bit quieter, head to Legian and Seminyak beaches, near Kuta. Nusa Dua has beautiful white sands and protected lagoon, while water sport fans can head to Lovina (a black sand beach in the north) or Padang Padang (in the south) – where you will find plenty of snorkelling, swimming, fishing, surfing, diving and even white water rafting opportunities.
There are around 20,000 temples on the island. Each village is required by law to have at least three temples – the temple of origin, the village temple and the temple of the dead. If villages are wealthy, they will often have many more. The island is also home to nine directional temples, which protect the island from evil spirits and are located on the sides of mountains, in caves or at the top of cliffs. The easiest of these to access are Pura Luhur Uluwat, while the “mother temple” Besakih sits on the slopes of Mount Angung high above the others, and is the largest and holiest temple, dating back to the 14th Century. You will find the other seven around the island, either on the edge of the water or in the mountains.
Pura Besakih is one of the greatest temples of the world and is found in the village of Besakih on the slopes of Mount Agung. The temple’s design is based on the Balinese concept of Tri Hita Karana (a relationship between humans, God and nature). After entering the main gate, you will find yourself standing in an open space where you can see towers, pavilions and small temples. Climb the stairs to the main temple - Pura Penataran Agung – which has stood for more than 500 years.
Pura Tanah Lot temple sits on a large offshore rock shaped continuously over the years by the ocean tide. The temple is part of the Balinese mythology and is said to be the work of the 15th-century priest Nirartha who rested on the island and then asked local fishermen to build a shrine on the rock to worship the Balinese sea gods. Locals believe the temple is actually guarded by holy snakes (poisonous sea snakes which are said to be black and white in colour).
When in Bali, you can’t go past a visit to Tegallalang Rice Terraces in the north of Ubud, located in the centre of Bali. The rice paddies are a beautiful piece of art made by hands of hard-working farmers who have had no advanced tools and no electricity, and who used simple methods to carve the stepped terraces out of the natural contours of the hills, some two thousand years ago. The lush green terraces will captivate you, and taking a walk through the rice paddies will provide a unique experience.
Don't Miss in Bali
THE ARTS AND SHOPPING
The arts of Bali are highly developed, from dance and sculpture, to painting, metalwork and music. Shopping is a must, whether you are after small souvenirs, arts and crafts or clothing, Bali is a haven for all budgets. You might watch craftsmen as they design your piece, take to the markets and barter for the best prices, or visit the local supermarket for some tourist gift packs (including a variety of local coffee and spices).
With a huge variety of local and international cuisine the food can range from cafes and restaurants, to American take-away chains and food carts. Smaller restaurants are a good choice and vendors with food karts roam the streets and beaches; while restaurants provide authentic cuisine in a comfortable setting. Nasi goreng (fried rice), mie goreng (fried noodles) and nasi campur (rice with meat and vegetables) are the most popular local dishes, just make sure you are careful when it comes to spices as food can often be very hot.
Regardless of the time of year you visit Bali, there is sure to be a festival of some sort happening – each temple alone holds a festival at least twice a year! Bali also operates on two calendars – the western calendar; and the 210 day calendar – which ends with a 10 day festival celebrating the victory of dharma over adharma, and the arrival of the Gods and deceased ancestors said to return to their former homes. As it is held every 210 days, the festival, Galungan, is often held twice a year. Nyepi is the Balinese New Year and falls on the first new moon after mid-March.